Business transformation in retail – from e-commerce to d-commerce – eCommerce magazine

Business transformation“Is probably the trendiest term in business. Manufacturing companies, banks and insurance companies, energy companies, even the printing industry, which is considered to be conservative, and many other sectors – there are corresponding projects running everywhere, with which companies can focus on their digital future to adjust. Entire process landscapes are being digitized, new possibilities opened up and innovative business models developed.

The customer is king

It’s not just about technology, it’s also about cultural change. A frequently used catchphrase in this regard is the “Customer Centricity“, The complete alignment of all processes and activities to the customer. It is a matter of recognizing and satisfying the needs, wishes and requirements of customers as anticipated as possible and thus strengthening customer loyalty.

Business transformation is continuous change

An essential characteristic of business transformation is that it never really comes to an end. The claim to focus on the customer already means that everything must be geared towards being able to meet the changing demands of customers. Often enough, this is driven by new technical possibilities.

From e-commerce to d-commerce

One area from which one would have least expected the necessity of business transformation is e-commerce – after all, electronic commerce is rooted in the digital world. He is, so to speak, a “digital native”.

But e-commerce is all too often still a synonym for web shop – and vice versa. For a long time, e-commerce was seen as a kind of appendage to brick-and-mortar business, and people then also sold over the Internet.

However, this is currently changing significantly – more and more companies are recognizing the central importance of digital technologies for both online and offline trading. This no longer only applies to retail companies, but also to manufacturers who sell their products directly using the “direct-to-customer” approach, or D-to-C for short. The term “direct-to-customer” has been chosen with care – it depicts the progressive merging of the areas B-to-C and B-to-B, which have been separate for a long time.

Business Transformation: New Services and Technologies

The aim of all efforts is to pick up customers in exactly the situation and state of mind from which they make purchases. This can be from home today or on the go via PC, tablet or smartphone, tomorrow you may prefer stationary retail depending on the situation – whatever is most convenient for you at the moment.

The retail sector has to map this highly flexible customer behavior. New service offerings have already been established that take this into account. One example is click-and-collect – that is, the collection of products ordered online from a store (often also referred to as “BOPIS”, the abbreviation stands for “Buy Online, Pickup In Store”).

In addition to these and similar services, retailers must also implement new technologies. The study “Beyond Touch – Voice Commerce 2030” by the Deloitte management consultancy assumes that by 2030 no less than 37 percent of sales in digital commerce will be processed via voice commerce.

Visual search instead of language

This means that shopping via voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa becomes a matter of course. The experts write that “Voice” merges with other technologies to form a platform with open interfaces that surrounds and supports users in all situations

Both text-based and language-based searches naturally reach their limits when describing products. The visual search based on images can help here.

According to a study by ECC Cologne in collaboration with SAP Customer Experience, 59 percent of the 20-69-year-old study participants found the visual search in the area of ​​fashion and accessories to be much more suitable than the text-based search. Similar values ​​were found in the product category “living and furnishing”.

According to the study, the participants associate visual search with positive attributes such as practical, helpful, useful, fast and uncomplicated.

Business Transformation: More flexibility in the payment process too

Another crucial success factor in D-Commerce is payment processing. The corresponding processes, in their entirety they result in the “invoice-to-cash” process, have become more and more complex over the years.

Customers simply assume that their preferred payment method is offered. A study by ibi research GmbH at the University of Regensburg has shown that 42 percent of potential customers cancel the checkout process if only one payment method is offered.

On the other hand, for reasons of customer loyalty, many retail companies are thinking about subscription offers, for example – these in turn require special payment processes. The connection of purchases in stationary retail, online and via app also has consequences for the invoice-to-cash process.

As part of their business transformation, companies must therefore consider how they can get the growing complexity of the invoice-to-cash process under control (Arvato Systems offers a free white paper on this subject that can be downloaded from at).

Artificial intelligence in the retail sector

An enormous amount of data is generated in the course of all of these activities. Using methods from the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, retail companies can analyze this wealth of data and align their activities even more precisely with their customers.

This knowledge has already been implemented accordingly by many retailers – according to Statista, retailers are already using AI and ML methods to analyze customer behavior, plan and control marketing measures, generate and manage leads and optimize customer service. It’s not just about increasing sales, but also about increasing customer loyalty. The data analysis should also create the basis for the automation of repetitive tasks.

Not feasible without a holistic IT environment

All of this is inconceivable without powerful systems in the areas of CRM, order management, invoice-to-cash and, above all, ERP. In the SAP world, appropriate solutions are available for each of these disciplines – either directly via the ERP system S / 4HANA and the Customer Experience Suite C / 4HANA or via dedicated solutions developed by SAP partners such as Arvato Systems.


Like the entire economy, retail is also going through a transformation driven by digitization – the era of classic e-commerce is over. As a result, familiar boundaries are blurring – online and offline trading are merging, as are the previously separate areas of B-to-B and B-to-C. This creates both opportunities and challenges. These can be tapped or mastered through the use of innovative IT solutions.

Business transformation
Author Rene Wendt-Leppich (Arvato Systems, Head of Enterprise Transformation) Image: Arvato

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