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Rebuilding LabX Platform into a Headless Magento 2 Multi Vendor Marketplace

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labx media group homepage

LabX Media Group is a leading B2B science media company delivering award-winning editorial, essential industry news, analysis, and insights for members of the scientific research and life science community.

The Canada-based media and technology company connects laboratory professionals with resources to help them make smarter buying decisions through powerful, market-leading brands.

In addition to the flagship LabX, the Group includes Lab Manager, The Scientist, and Technology Networks which together represent an unmatched editorial platform and interactive community for the laboratory industry.

labx-media-group-companies

LabX – Your Scientific Marketplace

LabX was originally founded in 1995, with the sole focus on laboratory equipment. Bob Kafato, the founder of LabX, had spent many years specializing in the sale of analytical instruments and HPLC to scientists.

Bob used his acute knowledge of the industry to develop a platform that continues to deliver top quality customer experience and an expanding marketplace for effective buying and selling.labx-homepage

Over time, the website (https://www.labx.com/) has evolved from providing simple classified listings, to an online auction platform, and is now a premier marketplace where scientists shop.

labx-marketplace-homepage

LabX expanded as a business-to-business marketplace to serve the following areas:

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Clinical Laboratory
  • Life Sciences
  • Medical Equipment
  • Testing and Electronics
  • Semiconductor
  • Industrial Processing

Professionals visit LabX online shop for instruments, accessories, consumables, and supplies. The products listed on LabX are sold by manufacturers, distributors, resellers, and private individuals.

Headless CMS E-commerce

The term headless e-commerce is gaining popularity these days. In headless e-commerce stack, the frontend and backend of an online store are decoupled. Means; the storefront is separated from the native e-commerce platform.

The frontend part is called glass or presentation layer where rich content is delivered using a content management system, or an e-commerce solution, or any other custom platform. API calls are sent & received and dynamic content is retrieved and displayed to the shoppers.

The backend is independently working and managing all the e-commerce functions and integrations. Your catalog, sales, orders, customers and other commerce operations are independently working without affecting the frontend.

Headless e-commerce provides many benefits in terms of speed, flexibility, security, and customizations. It allows developers to make changes to the online store without rebooting the whole system.

Custom Transformation

Alex Maranduik works as a Product Development Manager at LabX Media Group. He contacted Webkul sales team, as he wanted to reconstruct the entire LabX website into an existing marketplace platform as of today.

Alex Maranduik

Canada

Mr. Maranduik queried about modifying the code structure and wanted to receive custom development assistance as well. Since Webkul modules are built on an open source environment, there wasn’t any issue with this query.

Further, Webkul does offer custom development services for module creation, app development, API integration, server setup or any other kind of e-commerce project requirement.

Deployment Environment

To begin with, a three-tier DSP architecture for LabX is set up on AWS (Amazon Web Services) environment – Development, Staging, and Production.

For production, MySQL database is set up with EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud), Varnish Cache, autoscaling along with EFS (Amazon Elastic File System) and for load balancer ELB (Elastic Load Balancing) is used.

For staging, a simplified version of the production environment is created. The staging environment is a copy of the production environment, but it runs on smaller instances since isn’t handling any significant traffic load.

For development, an EC2 instance is configured that runs everything (Magento web server, cache, and MySQL) on the instance.

The three-tier DSP architecture allowed the developers to spin up a copy of a development instance, do some work, commit their changes to the GitLab repository and then shut down the dev instance when they’re done.

Also, multiple developers were able to launch their own copies of the dev environment as needed and get the latest code base from the repository.

Add Listing, Expiry & Relisting

As LabX is a buy/sell classifieds marketplace, there are hundreds of sellers who are posting thousands of items for sale. For this, LabX is charging a product listing fee from the sellers and enforcing an expiry period as well.

labx-add-new-listing

Using Seller Groups Marketplace Add-on, this restriction was implemented where for every new product upload, fee needed to be paid by the seller. Further, the listing remains active for the set duration and after that it became inactive; (not visible on the storefront).

“The end goal is to enable sellers to upload products to our marketplace for a fee. Those products will ultimately expire after a period of time and be pulled down from the marketplace. However, sellers should be given reminders and every opportunity to continue listing their products for as long as they want if they continue to pay for them. Marketplace administrators will need control and oversight over the whole process so that they can make changes as needed.”

labx-manage-listings

In the admin panel, all the settings related to ad listing, seller membership, and notification reminder are available. Here, the admin can set the duration of listing, notify time, listing fee, and select email templates for notifications to sellers.

labx-seller-membership-settingsOnce the listing period ends, the sellers can extend the item listing duration by making online payment within the LabX marketplace. The payment is processed using the PayPal payment gateway integration.

Since there are thousands of product listings added by some seller, sending reminders of every product didn’t make sense, as inbox will be spammed. To overcome this issue, an email message consisting of all the products were sent to sellers.

Quote System Management

A comprehensive quotation management system for managing a diverse set of requests for both buyers and sellers was required.

labx-listing-page

Using the functionalities of the Buyer-Seller Communication and Quote System Marketplace Add-ons plus some additional customizations, this goal was achieved.

Here are some key features required:

  • Ability to distribute leads via e-mail
  • Quoting items including custom pricing and shipping quotes
  • Quote form is a fill in the blank style invoice sheet
  • Configure specific mandatory fields on a per seller and per item basis for all quote requests
  • Facilitate messages back and forth between buyer/seller
  • Support the processing of purchase orders
  • Allowing guest users to quote and auto-registering them
  • Send various e-mail notifications throughout the process
  • Complete administrative overview and read/write functions for the entire quote process
  • Buyers/sellers can respond directly to e-mails and sync to quote system on Magento

labx-request-for-quote

Generic Quote – Single Request, Multiple Offers

For buyers who were unable to find the items on the LabX marketplace, they can also raise a request for a quote from multiple sellers.

By navigating to the category page, Request a Quote button is provided, after which a form appears. This generic quote is useful when buyers are looking for some custom equipment or services which are not listed on the store.

labx-category-quote-request

Once the quote request form is submitted, it is then sent to the relevant sellers – automatically or manually (after being moderated by the admin.

From there, each seller can communicate with the buyer and then discuss the quotation on the email or on the LabX platform.

labx-request-for-quote-product

From the admin panel, the store owner has various settings and configurations to distribute the generic quote leads among the sellers. As sending all the requests for quotation to all the vendors were not required.

labx-quote-system-configuration

For every seller, the admin can set the Lead Distribution panel and select the categories which are applicable to them. A query which matches the right seller profile will be sent automatically using this system.

labx-seller-lead-distribution

When a lead is about to be sent automatically, it must meet the Maximum Seller Matches criteria. For example, if there are 2 matching sellers and the maximum setting is set to 3, then the lead is distributed automatically.

But, if there are 4 matching sellers and the maximum setting is set to 3, then the lead must be reviewed manually by admin and cannot be sent automatically.

Email Templates

Following the development of the quote management system, more than 14 new email templates were developed for notifying the buyers, sellers, and the store admin for various events.

labx-email

  • Email the Buyer- Purchase order placed
  • E-mail the Seller – Purchase order received
  • E-mail the Buyer- Purchase Order Placed – Waiting for Approval
  • E-mail the Seller – Purchase Order Placed – Approval Required
  • E-mail the Buyer – Purchase Order Approved
  • E-mail the Seller – You have approved a purchase order
  • E-mail the Buyer – Purchase Order Rejected
  • E-mail the Seller – You have rejected a purchase order
  • E-mail the Admin – a purchase order has been rejected
  • E-mail the Seller – Lead Received
  • E-mail the Buyer – Your contact information has been sent to the seller.
  • E-mail the Guest buyer – You have requested a quote (include login details)
  • E-mail the Guest Buyer – You have asked a message (include login details)

Further, when a guest user creates a quote, link to set a password and create an account is given in the email to ease the new account creation process.

labx-mails

LabX Call Us Phone Number Tracking

Currently, on LabX product pages, a field for the phone number of a seller is there but hidden. For viewing the number, a customer needs to either sign in or be registered on the LabX marketplace.

labx-hide-seller-phone-number

Once signed-in, ‘Click to View’ button appears which reveals the seller phone number.

labx-hide-seller-phone-number-view-popup

The aim of this customization was to allow the LabX to properly track the number of people who attempted to contact the sellers.

labx-hide-seller-phone-number-view-popup

Marketplace Tax Calculation Using TaxJar

On LabX, TaxJar is being used for calculating state wise taxes for the customers and the sellers. TaxJar is one of the leading solution providers for managing, reporting, and filing automated tax returns for online merchants.

For proper tax calculation, nexus locations specific to a seller or specific to an item of a seller was taken into the account.

Sales tax nexus occurs when your business has some kind of connection to a state. All US states have a slightly different definition of nexus, but most of the time the states consider that a ‘physical presence’ or ‘economic connection’ creates nexus.

Physical presence can mean a number of things, including:

  • Having an office
  • Having an employee
  • Having a warehouse
  • Having an affiliate
  • Storing inventory
  • Economic nexus – Making a certain amount of sales in a state (either a certain dollar amount or a certain number of transactions)
  • Temporarily doing physical business in a state for a limited amount of time, such as at a trade show or craft fair

Connecting LabX Sellers with eBay Marketplace

The multichannel strategy is followed by every business today. Online sellers are trying to reach out to the buyers across various touch points – single website, public marketplace, mobile app, Google Shopping Feeds, or shopping comparison sites.

On LabX, the sellers are also following the multichannel strategy. So apart from selling the products on LabX Marketplace, the sellers are selling it on the eBay Marketplace and their own sites.

labx-seller-ebay-store

For allowing the sellers to connect their eBay store with LabX store, Magento 2 eBay Marketplace Add-on is installed. This enabled the sellers to synchronize products, prices, inventory, shipping information between eBay and LabX.

labx-sellers-profile

A number of additional features and some customizations work was required for eBay-LabX integration:

  • One-click sign up process for sellers to quickly connect the eBay store with LabX store.
  • Syncing products at the specified intervals and check whether listings are active or not.
  • API call at the checkout to prevent accidental ordering of items that aren’t available during the sync process
  • Mapping all the shipping details from eBay to LabX Marketplace
  • Syncing inventory on both platforms whenever an order is placed
  • Calculating tax information as provided on eBay and passing it to Tax Jar

Custom Product Widget

Magento allows you to display various types of widgets for showing products, links, and other dynamic data on the storefront. The ‘Catalog Products List’ widget was customized and new features were added:

  • New template design
  • Display as carousel or not
  • Carousel configuration
  • Variable conditions and rules

labx-custom-product-widget

Split Payments, Commission & Payouts via. PayPal

For managing online payments, Marketplace PayPal Express Checkout for Magento 2 is being used on LabX. This also allows the split payment functionality when two or more sellers’ products are added to the cart.

labx-split-payment-checkout

Once the customer selects the shipping method, the page is then redirected on the PayPal website. From there, the customer can use their credit card or make payment via PayPal balance.

labx-paypal-gateway

After the payment is received, the store owner can then deduct the commission and pay the remaining amount to the sellers using the PayPal gateway. A limit on seller commission is set based on per product. Moreover, the admin can set the commission according to a seller.

Headless Checkout Transition

As LabX is running a headless site, all the backend processes such as products, categories, sellers, customers, orders are being managed by Magento and the remaining frontend CMS parts like pages, widgets, content, etc are built on Node.js custom UI.

But, for the checkout process, a transition point was required where the customer is redirected to the native Magento platform for completing the checkout process.

labx-cart

So after visiting the product pages and then adding the products in the cart on Labx.com, the customer would then be moved to the checkout.labx.com, and then moved back to the labx.com headless site.

labx-checkout

This transition needed to be seamless, where the customer is unaware of the two sites. It involved handling and passing of variable components from labx.com to checkout.labx.com.

Migrating 1DegreeBio

While working on LabX, Alex needed Webkul’s help to revamp their another site, 1DegreeBio. The original website was running on a .NET framework and it required to be shifted on the Magento 2 platform with following changes:

  • Setup of Magento on AWS
  • Separate development, staging, and production sites
  • Gitlab integration and framework for deploying code
  • AWS speed and security optimization (including Varnish, CDN, load balancing, auto-scaling, etc.)
  • A framework capable of efficiently handling up to 8 million SKUs
  • Installation of a variety of extensions
  • Installation of a third party theme.

1degreebio-labx

1DegreeBio is offering an open-access online directory listing to the research community for finding products, suppliers according to antibodies, gene symbol, gene ID, catalog number. The product data is fetched from a wide variety of sources from multiple vendors via. E-mail, CSV, excel sheet, Dropbox, FTP, etc.

1degreebio-supplier

1DegreeBio aims to connect scientific researchers with the best reagents and antibodies available today.  The search engine includes an extensive database of life science reagents and kits including quality validation data, citation history, as well as antibody reviews and community ratings.

XML Sitemap

A sitemap is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file that consists of a list of URLs of a website which includes information about the web pages such as – date & time last updated/modified, how often it changes, and priority in comparison to other web pages.

The reason for creating an XML sitemap file is to allow search engine crawlers to find the important web pages and list them for indexing. Using the XML sitemap files, the website owner can mention links to category pages or product pages or other pages.

Instead of walking through the whole website and crawl every URL, XML sitemap file acts a guided map for the search bots and crawlers.

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" xmlns:content="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-content/1.0" xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1">
<url>
<loc>https://www.labx.com/categories</loc>
<changefreq>daily</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>
<url>
<loc>https://www.labx.com/applications</loc>
<lastmod>2019-01-28T20:13:49+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>daily</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>
<url>
<loc>https://www.labx.com/equipment</loc>
<lastmod>2019-01-29T21:12:13+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>daily</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>

As LabX is running a headless website, the URL structure is different as of native Magento store. Magento itself allows the store owner to create sitemap files, but it still needed customization work to make the XML sitemap file in the desired format.

Client Feedback

Once the project work was completed, we requested Alex to share some feedback about Webkul’s work. Please see the 5 Star Review below or visit the link – https://store.webkul.com/magento2-multi-vendor-marketplace.html#tabreviews

Great to Work With

We endeavored to re-platform our existing site and Webkul has been playing an integral part as far as transforming our basic Magneto instance into an online marketplace.

We’ve purchased well over a dozen extensions and worked with them on a number of customizations ranging from basic plugin modification to IT and dev ops set up, to highly complex and multi-phased custom plugin creation.

The process is sometimes, touch and go and there are bugs/processes to be fleshed out here and there as you would expect, but overall we’re very happy with the service we’ve been getting and the quality of work.

Alex Maranduik

Canada

References

Disclaimer – Please note all the images and content used in this article belongs to their respective copyright owners. If you have any issues or complains related to this article, please send us an email to support@webkul.com

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