E-Commerce ‘connecting the dots’

Zanders e-Commerce initiative

E-Commerce ‘connecting the dots’

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online sales reached new heights. As a result, more and more companies have had to rethink their sales strategy, forced by among others the closure of the physical outlets. There was little time to maneuver in the face of increasing pressure to maintain sales levels by deploying online channels. Luckily, today’s technology offered the opportunity of plug-and-play e-commerce platforms to both enable and accelerate the roll-out of online offerings.

Corporate e-commerce efforts have also been catalyzed by the introduction of PSD2. This has offered opportunities to a whole series of new payment service providers that offer the potential to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness around the digital sales ecosystem. Consumers’ appetite for both new and enhanced products and services has also continued to accelerate – thanks to the underlying power of technology, they want everything yesterday, not tomorrow. As a result, more companies have recognized the importance of focusing on customer outcomes – to get closer to the customer and better deliver to their desires. The unexpected event of the pandemic provided the motivation to focus on a digital first strategy in order to stay both competitive and relevant. The new and emerging technologies and associated innovation helped commercial business to quickly react to these unexpected and accelerated series of events.

The next phase

For the companies that got involved in e-commerce, ‘speed to market’ time pressures forced many to create a tactical set-up in order to survive and compete in the ‘new normal’. However, today’s reality shows that e-commerce has begun to become a top-line growth engine for corporates, and a new and permanent factor on the strategic agenda of companies.

With e-commerce flows becoming significant, the focus moves to the initial tactical set-up and typically siloed deployment model. The next challenge is to define the enterprise-wide e-commerce strategy, which importantly is underpinned by an integral financial and operational architecture that delivers scalability, security, compliance and resilience. Cash forecasting and liquidity management continues to be a significant pain point for corporate treasury, and these existing challenges are being compounded with the rise of the e-commerce flows within the company. These e-commerce flows can often be disconnected, creating a separate cash reservoir with its own characteristics and specific risks. On top of this, there is a new reality of working with a third-party provider for your payment and collections processes, bringing new challenges for reconciliation, reporting and handling of issues such as returns and chargebacks, among others.

The existing treasury framework, with its applicable policies, procedures and governance, is the obvious place to embed these flows. They should become an integrated part of the company’s liquidity management, FX management, cash forecasting and reconciliation processes. Next to the integration, these high volume flows also require a design or re-design of the applicable risk, compliance and governance framework, considering the risks of the online payment ecosystem with its new players and instruments.

The end result is the need for a review and often a redesign of the underlying technical infrastructure. The legacy world of treasury and the new world of e-commerce have to be integrated – the dots have to be connected. This goes not only for the B2C companies but perhaps even more for the more traditional B2B companies that are exploring and expanding their e-commerce footprint.

Zanders’ e-Commerce initiative

Zanders, being a trusted advisor to many treasuries, understands and recognizes the requirements around the impact of these fast-moving changes to many of our clients. To enable us to help our clients in this new normal, Zanders has added a new chapter to our successful Treasury Advisory Service with the Treasury e-commerce initiative. Zanders Treasury e-Commerce has been designed to help corporate treasury embed the e-commerce model in its existing treasury framework in order to either get back or stay in control. Our perspectives consider the variety of challenges that a company can face depending on the maturity of the e-commerce setup, for example. These challenges may vary from validation of your current setup to the selection or rationalization of third-party service providers, advise on the best applicable payment methods, infrastructural design and connectivity, risk management, compliance and governance framework or even the set-up of a payment orchestration hub.

Conclusion

Strategic e-commerce is a new chapter in treasury management. It is critical that company flows are fully embedded in existing frameworks in order to avoid a future situation of disconnected risk and working capital operating models. As a strategic item on the management agenda and delivering top-line-growth within the company, treasury should be (back) at the table to monitor and control these flows as an integral part of the existing treasury policies and procedures. This asks for a new target operating model in which not only processes and procedures but also the technical infrastructure is re-aligned with the new online reality. Zanders Treasury e-Commerce is ready to tackle these new challenges with you and (re)connect the dots to secure a future proof setup of strategic e-commerce, the new chapter in treasury.

Figure 1: Connecting the dots