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.
To start, Avatria worked with internal teams to develop a simple, four-part strategy:
- Establish a Rollout Plan – Assemble a clearly structured, step-by-step rollout plan to provide a clear path to completion.
- Account for Market Variations – Develop a global solution that would account for variations in infrastructure, cultural influences, and regulatory constraints, from one country to the next.
- Front-load Development – By front loading development-heavy tasks, rolling out Anixter.com to additional countries would prove more of a straightforward configuration exercise than a lengthy development effort.
- Empower the Anixter Team – Maximize the ability of Anixter’s internal resources to contribute to the project’s success, assuring their ability to support finished solution long term.
Establish a Rollout Plan
No matter the size of your team or experience with similar initiatives, launching an entire global presence in one fell swoop presents significant technical and organizational challenges. Given existing commitments to other ongoing development projects, Avatria and Anixter quickly determined that such an approach was not feasible.
Instead, the teams collaborated to sequence development and launch activities by dividing the global market into sets of countries and regions. This plan was designed to accommodate resourcing constraints, and to allow Anixter’s Change Management team to execute an orderly communication plan and prepare each market for launch. Extending the duration of the launch timeline afforded the Anixter Digital team the opportunity to gradually assume control of the country onboarding process. Sequencing the rollout in this manner allowed the team to more efficiently address complex issues that impacted only a select subset of countries or regions.
Anixter and Avatria then worked together to develop a structured, repeatable onboarding process to assure that each country could be launched smoothly, efficiently, and with minimal errors. This process included the gathering of key foundational data, and the configuration of site settings.
Finally, the teams decided that each of the three major markets outside of North America would be tested through the deployment of a single pilot country. Once success was proven in a given pilot country, the other countries in the region could be deployed as quickly or gradually as business needs might warrant. The United Kingdom would precede Europe/Mid-East/Africa (EMEA), Australia would initiate Asia Pacific (APAC), and Mexico would lead the way for Latin America (LATAM). Proving the success of the solution on a manageable scale would reduce risk and give business and technology teams the confidence to move forward.
Account for Market Variations
A key challenge faced in developing a single, global Anixter.com was the wide variation in services offered from country to country. Some examples include:
- With global customers shopping in their currency of choice, 180 different currencies need to be supported potentially across each country onboarded.
- Customers can pay via credit card only in markets with existing merchant / processor agreements
- In some, but not all markets, customers can avoid shipping costs by picking up merchandise at warehouse locations
- In countries where warehouse facilities do not exist, customers shop product inventory physically located in another country
In the final example, a single warehouse facility must manage inventory availability rules across multiple markets, while also adhering to rules governing cross-border shipping. Needless to say, these requirements don’t exist for the majority of countries in which Anixter operates.
Given the number and complexity of these market variations, the teams determined that the management of site features would best be handled by business users. As such, the solution would need to support configuration options that could be easily controlled without deep technical experience or code changes. If implemented correctly, this strategy would allow business teams to roll out new countries more efficiently, and would provide greater assurance that all site features were configured properly.
Front Load Development
Although the organizational challenge of globalizing Anixter.com was daunting enough, the technical effort required to support such complexity was equally formidable. From enabling customers to shop and pay for products in the non-local currency of their choice to displaying pricing that combined any unit of measure with any currency, the business requirements of Anixter’s globalization goals demanded sophisticated platform expertise.
Drawing on decades of experience with SAP Commerce and its underlying technologies, the Avatria team followed a proven process to transform ambitious business expectations into detailed technical designs. Critically, the solution was crafted to maximize the value of preexisting platform investment, while also ensuring the viability of future upgrades.
To minimize time-to-market for newly onboarded countries the decision was made to front load the development of foundational components and implement features that vary across countries in a configurable manner. Foundational components and configurable features were then validated by deploying the updated solution to existing sites in North America. Following this, the team launched the solution in the UK to pilot the configuration process and then to EMEA following success in the UK. Having proven the reliability of the solution and process, further onboarding was transitioned to Anixter resources. This allowed Avatria to support remaining global deployments with a significantly scaled down engineering team.