Digital Transformation of an entire B2B Wholesale Process Chain

Moving from analog catalogs, fax and Excel to a fully automated self-service platform. Worldwide!

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Client
adidas AG
Sector
Fashion and Apparel, Sportswear Industry
Role
Senior UX Engineer, Frontend Code Support
Challenge

adidas decided to make a big move and acquired Salesforce to enhance or replace their internal CRM solution and decouple things from an increasingly pressured SAP system.

Realizing the benefits of the "new way," they decided to transition their B2B wholesale business as well which would be tricky after.

Turned out to be a long journey, and I am glad and also very happy that I took part in it.

 

Introduction

A bit of history

adidas organizes all its global distribution itself

Every pair of sneakers, every shirt, jersey, cap, etc. that you see was once purchased directly from adidas. Someone has a business and wants to sell adidas shoes? Then that person needs to contact adidas to order those goods.

As a result, all orders worldwide are received and processed somewhat centrally. Somewhat so far.

This has an impact on many other areas: Material orders, manufacturing, delivery, logistics and last but not least, of course, trends, design, marketing and much more.

Frazzled and widely dispersed landscape of individual solutions

Basically, the whole ordering process is divided into 2 seasons:

  • Spring (for spring and summer)
  • Autumn (autumn and winter)

So B2B customers can pre-order goods twice a year, respective catalogs were printed and sent out to customers. And orders were taken, in every conceivable way and form!

Just one real life example:

Excel files were created from (parts of) the seasonal catalog, which were then sent back to the sales person, who then printed them out and faxed them to headquarters. From there it was then "extracted" via OCR and transferred to SAP.

This would need to stop :)

So, what is the new goal?

Bring adidas B2B completely into the digitalized world

Basically, it's quickly explained:

"Make it possible for adidas to henceforth process orders digitally, and do so as cost-effectively as possible, and preferably worldwide".

As you can imagine, this was a massive undertaking that took several years to complete (worldwide).

To give you an idea of all the things we were facing, I'm going to talk about one specific challenge: The order process.

Some prerequisites

Seasonality

  • A year is divided into 2 seasons:
    • Spring (spring and summer)
    • Autumn (autumn and winter)
  • Goods from a season are always ordered in advance (“pre-order”)
  • If available, goods from past seasons can also be ordered (“re-order”)

Pricing

Since we are in the B2B world, all customers have different prices, which depend on many of the usual factors:

  • Size of the customer or company (economically and influential)
  • Number of pieces per purchase (quantity is always one of the main factors regarding pricing)
  • Advertising effectiveness of the company - Reach of both, store and people coming to the store

Logistics

As a store ordering large amounts of goods from adidas, you also need some logistic information, like:

  • Available articles of a specific product right now (inventory, ATP check = available to promise)
  • Deliver order goods to multiple stores in different countries (order split, sold-to/ship-to)
  • Properly account all my discounts (price books)
  • Order items in the size specifications of my country (size table)

All of this information must be made available and accessible in the order mask in addition to the "usual" data such as item data, images and descriptive texts, etc.

As a result, the idea of the Size Table was born.

 

Using the new Size Table, retailers around the world shall:

  • Be able to have all information and special insights of the order process at a glance
  • Use the platform as a 360° self-service platform
  • Gain easy access to all globally available products
  • Make use of machine learning right within the order form
 

UX Challenges

The Size Table

A funny name, but at some point a working title became the real thing. It represents an interface capable of displaying and easily applying a variety of information in multiple dimensions.

Here is a use case in the form of an example purchase in the role of a buyer.

You can guess which acceptance criteria came up quickly.

  1. I want to buy ...
    1. A certain sneaker model
    2. In certain colors
    3. In certain sizes
  2. I don't want to get everything delivered at once
  3. I want continuously ongoing supply over a season
  4. I need to know in advance what quantities are available and in stock ...
    1. at which calendar week
    2. for each size
    3. in each color

Apparently, there was a lot to consider. Ordering over calendar weeks resulted in a lot of experiments like dropdown menus and many more multidimensional approaches such as wheels and scrollable slides.

Those all lead to devastating user feedbacks so we started from scratch.

It had to be some sort of table representation since we kept hearing Excel and people seemed to have that as one of the most common interests.

What it also meant was horizontal scrolling, but we're getting there.

So the “job to be done” information to display is:

  • Order date
  • Requested delivery date
  • Calendar weeks (highlight those with orders contained)
  • Product Size information
  • Order
  • Stock information
    • per size
    • per calendar week
  • Sold out information
  • Order unavailability
  • Order quantity
  • Order quantity correction (when SAP “answers back”)
  • Order costs
    • per size
    • per calendar week
    • subtotal per calendar week
    • subtotal per size row
    • grand total

Obviously, there was a lot to consider. Ordering by calendar weeks led to a lot of experimentation like dropdown menus and many multi-dimensional approaches like wheels and scrollable slides.

All of this led to devastating user feedback, so we had to start from scratch.

It had to be some sort of table display, as we kept hearing about Excel and people seemed to have that as one of their most common main concerns.

Let's start prototyping

What I didn't realize at the beginning of my career is that there are different "tribal customs" in many ways between the world of industry and "the rest", somehow ... and there are striking differences, especially in the requirements. Large-scale industry often has important additional factors that should be considered, especially when designing interfaces.

The solution of "one interface to unite them all" therefore had to offer additional operating security in addition to all commercial requirements:

  • Single Page Application
  • Micro Services Architecture
  • Micro Frontend Architecture
  • Open steps to corporate framework

So that's what we came up with, incorporating long-term user research and usability testing with multiple customers in multiple rounds.

Almost all users have requested a table display with horizontal scroll function. The quantity and stock availability information is built into each cell. By clicking into a cell, the middle quantity information turns into an input field and the quantity can be changed.

All in all, quite an accumulation of information but in the end this strategy prevailed. User acceptance of the design was 89%, which was the highest acceptance factor for this situation at all.

 

The Final Result

Behold: Customers Love the Size Table

This is the version that went live with the very first deployment, after which the store was opened to the wider audience. After the launch in the EMEA region, we could see that the hard work finally paid off. And sales, I can tell you ... started to soar very quickly.

 

Conclusion

Writing this makes me realize how many tasks were mastered during that time and how little I have said so far and what a long page it already became.

The team was great, diverse and exceptionally competent in so many ways it's hard to explain. As soon as I have a little more time, I will go into more detail.

Here are some randomly collected screens I stumbled upon when cleaning up some drives, hope you enjoyed the story so far.

Love you guys, cheers.