Universal Commerce: Strategy for Seamless Customer Experience Engagement

Existing paradigms of channels and how organizations transact in commerce with their customers are defunct and no longer relevant. Today, the channel is yet another touch-point and should be recognized as a step in the customer experience journey to eventually drive positive brand reinforcement and conversion as it relates to commerce. As digital becomes more mainstream, organizations have no choice but to tear down their internal barriers of marketing, merchandising and supply chains and build universal commerce capabilities that help orchestrate and deliver a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints in the journey. This white paper introduces these game changing opportunities for organizations to stay relevant in the future.

What‟s Universal Commerce & why it matters?
Ecommerce provided an opportunity for organizations to engage their customers with a wider set of product and service offerings and not be adversely impacted by physical constraints of space and inventory. Universal commerce is the ability of an organization to holistically view the customer experience engagement lifecycle and seek ways to optimize through seamless execution of the marketing, merchandising and supply chain processes. The net effect is an integrated and consistent experience for customers across all touch-points of interaction with the enterprise. As customers browse multiple digital sites, it‟s imperative for organizations to develop a digital presence to engage customers where they spend their time rather than attempt to drive traffic to a single destination site. From a digital marketing

Building blocks for tomorrow‟s ecommerce

Omni-channel experience

Taking commerce to the customer

Going global

perspective, organizations are currently deriving customer insights from comments on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter etc. using sentiment analysis. It may be more beneficial to be a participant in the social media conversations with customers and strive towards building a positive brand sentiment which will eventually translate to conversion at some point in time. With the growth of emerging markets and increase in purchasing power of customers in such markets, organizations have found another avenue to grow.

Emerging markets and other untapped geographies present a ready avenue of sustainable growth for any organization that is willing to move beyond its existing, highly competitive landscape. To be able to achieve such growth while diligently following the mantra of customer first, one needs to take a universal look at their ecommerce which is beyond channels, digital properties and geographies. In times to come this will allow organizations to stay ahead of the curve and drive both top and bottom lines in a sustained manner.

Commerce beyond Channels
While it can be difficult for an enterprise to organize its operations and systems to cope with the proliferation of channels, this challenge is not the customer‟s problem. The customer should see consistent brand experience through a consistent presentation of the products and offers that she wants, with a supply chain optimized to get the products delivered where she wants them. From a technology perspective, omni-channel commerce requires a single view of products (SKU identifier, product catalog hierarchy), inventory, orders and customers across channels. Our experience leads us to believe Master Data Management (MDM) is a necessary, but not a sufficient pre-requisite towards developing an omni-channel experience. We need to build upon the above foundation and provide additional capabilities as mentioned below for a seamless customer experience across channels.

Sales Channels
WebSite Order Creation Catalog Returns Stores Order Status

Ful llment Channels

Distribution Centers


Single View of Orders, Customers, Vendors, Inventory & Products
Mobile Phones

DSV Distribution Methods Sourcing Channels Product O erings


Order Modi cation


Mobile Channel and Smartphones
Mobility plays a crucial role in the development of omni-channel capabilities. Today‟s smartphones are the veritable Swiss Army knives of the digital era and can be used by customers to create, modify and track orders, make payments and initiate returns in addition to performing location-based and image-based shopping activities. Some retailers have enabled their store associates to leverage smartphone technology and help customers find out of stock, extended catalog items in other stores or source them from the direct channels like online Distribution Center (DC). This helps improve the order fill rate, drive conversion and help introduce customers to yet another channel (and potentially drive greater share of wallet. From a customer perspective it will be ideal that ordering for out of stock items can be combined with payment processing for items picked in store and returns into a single transaction with smartphone equipped store personnel .This will help reduce wait times for customers as well as shorten the queues to be processed at the Point of Sale (POS) counter by store personnel. Smartphones can also be used by store associates to pick items for in-store pickup orders as well as process deliveries to customer designated locations.

Store Channel and other Fulfillment Node related capabilities
The store should enable real-time inventory visibility, and allow in-store fulfilment of direct or online end customer orders for both pick up in store and ship to home scenarios. In fact, at times, larger stores can act as fulfilment centers for smaller store formats in the vicinity and can help provide an “endless aisle” for these stores with respect to pick up in store orders. Warehouse Management System (WMS) functionalities such as pick, pack and ship should be built into such stores, reducing the time and effort required to fulfil direct orders and eventually enabling same-day home delivery within the vicinity of the store. Retailers should also plan for additional collection points that may be beneficial to the customer, such as post offices or partner retailers‟ stores. DCs need to be made more flexible, with store replenishment DCs being able to ship out individual end customer online orders in addition to pallets if required.

Order creation

Modi cations as self-service
Here, a customer should be able to access her orders online, on mobile or in-store and modify or cancel orders with minimal customer service involvement. The customer should also be able to initiate return, refunds and exchange processes from any channel.

Value-added services
In order to improve customer experience add-ons like delivery slot booking (where a customer books a day and time for order delivery), installation, warranty management etc. should to be made available for both order ful lment and returns, and synchronized with order delivery and pickup.

Order Management capabilities

The customer should be able to create orders irrespective of channels, con rm inventory availability across di erent channels and also have the ability to access a saved shopping cart and complete the transaction across any channel.

Purchase Orders and B2B Integration capabilities
Purchase Orders (POs) pertaining to direct orders need to be consolidated and managed to completion by a single system, just like customer orders. Visibility on purchase orders, both in-transit and planned, can be used to take orders with future dates. PO management requires seamless B2B integration between various suppliers including Drop Ship Vendors (DSVs) and the retailer. Another aspect of B2B capabilities required is the coordination between the Third Party Logistics providers (3PLs) and the retailer for the POs, as well as direct customer orders.



Order Placed with Retailer


sites. While increased traffic to the website contributes in higher revenues, we believe that redirection will not be sufficient in future. Studies indicate that consumers spend more time on non-retail websites on the internet such as facebook, Pinterest etc. Hence what retailers require for the

In order to enable these capabilities, services need to be built for sharing catalog products, pricing information, and user authentication. Orders may need to be split into sub orders for different retailers and then sent to the each platform to be executed, with fulfilment updates travelling to originating site. This functionality can be enabled through development of platform-agnostic REST (Representational state transfer) services. A further requirement for commerce beyond digital properties is the creation of advanced and flexible models for sales attribution and payment of commission. As retailers are increasingly able to monitor the customer‟s journey across multiple channels, sites and affiliate networks, they can more accurately distribute credit for sales and evaluate the customer‟s journey across channels. There are also some interesting pilots underway in the market where the leading online payment engine, Paypal, is partnering with Discover to provide payment solutions for customers to pay for their purchases within the offline world. This opens up opportunities where the POS terminals can operate as thin clients and explore ways to queue up the payment transactions and process them via the online payment gateway engine. This will help with greater integration of the offline and online world for customers which eventually contributes to a seamless brand experience.

Other Considerations
As retailers work their way through the omni-channel journey, it must be noted that there are many more considerations than just enabling technology, e.g. • Migrating from a „channel/silo‟ organization structure to a matrix organization • Training the omni-channel workforce (store personnel and customer service executives among others) • Defining & implementing omnichannel KPIs and metrics .This also includes redefining accounting and financials mechanisms across channels such cross channel revenue recognition and attribution • Consistency in pricing, promotion and customer service policies across channels with provision for channel specific modifications • Aggregate demand planning and forecasting for all channels

future is to establish presence where their customers are by sharing product information, collating feedback, providing promotion codes as well as enabling commerce transactions at the sites visited by customers without having to come back to the retailer‟s parent website. This is akin to a kiosk at an exhibition, or a store within a store setup in the physical world. Some relevant examples are as follows: • A fashion savvy site that allows/ facilitates end customers to mix-nmatch items from various designers, retailers, private brands and order them from that site (e.g. Polyvore). The site in turn forwards the order to the retailer, who then fulfils the individual order line and provides regular status updates to the order origin site. This not only provides mechanisms to garner additional revenue but get feedback on new and test launches as well. • A sports and accessories retailer provides services to an event site like the Soccer World Cup page that enable the shopper to complete her purchase at that specific site for event based catalog of items e.g. football kits jerseys etc.

Commerce beyond digital properties
Retailers drive traffic to their websites by redirecting customers to the site through search engine marketing, display advertising and hyperlink-based redirection from commissioned affiliate

Commerce beyond Borders
As mentioned earlier, emerging markets have huge potential for growth. For some retailers, domestic digital commerce investments may be largely defensive, while international markets represent true growth potential. Moreover, due to increased travel and the internet, brand recall is increasingly becoming more global and consumers are eager to try international products locally. Enterprises need to evaluate various options for entering international markets in terms of Investment, time to market, brand experience and risk. The traditional entry strategy has been a physical presence either as a solely owned subsidiary or as an alliance with an existing retailer. However, physical presence requires a long lead time and significant capital. Joint Ventures or Franchisee arrangements provide quicker market access and sharing of expertise and risks, but control over the brand experience can diminish as a trade-off. An alternative approach to circumvent the high financial and asset commitment requirements of the traditional brick-and-mortar entry strategy is to enter first with an online or non-store front. With faster time to market and lower upfront capital investments, an enterprise can establish the infrastructure required to • • Offering international shipping from domestic site, with customs managed by the retailer or a third party service provider. Outsource internationalization of the website, checkout and/or fulfilment to a local ecommerce provider. Logistics as well as commercials like customs processing, taxation, fraud check, multicurrency and multi-language, can all be taken care of by service providers. This approach reduces time-to-market and upfront investment, however the on-going costs may be high and control of the customer experience is lower. • Selling via an international marketplace in the model of Amazon or eBay etc. Here, the investment required is low, however, brand dilution is high and control is low. sell online locally. The risks and costs in this case are lower and insights into local consumer behaviour and product preferences for the specific country can be gained. Sunk costs in case of an exit are significantly lower. This format of selling internationally via a non-store/online method achieved in variety of ways: can be • This method may be ideal in a scenario where a retailer‟s domestic ecommerce platform is close to retirement and hence not suitable for extensibility. The fourth digital option to establish a full ecommerce presence in the new country. This takes longer than the first three options and has higher setup costs. This option reduces the customer experience risk and brand dilution. Further, the capital investment in the global ecommerce platform and organizational learning can be leveraged to make repeated new market entry projects continually less expensive. With this model, retailers can support aspects of the site using their existing domestic or offshore teams, and those who enter multiple international markets can also establish regional support teams to share investments amongst countries. Regardless of the option chosen, retailers will encounter variations as they move into different market in terms of customer behaviour, end consumer related policies, payment and delivery methods. One other important enabler required across all the models is high-quality local language based customer service to enhance customer experience. is

Level of Investment

Logistics Complexity

Rollout Time

Brand Dilution

Lack of Control

Partner Pro t Sharing

Sell via international market place International shipping from domestic site

Outsource internationalization

Setup Local presence via non-store model




Conclusion: Universal Commerce Platform
Retailers need to leverage continuously evolving digital technologies to define new customer centric retailing constructs. Universal Commerce is one such platform which will not only have omni-channel commerce capabilities domestically but can also be rolled out as a template rapidly across multiple geographies.. Further, services supported by this platform will enable transactions on partner and social channels. Key components of this platform are: • An order capture platform with strong personalization capabilities to capture orders across different channels • Common order and inventory

management system enabling selfservice features e.g. order modifications ,returns for the customers • Integrated contact center alleviate and resolve customers‟ concerns regardless of the channel(s) used by them to transact with the retailer • REST Services for „commerce anywhere‟ on the internet enabling


Business Intelligence and Analytical Layer
Services to enable Commerce anywhere

Business analytics layer on of universal commerce platform which will provide actionable insights about customer behaviour ,enable attribution and improve conversion


Omni Channel Commerce Platform Global Template
Distribution Centers



Universal Commerce Platform with Omnichannel capabilities, global templates and provision for localization and services will thus lay the foundation for seamless & effective commerce and thus help retailer grow beyond channels, borders and urls.
IP TV Suppliers Mobile Phones DSV

About the Authors
Anirudh Goel
is the Principal leading the Infosys Omni Channel Order Management Solution.

Vikas Rao
is a Consultant with the Supply Chain Management practice at Infosys Limited.

Chantrelle Nielsen
is a Principal specializing in international ecommerce, analytics and customer experience design.

Ashish Jandial
is Management Consulting Services Practice Head for the Retail, CPG, Life Sciences and Logistics vertical and also leads the Digital Transformation Consulting practice globally.

About Infosys
Infosys is a global leader in business consulting and technology solutions. As a proven partner focused on building tomorrow‟s enterprise, Infosys enables clients in more than 30 countries to outperform the competition and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Ranked in the top tier of Forbes‟ 100 most innovative companies, Infosys – with $7.4B in annual revenues and 150,000+ employees – provides enterprises with strategic insights on what lies ahead. We help enterprises transform and thrive in a changing world through strategic consulting, operational leadership and the co-creation of breakthrough solutions, including those in mobility, sustainability, big data and cloud computing. Visit www.infosys.com to see how Infosys (NYSE: INFY) is Building Tomorrow‟s Enterprise® today.

For more information, contact askus@infosys.com


© 2013 Infosys Limited, Bangalore, India. All Rights Reserved. Infosys believes the information in this document is accurate as of its publication date; such information is subject to change without notice. Infosys acknowledges the proprietary rights of other companies to the trademarks, product names and such other intellectual property rights mentioned in this document. Except as expressly permitted, neither this documentation nor any part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, printing, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of Infosys Limited and/ or any named intellectual property rights holders under this document.

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