What does the future hold for e-commerce, and for our experiences as consumers? I asked that question of Michael French of Digital River, an SAP partner and expert in managing e-commerce transactions on behalf of some of the world’s largest enterprises via its Payments, Fraud, Tax & Compliance Management app.
“Companies have learned that customer experience matters, and that requires flexibility and choice, microservices, and the ability to make changes to their platforms quickly and easily on their own,” French told me. “There will be more transactions conducted via social channels, and via multiple devices. There will be more use of the Internet of Things to give consumers the convenience to have an appliance or a device or a car automatically order when it needs a new component — to do the work for you. And because of that, there will be a push and pull among the opposing forces of convenience, data privacy, and security.”
Clearly, businesses need to be ready for these future advances, which are already in our midst. I think one of the best ways to prepare is with Digital River’s Payments, Fraud, Tax & Compliance Management app, available on SAP Store. It enables companies to offload the entire back end of their e-commerce transactions and, as the name implies, leave payments, fraud, tax, and compliance to Digital River. With Digital River acting as the merchant of record, your organization does not need to worry about maintaining a complex e-commerce infrastructure.
If your infrastructure is typical of many he sees, French observed, “It’s like a Frankenstein monster that’s sewed together, but doesn’t walk around too well.”
The Digital River app calculates local taxes, enables local payments and payment methods, and displays the appropriate currency and terms of sale through integration with the SAP Commerce Cloud solution. In nearly every country in the world where you do — or plan to do — business, the Digital River app stays current on the ever-changing regulations. If you face a tax audit, Digital River will defend you from liability.
What about inventory and delivering product? Digital River has relationships with local distributors to support retail e-commerce. Digital River manages data-privacy compliance with regulations like GDPR, with controls embedded, automated, and continuously updated in the software. For individual data privacy, the brand sets up permissions for the buyer based on preferences.
Supporting Global Expansion
Handing off these responsibilities enables your team to concentrate on what you do best: offering superior customer experiences and staying ahead of the technology that will define the future. Equally important, you can position your company for geographic expansion. According to French, Digital River customers can begin conducting transactions in a new country in less than eight weeks — a process that normally takes months, even years. Meanwhile, you have reassurance from a company with offices worldwide that manages some US$3 billion transactions every year.
How did Digital River become such a trusted resource, with both compliance architecture and technical capabilities on such a large scale? The company was an e-commerce pioneer way back in 1994, French explained, supporting software companies in moving their licensing and distribution from CD-ROMs and floppy disks to Internet downloads. Remember that?
By about 2015, however, company management made a major decision, shifting to focus fully on back-office functions as it does today. “Rather than continue to offer the full technology stack, we invested in what we ourselves do best,” he said. “That refocused strategy eventually led to our partnership with SAP.”
Investing in the Partnership
With 11 years at Digital River as vice president of Global Partnerships, French has deep insight into the relationship with SAP and how it evolved. “We began by considering what we needed to be successful in this space. Who had the market share and solution capability in consumer goods? Whose technology stack could we easily plug into without forcing something unnatural?”
Becoming part of the SAP ecosystem would prove to be a crucial move. “We invested in the partnership and put a team in place dedicated to expanding market opportunities with SAP, including SAP Store.”
It’s gone well. “We expected SAP to be a bear to work with,” he added, “but we were pleasantly surprised by the willingness to engage with us, from field sales and marketing to the PR side. We found that SAP looks not at company size, but at sales volume and value, with a team of people who work together to solve a problem.”
Any thoughts to share with other partners? “Don’t come in with a commodity project,” he advised. “Focus on how to collaborate and create value for customers.”
I would add that telling a compelling story about how customers can realize value is essential. Toward that end, Digital River offers a terrific demo on SAP Store. Why not watch it now?
Bill Rojas is director of Director Business Development and Partner Alliances at SAP.