eCommerce Platform Adjustments for an International Company
Our customer is an international eCommerce/FinTech company, operating in 10+ EMEA countries. The company started its eCommerce business branch using an existing eCommerce platform, which was outdated and unscalable. Most of the critical features such as search, poorly-working filter, and the client application system were unstable and slowly performing, especially under load. Bad performance blocked the integration with sellers and merchants – uploading a hundred thousand of partners’ products required weeks to proceed.
During our partnership, the Abto Software team:
- optimized the most critical features of the eCommerce platform;
- enabled the expansion to a dozen new markets for customer business;
- helped integrate thousands of new sellers;
- opened a new gate of payment which created a new business opportunity for the customer.
Episode 1. Resolve most critical client-facing issues
Search and filter are crucial for any eCommerce platform. If the client cannot find a needed product – they won’t buy it. However, a search in our customer’s system was returning random results and making clients feel lost.
Abto Software team implemented search and filter from the ground up, using Solr cluster as a search engine.
The major obstacle was in product descriptions. They were translated automatically from Chinese to English, and then – from English to other languages which made the texts far imperfect. Also, users might use mixed languages in their search phrases where one word could be in English and the other in Russian or Arabic.
Abto Software developers redesigned the configurator of keywords and forbidden words to enable configurable rules. It allowed the content team to tune the new search engine and exclude irrelevant results or include the missing items.
- Development and content teams worked together and polished the search functions.
- Just these improvements in search and filter increased sales by impressing 30+%.
Episode 2. Stabilize the client app
The solution offered a mobile app only to the clients. The app itself was developed based on a Cordova-like framework made and supported by a Chinese vendor. The major obstacle was that everything: web-tools, IDE, documentation – was in an unfamiliar language. The technology was also unknown.
Extra difficulties came from quite poor support and scalability of the platform: we might wait for hours in the queue to make a build. New requirements from Google Play and Apple Store could wait for weeks to get supported by our platform, which delayed our releases.
Our team took ownership over the old app, improved the performance and reliability, and supported it till the native-apps were ready to replace the old one.
During that period, the number of markets grew up by 50% and the user base just tripled, which is the best sign of the Abto Software development team’s success.
Episode 3. Automation of manual processes
eCommerce platform had a few dozen million products. It was impossible to translate their descriptions into ten or more languages manually.
Abto Software team implemented automatic translation connected to Google, Bing, and Yandex APIs, leaving only verification and approval to the human hand and eye.
All new products are automatically translated into all platform languages. Clients can read and search for products in their mother tongue.
2. Price Comparison
AliExpress was the main competitor of our customer in all markets, which means it was absolutely crucial to have comparable prices.
Again, it wasn’t possible to compare the prices of ten million products for each market manually. Also, AliExpress does not offer any API we could use to grab the prices.
Abto Software engineers utilized Selenium WebDriver which performed a smart search for all our products at AliExpress, collected the prices and shipping costs for all our customer’s markets.
The sellers started receiving automatic reports when their prices were too high, and this gave another boost of almost 10% to the sales.
Figure 1. AliExpress Price Grabber
Episode 4. Improvement of platform performance
In the beginning, the performance issues were mitigated by load-balancing, clustering, and upgrading the servers. That approach gave a linear performance increase. As a result, the user-base and merchants’ number grew exponentially. Big merchants with 300k-400k products needed months to upload their products using the old routine.
Abto Software team stepped in and investigated the most critical places, DB queries. We re-designed the product import routine from the ground up, using microservice-based architecture.
Four microservices were doing their parts of the procedure; each had its own scaling strategy; direct SQL queries and extensive DB tuning decreased the import time from months to minutes!
Figure 2. Product import via Excel-file
Figure 3. Product Import via API
- Product import performance increased in impressing 8000+ times.
- The system availability for the sellers reached an amazing 99.8% since the main-system downtime no longer blocked product upload and validation.
- Individual scaling of a bottlenecked microservice decreased the system cost by 60+% for the product import subsystem.
Episode 5. Opening up new opportunities
Our customer’s eCommerce platform had a vast number of different payment options in every country. Not just credit/debit cards – clients could pay right from their bank accounts or even by cash.
But our customer wanted to go further and enable instalments.
Abto Software team designed the architecture of a new payment gateway, which accepted credit/debit cards as well as payments via 3rd party finance organizations. Just a few clicks made by our users executed a complicated procedure that:
- Performed internal scoring;
- Queried several 3rd party scoring systems;
- Secured M4M/eToken for payment guarantee;
- Called 3rd party API to transfer the funds from a financial company to the merchants;
- Confirmed the payment to the seller.
Figure 4. Payment Gateway High-level Diagram
Figure 5. Pay after Delivery (PAD) via the new Payment Gateway
So, website users spend no extra time while shopping; pay nothing at the moment of the purchase, receive the products on time, and pay when it is most convenient. At the same time, the sellers receive their money within the contracted terms.
- Abto Software’s architectural decisions opened up a new business branch to our customer.
- The new payment gateway enabled a new payment option to the clients – paying up to 30 days after the delivery.
Episode 6. Combatting COVID
The pandemic situation blocked markets and borders where our eCommerce platform was operating. People were scared of the virus and rejected purchasing any goods from China. Whoever was brave enough to order, had to wait for their items as borders got closed for small packages. The entire business was close to death.
Smart thinking and non-traditional decisions were needed, and our team helped with that as well. Our suggestions were:
- Add medical, cleaning goods, and grocery from local sellers to our customer’s system. Use our infrastructure to conduct the delivery and payments;
- Purchase for someone else – the feature that enabled purchasing for other people, who did not have a smartphone (first of all elderly people, who needed help during isolation the most)
- The features mentioned above helped many people stay isolated, and local businesses to sell online when the stores had to stay closed.
This allowed our customer to request social quotas on TV ads and promote the platform for free.
Some of our suggestions were implemented, and this eCommerce platform, empowered with the FinTech branch, continues capturing more and more new markets.
Abto Software team’s suggestions on the business level helped the entire business survive during its hardest times.
Full technological stack
PHP5; PHP7; Laravel; NodeJS; Microservices; VueJS; Apache Kafka; Redis; sorl; MySQL; Swift; Kotlin; Java; Hertzner; Docker; Ansible.