22 ONLINE SALES CHANNELS IN ONE PLACE - CASE STUDY OF MARKETPLACE AUTOMATION FOR JKB GROUP
For most significant players, e-commerce today means not only selling through their own online store but also on numerous marketplace platforms, including the biggest ones like Amazon, Allegro, or eBay, as well as emerging ones like Erli, Kaufland, or Otto.
What challenges are associated with this, and how can they be met? Answers to these questions are provided by Dawid Stoma and Mateusz Żmuda from JKB Group, who focus on perfecting the automation of online sales processes. The e-com.house team had the pleasure of being part of this ambitious project.
Problem in online sales automation
JKB Group posed a challenge to the market: 9 markets, 5 languages, 22 sales channels, and 2 distribution models (FBA - Fulfillment by Amazon - and classic), in addition to very high seasonality in the form of one, large peak lasting just under 2 months. Besides sales on marketplaces, the platform should also handle potential online stores in the future, therefore it must meet standards in terms of browser performance for the end customer.
Diagram: IT architecture proposed by e-com.house (simplified version)
To meet this challenge, we relied on a specific set of proven tools:
1. Magento 2
As a central solution, we chose the open-source version of Magento 2. This choice was deliberate. Magento 2 offers a range of features that make it perfectly suitable for complicated e-commerce processes:
Ready connections to marketplace connectors for seamless integration with popular shopping platforms,
Well-developed multistore allows for flexible content management depending on the platform or target market,
Multiwarehouse module: functionality supporting the division of warehouse stocks, which is key when selling in multiple places simultaneously,
Extensive API - allowing for easy development and customization of our solution by integrating with other tools or platforms.
In the longer term, we also plan to use this API to deploy a PWA (Progressive Web App), which will provide clients with a highly efficient front. It is designed to maintain smooth operation even in the face of numerous background operations, which are not lacking in this case.
2. Baselinker and Channable
Instead of investing in creating dedicated connectors to marketplaces from scratch, we opted for proven solutions - Baselinker and Channable. These are renowned tools, recognized in the world of e-commerce.
Baselinker not only facilitates easy connection with platforms such as Allegro in terms of catalog but also offers integrated functions for managing orders, inventory, and process automation.
Channable, on the other hand, is a “specialist” in the field of optimizing and automating product feeds and has connections to more niche, international platforms.
Using these two tools, stores can seamlessly export and update product data, manage offers, and monitor sales on almost all available marketplaces.
3. Dedicated Order Management System
During our work with marketplace platforms, we noticed the need for another key element - a dedicated service for order unification. Its main task is processing and standardizing orders from different platforms before they reach the main ERP system. In the world of e-commerce, keeping track of documents, settlements, and shipments is a complicated task. Proper distribution of this information between different marketplaces requires a system that will operate reliably.
Moreover, the additional value of this subsystem is the built-in system of custom logs. Thanks to this, we can monitor in real-time and be informed about potential problems or discrepancies in processes that we have identified as key to our business. This function gives us the assurance that no problem will escape our attention, and we can quickly respond to any irregularities.
Thanks to such technological choices, we are convinced that we have taken steps towards optimizing sales operations and ensuring the best quality of service for JKB Group customers.
Photo: JKB Group
Sales on Marketplaces - what processes must you take care of, regardless of scale
Although the earlier described case involves operating on a large scale, there is a certain universality in the challenges of selling on marketplaces. Regardless of whether you are a newcomer or an experienced player in this field, from a technical and operational perspective, sales on these platforms focus around six main processes:
1. Catalog integration
If you already have an online store, the key to effective sales is catalog integration. It makes no sense to manage the entire assortment independently within another CMS. The earlier example shows how to use multistore functionality in Magento 2 to differentiate content at the CMS level on different platforms. However, it's not just about technical aspects. The key is also a strategic approach to content. It is important to remember to differentiate content on different e-commerce platforms to avoid risking cannibalization of organic traffic on your own site. To achieve this, tools for automatic text transformations can often be used, ensuring both consistency and variety of offered content.
2. Inventory states
When selling in multiple places, the key to success is proper inventory management. Together with the catalog, these states are synchronized. At the initial stage of business, introducing integration of a collective warehouse and sharing inventory states between different sales platforms and auctions may be entirely sufficient.
However, it is worth considering potential challenges. To avoid the problem of selling products above available stocks, especially when your business scale increases and synchronization between sales management tools, such as Baselinker, and our store occurs at longer intervals, it is worth considering a strategy. One solution could be creating an independent, even if virtual, warehouse dedicated to online sales. This will allow better control of product availability and increase customer satisfaction, thanks to the assurance that the product they ordered is indeed available.
Integration and price management on marketplace platforms is a challenge that may require a different approach than what we are used to in the context of traditional online stores. In this process, two key elements stand out:
Adjusting the pricing policy: Not every marketplace platform has the same trade conditions. Therefore, it is worth adjusting your pricing policy so that it matches the specifics of each of them and ensures price competitiveness.
Discount policy: The decision on whether we want to transfer our promotions and discounts from the store to the marketplaces can be crucial. If we decide to take this step, it is worth considering how easily and effectively we can do it. For example, using Magento 2 and Baselinker, there is the possibility of managing promotions directly from the store level. If you are interested in such a solution, we will be happy to share our experience and knowledge on this topic.
Using the right tools and strategies, we can make managing prices on different marketplace platforms simpler and more efficient.
After detailed integration of the product catalog, setting inventory states, and implementing the appropriate pricing policy, the next step is managing orders.
Regardless of where they are handled, i.e., in which system operators make changes to order statuses and process them, the key is precise mapping of these statuses. This ensures consistent communication and efficient processing of orders not only within your system but also in communication with the customer.
Additionally, it is important not to forget about proper mapping and setting notifications regarding customer comments or remarks to the order. Often these short notes contain key information that can affect the correct delivery of the package or customer satisfaction. Monitoring these remarks and responding quickly to them can significantly raise the quality of customer service in your store.
Paying attention to details in managing orders on marketplaces is the foundation for maintaining high-quality service and building lasting relationships with customers.
Customers using marketplace platforms often have high expectations regarding the speed and transparency of the delivery process. Many of them are as, if not more, impatient than customers of traditional online stores. Therefore, it is worth taking extra steps to provide them with complete information about the status of their order by providing a tracking number, which allows customers to independently track the status of their shipment in real time.
Most marketplaces offer the option of adding a tracking number directly in the order panel. Additionally, there is often the possibility of sending this number to a unique customer email address assigned by the marketplace platform.
Remembering these details and caring about customer awareness at every stage of the delivery process, we can not only meet their expectations but also stand out from the competition in the eyes of marketplace users.
Photo: JKB Group
To properly complete the sales process and meet accounting and legal requirements, it is necessary to provide the customer with the appropriate sales document. However, there are certain aspects that should be considered when integrating the invoicing process with marketplace platforms:
Attachments - depending on the specific platform, you may be required to attach the invoice directly to the order. This makes it easier for the customer to access it and helps in any return or complaint issues.
Data security - when working with invoices, you deal with sensitive data, both of the customer and your company. All data, including invoices in .pdf format, should be stored in a maximally controlled manner. Try to avoid unnecessary duplication of documents in different locations. Moreover, ensure that files are not publicly accessible from the internet.
Automated invoicing process - it is worth considering automating the process of issuing and delivering invoices. This can increase operational efficiency and ensure that each invoice is delivered to the customer in a timely and correct format.
Photo: JKB Group
Specifics of marketplace platforms
The above may seem already complex, but in fact, these are the operational foundations that also exist in standard online sales. In the case of sales on marketplaces, they are additionally complicated by the multitude of channels. Unfortunately, in the case of sales on marketplaces, we face a few specific and significant elements. Here are 3 key ones:
1. Multiple shipment model
If you sell using an external warehouse model (e.g., FBA by Amazon), you must be prepared for the marketplace to often perform several shipments for a single order. Your online store or ERP system must handle this. This can lead to problems, such as issuing and combining sales documents.
2. VAT OSS
While your online store's checkout can take care of VAT calculation according to VAT OSS requirements at the order acceptance stage, in the case of marketplaces, you must ensure proper post-facto settlement. Proper identification of orders and customers from different countries will be an indispensable part of the puzzle.
3. Separation of competencies among systems
When you engage more systems into your platform, you will notice that some of them offer similar solutions. You can manage your catalog, inventory, or issuing of consignment notes in your store, Baselinker, ERP system, or WMS. Regardless of which system you decide on (which should depend on your ease of use, price, stability, and advancement of the tool), try not to manage individual processes in multiple places. For instance, if the actual inventory status is generated in the ERP system, try not to modify it elsewhere.
Photo: JKB Group
Additional tips on automating the sales process on marketplaces from JKB Group platform owners
Automation of the sales process on marketplace platforms has become essential in today's e-commerce world. However, there is a clear need for a new, innovative solution that is more flexible and ready for development than the tools currently available on the market. Our company is ready for this challenge and is working on creating such an application. The product focuses on delivering a comprehensive solution that not only streamlines sales processes but also adapts to the changing needs of the market. With this approach, we are able to synchronize key data and processes on sales platforms, optimize working time, and reduce errors.
Our next, extremely exciting initiative will be the development of the platform towards comprehensive management of the marketing part on e-commerce platforms. We plan to introduce advanced tools based on artificial intelligence, which will enable the creation and optimization of titles, content, and product graphics in a highly efficient manner.
Dawid Stoma - Board member of JKB Group, Business Owner of the platform
Hasten Slowly - this should be the main motto when implementing such large systems that automate processes in e-commerce. Good pre-implementation analysis is half the success, while the rest is perseverance in pursuing the goal.
Mateusz Żmuda - Chief programmer of JKB Group, Technical Owner of the platform
Photo: JKB Group
Automation of the sales process on marketplaces - summary
Modern e-commerce is not only about online stores but also about dynamic marketplace platforms. JKB Group has faced many challenges, combining the service of different markets, languages, and sales channels.
The use of appropriate tools and thoughtful architecture is key to achieving success in sales on marketplace platforms and to ensuring excellent customer service. It is worth noting that although the challenges are extensive, the basic operational principles remain universal, with similar foundations as those found in traditional e-commerce.
When is it worth thinking about dedicated integrations? Certainly, when there are real limitations blocking the development of your business in the technologies described above, or when the monthly cost of maintaining tools means that it would be more economical to invest in maintaining your own infrastructure. We will try to write about this in a separate article.