Custom Ecommerce Solution Revamp

Being a technology partner of a UK-based online retailer, Iflexion elaborated and implemented an optimization strategy for a custom ecommerce solution, which contributed to the customer’s 4 million user base growth.

Expertise
eCommerce
Web & Enterprise Portals
Verticals
Retail
Technologies
PHP

Being a technology partner of a UK-based online retailer, Iflexion elaborated and implemented an optimization strategy for a custom ecommerce solution, which contributed to the customer’s 4 million user base growth.

  • PHP
Calendar
20
Months
Gears
58
Person-months

Customer

The customer is one of the largest independent UK-based online retailers offering electrical and computer goods. Founded in 1999, the company started as a brainchild of a group of IT companies and shortly after developed their own ecommerce website for PC enthusiasts. The company offers 40,000+ products, ranging from computer components and peripherals to mainstream electronics.

Context

The customer’s ecommerce solution comprised an online marketplace for clients and an administrative part for employees. The latter was used by almost all company departments, including sales, finance, marketing, warehouse, and customer support.

The solution had a complex infrastructure with large administrative and frontend parts. It was deployed on multiple servers and integrated with various cloud and API services. Moreover, as the platform was developed in the early 2000s, the technologies used initially have become outdated since then. All of that made it challenging to manage and support the system. It was clear that it required an infrastructure upgrade.

However, there was no technical documentation, only one IT specialist knew how the whole system worked, and there were no onsite ecommerce developers to deal with PHP code on which the system was based. The absence of documentation and knowledge base blocked the hiring of new software engineers onsite. All these factors together made scaling the system or introducing even simple changes challenging and nearly impossible, while multiple operational issues and never-ending bug fixing consumed all the resources needed for further solution development.

That resulted in significant customer service problems—the company faced up to 50 technical issues per day, and the user satisfaction reached the lowest point, which led to profit decline. The customer started looking for an IT consulting partner to help transform their ecommerce solution and create a roadmap for infrastructure optimization and technology upgrade. Our customer’s partner recommended Iflexion because of our proven track record of completed projects for retail and wholesale.

Solution

Strategy elaboration

Iflexion’s team examined the solution’s components and its technical feasibility, including code, technology, and infrastructure review to understand the current technology state, detect existing issues, and find an optimal approach to its improvement. Based on the performed audit, we delivered a report with an assessment summary and recommendations, required technology improvements, and possible transformation scenarios. Our team proposed two approaches:

  1. Gradual code refactoring and improvement of the existing solution with further functionality extension module by module
  2. Solution migration to an open-source ecommerce platform (the customer voted for Magento) and its customization.

To make an informed decision on which option to choose, Iflexion’s team prepared a comparison of the approaches. Our business analysts investigated the current functionality and gathered the requirements conducting interviews with stakeholders and employees who used the portal on a regular basis. We created a functional requirements specification describing the required portal functionality and flows. Based on the prepared documentation, we estimated both approaches in terms of scope, risks, budget, and the volume of work to be completed.

To evaluate the amount of the required features that would be covered by the Magento functionality, we performed a Magento coverage analysis. The results have shown that:

  • 4.8% of the features would be fully covered by the out-of-the-box Magento functionality
  • 23.6% of the features would be mainly covered by Magento functionality
  • 29.2 % of the features would be covered by customized Magento functionality
  • 42.4% of the features would be covered by custom code only

Based on the comparison, we recommended choosing the first option—gradual code refactoring and improvement of the existing solution. The estimated cost of this approach compared to the alternative was two times lower, and the duration was 1.5 shorter with 0.01% downtime.

Solution upgrade

Being the main technology partner, Iflexion’s team was responsible for code refactoring, technology selection and upgrade, and new functionality development. We gradually introduced enhancements defined during the system audit, module by module reworking and updating the ecommerce solution. Iflexion’s team was also responsible for remote software support and urgent bug fixing. The implemented changes included:

  • Infrastructure optimization
  • Code migration from PHP 4 to PHP 7
  • Integration with payment systems
  • Two-way CRM integration
  • Development of new functionality for consumer and admin parts

Results

The ecommerce solution audit performed by Iflexion’s team, as well as delivered and implemented recommendations helped optimize solution performance and create infrastructure ready for future extensions. Our team analyzed the customer’s needs, elaborated an optimization roadmap, and prepared the necessary documentation.

With the literally zero downtime, we helped the customer upgrade their ecommerce solution extending its functionality and ensuring its stability, scalability, and maintainability. That resulted in the customer’s user base reaching 4 million registered clients and strategic business partnerships with Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Toshiba, and Sony brought on board right after the solution revamp. 

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