E-commerce platform for 31 countries
The biggest challenge in Design, Technology, and Project Management in our history. And our biggest professional adventure.
How our adventure started
About our client
Amway is the world leader in direct selling and operates in 80 countries. Amway lets you start your own company and sell high quality products and offer others the opportunity to sell too. More than 3 million Independent Business Owners (IBOs) currently work with Amway worldwide. Amway is part of Alticor, a group of companies with annual sales revenue of approximately $8 billion.
Amway's first steps into e-commerce
Amway offered its IBOs in Eastern Europe the opportunity to order and sell products online in 2001 – first in Hungary, then Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey. The system, known as VEBSO, was a huge success with 126,000 Users by the beginning of 2006.
New platform needed
The company decided to build a completely new online system that could handle significantly more Users, offer new functionalities, and allow for flexible functionality changes to keep pace with the ever changing business environment. An important aim of the new project was to deliver a new, clear and attractive information layer to facilitate placing orders and attract people to Amway. The new system was to be built with Java Enterprise on an IBM WebSphere platform.
The biggest project in the history of e-point SA
- E-Commerce system with Corporate Portal
- Prices generated according to User Profile
- Country-specific delivery and payment methods
- Payment processing in multiple currencies
- 30 languages, up to 3 languages per country
- 3,000,000 lines of code
- 550 application screens
- Integration with 6 external systems
- 400 database tables
- 1000 transactions per second
- 700 parameters monitored
- 14 software platforms
- 100+ servers and network devices
- 99.95% system availability
- 89 project phases
- 722 change requests processed
- 92 IT and business specialists engaged in project design and execution
- 1097 installations of the System in both test and production environments
- 43 on-site meetings abroad
In order to better understand the future solution, we prepared a system prototype. This was then used to conduct sessions with selected Amway IBOs in Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest. The prototype enabled us to collect valuable feedback and the Client to prepare for the upcoming changes.
- Ukraine – the first implementation
The system was first implemented in Kiev. Ukraine did not have an E-Commerce system at the time, so this was a pioneering enterprise for that country. We still remember the first order placed in our system. This implementation, though successful, made us realize just how many specific business determinants are unknown to us in any given country.
- Analysis of country-specific functions
As a result of the experience gained from our first implementation, we modified our original project assumptions and decided to make reference visits to each of the countries involved. During those trips, we presented parts of the system specifications, especially those concerning country specific functions, e.g., ordering and payment options, and customer invoicing. Our system engineers worked on the final system specifications on-site.
- Full implementation successful
We managed implementation of the system in two countries every two months and the Users responded enthusiastically in every case. Once the system had been implemented, the value of online orders (as a percentage of the total) increased from 30% to 60% and is now approaching 75%. The number of registered Users and orders also rose dramatically.
- We need more power!
What changed most, however, was the way the service was used. Users started to use the system much more frequently and for longer periods. The system became the primary business tool for Amway IBOs, who were using it for hours at a time. We now had to improve system performance. While we were implementing the system, we continued to analyze production data, conduct load tests, optimize the code and expand the hosting infrastructure. From the day we implemented the system in the first country, we managed to boost its performance 80 times as compared with our initial assumptions.
- What about Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia?
These countries were not added until 2010. They had previously run on the Polish system, but with an English user interface.
- From VEBSO2 to Amway Online
The original agreement with Amway only covered the implementation of a system code-named VEBSO2 in Eastern Europe. Developed in conjunction with global IT companies, Amway has been engaged in E-Commerce in Western Europe since 1999 as part of their AMIVO system. However, the success of the Eastern European implementation, as measured by the volume of orders, the percentage of online orders in the total number of orders, and the significant reduction of operating costs convinced the Management Board of Amway Europe to expand VEBSO2 into 16 Western European countries as well. At the same time, the project name was changed to Amway Online.
- On-Line Integration
Batch processing of XML files was used to integrate Amway Online with internal systems in Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, this method was replaced with on-line integration based on the webMethods platform.
- On-Line Payments
In Western Europe, the on-line payment system was implemented on an external platform. This solution was migrated to Eastern Europe over the following months.
- Registering Amway Independent Business Owners
In Eastern Europe, new Amway IBOs were registered on traditional, paper forms. In Western Europe, these paper forms were replaced by an on-line registration system, which significantly reduced operating costs in this area.
- Project Excellence Award Polska 2007
We won the prestigious award granted by the International Project Management Association (IPMA) for the international E-Commerce project carried out by e-point SA in 10 European countries for Amway.
One Platform for East and West
Since early 2011, we've been working on a common E-Commerce platform for Eastern and Western Europe. The platform targets 29 countries and provides Users across all markets with the same functions.
Amway Online Mobile Strategy
Since 2012 we have observed a growing number of visits to Amway Online from mobile devices – smartphones and tablets. Users, especially the Amway Business Owners (ABOs), started to ask about a mobile version of the system that they could access on their smartphones, while at their clients' location. Therefore, we faced the challenge of devising a mobile strategy for Amway Online.
Frequently, mobile projects are understood as mobile applications copying existing functionalities of desktop Internet systems. This understanding could not be more wrong. On the contrary, mobile solutions should take maximum advantage of the capabilities of mobile devices and fit into the overall customer service strategy. Which is why we use the term mobile strategy.
Defining the Requirements for the Amway Online System
We started with an API
We started the mobile project by extending the standard version of the Amway Online system with an API (Application Programming Interface) to enable developers to create peripheral applications without the need to rebuild the main system. Additionally, the client gained the ability to order such applications from different IT companies.
We concentrated on ABOs
We decided that the mobile app would be built only for the Amway Business Owners. When they collect orders, deliver products, or make presentations and conduct training, they often work out of their home. We wanted to allow ABOs to take their business with them for every meeting with a client.
We enabled offline mode
We assumed that the mobile app should enable ABOs to work in an offline mode. This is of great importance to Amway Business Owners who cannot rely on an Internet connection when visiting their clients.
2 apps x 2 versions
We have been using the term mobile app, however, the mobile solution is actually comprised of two separate applications, one for the iOS and the other for the Android operating system. Each application has two versions: one version for smartphones and one version for tablets. The information architecture changes accordingly based on the device being used, which allowed us and our client to avoid creating separate applications for tablets.
- Collecting orders
The Amway Business Owner can collect an order for his or her Client in the form of a shopping list. This list is then synchronized with Amway Online, where the ABO can eventually confirm the order. Order confirmation is made in Amway Online Light, therefore, also via a smartphone or tablet.
As you can see, order collection can be done offline, while placing the order requires an Internet connection and, in fact, happens in the Amway Online system. Thanks to this approach we avoided rewriting the complex process of placing and verifying orders for mobile devices, but still we provided the ABOs with the essential functionality.
The ordering process works the same for the ABOs themselves, as well as for other ABOs in their group.
- Managing clients
The mobile app contains a complete list of an Amway Business Owner's clients, the status of registration of new members and, most importantly, the ability to register a new client, which will usually happen at a meeting with the client.
- Sales presentations
The Amway Business Owner has access to multimedia materials in the mobile app that they can use to make an attractive presentation on their smartphone or tablet.
An important role of Amway Business Owners is introducing new members to Amway. This process begins with sponsoring – registration of a new ABO by the Amway Business Owner. The mobile app supports this process by providing the Sponsorship Invitations functionality. At a meeting with a candidate an ABO can send him or her an invitation, which starts the registration process.
Notifications take advantage of the specific features of a mobile device. Notifications include important information for ABOs related to their business, such as:
- Status of placed orders
- New orders placed by clients in Amway Online
- Registration of new clients in the Amway Business Owner's profile
- Sales results
With their mobile device Amway Business Owners can view the current value of the points they collected, which reflect their monthly and global sales results. In this way they can check how orders placed by other ABOs influence their own salary and status..
- Working offline
The mobile app enables working offline. This is really important for Amway Business Owners since they don't always have a stable Internet connection when visiting their clients.
In the offline mode ABOs can present Amway products, create an order, or prepare an invitation for a new partner. When they get access to the Internet the data between the mobile app and Amway Online is synchronized.
"We are ready to launch a similar application environment on a similar physical environment, totally remotely".