Magento Thought Leadership

Kadro Solutions Recognized as a 2021 Top B2B Company and the Leading eCommerce Developer in North Carolina

2021 Clutch Awards for Kadro Solutions - top eCommerce and B2B company in North Carolina

Kadro Solutions Garners Dual Recognition from Clutch as a 2021 Top B2B Company and as the Leading eCommerce Developer in North Carolina

eCommerce continues to accelerate at a rapid pace driven by diverse business, technological, health and social factors. It is one of the most efficient and practical means to keep business going and growing despite ongoing global adversities. That’s why the demand for eCommerce development has skyrocketed, especially since the beginning of 2020.

During the prestigious Clutch 2021 Leaders Awards, Kadro received two distinct honors. First, as one of the Top B2B Companies in North Carolina and second, as the highest-ranking eCommerce Developer in North Carolina!

We’re honored to recognize North Carolina’s best B2B companies for 2021,” said Clutch’s Customer Operations Representative Austin Ellis. “These providers excelled in their respective fields and have shown that they can provide high-quality services to their clients.”

Kadro is no stranger to such recognition. The company was also recognized by Clutch in 2020 as one of North Carolina’s top e-commerce developers. But for 2021, we grabbed the top spot.

We are honored and pleased to be recognized by Clutch for the 2nd consecutive year as a leading B2B company in North Carolina and this year we also grabbed the top spot as highest-ranking eCommerce Developer in North Carolina. Since Kadro's founding in 2001, we have worked diligently to build a company founded on technical expertise, responsiveness to changes in the eCommerce market, outstanding customer service, and superior project outcomes. Accolades such as this and the positive recognition from many satisfied Kadro customers serve as testament to the success of our ongoing efforts. Learning more about our diverse clients by visiting the Kadro Client Portfolio page.

Thank you to everyone, especially to our clients who generously reviewed our services on Clutch. We take this opportunity to encourage you to visit our Clutch profile to learn more about what our clients are saying >> Kadro Client Reviews | Clutch.co

ABOUT KADRO SOLUTIONS:

Founded in 2001 and located in Raleigh, North Carolina, KADRO Solutions is a top-tier software engineering firm that drives business growth through an array of available eCommerce services and solutions using popular platforms like Adobe Commerce (Magento), BigCommerce and Ultra Commerce. At Kadro, our experienced U.S.-based team is exactly what you need to help launch your eCommerce endeavors. We really do make a company’s vision for selling online a reality. Contact our sales team at (877) 435-3453.

ABOUT CLUTCH:

Clutch is an established B2B review and rating platform dedicated to the design, development, marketing, and business services industries. Every year, the site’s team goes through a meticulous evaluation process to determine firms that embodied excellence and growth. Top performing firms receive a Clutch Leaders Award.

Kadro eCommerce Insights Newsletter July 2021 Issue

July 2021 Edition

News, insights and information from the rapidly changing world of eCommerce designed for the online merchant!

OPENING THOUGHTS

AS-263653428
As July comes to a close, many retailers and B2B suppliers turn their attention to back-to-school. Yes it's back-to-school (BTS) time again. Retailers across the country are rolling out their BTS online and in-store programs. According to one source (a KPMG study), back-to-school spending should rise 9% this year. Popular BTS product categories like apparel, footwear and school supplies will again see increased traffic. BTS is a great opportunity for a wide array of product retailers to accelerate their sales and revenue in advance of the 2021 holiday season. Given their online presence in a popular BTS category, in this month's newsletter it's fitting that we feature one of our footwear clients, Houser Shoes.
     

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT

houser-banner1
Kadro has been providing eCommerce development services to Houser Shoes (https://www.housershoes.com/) since 2014.  With their upgrade to Adobe Commerce over a year ago, Kadro developed a solution that easily allows third-party EDI-based drop-ship vendors to integrate with their eCommerce system.
 
Over the past 12-months, Houser Shoes has significantly grown its revenue and profit by adding over a dozen dropship vendors to their online product catalog.  This has allowed them to increase the total SKUs in their product catalog by over 15%, without having to take physical inventory.
 
This expansion of their product offering has enabled Houser Shoes to offer a larger selection of brands, styles, and "edge-sizes" of popular shoes to their customers.  Brands onboarded using this process have included Dockers, Dansko, HH Brown, Wolverine, Clarks, Alegria, Timberland, New Balance, Reebok, Circus, Bernie Mey, Spring, Georgia Boot, Carolina Boot, Lamo, and Jambu. 
 
Kadro has made the product onboarding, inventory management, order management, and fulfillment process of the additional dropship vendors easy by building a facility in Adobe Commerce to provide various file transfer types and protocols including EDI file formats for inventory (846), purchase order (850), acknowledgments (997), and shipment notification (856) with admin-configurable support for varying EDI segment structures.  As a result of these tools, the effort to onboard each new drop-ship vendor can be completed in less than two days of labor.
 
By expanding their product catalog with these dropship vendors, Houser Shoes can leverage their customer loyalty rewards program to offer the expanded product selection at great prices.
 
Overall, by adding a dropship marketplace to their existing eCommerce business, Houser Shoes has significantly grown their business.

Read more about the Houser Shoes/Kadro relationship on the Houser Shoes Portfolio page.

     

TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT

mabl

Mabl is the leading intelligent test automation platform built for Agile teams. It’s the only SaaS solution that tightly integrates automated end-to-end testing into the entire development lifecycle. With mabl, it’s easy to create, execute, and maintain reliable tests, allowing software teams to increase test coverage, speed up development and improve application quality.

 

At Kadro, we believe in automated testing as a means to improve test coverage while decreasing the overall amount of project time dedicated to QA. Mabl and the mabl trainer have provided a SaaS platform that enables our QA team to effectively automate their existing test cases.

 

Leading ecommerce brands like Ritual, FIGS, and Dollar Shave Club rely on mabl for automated UI testing that ensures a seamless customer experience. Download mabl’s 2021 State of Testing in DevOps survey to learn: 

  • How testing impacts the customer experience
  • What types of software tests are being automated
  • How leading organizations are adopting DevOps
     
accdevpagebanner2

START SELLING ONLINE SOONER!

This service is designed for those looking to start selling online faster with a powerful, feature-rich, custom Adobe Commerce (formerly called Magento Commerce) website. It's a scalable solution that can grow as your business does delivering lower initial project costs and higher value.

Learn more. Visit our Accelerated Magento Website Development page.

     
rescue-page-banner2

MAGENTO PROJECT GONE WRONG?

KADRO PROJECT RESCUE SERVICES CAN HELP! 

 

eCommerce projects don’t always go as planned. This can occur for many reasons. No matter what the reason, Kadro can help. We offer a comprehensive array of website project rescue and support services tailored to each client’s needs.

 

Visit our Magento Project Rescue Services page to learn more.

     
MEET OUR NEWEST TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS
bc2
UC1

Founded in 2009, BigCommerce’s mission is to help merchants sell more at every stage of growth, from small startups, to mid-market businesses, to large enterprises. As a leading Open SaaS solution, BigCommerce empowers merchants to build, innovate and grow their businesses online. More than 60,000 merchants worldwide rely on BigCommerce to help fuel their online business success.  STAY TUNED FOR A FUTURE ANNOUNCEMENT AND UPDATES.

Ultra Commerce is an enterprise eCommerce platform for B2B, B2C and Marketplaces. Its fully integrated platform features built-in OMS, CMS and PIM, providing a seamless end to end customer experience and helping customers grow their online business. Ultra Commerce boasts a truly global network of teams and partners to best service their international clientele – offering more than just a platform but a technology partner for them as they grow.  READ THE ANNOUNCEMENT 

Visit our PARTNERS page to learn more about our extensive array of technology partners.

     
ARE YOU READY TO MOVE TO ADOBE COMMERCE
(formerly known as Magento Commerce) 
OR UPGRADE TO THE LATEST VERSION?
Let Us Know
     
2021 Midyear tax changes - Avalara

FREE SALES TAX CHANGES UPDATE NOW AVAILABLE!

Commerce, whether online or omni-channel, is complex and ever-changing. One area that seems particularly fluid is tax compliance. Our partner, Avalara is sharing their 2021 sales tax changes midyear update to help you navigate the complicated world of tax compliance and prepare for the future. As state and local governments reopen after last year’s COVID-19 outbreak, it’s more important than ever to stay informed about legislative changes and emerging trends. Review the update to learn about new tax exemption considerations by state, details about obligations from increased marketplace sales, effects on the international market, and more.

 

Get your copy today! 

     

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT

20210722_080953548
 
Meet 
Lara Wasilkoff
Software Engineer  

What do you do at Kadro and how long have you been with the company: I am a full-stack software developer who builds custom functionality for Magento sites. Recently, I’ve also taken on a few additional responsibilities, including spearheading our new automated testing efforts with Mabl, as well as leading backend training for new hires and co-ops. I have been with Kadro for about two years.

 

If you could do anything you want right now, what would it be: Travel the world! I absolutely love exploring new places and experiencing new cultures, and I have been cooped up for far too long.

 

What’s your favorite food: My favorite go-to food, without a doubt, is tacos, but I also love sushi, scallops, or really any type of seafood.

 

Have any pets: No pets, but I do have a lot of plants!

 

What do you dislike or dislike doing: Mondays, am I right? Seriously though, I tend to put a positive spin on everything so nothing is ever that unpleasant. Oh except for karaoke, that is. Karaoke is definitely a dislike.

 

Favorite karaoke song: I cannot stand karaoke. Music in general though is a huge part of my life. Attending concerts, whether they be small local shows or large-scale festivals, is probably my favorite way to spend my down time.

 

What gets you out of bed in the morning (motivates you): The sun, primarily. Rainy days are always a struggle. 

 

Biggest recent professional accomplishment: I recently got certified as a Magento Commerce Business Practitioner.

 

Most interesting recent experience: I went ziplining for the first time a few weeks ago and it was exhilarating! I was up in the mountains near Asheville, and it was the perfect way to both appreciate the beauty of nature and get the adrenaline flowing.

 

What is one unique thing about you that few people know? I love to cook. I’m a big fan of clean eating too so I’m always trying out new recipes that are healthy, without sacrificing on flavor. One of my more notable dishes recently was chimichurri-marinated tuna steaks with avocado and spinach.

     

NEW ARRIVALS

Welcome the newest addition to the Kadro family!

Justin-Irene

Justin Irene (the one in the cap) 

Full Stack Software Engineer

 

Raleigh-native Justin Irene is a 2019 graduate of NC State with a BS in Computer Science. This is actually Justin’s 2nd tour with Kadro as he originally was brought in via Kadro’s participation in the Cooperative Education Program at NC State and worked at the company from 2018-2019 .

 

After graduation in 2019, he and his girlfriend (who also graduated from NC State) moved to Chicago for two years until career opportunities brought them back to the East Coast and a reunion with Kadro.

 

Welcome back to the Kadro family Justin!

     
Featured Kadro Blog content:
  1. Bridging The Gap Between Customer Expectations And Reality , an informative article from a Kadro tech partner, Annex Cloud.     
  2. Oh no, I’m about to lose my cookies! , with new restrictions on the horizon that will impact online marketing and advertising, what’s a retailer to do? 
  3. Business License Compliance Framework, a look at business licensing with our partner Avalara. 
  4. Setting up Google Tag Manager for Adobe Commerce, an informative article by Kadro's Senior Business Solutions Analyst - James Bruner
  5. Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma - an interesting article about overcoming technical challenges for a client written by one of Kadro's Senior Software Engineers - Logan Wilkerson.
     
Posted in Magento Thought Leadership, Kadro Newsletter and eCommerce Trends

Oh no, I’m about to lose my cookies!

Cookies are getting dumped in the trash

With new restrictions on the horizon that will impact online marketing and advertising, what’s a retailer to do?

One thing we can count on in digital commerce as marketers is the change that is frequently driven by technology and the ever changing rules and regulations associated with the access to and the use of personal information.

One potent ally in our arsenal of tools to construct and execute online marketing and digital advertising will soon depart. I am of course talking about third-party HTTP cookies and tracking pixels.

The winds of change are being fueled by planned third-party cookie blocking announced by tech giants like Google and Apple. Firefox and Apple Safari already enforce blocking of third-party cookies with Google Chrome having announced their ban starting in 2022.

It’s a storm that retailers and marketers will need to understand and prepare for in order to minimize “storm damage” to their businesses and marketing efforts.

When these changes take place, retailers will no longer be able to use third-party cookies and similar information as the primary basis for targeting and personalization. While we have become comfortable being able to provide levels of personalization across devices and platforms used in retail commerce, as this type of tracking technology changes we may now see a splintering of our view of customers and our ability to personalize our messaging and offers. This is also likely to trigger a reevaluation by retailers of things like privacy policies, data collection and usage strategies as well as marketing tactics as they prepare for the near term business impacts sans tracking cookies will cause.

How do retailers maintain focus on creating exceptional and personalized customer experiences?

Example of modern retail technology

Over the 18 months or so, driven by COVID-19’s impact on businesses of all types, we have seen major upticks in eCommerce sales and a shifting to digital environments and tactics to gain and retain business. But in a cookie-less age, how do retailers maintain focus on creating exceptional and personalized customer experiences supported by their marketing initiatives via the data available to them? It’s a data acquisition and usage challenge with customer privacy ramifications that needs to be met head-on and dealt with creatively.

The challenge is rooted in technology and also at least in part addressable by technology as CDPs (customer data platforms), advanced customer analytics and similar tech become more prominent. Investments to shore up data tools and to support data strategies in a cookie-less world may very well be needed.

OR

Fundamental precepts still apply

It boils down to some fundamental precepts – know your customer, understand the path or paths they take to a purchase, know what information they may need along that path to make informed decisions and do what is feasible to earn and keep their trust. These concepts have not changed for decades, but without cookies they will become harder to recognize, understand and respond to.

Collaboration is key to aligning data strategies and policies

Customer data touches numerous facets of a retail business. As such, there are a number of groups that may be involved in its collections, categorization, usage and governance. In preparation for a third-party cookie-less age, retailers need to seek the collaborative and collective counsel of an array of internal disciplines like marketing, sales, customer service, IT and more as they work to realign their data strategies and policies. More emphasis will need to be placed on building an engaging experience for customers where it's not just about offering great products, but also great information for their buying decision and perhaps value-add online services, community of like-minded customers, or an engaging online experience. By making the experience visiting and shopping in your online store a first-person experience, the need for third-party anonymous tracking is no longer required.

It’s a matter of trust

Turn up the dial on Trust

“Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” Stephen Covey

I mentioned trust a couple of paragraphs back. It’s a crucial element in gaining and retaining customers. It’s common sense that we will do business with organizations and people we believe we can trust. So focusing effort on the privacy side of consumer data collection and use is important as a cornerstone for building customer trust.

Getting customers to share their information with a retailer is not a new challenge. We all face it when we ask a customer for personal information. It can be hard to obtain information like phone numbers and email addresses as customers, and even simply website visitors, may be unclear as to how, when and why it will be used. Requiring a customer to login before shopping is often a proven barrier for conversion. Therefore, utilizing first-party cookies, which are still allowed, to establish a trusted user session with the customer can help make sure a personal and user-specific engagement is achieved. It’s critical for retailers to be as transparent as possible with customers about such matters. This is how trust is built. And without trust, the chances of obtaining and having permission to utilize customer data are greatly diminished. Data privacy remains an increasingly significant flashpoint with consumers with regulations like GDPR and CCPA being passed to help address it.

Pay attention to your data

I find it interesting, based on personal observations in a variety of companies, how often companies fail to clearly map out and acquire a deep understanding of the data they are collecting. Often this data is allowed to age without refreshing or to exist incomplete so that a holistic and accurate view of the customer universe is not possible and thus the data collected cannot be effectively used to make business decisions going forward. This is only likely to intensify in a third-party cookie-less environment.

In closing

In the coming cosmos of lost third-party cookies, retailers may find it necessary to seek out new and unfamiliar sources of data and a greater diversity of data to enable them to still glean sufficient levels of consumer insight to drive their marketing and overall business strategies.

So as we prepare to empty our marketing shelves of third-party cookies, remember there will always be something sweet to take their place. Let’s start baking.

Setting up Google Tag Manager for Adobe Commerce

Google Tag Manager logo

Google Tag Manager (GTM) has become an incredibly powerful tool in eCommerce when it comes to tracking user behavior, gathering analytics, tracking affiliate activity, and user testing. Over the years I’ve watched the platform and technology grow beyond the original purpose of tag management. As a result, I’ve updated our approach to using it to make our work more efficient and effective. Below are a few tips to help you make sure you’re getting the most out of Google Tag Manager for your Magento eCommerce site.

Go Native

If you’re using Magento Open Source, you will need a module to provide you with the dataLayer, but if you’re using the more advanced Adobe Commerce, Adobe has already provided a baked-in solution. Simply look under the Google settings in the admin, add your container ID, and you’re set. Assuming you haven’t done any major customization to your templates, Magento will now be providing dataLayer information for all your primary events. Pretty cool.

  • Impressions (category pages and related product sliders)
  • Product Detail (aka Product Pages)
  • Adding and removing items from the cart
  • Checkout events
  • Transactions (order success)
  • Promo Views (for promotional content like banners)

Are You The One?

I still see many clients using different GTM containers to manage different environments, like a development environment versus production. But I found the process of exporting and importing tag information between different accounts, and having to review and adjust any tags that overlapped or were overridden - well, cumbersome. Even the built-in environments seem a bit clunky to me. As a result, requiring human intervention as part of the process inevitably leads to errors. Conversely, by setting up all of your environments using the same container will not only simplify your management, but reduce some risk while you’re at it.

Ok, ok, get on with it already... It’s pretty simple really. Look under the Built-In Variables section and make sure you have ‘Page Hostname’ checked. With that enabled you will now see the host name coming through on events (e.g. staging.domain.com, www.mysite.com, etc.) and more importantly, use this data to set conditions. We can now create a trigger that may only fire on our staging environment, and configure a custom variable to use a lookup table so we provide different analytics IDs based on your hostname. On top of that, deployment doesn’t require merging containers or switching environments; which would result in twice the testing cost. Once your tags have been confirmed in Preview mode, it’s as easy as updating a trigger and publishing the changes to your site.

Copypasta

There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Use templates or built-in tags whenever possible. More often than not you can find good examples of all your major tags. Custom tags are great but they add risk: thorough testing is required, and introducing any broken (or potentially malicious) JavaScript to your page could be catastrophic.

Less is More

When my family goes on vacation, it doesn’t matter if we’re leaving for just one night - sometimes my family needs EIGHT bags worth of stuff. It’s madness, and really causes me more stress than it should. So, my advice? Be mindful not to overpack for an overnight trip and when you’re reviewing your tag plan: minimize your tags. How many tags are too many? I don’t know, and I haven’t seen any conclusive performance testing to give any better advice other than the following: being nice to people, use your good common sense, and follow best practices:

  • Pause or remove any tags not relevant to current tracking or testing
  • Remove tags and triggers not being used
  • Remove any custom variables not being used

For the “remove tags and custom variables”, I recommend that you should audit all of your Google Tag Manager entries once a quarter to make sure obsolete tags and variables are no longer being used.

Keep It Tight

Lastly, tag Management isn’t a “set it and forget it” situation - this isn’t the Honda Civic you drove for four years of college without ever once changing the oil - it’s important to review your tags and update accordingly as technology and your business needs grow. But you also don’t need to review your implementation every single day or week.

The platform is growing and more tagging is coming into play as we find new ways to offer personalized experiences to our customers, which is exciting but requires regular maintenance.

Added Bonus

Google Tag Manager is also an excellent way to manage all of your 3rd party scripts for affiliate tracking, live chat, digital marketing, or advertising and social media tracking. Set up your ids as variables just like we set up our ecommerce tagging and you’ll keep the data clean. The added bonus: no need for code deployments or providing more admin access.

Kadro eCommerce Insights Newsletter April 2021 Issue

Kadro 20th Anniversary logo and 20 years of eCommerce Excellence

April 2021 Edition

News, insights and information from the rapidly changing world of eCommerce designed for the online merchant!

Kadro puts the puzzle together

OPENING THOUGHTS

It's Q2 2021! What can we expect for the remainder of 2021? Will shoppers return in numbers to their favorite stores? Will the surge in new eCommerce businesses and in eCommerce-related transactions continue? All questions to consider, but only time will tell.

As a merchant there are things you can do to maximize the opportunities that currently exist and may exist in the months ahead. Are you up-to-date with the latest release of relevant eCommerce technologies? Do you know which technologies to choose and who to trust with the creation and implementation of your web store?

Kadro is here to help make your vision for selling online a reality. We can recommend enhancements to your present eCommerce environment that will help you gain and retain more customers or get your started on a full-feature commerce platform. Check out how our own Logan Wilkerson solved a very complex Delivery Time scenario on Magento Commerce!

Contact us to discuss your needs.

CLIENT SPOTLIGHT

Pool Season is Here! Let's Get in the Swim.

Doheny's

Founded in 1967, Doheny's is a leading provider and supplier of swimming pool and spa equipment and supplies in the United States. Doheny's websites sells both direct to consumers as well as to commercial buyers for above-ground, inground, and spas including pools, chemicals, supplies, equipment, accessories, safety products, and parts.

When Doheny's first approached Kadro, they were seeking a Magento systems integrator that would operate as their partner. They needed a Magento development partner that could provide both the technical and business expertise to move their eCommerce business forward. Learn More about the Doheny's & Kadro Story

Limited-time bonus: Use coupon code K21FREE to get free shipping on orders of $100 or more at the Doheny website.

Magento Rescue Services

MAGENTO PROJECT GONE WRONG? KADRO CAN HELP WITH PROJECT RESCUE SERVICES

eCommerce projects don’t always go as planned. This can occur for many reasons. No matter what the reason, Kadro can help. We offer a comprehensive array of website project rescue and support services tailored to each client’s needs. Learn more by visiting our Magento Project Rescue Services page.

TECHNOLOGY PARTNER SPOTLIGHT

Vertex

Vertex, Inc. is a trusted global provider of indirect tax software and solutions. The company’s mission is to deliver the most trusted tax technology enabling global businesses to transact, comply and grow with confidence. Vertex provides cloud-based and on-premise solutions that serve specific industries for every major line of indirect tax, including sales and consumer use, value added and payroll.

Unlocking the Secrets to an Outstanding Commerce Operation

Download this eBook from Vertex to discover

  • What B2B buyers expect as they research and transact purchases
  • Key challenges to delivering a better B2B customer experience
  • What’s causing the gap in customer experience
  • How you can create great B2B buying experiences by leveraging a powerful ecommerce platform with a tax technology solution.

ARE YOU READY TO MOVE TO MAGENTO OR TO UPGRADE TO THE LATEST VERSION?

Magento Commerce

EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT

Logan Wilkerson, Kadro Senior Software Engineer

Meet
Logan Wilkerson
Senior Software Engineer

What do you do at Kadro? I’m a Sr. Magento Developer with full stack development experience. When it comes to setting up a Magento store, there isn’t much I haven’t done at some point. Custom feature development, data migration, 3rd party extension installation/configuration, server configuration, and deployments are all within my domain.

If you could do anything you want right now, what would it be? Unrealistically I’d like to orbit and experiment on a black hole. Realistically I’d like to be running a tabletop RPG game right now, but I have to wait for my Saturday game.

What’s your favorite food? On a general level I’d say chicken wings. I have my own wing, sauce, and dip recipes that I have tweaked and modified over the years. On a specific level there is a restaurant in NZ called Flame that makes ribs I have yet to be able to top. I have a BBQ sauce recipe inspired by the experience.

What about family? My wife Helena and I were married in 2018. My mom has retired to Washington with her partner. My sister is still trying to make her way and is currently in Austin, TX.

Have any pets? I have one cat named Doctor. He’s about 95% fluff.

Favorite karaoke song? I tend to listen to the same song on repeat over and over and over again until I can belt out the words. The last song that I subjected to this process was History Read by The Altogether.

Favorite video game? I play a lot of games, so this is a hard question to answer. The game I probably have the strongest fond memories of is Megaman Legends.

Favorite quote? I don’t really mentally catalog quotes. I’d have to look something up which somewhat negates the sentiment.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? An alarm of some sorts generally.

Biggest or simply most meaningful recent professional accomplishment: I take pride in my ability to convert messy failure prone processes and turn them into robust repeatable processes. Every time we take on an existing project that’s pretty much my mission statement. Recently we received glowing feedback from one of those customers about how my efforts had completely changed their feelings about their site and their deployments. It meant a lot to me.

Biggest or most meaningful recent personal accomplishment? About 8 months ago I started a FFXIV savage static with my wife and two real life friends. I hadn’t played the game in years and going from zero to savage was a tall order. We recruited another four people and started trying to tackle the game’s end game content. Despite my inexperience, I stepped up to raid lead and to be honest we were all kinda bad. The group has improved by leaps and bounds and we recently completed our second tier of content ending out the current expansion. I’ve had to make some hard choices in order to get us there, but we did it. And now we’ve teamed up with some new friends and are starting the ultimate difficulty challenges.

What is one unique thing about you that few people know? Haha. If I told you what would I do the next time someone asked me this question? For real though, I tend to be pretty open with my hobbies and interests, so the fun stuff is public knowledge.

THE KADRO BLOG

Our blog is a great place to find articles on a variety of eCommerce and business topics, links to webinars and podcasts, and more.

Featured content of the month:
  1. Watch the dotlive by dotdigital webinar on How to use segmentation to supercharge your marketing campaigns.
  2. Read the article - What’s the One Thing Businesses Need in 2021 - an informative article by Kadro and Annex Cloud
  3. Listen to the Naughty x Nurture by dotdigital podcast with Ariel Mordetsky (Kadro) and other eCommerce experts as the talk about the similarities between eCommerce and fishing. It's reel interesting!
  4. Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma - an interesting article about overcoming technical challenges for a client.

Deciphering a Magento Website's Delivery Times Dilemma

Delivery On Time banner image

Introduction

In building an eCommerce site, it is easy to overlook and dismiss some of the physical connections a website has to the real world. However, as a software engineer responsible for the site’s success, it is extremely important to do so. Every catalog page should account for actual inventory on hand. Every order requires items to be packed and shipped. Every customer notification should be triggered by and reflect real world actions. Consumers and buyers do not care about the software abstractions of the real world and the challenges that come with them. They just want to browse, purchase, and receive their items. Central to that equation is providing customers with realistic expectations regarding delivery times. While the expectation as to what is a reasonable shipping time has changed over the years, the necessity of generating and communicating accurate estimates has been around since the days of mail-in catalogs. Failing to meet shipping expectations leads to unhappy and anxious customers. This was the problem Doheny.com found itself in. There was a disconnect between their digital and physical existence which sometimes caused their delivery times to be wrong.

Doheny's Website Homepage Apr2021

The solution that never worked

Doheny’s sells pool supplies. This market is highly seasonal and customers are occasionally in frantic need of their ordered parts or chemicals. Incorrect delivery times are not an option if the Doheny’s website is to generate exceptional customer experiences that lead to happy customers. When Doheny’s chose Kadro as its new business and technology partner in late 2019, their Magento 2 site was already up and running. At the time, the website even had incorporated an attempt at a solution to the delivery time issue. The solution’s process went something like this. Each product on the site had a flag attribute that designated it as a Next Day Delivery product and those products received special messaging on the site. Tying the messaging to a product attribute required a product update which had to come from the system that managed all product data - Doheny’s Product Information Manager (PIM) system - which in turn had to wait for inventory data to be compiled in another system from Doheny’s various warehouses. By the time the data managed to make it into Magento, it was already out of date and had a reasonable chance of upsetting a customer with misinformation about their order. The solution had obvious and inevitable problems. That is why before Kadro even began working on the project a number of conversations around improving the delivery times feature occurred.

The solution that would never be

Warehouse and data image

When the Kadro team was given the task for improving the delivery times feature of Doheny.com that project came with a built-in plan. The original plan was for Magento to be given access to zip code warehouse delivery estimates and stock data for each warehouse. This data would be periodically synchronized to Magento and used for determining what delivery time estimates should be shown to the customer. It will come as a surprise to no one, but that plan did not last a day before requirements changed. The inevitable question was, ‘Where do we get this data?’ The response was unexpected. Kadro was told that the data would not be made available directly, but instead an API would be created that would take a zip code and collection of products and return the delivery times for each zip code and product combination. A delta file would also be made available that would include the cross product of zip codes and products that had stock changes.This was not going to work with the original plan and project scope. Our team had to come up with a new solution.

And the solution that isAPI image

A naive approach to these new requirements would have involved querying the provided API for delivery times as they’re needed. That would have meant each product listing page, each product detail page, and each checkout page showing the shopping cart would be required to call the API. This approach would have ensured a deluge of similar requests against an API endpoint whose tolerance we did not know. Sometimes though, a terribly naive approach can be turned into a professional enterprise-level solution by simply adding a cache in front.  

Unfortunately, we couldn’t just throw in a cache and call it a day. The first problem was the actual decision space involved. Doheny’s has a catalog of a little over 20,000 skus and there are about 41,000 zip codes in the United States. Since our decision space is the cross product of those two variables, we had about 820 million data points to worry about. On top of that, after getting a few sample delta files, we discovered that they had on average 100,000 – 500,000 data points that would need to be processed and updated every hour. Throwing that amount of data into Magento’s MySQL database is a recipe for a crispy fried server, and even then it’s not the right tool for the job. Therefore, as an alternative, our team decided to use Redis.

Magento has native support for Redis and Doheny’s was already using it for data and session caching. Magento even makes creating a new data cache pretty simple. However, we were concerned about shoving so much data into Magento’s existing caches. Also, Magento’s Redis adaptor code is written and optimized for how Magento plans to use it. Our usage was decidedly non-standard, so we made two key decisions: 1.We were going to set up a separate Redis service and 2. Write our own small Redis wrapper.

Setting up the service was actually the easiest part. Since our team could fall back on the API for missing data, the cache’s main goal was dealing with repeated calls and taking stress off the API. This is a classic case for a cache using the Least Recently Used (LRU) strategy. It works how the name implies. If data needs to be ejected, the data that hasn’t been used for the longest period of time gets the boot. With this tactic, we didn’t need to worry about how to store 820 million data points. We only need to store enough data to take the majority of the heat off the API. Our team talked over the requirements with Doheny’s hosting company who had a new service set up in QA and production within the day.

The Redis wrapper itself wasn’t too much of a problem either. We decided to build it on top of Zend_Cache which did most of the heavy lifting. After piecing together the code to make a SOAP call against the API, we had a working proof of concept taking data from the API, putting it into the cache, and then using the cache for subsequent calls. Things were going too well and were bound to come to a screeching halt. The delta files made sure of it.

While the code we’d written so far worked great for the smaller requests, it could not process the large delta files in anything close to a reasonable amount of time. While the file processing happened fast enough, Zend_Cache didn’t include support for a Redis mass insert and attempting to add the data one line at a time was too slow. With no other options readily available, digging into the Redis documentation led to the right answer. Redis does have an answer for this problem. You can convert the data into a specialized Redis protocol and pipe that in directly. After a few false starts as we failed to create properly formatted Redis protocol, our team wrote up something that we believed would work. We took the delta file and created a Redis protocol version before piping that into Redis. Once we had finished testing on a collection of smaller delta files, we decided to go for broke and threw the largest file we had at it. The test completed so quickly our team assumed something had gone wrong. Instead we were delighted to find out that things had worked great and for our purposes the Redis protocol was lightning fast.

With the data workflows humming along we could finally turn our attention to the frontend. While we don’t want to diminish our own efforts, the frontend part was straightforward. A little JavaScript here, a view model there, a dash of AJAX and wrap it all up with some LESS. You know, frontend stuff.

Going live

For us, every production build comes with at least some degree of nervousness. We can be supremely confident in both the code and the process, but we’ve been doing this too long not to expect all manner of the unexpected. Combine that with a build using a new Redis service, custom Redis code, and a dash of Redis protocol and we were a bit on edge. Doheny’s was still a new partner and this feature had a lot of eyes on it. Kadro wanted to impress. So as we put out the new code and made the final connections, our team checked and double checked. The site came up, the first delta file was processed, and customers started ordering again. The dedicated Redis instance started to fill up. 10% no issues, 30% going well, 50% over the hump, 70% we clenched our teeth, and finally 100% full. The cache reached capacity without issue and happily tossed old unrequested data. The API calls stayed at a reasonable rate and the delivery messaging loaded quickly on the frontend. As if blessed by the god of programmers herself, everything worked and our nerves subsided. The new version of the old feature was live and improved. Good thing too, because Kadro already had new problems waiting to be solved. Which is what we do, overcome business and technical challenges and make merchant’s visions for selling online a reality.

Learn more about the Doheny's project by visiting the Doheny's Portfolio page on the Kadro website.

What’s the One Thing Businesses Need in 2021

Loyalty image

Answer: Loyalty!

Regardless of the type of commerce you engage in, B2B or B2C or both, and whether you are online exclusively or omni-channel, something you can’t live without in 2021 are strategies and tactics aimed at maximizing customer retention and loyalty.


There are a lot of uncertainties in the world today, but the one thing we all know is that keeping existing customers is vital to the growth and sustainability of your business. For years we have read and heard the adage, it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to find new ones and this simple statement has never more true than in today turbulent business environment.


This time last year, where we were citing reasons retention is important like the Bain stat that says increase retention 5% and you’ll increase profits by 75%. This year poses four additional reasons to connect and stay connected at a new level with your customers, which reinforces why you really can’t pass on your loyalty strategy in 2021.

  1. Economic uncertainty and recessionary times
  2. Consumers demands (and needs) for genuine communications and real connectivity
  3. A far greater number of choices, especially in the eCommerce space
  4. Saying goodbye to cookies and other 3rd party data approaches

Economic Uncertainty Drives a Need to Focus on Customer Retention

When times get tough, money gets tight. People spend less and make more critical decisions as to where they do spend. In 2008, many organizations made conscience decisions to shift their limited marketing dollars to retention efforts. Those that did fared far better through and post recession period than those who kept spending consistent or slowed spend all together.


With limited resources, consumers are more concerned about making a purchase mistake. They tend to be less likely to try new things. With limited cash in hand, consumers tend to make the familiar choice, the trusted choice and the smart choice that has served them well in the past. If a consumer or business is a customer of yours, you want to be that familiar, trusted, and smart choice.

But to ensure your customers come back to you, you need to connect with them on a consistent basis. You need to reinforce the value you bring to their business. You need to remind them of the positive experiences they’ve had in doing business with you and reinforce those experiences at each touch point. You need to establish a personalized ongoing relationship of mutual value.


Consumers Need Genuine Communication and Real Connectivity

Fast forward 10 years, 2018 as consumers began to raise the bar on their expectations of the organizations where they do business. It was no longer okay to just personalize with my name in an email. Or offer up product selections based on the items they purchased. Consumers know they are sharing their data. They’re expecting organizations to be diligent stewards of their data and use the data to deliver a more relevant customer experience.


Additionally, people today are more focused on what they feel is important – doing good, giving back, sustainability, equality, etc. They expect organizations they patronize to share the same concerns and values they embrace. A few years ago consumers were asking brands to “know me, understand me, inspire me.” Today consumer’s expectations go further to “walk with me, walk in my shoes.”


To top it off, we experienced a year unlike any other in recent history which placed us in lockdown from which we are only now slowly emerging. People are focused more than ever on what’s important to them. They’re making more and more conscience choices based on their values. The right loyalty strategies and programs allow organizations to create a clear, unique, personal, even empathic value exchange with customers.


The Field of Available Choices Has Grown Much Broader

Changes that the COVID virus created in the global business sphere include a rapid expansion of online commerce with many new merchants opening online stores and a transformation in brick-and- mortar commerce with many brick-and-mortar merchants going online and offering new ways of shopping and pickup (BOPIS). With such a rapid expansion in available choices for consumers and businesses wishing to shop and buy online, companies must give strong credence to development and implementation of loyalty strategies and tactics since now more than ever it is essential to retain customers once you get them.


Bye Bye Cookies

As marketers, we’ve grown accustomed to building out our marketing strategies based on 3rd party data and technology tricks like cookies to identify customers and prospects and deliver personalized experiences based on these inferences. We’ve built our tech stacks and our analytics around look-alike models and personas. We’ve invested in CDPs that can get us to 70-75% accuracy in matching data. These activities have been working fairly well for organizations.


Now, all of this is changing. The stringent privacy laws to protect consumers and their data are finally coming to fruition. They are finally here. Organizations are now being forced to play by new rules. These new rules are affecting the technologies we’ve grown accustomed to using. A great example of these changes – cookies are going away.


With the dawning GDPR, CCPA – now morphing to a much more stringent CPRA, mean organizations will need to move from reliance on 3rd party data, to going directly to the source – your customer – for information. Organizations will be forced to work directly with customers to collect their information and gain permission to use their data in marketing efforts.


For many organizations, this means a whole new way of marketing and potentially a number of new technologies. The good news – loyalty technology is built on the foundation of permissible value exchange. These 4 major environmental changes point to the need to research and select the right technology partners to develop, integrate and implement your online eCommerce environment and to guide you through loyalty as a core solution and strategy you must have to be successful in 2021 and beyond.

Kadro, a certified Magento Solutions Partner with 20 years experience, is here to help make your vision for selling online a reality. We help clients, large and small, in a wide array of industries create full-feature, high-functioning, eCommerce environments on the Magento Commerce platform and then integrate those environments with applicable ERP, OMS, PIM, CRM and other backend systems. You can learn more by visiting the Kadro website. Also follow us on popular social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


And to ensure you are successful in your loyalty strategy, the Annex Cloud Loyalty Experience Platform is the perfect answer. With roots in the social space, Annex Cloud is the only solution that can track, understand and communicate with your customer with a personalized, empathic message at every touch point. Plus with our extensive integration and partner network, the launch process is swift ensuring you can make an impact in 2021.


This article was co-authored by Erin Raese, CMO - Annex Cloud