A supplier portal was developed for the Fix Price network and automated the work with product data

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Client

A chain of stores with a wide range of household goods at low fixed prices. As of March 31, 2023, the Fix Price brand operated more than 5,800 stores in Russia and neighboring countries, each of which contains about 2,000 items in about 20 product categories. According to the company's 2022 report→., its revenue over the past year amounted to more than 277 billion rubles.

One of Fix Price's development areas is to increase online sales.

Problem: Incomplete data and errors in product descriptions

Several systems operate in the client's IT circuit, including an e-commerce showcase, an accounting system, a warehouse management system, and an ERP. All data on goods sold through the Fix Price network must be uploaded to the accounting system.

To create a product card in an ERP system, managers used to collect data from suppliers via messengers, by phone, or by email.

There was also a semi-automated option — an application through the supplier portal. After the supplier created a new item card, it was necessary to notify all other systems.

Such methods of data collection did not guarantee their high quality. The process involved:

  • a supplier representative who stores and collects product data according to its own internal standards;
  • Category Management Department Manager (hereinafter referred to as DCM), who focuses on the data necessary for the speedy introduction of goods into the product matrix;
  • content manager of the marketing department (hereinafter referred to as DM), who needs information to fill out the product card on the e-commerce showcase: name, specifications, configuration, artistic description of the product, etc.

If the content manager did not have enough information for the product card, he had to send an appropriate request to the supplier via the DCM, and each new link in the communication chain is known to slow down the overall process.

Чем больше звеньев в цепочке коммуникации, тем выше риск искажения информации и тем дольше утверждение | KT.Team

At the same time, Fix Price's assortment includes about 2,000 items in 20 product categories. Each content manager is responsible for hundreds of products. When entering data manually, this increases the risk of errors and deficiencies.

Solution: Fix Price suppliers and departments work with these goods electronically in a single system; the service bus distributes them between Fix Price systems

To automate data collection, ensuring their completeness and high quality, KT.team has implemented the supplier's personal account (hereinafter referred to as the LC) based on the Pimcore system into the Fix Price IT circuit and integrated the Mule ESB service bus.

Pimcore is a product management system, a database of product reference cards. It contains accurate and complete information about all products sold on the Fix Price network.

In LC, all three participants in the process work with the same product card.

The supplier fills in the data for the product card directly in the personal account system, after which the card is sent to the DCM manager automatically.

The DCM manager collects, edits or enriches product data necessary for the implementation of logistics processes in warehouses, as well as information that is required for the product to appear on offline store shelves. After checking the quality of data filling in by DCM employees, the product card is sent to prepare data for the web showcase, which is performed by marketing department managers

The DM manager validates attributes for the e-commerce showcase for sufficient information and supplements the fields with descriptions, product photos, etc.

If some fields are not validated by Fix Price departments, the supplier receives an appropriate notification and can supplement or correct the information directly in the LC — without lengthy correspondence and calls.

The supplier's personal account is required to request data directly from the supplier, distributor or manufacturer. Suppliers, in turn, can submit a new product or a new version of one of the old products through the LC, for example, a new taste of chips or the color of a T-shirt, a new plate design, etc.

The interaction between the LCD and accounting systems is based on data transfer via the Mule ESB system. The logic of sending messages within the bus follows the logic of the client's business process.

Архитектурная схема с ESB | KT.Team
Simplified architectural scheme

The product card filled out in the LC goes to PIM Fix Price, and from there to all other systems.

Data is sequentially transferred to three systems: e-commerce, an internal search engine, and an accounting system. The structure of the client's business process does not allow the card to be transferred to System No. 2 if the rules for publishing to System No. 1 are not met.

Result 1: Only high-quality product cards are guaranteed to enter Fix Price systems

Each new product card must be validated for compliance with the criteria for publication on the web showcase. The system has strict rules for each type of product regarding the list of mandatory fields and the required formats for the information provided. If any of the fields are blank, the card is returned for revision. If the card is successfully validated, the ESB transfers the card to other systems upon initiation by Pimcore.

For example, when you add a card of new pasta, the supplier receives information in the form of tips which fields are mandatory, for example, type (penne, pipe rigate, spaghetti, etc.), and the weight of the pack. Until this information is filled in, the product card will not proceed to the next verification stage.

Result 2: information about new products is transferred to the customer's IT systems in a controlled manner

The bus is used as an intermediary between LC and other Fix Price IT systems, replacing direct integrations between systems. When a set trigger is triggered — or with a specified frequency — Pimcore initiates sending new product cards that have passed all stages of verification to ESB. After that, the product cards enter the final consumer systems.

Monitoring and logging systems integrated into the ESB layer record what information was transmitted and what was not, what errors occurred during transmission and at what point. Thus, it is possible to accurately monitor the completeness and timeliness of data transfer between systems.

At the same time, the connector has a certain mapping (correspondence) between source systems and consumer systems, so information is not lost or distorted.

Result 3: you don't need to completely redesign integrations when changing the product card structure

Sometimes the structure of the product card in the PIM system or on the e-commerce showcase may change. For example, the overall size of an item that was previously recorded in three fields will need to be described in one field (or vice versa).

In this case, you would have to refactor and change the standard integration code, which would take hours of development. When using a service bus, you don't have to significantly modify the connectors: Mule ESB allows you to adjust field mapping within a couple of hours. The changes can then be extended to all associated connectors, and from now on, information for both new and existing cards can be transferred under the new rules.

Result 4: Provider and Content Manager save time through a bulk upload mechanism

Previously, category management department employees were unable to load goods from suppliers in bulk. The vendor could send an Excel file to the manager to manually transfer the information to Fix Price's internal systems. This process was unreliable, as it increased the risk of human errors: duplicate products, inaccuracies and distortions could appear when manually copying data between files.

With ESB, the process of bulk uploading product information is automated. The vendor downloads an Excel template with a pre-installed set of fields for each category, fills it in and uploads it to the LC. DCM managers check and approve or reject products from the sample — they can work with a specific card or several cards from the sample at once.

Results

  1. The client has a new automated business process. In the past, managers added new product cards manually, and suppliers transferred data in various ways. Now this happens centrally — through the supplier's personal account, and all information is processed within Pimcore.
  2. The bus has increased the resiliency of the IT circuit and reduces the degree of system connectivity, and significantly reduces the time to scale up and change integrations.
  3. Since May 2023, some of the processes have been going through Pimcore; new products in the pilot category have been added to the range only through the supplier's personal account. The data on these products in all systems is the same, reliable and complete.
  4. The bus allows data to be transferred to each accounting system in the format that it needs, for example, as a string or an object. It is enough to change only the mapping rules for the tire, rather than redesigning all systems. Ultimately, this saves resources on the simultaneous development of several systems.
  5. If a card is mistakenly deleted in one of the systems, it is easy to restore it. Data loss is impossible — the bus logs all requests that pass through it. If a message fails to be delivered to any of the systems, the administrator receives a notification.
  6. If you need to connect a new IT system, you just need to set up proper mapping and connection.
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