Consuming client data with Craft 3

E-commerce can be a great sales channel for any business. For smaller operations, platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce can provide everything you need out of the box — and also become a backorder/​stock control system in their own right, should you wish. However, if you‘re already using your own stock control system to manage offline sales then the two systems would need to be integrated to ensure products, prices and stock levels, are correct across both systems. Integrations are available for quite a few stock control systems already and custom integration can be created.

A basic integration will pass over product, pricing and stock information to the website and then retrieve paid orders. Generally, products are enhanced in some way with imagery and site-specific content once they’re uploaded to the website.

For the Lincat project, we decided to use Craft 3 alongside Craft Commerce as a platform, rather than choosing to deal with an out of the box solution. This was due to the complex nature of Lincat’s product offering and dealer structure — the majority of products that Lincat sells are sold to trade customers only. Lincat also uses UniPlan, a powerful internal system that manages its whole manufacturing process, including all their sales channels. This is the canonical (official) source of all product data and provides all the data required for the website via an intermediate server. This server is accessed remotely by both internal systems, as well as the website to ensure that there’s no direct access to either system remotely.

All of the relevant website information is imported directly into the Lincat site through a series of .CSV files, as part of a once a day process, and these .CSV files contain all of the core data required to update the site’s product data — including, but not limited to, product specifications, categorisation and relationships as well as pricing and imagery.

When this is imported into Craft, it’s then split into separate tables — at the same time Craft entries are created allowing us to use Craft’s powerful functionality to further enhance the products with website-specific descriptions. By clearly separating the roles here, the technical team can take care of updating product specification and pricing updates through UniPlan, while marketing can look after the website descriptions directly through the CMS. Category descriptions and product filters are also managed through the website giving another level of control to the marketing team.

Frequent updates occur in the background to keep the customer data in sync with the stock levels and this is updated every two minutes to ensure that the information is as live as possible for website users. Orders are also passed through on a similar schedule ready for processing with stock held until we receive later confirmation the order has been processed.

Using Craft in this way has allowed us to create a bespoke e-commerce system with an external data source, while at the same time leveraging Craft’s built-in functionality to enhance the data into a sales site.

Would you like to see how Craft can be utilised to help boost your e-commerce presence online? Feel free to contact us for help with your business, however large or small.

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