With a need to provide an ecommerce solution to its customer basis, iQ Apple Premium Reseller briefed SystemLabs to develop a site which would replace its manual mail order process.
Working across 3 markets of Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man, our task was to design, build and deliver an e-commerce platform. We also had to deliver a solution which could be fully integrated with iQ’s existing in-store Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for managing their business and sales activities, while also adhering to the global design and build standards of Apple.
As a first port of call, SystemLabs initially audited the current iQ in-store system to understand their internal operating procedures and determine the functional requirements and compatibility needs. In order to provide a seamless e-commerce experience we had to consider and meet requirements around the consolidation of data on sales as well as product availability and payments, so that end of day reporting and reconciliation could be done without any additional tasks for the user.
With the initial audit complete we began to design a workable prototype of the website. The first port of call for this was to develop a user experience which delivered a clear and easy pathway for online purchasing. This involved streamlining product selection and checkout as well as building an efficient customisation tool for those wishing to configure and personalise their machine.
With a clear UX in place we went on to design a workable website prototype using Adobe XD. Taking a mobile first approach, with a mindset of efficiency for both client and customer, we were able to demonstrate the full design and functionality of the site as well as the customer experience. As iQ is an Apple Premium Reseller we also needed to fully adhere to the brand’s global guidelines which related not only to the visual design but also the ability to efficiently accommodate future changes to site.
Project management was required throughout the build from the initial design and prototyping process progressing to theme building and through to delivery. As a part of this process we also had to liaise with third party suppliers of the existing instore applications, who are based in California, to ensure full CMS and eCommerce platform theme integration. In addition, we had to manage the content population to meet the brand’s requirements which included the development of bespoke modules so we could fully and effectively integrate with the stores existing sales system.
Once the design was approved and all the requirements had been understood we took a two-pronged approach to the development so that different teams could work simultaneously on front-end theme development and integration and backend module development for sales system integration and syncing.
To ensure a consistent workflow we required a portable development environment which enabled both in-house and remote developers to work on the project in an environment that was as close to the production set up as possible. To create this environment we built a heavily customised containerised Docker setup which meant we could ensure compatibility and efficiency for development across various operating systems.
With the deployment of multi-market websites in mind we used a multimode Kubernetes setup which enabled us to simultaneously develop the site for three markets, with obvious customisations for each in place. Choosing Docker early on in the project enabled a seamless transition from development to deployment thanks to a continuous automated integration and deployment process.
Central to the development of the eCommerce solution was the integration of the existing in-store sales system to synchronise all transactions.
Stock and order synchronisation was achieved by developing a custom 2-way sync between the e-commerce platform and iQ’s bespoke FileMaker system. To achieve this synchronisation we had to identify all of the various scenarios which could occur during a purchase, including understanding the constraints of the existing system and deciding which system was to be the master data source depending on the conditions when the sync occurred.
For example, there were many different scenarios to be taken into consideration for managing customer data. Some customers had existing profiles from in-store purchases and some were completely new. The system had to toggle between the master data held and the in-store system to identify this. We also had to address the constraints of ‘one address per customer’ held in their existing FileMaker system, compared to the multi-address capability of the e-commerce platform we built.
With all scenarios considered and the solutions conceptualised and implemented, the final step was to ensure all background processes vital for a purchase happened in a way which didn’t impact the customer experience. For this we spanned out additional Kubernetes pods with the application container in a private network - this enabled background tasks vital for site function to operate seamlessly.
Prior to delivery, the website was subject to a rigorous QA (Quality Assurance) testing process. This meant visiting all pages and working through all purchase scenarios to identify and eliminate any issues that could potentially impact a smooth user experience or prevent orders from being processed.
Part of our task was to deliver websites for three markets: Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man. To maximise efficiency in our delivery we utilised Kubernetes clusters, an application which allowed us to automatically scale our work across all three sites meaning high efficiency delivery for the customer as well as a shorter development time resulting in lower development cost for the customer.
After the launch a site which provides a vital business function needed continuous monitoring. SystemLabs manage the continued availability of the iQ site through 24/7 system monitoring which identifies critical errors, tracks server loads and database availability.
Caroline Slowey-Dickinson, Brand Director at Sandpiper said, “We developed a great partnership with SystemLabs and the dedication to delivering our vision and needs is evident in all aspects of the site. Their experience and support has helped to improve the user experience delivering to the highest standard. The websites have also contributed to 5% of the turnover from a 0% contribution.”