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Implementing E-Commerce: Moving AMT Forward

Implementing E-Commerce: Moving AMT Forward

Adding a webshop to your site can be a headache, especially if you have a large sales catalog which has to be migrated online. You don’t want your existing site to experience any downtime, and you want customers to find shopping online with you easy and intuitive, while still providing them with the products and information they expect. When Advanced Marine Technologies wanted to consolidate their product catalogs and add a new online store, they came to Gossamer Threads to give them all the functionality they wanted without any hassle or unnecessary change to their workflow. Here’s how we helped AMT make the move into e-commerce smoothly and securely, using Gossamer Links and a custom shopping cart, and implementing a careful and detailed import of AMT’s multiple product catalogs.

Building Webshops to Suit

AMT has a unique history, in that it represents the amalgamation of three existing marine part manufacturers, representing the full price spectrum available to customers. A key issue in building AMT’s webshop would be the creation of a new, consolidated product catalog, while maintaining the information contained in the legacy catalogs. Maintaining these legacy catalogs was of critical importance, as AMT’s customers need to know which products are compatible with each other.

Building a webshop from scratch presents challenges, but also allowed for customization from the ground up, tailored to address AMT’s existing workflow and unique catalog situation. Our Gossamer Links platform with a MySQL database offered the versatility this project needed, but would have to be augmented by a completely new shopping cart to accommodate the specificity of AMT’s data.

AMT Storefront
The new AMT storefront page.

  • The new site was custom-built for an established customer base accustomed to phone ordering, rather than online shopping.
  • We created accommodations for the rigorous detail of AMT’s boating parts catalog: weights, schematic files, and compatibility with other parts all had to be incorporated. While new product numbers were created, legacy product numbers were also maintained, ensuring that AMT’s customers had all of the compatibility information they needed to make informed purchases.
  • Printer-friendly versions of all product pages were also designed, giving prospective customers all of the information they need on a single sheet.
  • We used Paypal Pro for payment integration, giving customers the option to stay on AMT’s site while making payments, rather than being redirected to Paypal’s site.
  • Shipping prices are calculated in real-time: data is pulled from FedEx and Canada Post, giving customers a range of shipping options and prices as soon as they enter their address, all on the same page.
  • A custom back-end payment administration system was built for AMT’s staff, allowing them to view, search, and update customer orders instantly, informing customers of the progress of their orders and storing all sales records in an easily manageable format.
  • During the course of our development, AMT incorporated two more extant parts manufacturers into their umbrella company. The new indexing system we created was able to integrate those manufacturer’s catalogs as well. We gave AMT the infrastructure to expand their business in the future, and add more products to their webshop as the company grows.

AMT Order Management Panel
An order as it appears in the AMT Order Management Panel. Note the options to update the order’s status and generate invoices.

Importing Two Tables

After analyzing AMT’s existing product database, we determined that storing data within two separate Gossamer Links tables (but one installation) would be the optimal route. With many of AMT’s products being available in different sizes, materials, and colours, we realised that normalizing the data – ie, building one table with the core products, and another with the different variations of those products – would have multiple benefits.

  • Shoppers can browse and purchase different styles or sizes of a product without having to view multiple product pages – ten of one product in red and half a dozen in blue can all be added to the cart from the same page.
  • Normalizing data makes for less maintenance: rather than having to update thirty different records when a core product description or price is changed (ie, one for each colour or size), modifying the core product’s record in the first table is all that is required.

AMT Item Listing
A sample item on AMT’s webshop. Multiple styles and sizes can be ordered, and extra images and compatibility can be viewed.

Once an order is completed, two e-mails are sent: one to the customer with an auto-generated PDF containing the order number, and one to AMT’s staff containing another PDF. After AMT ships the order, a third e-mail containing a tracking number is automatically sent to the customer.

Importing AMT’s existing product data into this new table structure was a challenge. The product catalog was stored in a single Excel file which contained a wide range of data: this had to be organized into numerous categories and product types before the import could be performed. Custom import code had to be written in order to preserve category and subcategory hierarchies in the new tables. Given the large range of types of products and sub-types of products contained within the file, many table columns had to be accommodated in this code.

Advancing E-Commerce

Implementing an e-commerce platform can seem like an insurmountable task, but GT has the expertise to integrate sales into your website while maintaining your inventory’s diversity and appeal. Interested in moving your business forward? Let’s talk.