100 mln EUR from Magento-based B2B eCommerce after three years might sound unlikely for many people. That is why we present our case study at TIM SA even more proudly.

In this article, you’ll read about our biggest so far B2B project that became a business success. As the process of implementing the new platform was long and multi-stage, we’ll describe it with details and tell how we achieved such a good result.

Our cooperation with TIM SA, one of the biggest Polish companies distributing electro-technical goods with almost 30 years of market experience, started in 2011. Facing the changes in today’s world of B2B distribution, the company decided to diversify its selling channels. It wasn’t a big surprise: according to the latest analysis, nearly 30% of today’s buyers make at least half of their purchases on-line, what’s more, the number is expected to nearly double to 56% by 2017. What’s more, nearly 75% of B2B buyers say buying from an e-commerce site is more convenient that buying from a sales rep. These are the main two reasons why companies decide to start selling online.

Through developing an online platform TIM wanted to achieve two main goals – business diversification and improving effectiveness. To reach them we designed and developed a B2B eCommerce platform based on Magento with some customized features and external integrations. The results were astonishing:

In 2013:

  • Over 84 000 000 EUR revenue.

In 2016:

  • 21% increase in sales through the on-line channel (compared to 2015),
  • Almost 144 000 000 EUR revenue (including 100 000 000 EUR revenue from online channels).

How we managed to do it?

The process itself was long and multi-stage. To maintain effective development of project we created a dedicated team, working in SCRUM Methodology. That gave TIM the control and quality they needed.

To keep the quality of the implementation, we used the standard Divante solutions such as a version control system, a ticketing system (where all communication with the client happens), monitoring system – Incinga, Jenkins + Selenium + ELK Stack to monitor integrations.

How did it start?

Somebody once said that research is to see what everybody has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. Having this in mind we started from a grounded research – from competitor analysis, through surveys research, benchmarking and trend analysis, industry reports, to a contextual enquiry. It wasn’t as easy as we thought at the beginning, but, as you can see at the photo below, it was a nice break from the desk job and, what is even more important, the results turned out to be fruitful.

Personas, system designing and prototypes

Equipped with all the necessary information we started creating personas – fictional identities that reflect one of the user groups we design for. We believe that this stage is necessary for all the projects – it helps the designer to think about the needs of a user and prevent some common design pitfalls.

personas

The next step was a Design Phase – basing on our experience we always start with prototypes. The reason is simple – at this stage of the process there’s a lot of changes and corrections that appear during the workshops, brainstorming sessions and are initiating by the client itself. Basically, it is cheaper to work on mockups – interactive prototypes.

concept

Having the paper prototypes ready we started preparing a digital version of prototypes and after that we tested it with users. The biggest challenge at this stage of a process was related to the fact that potential customers may have different experiences with online shopping.

Having the final version of prototypes approved we started with graphics. To shorten the time to final release we carried out with the implementation at the same time.

Choosing technology

Choosing the best platform for your B2B eCommerce is always difficult. Basing on our experience that we gained since 2008, we can say with a hand on our heart that Magento is usually the best choice.

Why should you consider Magento?

  • Magento is currently the most popular eCommerce software,
  • Magento is the most popular platform to migrate to,
  • You have the producer’s support and a flexible license model – you can use an open source version or buy Magento Enterprise,
  • The software provides a rich set of ready-to-use features.
designing
designing

Magento is a platform primarily designed for B2C needs. Regarding this, when you consider it for B2B, you need to think about some additional features that meet the B2B needs:

  • Adding products faster (with photos and videos),
  • Marketing automation,
  • Recommendation engine,
  • Search that works like Google,
  • CRM allows your sales reps to work on your clients’ accounts,
  • Probably you will also need some custom B2B modules, like a tree structure of the clients’ account, payment methods, and a flexible shopping cart (eg.converting shopping cart to an offer).

Implementation and start-up

To put it in a nutshell – the implementation of the first version of the system took us over 14 months.

During the development of system architecture we also needed to remember about the scalability and performance. The most important improvements that we made included:

  • Replication of the database to speed up reading operation and balance the traffic to database,
  • Using a cache system – in this case, Memcached during its optimization was replaced by Redis,
  • Using a scattered system of files (GlusterFS),
  • Using an HTTP-reverse-proxy system Varnish that speeds up loading pages and static files,
  • Using PerconaDB instead of MySQL for the database.

Testing and quality assurance

The success of this project wouldn’t take place without the testing phase. We conducted lots of them – from functional tests, through integration tests, safety tests, to performance tests.

There’s no doubt, that every downtime of the system is a large, measurable loss. It’s crucial to react quickly, that’s why we formed the ‘Divante S.W.A.T.’ – a team of the most experienced developers that are ready to react in less than 1 hour.

Financial success

Let’s focus on numbers. To visualize our 5 years of cooperation with TIM we’ve prepared the project timeline including the data about on-line sales share in the overall income.

timeline
timeline

As you can see, TIM’s eCommerce sales are growing really fast. What’s more the number of products ordered online is growing faster the total value of online sales. That means the online sales have bigger potential to diversify. On top of that, smaller but more frequent purchases build customer loyalty.

This project has been a huge success for TIM. They have changed the electro-technical market in Poland. They’ve achieved their business goals: business diversity, lots of new customers and improved business effectiveness.

In 2013:

  • Over 84 000 000 EUR revenue.

In 2016 :

  • 21% increase in sales through the on-line channel (compared to 2015),
  • Almost 144 000 000 EUR revenue (including 100 000 000 EUR revenue from online channels).

The implementation has also been recognized by Magento specialists – a leading provider of online store software. The project for TIM SA was qualified for the finals of Imagine Excellence Awards 2016 for The Best B2B User Experience.

What’s next?

In recent Forrester research study they investigated the B2B technologies companies are eager to invest in. This is a kind of roadmap for us too. We are currently working on improving the retention of clients through BigData analysis and personalized recommendations. Automated pricing optimization is the next big thing we want to pursue.

B2B e-Commerce technologies to invest in:

  • Automated pricing optimization – 62%,
  • Personalized recommendations – 56%,
  • Use of wearable computing in distribution centers – 49%,
  • Sensors in shipments/products – 46%,
  • Robots/automation in distribution center/supply chain – 34%,
  • Shopping cart abandonment analysis – 32%.

Summary

The cooperation between TIM SA and our company began in 2011 and resulted in TIM.pl – Poland’s first online store with electrotechnical articles, directed primarily to wholesale customers. The original purpose of TIM SA was the diversification of sales channels and improving efficiency by attracting new customers and expanding the product range. During the multi-stage design including preparing a comprehensive pre-implementation analysis, developing a coherent strategy, implementation, overall testing, and website maintenance, there was created a platform enriched with many dedicated B2B features, based on a clear architecture. The project was a financial success – the online revenue after 3 years exceeded 87 mln EUR.

Did you enjoyed the article and want to know more about this project, have questions regarding B2B implementations or want to try this solution for your business? Just drop us an email!

Agata Młodawska

Content Marketing Manager at Divante eCommerce Software House | LinkedIn | Twitter

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