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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.