By early 2019, Anixter, a billion-dollar industrial supplies distributor had determined serving global customers with a common Digital commerce platform was a key strategic goal. Although the site was long established as the backbone for their online presence in the United States and Canada, customers in 79 countries were left without a seamless online shopping experience. Needless to say, extending Anixter.com’s success to the global market offered too much potential for the company ignore.
Recognizing that a massive globalization effort would strain a productive technical team already tasked with maintaining the existing site, Anixter decided to seek external help. Avatria was a natural fit. With experience shepherding other major businesses through similar globalization efforts in the past, and having already served as a trusted eCommerce partner for over two and a half years, Avatria offered a familiarity with the process and Anixter’s internal business systems that would be critical to the project’s success.
If you haven’t already, we highly recommend starting with our case study on Anixter’s Globalization Strategy, to see how we developed our approach to tackling this initiative.
With the project’s strategy in place, Anixter and Avatria technical teams faced four primary challenges:
- Allow global customers to shop in any of Anixter’s 79 countries using their currency of choice
- Support country-specific product availability and feature sets in an easy-to-maintain way
- Assure compliance with all relevant consumer data privacy laws
- Develop an SAP Commerce (Hybris) infrastructure able to support Anixter’s needs at scale—including country-specific experiences and a product catalog totaling 1.5 million products and over 40 million combined price rows
The hallmark of the Avatria’s work on Anixter’s Globalization project was making the formidable manageable. By first creating comprehensive strategy to govern the implementation, we were able to assure that the work to be completed was well organized, scoped, and trackable. This is critical for the success of any large-scale project such as this one.
With the project’s plan in place, we began a “Globalization Foundation” project. This called for the upfront development of key functionalities, which would then be piloted in a single country for each region. Once viability and stability were assured, the onboarding of additional countries could be completed as a relatively simple configuration exercise.
The Globalization Foundation project included the following tasks:
1. Catalog Anixter.com functionality to determine which features needed to be supported in which regions.
We started by building a matrix of key Anixter.com features that were or were not applicable to various regions. From here, we were able to develop a set of country-specific feature toggles in the SAP Commerce Backoffice that could turn on and off functionality based on business requirements. This increased operational efficiency by giving business users full control over a task that would otherwise require developer intervention and code changes.
2. Create a process for gathering and implementing initial configuration data for each country
A time-consuming but crucial element of any globalization initiative is the configuration of country-specific data that allow customers to shop and transact seamlessly. This can include country-specific parameters such as warehouse information, phone number and postal code format, product catalog, will call availability, and more. For Anixter, this included over 50 variables, all of which came from different sources across the company.
By creating a standard process for collecting, organizing, and importing these variables, we were able to efficiently configure the core settings for the site’s entire global presence.
3. Develop logic to deliver customer-specific pricing and currency for purchases
Anixter has a unique feature that allows customers to transact in their “customer currency.” This means that customers in Country A (with the corresponding Currency A) can shop on the storefront for Country B with pricing in Currency A. For example, a global buyer in the United States can shop the Mexican storefront for an order that will be fulfilled in and shipped to a Mexican location, with pricing and payment in US Dollars.
For this reason, we developed support for 180 currencies, allowing customers from nearly every country on earth to transact on the Anixter.com platform. As this solution applied to domestic customers as well as international ones, a new market was opened up for Anixter.com
4. Design and build support for the deployment, synchronization, and indexing of multiple product catalogs across the globe to ensure 24/7/364 availability
Around-the-clock availability is of paramount importance to Anixter. This becomes complicated when scheduled jobs, syncs, and indexes that are typically run during the overnight hours in the US suddenly fall during business hours for other regions. We developed an index model that was able to service country-specific catalogs for 79 countries with only 2 indexes. By scheduling these indexes to run on weekends during non-critical business hours, we were able to ensure availability during peak times around the globe.
5. Develop a system to support localized content within a single shared catalog
Although in some cases site content does vary from country to country, Avatria and Anixter agreed that creating separate content catalogs for each country was unscalable and largely unnecessary. Instead, we developed a method for supporting localized messaging, while maintaining a consistent central catalog. This system, which could be managed by business users, involved allowing components to be restricted on a per-country basis. This improved the operational efficiency of content deployment, as no code changes would be required.
6. Configure available payment methods for each country
As a B2B distributor, Anixter allows customers to pay for orders either via credit card or via account invoicing. As each country supported by Anixter.com has different requirements for allowable payment types, a mechanism was built to configure country-specific payment types without code changes.
7. Define product availability on the basis of country-specific inventory tracking
Many global businesses maintain country-specific product catalogs in order to manage product availability, as well as regulatory and compliance constraints. However, with over 1.5 million products in Anixter’s catalog, this approach was deemed infeasible. It would lead to a number of problems, including performance issues related to catalog synchronizations and indexing.
Instead, we solved this problem by determining a product’s visibility on a storefront based on the already-existing country-specific stock level. We also added other product-availability attributes to the country-specific stock level, such as whether or not a product has been discontinued or is only available on contract in a given location. This simplified catalog management, and assured quality site performance.
In addition to the work described above, a major component of the Globalization initiative was building GDPR support for Anixter.com to allow for expansion into the European Union. GDPR is a sweeping set of privacy regulations that govern how customer data is handled by data processors (i.e. businesses), and was so critical that we treated it as a separate project within the larger initiative.
In the theme of making the formidable manageable, our first step was to synthesize the 99 articles that constitute the regulation into a set of rights that pertain to Anixter with respect to its online business.
These rules were as follows:
- Right to be informed – Customers must be informed about how their data is being used
- Right of access – Customers must be able to see what data Anixter has about them, and how it’s being used
- Right of rectification – Customers will be able to request the correction of Anixter’s data
- Right to be forgotten – Customers will be able to remove all “personal information” from Anixter.com
- Right to restrict processing – Customers have the right to block processing of their personal data
- Right to data portability – Customers have the ability to retain and reuse their data
- Right to object – Customers have the ability to object to how their data is being used
With these rights in mind, we cataloged all data saved within SAP Commerce to determine what elements could be classified as “personal information” under GDPR. Once complete, we made a set of recommendations to Anixter’s legal team and IT leadership for how each right should be fulfilled in the platform. Precisely how we achieved full compliance ahead of the global rollout is proprietary to Anixter, however, it was achieved through a combination of customer-facing and backend features.