Online retail is growing so quickly and takes already more than 14% of the Russian e-commerce market. The flagships of the industry are marketplaces. The biggest marketplace in Russia is Chinese AliExpress.com by Alibaba Group (Tmall included). Tmall was started in the Russian market in 2017. Outside Russia, it is a separate E-commerce project but in Russia, Tmall was integrated as a part of AliExpress online retail service. Tmall provides customers with only official brands and controls its merchants to avoid selling falsification and bad quality goods. Before start selling of goods on the marketplace, each merchant must provide with a license contract or any other agreement with the brand holder confirmed that the merchant is allowed to sell the brand officially.
MyToys considers marketplaces as a future of the only retail industry. Therefore, in September 2018, we decided to get connected to Tmall by the Global shopping festival or former the Singles’ day (11.11), one of the biggest shopping holidays in the world. Usually, myToys uses Novomind service to connect a new marketplace but for the project, we had a strict time limit and decided to do integration directly without using of Novomind interface.
Alibaba group provides API integration for all its products and for Tmall as well. In terms of data flows, Tmall API provides such as:
- Product master data interface
- Stock and price interface
- Customer order interface
- Claim interface
- Payment interface
- Report interface
Since we do not have enough time to implement all of them, we concentrated on the customer order interface as most important for us. We asked X7 company, the official Tmall/AliExpress integration partner in Russia to develop a small solution to adopt customer order information to the XML format that is possible to upload into our corporate ERP (Oracle EBS).
The main idea was to utilize the same interface as using for other marketplaces integrated at myToys through Novomind.
Other data interface as a product creation had been done by procurement department staff manually. It was extremely difficult and took much time but allowed us to start the project on time.
After starting the order interface in production, we clarified many differences in German and Russian data format. For example, the maximum order amount for German customer order is €10.000,00 but for Russian orders, the amount is not enough because ₽ 10.000 (Russian Rubles) is only €130. Another issue we solved was the time zone problem. Tmall uses US Pacific Time as a standard time for order creation date. Therefore, we had to convert order creation date and time to server time zone during transfer.
Another problem we had to face, was that we were forced to rush out the changes during Christmas season, where we normally don’t do major changes to our systems, and strongly advise against it. To minimize the risk, and leave our current processes as untouched as possible, we copied the code from the Novomind integration and made the necessary changes for Tmall in a new Package, Through this we could capsulate the Tmall process and make sure, the current processes would not be impacted, while also being able to quickly roll back or fix bugs that might occur.
In addition to that myToys had to train CS staff to provide Tmall customer support based on Tmall standards. Tmall has strict requirements for client service because it is crucially important on Chinese high-competitive market and especially for marketplace business.
Only together we could overcome all difficulties and start the project on time. We are planning following automation and implementation of other interfaces in 2019.