Mercari is one of the rapidly developing companies in our country and neighboring Romania, operating in the retail sector of branded clothing, shoes, and accessories from globally recognized brands. The company entrusted us with their online presence as early as 2017. However, things didn't go according to plan back then, as the focus was primarily on offline commerce. But the remarkable digital transformation it underwent in 2020 is noteworthy, and we will share more about it in the following lines.
As mentioned earlier, the collaboration and partnership between Stenik and Mercari began as early as 2017 when the well-known offline fashion discount retailer decided to make a more serious attempt at online sales with its first substantial eCommerce platform. At that time, the company appeared online under the brand "MoreFashion," as part of its goal to distinguish its offline and online presence.
The company entrusted the project to our team, already equipped with a quality in-house resource that effectively communicated with our project manager and team – a prerequisite that, in our opinion, is essential for the success of any similar project.
It took us three months of intensive work to build a technological solution for Mercari/MoreFashion and lay the foundation for significant future sales. We based the online store on the Magento platform (at that time, we were still developing new projects on version 1.9), leveraging our extensive experience with Magento 1 and our expertise in the fashion industry. The project progressed at an excellent pace, and we even had regular meetings at the client's office in Plovdiv. As a result, we successfully completed the project in a relatively short period and were ready for the Go Live phase. Then, a pause followed.
Not long after, Mercari informed us that they were freezing the idea of developing their online sales due to the specifics of their business model. The sale of unique individual items, tied to a strong and adequate offline presence, proved to be a challenge for the fashion company, and thus, the ambitious project we had launched remained unrealized. Despite this outcome, we were pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the management and the client's attitude towards us, even though the project did not materialize.
New challenges for Mercari
Three years after the beginning and end of the story we shared with you, Mercari reached out to us again to breathe new life into the stalled project, which hid great potential. The primary "culprit" for this need was, expectedly, the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, which attacked the world with many unknowns and forced us to drastically change our daily lives.
In those unfamiliar and frightening days, we mobilized a team dedicated entirely to Mercari, so that the online store could be up and running in the shortest possible time, and the project that was frozen in 2017 could return "to the game."
The foundation for future success was laid from day one by implementing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) methodology of the lean startup, to accelerate the so-called time-to-market. We removed all unnecessary functionalities, cumbersome elements, and options with questionable added value to avoid draining resources for testing, reworking, and deployment. In addition to "dusting off" the old project, we had to make some changes, the most significant of which were:
- Changing the checkout process (the standard multi-step checkout of Magento 1 in 2020 looked rather old-school and had to be replaced with our fully developed and imposed one-step-checkout used in over 10 projects).
- Integration with a new courier (we again used our custom integration with Speedy).
- Updating Magento to 184.108.40.206.
- GDPR compliance (yes, in 2017, we had not yet heard of this directive, but by 2020, we were using a custom module applied to all our Magento 1 projects).
- Cosmetic design adjustments.
After one of the biggest sprints we have ever done, the project was ready for deployment in a real environment. Mercari, on their part, were ready to align their processes with the online store since there was no time for the familiar scenario of aligning online processes with internal company processes.
A brief retrospective of the process of reviving www.mercari.bg looks like this:
- March 13, 2020 - National lockdown is declared in Bulgaria.
- March 20 - Mercari reached out to us.
- March 23 - We formed a dedicated team.
- March 24 - Kick-off meeting and system audit.
- March 25 - Work begins.
- April 2, 2020 - mercari.bg is online.
After the online store generated 80 orders on its first day, we realized that this sprint was just the beginning of a true digital transformation.
Online sales in Romania
After a successful start in Bulgaria and considering that Mercari already had an established offline presence in Romania (8 physical stores), the next logical step was to activate sales in our northern neighbor. The new-old challenge of international expansion proceeded in a similar manner, and once again, timing was crucial.
Although already outdated as a platform, Magento 1 was sufficient for our multi-store/multi-currency/multi-country approach, allowing us to launch parallel sales in Romania through the same instance of the system. This was fundamental in this case because, at this stage, the entire product catalog was managed entirely in Magento, and having a separate catalog for Romania would have made it impossible for Mercari to keep up with product updates.
Again, without unnecessary complexities, we were ready to launch just 3 weeks later.
After establishing steady growth, an update to the server infrastructure we use became necessary.
Redesign and migration to Magento 2
The successful launch of Mercari online in the following weeks confirmed the need for a redesign of the project, as Mercari was aggressively targeting the online market with hundreds of new products daily, offering over 700 brands, and intensifying their marketing activities.
Around the same time, the deadline set by Adobe for ending support for Magento 1 was approaching (June 30, 2020). However, over the last two years, we had accumulated the necessary experience in executing projects from scratch or performing migrations using Magento 2. All the essential modules developed by us, which we use in our projects (including Mercari), had already been rewritten and were compatible with the new system. After a conceptual discussion about the future of Mercari's online channel, we unanimously concluded that the path forward was Magento 2. In the middle of 2020, calm work and long deadlines were once again a mirage.
In general, we had to implement a process that typically takes between 3 to 6 months according to Adobe and Magento, but we managed to accomplish it in 6 weeks. Fortunately, this wasn't our first migration from Magento 1 to Magento 2, and unlike migrations from other platforms, which indeed take 3 months or more, our experience here played a crucial role. By mid-August, just over 6 weeks after the decision was made to not only redesign the entire project but also migrate the system, the new Mercari online store was a reality.
The new version of Magento allowed us to reward and enrich the online store to the maximum with functionalities such as:
- Enhanced search based on Elastic Search technology.
- Improved filters.
- Mobile-first experience.
- Mega-menu for desktop.
- Merchandising automations.
- Dynamic categories.
- Streamlined and innovative returns process (RMA).
- Over 50 other new functionalities (some of which came out-of-the-box by default with Magento 2).
- Furthermore, we implemented a total redesign to align with the identified target audience and the dynamics of Mercari's business.
Interesting: Somewhere in the migration process, we learned that Mercari was integrating a new ERP and warehouse software into the company. This was a logical step considering that the offline business was affected by the lockdown, and the two channels started to blend. Fortunately, Magento 2 has a very good API, and for the purposes of synchronization between the online store and the warehouse, we didn't need to develop a comprehensive connector. We could use some of the available methods in the API to extract data. After more than 8 years of working with Magento 1 and creating dozens of synchronizations with business software, this was a welcome feature and a relief, especially given the tight deadline for the system migration.
The results after Mercari's digital transformation
Nothing could showcase Mercari's digital transformation better than the actual results achieved in just a few months. The frozen project from 2017 was revived in mid-March 2020, and by October of the same year, Mercari's online business boasted a 200% growth in online turnover compared to April!
In November 2020, Mercari's online business had become an integral part of their entire fashion-discounting model, with a 50% return rate from online customers and a 12.27% increase in average basket size compared to April.
The list of improvements in the project continues to grow, but we are now working on a precisely planned roadmap, as the online business has matured, and everything relies on big-data analysis, which the client accurately examines.
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