See filter

Looking back at interesting ecommerce builds

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 10:21

Below I’ll outline a few development projects we’ve done on some ecommerce stores that we’ve rolled out.

Looking back at interesting ecommerce builds

Pastel integration
So, a client has an ecommerce store and uses Pastel as their accounting platform. Why manage both? Instead of managing two platforms, we integrated our client’s website with Pastel Evolution. This integration enabled the client to manage their online store from Pastel Evolution. They create, classify and enable products for their website on Pastel. The system then pushes all of this information to the website where products are automatically created for them. Upon auto-creation, a script matches Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) of products with the filenames of images on the server, resulting in a beautiful product page. 

All orders and stock are sent back to Pastel via a web service. Pastel and the website are in constant communication with one another, ensuring that they are verbatim clones. It is critical that an ecommerce platform is never severed from its order or stock management platform. However, you should always have a fallback as anything could go wrong. For this reason, a process queue, error logs and notification system were built into the system. This sends out communication to stakeholders if something goes awry and gives them the ability to debug and resubmit any items that might not have gone through.

Warehouse dashboard
Managing an ecommerce store is, most of the time, half of the job done. You should, however, keep in mind that there are many moving parts when managing an ecommerce store. This is especially true when it comes to order fulfillment. Someone has to verify the items, pull them off of the shelves, box them, print the waybill, do your final check, write a note, wrap the whole thing and ship it out. Trying to manage all of these moving parts was a bit of a nightmare for one of our clients, especially because more than one person was doing all of these steps. 

This is why we created a custom dashboard on the backend of their website with a nifty order status control linked to it. Warehouse workers could use a tablet, complete their phase, mark it on the tablet which saves the status back to the order. Another larger screen was set up in various sections of the warehouse that displayed this same dashboard in a larger format. This screen refreshes every few minutes to ensure all workers are aware of order changes. All of this information is tracked on the back of the website so that nothing is missed. The order status will also only change over to the complete phase once all checklist items have been completed. 

This whole process ensured that the quality control of all outgoing orders was done perfectly, ensuring that customers are left smiling.

Promotion management
One of the more complicated but gratifying builds was a promotion interface where our client can set up their own promotions. This platform was a more native Drupal Commerce implementation where all content is managed on the website itself. Seeing as the client managed their content from the website, we could integrate the promotion solution with the products on their website.

The promotions section had its own mini dashboard. Here you can create a new promotion by simply filling out a form. You give it a name, some banners, a colour scheme, and which products should be added to this promotion. Seeing as it might be difficult to manually edit 50+ promotional products, a CSV importer was built where you simply upload a CSV with product SKUs, price and promotional price. 

After filling out the form, uploading your products and clicking save, the entire website automatically changes to match all criteria outlined in the promotion. The primary colours change, the banners update and each promotional product gets a little flag with its promotional “was” and “now” price. Each promotion also has a start and end date if they fall over weekends or so they can be planned out long before the holiday. On the morning (1am) of your specified start date, the promotion goes live, the website re-indexes and publishes all the promotional criteria. Upon the promotion’s end date, at midnight, the promotion removes itself from the website and it reverts to its previous state. 

Ideal gift generator
This is a fun little tool where a visitor is presented with a series of questions which would eventually lead them to a list of products. Each answer the user provides leads to a unique set of answers which, in turn, leads to more until the user has completed five steps of answers. The system would then use the answers it has received from the user and compile a list of products that match the answers they provided. 

Now building something like this is quite fun in itself, but building it in a way that a client can easily update the questions with its workflow is even more fun. That’s something that we build into every platform we roll out. There’s no point in building something on a Content Management System (CMS) if the client cannot manage their own content. 

Conclusion
So, why do we build these complex systems? In many cases, we love the challenge and push systems to do things that many clients might not even think of. Yes, an ecommerce should sell products, but why shouldn’t it take care of mundane tasks for a client as well? An ecommerce website should not simply be a shop front for a customer, it should be a platform that works for a client. It should take care of customer communication, both email and SMS, it should take care of parcel tracking by integrating with your courier service, and should be a playground where users return for more. We should strive to customise and automate our online platforms to ensure that our clients can sleep easy at night knowing that their business and customers are taken care of by a system that can be trusted. 

Want to know more about the cool stuff we’ve done? Keep an eye on the blog in the upcoming weeks.