bubbles

Discovery Phase to Focus Your Project On

“When you know what you want, you will find a way to get it.”

 

Have you ever wondered what you really need to focus on for your project? Companies create a project for many reasons. Discovery is an information-gathering process involves  dig deep into the details of what is important to a  business, target audience, and industry. It helps figure out what you need to archive,  to focus on.

In the beginning of 2014, we had Discovery study project with a client in eCommerce area. The client had a diversified network of physical stores and was developing an advanced eCommerce solution that was designed for selling their products online as Marketplace (like Amazon). The client requested consulting help from us:

  • to validate the concept applied for building their Marketplace solution;
  • to identify gaps in their current solution;
  • to get recommendations/ideas about the perspective evolution development and the most important improvements for the solution.

The last point was the most valuable one for the client, because they were going to buy a system from third-party vendors that would be going to work as core of the future Marketplace. The client staff had no enough expertise in eCommerce to cover all the points above and to choose the best third-party system. Also the client staff was not completely sure about validity of the systems and workflows that were designed before.

The client had a set of advanced systems and modules that covered most aspects of eCommerce Marketplace. In particular, the client’s IT-infrastructure included:

  1. Supplier integration module
  2. PIM (Product Information Management) including Inventory Management module, Price Management module, and Image processing module.
  3. CMS (Content Management System)
  4. CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  5. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)
  6. OMS (Order Management System)
  7. WMS (Warehouse Management System)
  8. Storefront
  9. Payment Gateway
  10. Customer Service
  11. Fraud Detection
  12. Email Platform
  13. Web Analytics

Many areas of the client’s Marketplace were covered well by features and workflows, e.g. the following parts of eCommerce Marketplace were developed well:

  1. Product matching and catalog syndication including product content management.
  2. Price management rules and alerts/validations.
  3. Publishing significant volume of content/price/inventory data to Frontend.
  4. Automatic order routing and the whole order management process.
  5. Support for multiple websites on Frontend side.

After the careful review we identified two places that were not advanced enough and could interfere the client to evolve the Marketplace in the future:

  1. Low automation in supplier integration and insufficient integration visibility for suppliers.
  2. nonoptimal selling model was chosen for building Frontend: Owner branded – was chosen; the best recommended was Supplier Branded.

According to our first recommendation a fully fledged Supplier Portal solution was needed and the solution could be based on the functionality and workflows that the client already had, but the main differences were: a) to minimize manual work; b) to provide more visibility to suppliers within the interaction. Here are the key aspects of Supplier Portal that we recommended to develop/improve vs what the client had before:

  • Easy onboarding for new suppliers (including Amazon and EBay feeds integration);
  • Workflows to monitor the onboarding process and activity status for every supplier;
  • Generic supplier PIM and offer management including pricing/inventory controls/thresholds;
  • Supplier order management with support for reverse logistics;
  • Settlement/reconciliation/invoicing visible for suppliers and available for management;
  • Supplier ranking and selling activity monitors for Marketplace owner staff on client side.

Supplier-Branded Frontend was the second recommendation to upgrade the client’s Marketplace for future growth and to satisfy eCommerce top standards:

  • Customers see the suppliers’ names who offer a certain product:
    • when a customer places an order, the customer itself selects a supplier who will fulfill the order (considering price and shipping conditions for every supplier) and then, the marketplace system routes the order to the supplier;
    • customer can view the supplier rank and the supplier statistics (to choose the best supplier for fulfillment), provide feedback about supplier work, and communicate to supplier support team in the case of issues (if needed).
  • Suppliers deliver the items in their own packaging. Returns are sent back to the supplier.

It helps define these goals as its top priority, and then addresses the other  within that context:

  1. Taxonomy building
  2. Advanced matching rules and more flexible matching automation
  3. Catalog syndication simplification
  4. Supplier restrictions and real time validations
  5. Real-time offer management directly in Frontend (for price/inventory mistakes) and special offers (like buy box winner).
  6. Offers from suppliers without product content.
  7. Supervision for order management and order re-routing special cases.
  8. RMA and refunds/returns best practice.
  9. KPI for suppliers.

 

market

Online Marketplace

How to build an online marketplace?

Online Marketplace is one of the major trends in Russian eCommerce market.  In US and Europe Marketplaces became popular even in 2000-2004 after Amazon has grown to huge online retailer and has established relations with a lot of suppliers.

As you may already know, an online marketplace (or online e-commerce marketplace) is a type of e-commerce site where product and inventory information is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. Online marketplaces are the primary type of multichannel ecommerce. eBay and Amazon are the most famous marketplaces of them all.

Is building an online marketplace really that hard? Nowadays building an online marketplaces are become easy with the readymade software and it is one of the best way to grow business in an easiest way. Here I’d like to share a history of the company providing an online marketplace platform that enables retailers and publishers to launch their own online marketplaces.

In 2004, a special engine has been created with API for sending products from different suppliers to Amazon. Strange as it may seem that the project has been realized by Ixtens Inc., a company founded in Russia. Eight years they successfully grow in the sphere of support and maintenance a supplier onboarding process for several online marketplaces.

In 2011 they have launched the first Marketplace for media in the world. At this moment Ixtens has research and development office in Novosibirsk and sales offices in New York and London.  The company staff numbers more than 70 employees.

Platform Specifics

особенности платформы ixtens

The platform has been developed on Java. It’s enabled every ecommerce storefront solution becomes an online marketplace powered by marketplace backend.  The marketplace backend provides a portal for suppliers, delivery services and marketplace owner to aggregate product and inventory information into a single, unified catalog and route the orders to the appropriate supplier(s) for fulfilment. The portal works as a web-service and supports popular protocols and data formats like

  • Flat files
  • EDI (Electronic data interchange)
  • Data formats of popular ERP systems

The marketplace platform helps to automate the Marketplace as much as possible. Some of its functions are enumerated below:

  • automated product import/export from suppliers’ ERP systems/websites to Marketplace
  • automated verification of imported products to meet Marketplace criteria
  • automated aggregation of inventory of the same products came from different suppliers
  • automated analysis of product descriptions to provide customers with comprehensive information about products
  • large document exchange system with order routing and invoice management business logic
  • easy interface for supplier profile management and configuration of the portal

платформа ixtens

Company Success

Among the company customers there were Amazon.com, MTV, Tesco, Benefit, Lifetime brands.

In 2013 New York company Ixtens Inc. was rebranded to Merchantry Inc. and  raised $7m in Series B financing. The round was led by Kite Ventures, with participation from Greycroft Partners and e.ventures. The company intends to use the funds to continue to expand its sales team (read here) and its client base throughout the U.S. and Europe.

coffe-tree

History

To develop software company

I have a coffee tree in my office. I was gifted a small coffee tree when we start the software company more than 15 years ago. Now my coffee tree has delightful green leafs, strong trunk, and full of vital energy. This coffee tree had been moving with me from office to office as company grow. It adjusted to many places stayed always green. This tree is a constant reminder to me that for success we need keeping adjusted and keeping grow all the time.

The people are the leafs, trunk, and vital energy for company. It is not a secret in software world that the people affect how successful your company becomes. Nowadays the technologies are changing very quick. To bring company next level you need to hire for potential instead of experience.

This idea together with an atmosphere of openness, honesty and respect for one another let us to develop the company capabilities over the years.

  • 1999: Alexander Sutormin, Julia Malinina and Alexander Saraikin start work together on software development projects
  • 2000: We meet Eugene Nikiforov and open our first office.
  • 2001: Develop of business components for Intershop Enfinity (cartridges)
  • 2002: Starts first Amazon Integration for CBS Sportsline
  • 2003: The first company has been founded as Ixtens Russia
  • 2004: Launch Zabars on new Demandware eCommerce onDemand service
  • 2005: Bebe as a pilot Item Content Management (ICM) solution with Amazon.com
  • 2005: Move to new office  and grow up to 60 people
  • 2006: Builds the merchant integration engine for Amazon.com’s enterprise offering and launch M&S as first customer of this engine
  • 2007: Builds and support SAAS Inventory and Order Management Service for Ixtens US
  • 2008: The second company has been founded as Kyberpark
  • 2010: Builds Marketplace product for Merchantry
  • 2012: Move to new office and grow up to 95 people
  • 2013: Builds Supplier Hub product for Merchantry
  • 2014: Build Product Information Management System for Merchantry
  • 2015: Start new company and new product

Long term we were dedicated team for SAAS marketplace software development powers the development of Merchantry’s cloud-based software which supports multiple suppliers/sellers of products, aggregating product and inventory information into a single, unified catalog. The retailer then merchandises marketplace products on their online storefront. Once a shopper places an order, the items in the order are routed to the appropriate supplier(s) for fulfillment.

J2EE, Java 1.4 – Java 7, Tomcat, JBoss, Terracota BigMemory, Terracota Quartz Scheduler, SOAP, REST, JSON, Struts, GWT, jQuery, Hibernate (JPA), Datanucleus (JDO), Jersey, Axis, XSLT, JAXB, xmlbeans, Oracle

so we are here now to move forward!