Who contacted us?
Representatives of the Polymertorg Сompany. It is the official supplier of polymer raw materials in Belarus.
What did the company want?
The company has two types of customers: small (like individual entrepreneurs) and large businesses. The former brings 20% of the profit, but take 80% of the managers' time. The latter, on the contrary, generate 80% of the turnover and require 20% of the time.
So the company representatives have come up with a hypothesis that the work with the first type of customers should be automated. It might cut the financial costs, save time, and allow the company to increase sales through marketing tools.
The sales in the b2b sector can be automated by creating personal accounts. We have already had this experience working with an online store. However, in the case of Polymertorg, the work didn't only consist of linking a typical personal account to the existing website. We had to reexamine most of the company processes together with the client and create a new unique tool that would be customized to the specific business.
At the stage of analysis, we prepared a list of requirements for the site functionality described in User Story. We described user interactions with the system that had the ultimate business value. We developed a site content management system for different user roles.
At the stage of prototyping, we worked out an interface through which users could interact with the site. Then we agreed and evaluated everything that we were going to implement and actually develop. Spoiler alert: the client agreed with all our suggestions.
Who did it?
Andrey Maksimenko was responsible for the business analysis. Lyubov Khrol drew the prototypes. Pasha Stefanyuk developed the back-end, and Denis Maksimov developed the front-end. And kudos to Ilya Filipenko for the design. CEO Maxim Bontsevich had our backs as a project manager with vast experience.
When the client came to us he just had the implemented 1C program and an idea of automation. We built the logic of the project from start to finish, created personal accounts for the company's customers, integrated 1C into the personal accounts, and trained the client's employee on how to work in new conditions.
We held about 5 meetings at the stage of analysis and prototyping. And we realized that if a company has never dealt with automation, it takes a lot of time to establish efficient processes and to consult with a large number of representatives from different departments. It took us 3 months.
When we evaluated everything and agreed upon what we had “imagined”, the designer got down to work. It took a little more than 3 weeks to complete the drawing of all the features and details, as well as to get approval from the client.
Development and integration took 2 months. As a result, the project lasted almost six months. In general, it takes the same time period to fully digitize sales of any large company so everyone is satisfied.
Finally, what does it look like?
Hints that make it easier for the customer to order, do not allow you to select the wrong quantity. They can pop up on hover or stand out in color. This is done in order to avoid mistakes and to relieve managers as much as possible, so that they do not have to re-coordinate anything.
Chat in your personal account with the manager. Since managers do not have their own accounts in the system, but have 1C and the site admin panel, the only possible way to organize communication with clients was to create a chat inside the client's personal account. It works like this: a person writes a message, a manager in 1C receives a notification, goes to the admin panel, and responds. The client, in turn, also receives a notification (in the most convenient way) that the answer to the question has come, goes to the personal account and sees it there.
News and offers as a way to sell additional products inside your personal account in the b2b segment is one of the most reliable options. Managers upload news via the admin panel.
A convenient calendar that shows the payment dates for orders, information about your personal manager, current news, notifications, current and archived orders, and selected products – all this was thought out at the stage of analytics and prototyping.
The financial documentation is also available in your personal account. But you can't download it directly, you can view it and request the originals from the manager. This is done so as not to disrupt the workflow process in the company.
In our opinion, the personal account for Polymertorg is a textbook example of what a personal account should be within the b2b segment. We have already discussed in our blog how it should look like. And this case has brought all the features together. Here are the most important ones:
Integration with 1C
When exchanging data with 1C, we constantly ping whether it is available or not. If not, we guarantee the delivery of the data after the access is resumed. Thus, for example, the orders will always be delivered to 1C, regardless of whether it works or not.
The personal account exists completely autonomously from 1C and functions even if 1C is unavailable. Thus, customers can place their orders without having to think about what is happening in the background.
We have taken into account that when a customer opens the order history, 1C may not respond. If so, we the customer will see not an error or link disconnection with 1C, but the most recent status of the order, which has been saved in the database.
We provide timely data transfer from 1C. For example, we update information about the stock balance every 5 minutes, since it is very important information. Once a day, we reconcile the accounts, since they appear in the accounting department with a delay, so we have these processes distributed and they do not interfere with each other.
We inform customers about the price changes in the cart with color notifications.
At the moment when a customer decides to place an order, we compare the prices and stock balance with 1C in real-time to avoid divergences. And we notify the customer if the price has changed or the required quantity is no longer available. Thus, we guarantee the maximum reliability of the data in the personal account.
We establish a secure connection for the personal account with 1C via VPN in order to guarantee the data exchange over a special secure channel, so that no one can intercept the information.
In this project, only the desired product groups are visible to the customers, while all the "secrets" of the company are in the shadows. But the customers may request the catalog extension. It is a very useful feature for B2B if you don't want to expose the entire catalog to everyone.
In the shopping cart, you can see the updated status of the ordered items (if someone manages to purchase all the items from the warehouse), and the price changes depending on the purchase volume or when the prices are changed in 1C. All the changes are highlighted in color. To prevent you from working at a loss or selling nonexistent positions. You can also add products to your selected items. Because the customers often place orders for the same products.
Other handy features
- Color indication
- A section with news and offers, which can be used to upsell the products or to implement tutorials on the use of new services. Or to inform about the product availability, promotional offers.
- Built-in analytics
- the ability to see previous orders (even if the customer has just registered in the personal account, but previously worked with the company)
- according to the status of the client, we show the possibilities of payments by installments, deferred payments, or only prepaid payments.
- we show the order status and create various notifications (calendar, pop-up notifications in the corresponding menu section, email, instant messengers, etc.). It resulted in such a virtual desktop — the main page plays its role, where it is immediately clear what is new and what the customer should do.
- managers may change the information about the company
- chat with a personal manager
We have transferred all requests (such as “Reconciliation Act”, “Change of Details”, and others), which usually take a lot of time into the ticket system. Now all requests are made via a single point, where the customer should choose the category and may attach files, then the manager receives the message. Meanwhile, in 1C, a task is created for each new request to which a manager should answer. As soon as the answer is provided, the customer receives a notification in his/her personal account and it is duplicated by email. Thus, we structured all the requests and brought them together in one place. Plus, the customer can always see his/her previous requests or find information in the history section.
Why is it cool for users?
There are no more annoying calls from managers, forgotten items, lost correspondence, you do not have to wait a long time for the documents. Now everything is available in your personal account.
You can see your order history, you can specify in the calendar when you should make a payment. You can request an extended version of the catalog if you need it. You can control financial reporting. What is more, you receive individual offers and you can configure the receipt of notifications where it is convenient. And a manager is always in touch with you, even when you are in roaming.
This is exactly what a b2b service should be in the 21st century. Convenient, simple, fast, user-friendly. We have worked hard on the UX/UI because the users' requirements are constantly growing, and the quality should be being improved. After all, if a company is able to anticipate the needs of its customers, it will always be profitable.
Why is it cool for customers?
At first, only small customers will be transferred to personal accounts. Then, if the hypothesis turns out to be true and the solution we have found satisfies the managers of both sides, we plan to transfer large customers online and probably to extend the functionality.
At the same time, as the processes will be automated, one manager will be able to devote time to a larger number of customers. At the same time, in fact, nothing has changed for the managers. Managers used to work in 1C, and they continue doing so, just the number of customers and the labor costs have changed.
Speaking about 1C, we can't but mention one of the typical clients' problems. “How will our employee cope with the work if he/she has never performed such tasks before?” and “What shall we do if everything breaks down?“ We answer: no, nothing will break down. Certain interruption and integration problems occur even in everybody's favorite Bitrix. But it's not our case. We do not just set up everything from scratch, we train our client's employee, help to understand everything so that later he/she could change all the necessary information on his/her own without destroying the client's business.
Moreover, we have helped to digitize the business and structure and optimize work processes, and put things in order. Of course, the company has been functioning before, but it turns out that it can cut a lot of costs and avoid unnecessary actions.
What stacks were used?
Front-end: React, Next.js – our main front-end stack, used to build interfaces and provide Server Side Rendering.
Back-end: PHP, Laravel – our main back-end stack, the most popular PHP framework at the moment.
Databases: PostgreSQL, Redis are used for reliable storage of basic data.
Server: Docker, Kubernetes allow to reduce the cost of maintaining the server infrastructure, building CI/CD processes.
Who will be interested?
Those who have understood that in the terms that 2020 dictates to us, their businesses should be online not just nominally, but function as efficiently as possible to adapt quickly to the changing situation. Those who need to cut costs and eliminate unnecessary processes. Those who have finally realized that a lot of tasks can be solved automatically without the participation of employees. Those who need to differentiate themselves from their competitors and offer modern and high-quality service to their customers. Those who are involved in the sales of products or services in the b2b sphere.