Since 1766 the Mint of Poland has nurtured its position as the leading manufacturer of coins and tokens in Poland and Europe. The King of Poland, Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski founded the mint having in mind a business organization that would manufacture the finest coins in the Old Continent. And the King’s intent has been continuously carried out till this day.
It starts with the product, the price, which changes incessantly and depends on the world markets (the price of gold bars is determined by the inventory price of the gold ore coupled with the price of dollar on the interbank foreign exchange market). And it finishes with a significant number of sales channels, namely retail outlets, partner shops, e-shops tailored to the needs of target customers, order schemes tailored to specific entities, and regular shops.
To say the least, demand was there on the market. The Mint of Poland had its website, used mainly as a showroom for products – but it was not serving any commercial purposes. And then observed was a growing interest in buying gold online. Gold or other noble metals are everything but common goods, and the Internet did not seem a reliable sales channel in this case. Clients wanted a trustworthy supplier – and that was the role cut for the Mint. One element missing was a solution that would ensure swift handling of Internet-based distribution channels.
The challenge lied in developing a flexible and scalable system; one that would ensure harmonious setting up further e-commerce subplatforms for our Client’s business partners.
Robert Żochowski, head of IT, Certified Magento Developer, Bold Brand Commerce
An e-shop offering investment products of the Mint of Poland (inwestycje.mennica.com.pl), one in which clients are able to purchase gold and silver for investment purposes, as well as diamonds, was the very first – and crucial – system implemented for the Mint. The e-shop can be accessed by just any Internet user.
The main assumption here, similarly to all other sales systems of the Mint of Poland, lied in rendering the highest automatization of services. Since gold for investment purposes, a highly specific product, may also act as a currency, the only electronic means of payment is a transfer made to the bank account of the Mint of Poland.
Each order placed carries a unique (individual) bank account number of the seller, and to this specifically generated account the payment should be made. Since the expiry date for each order must be set, there has been implemented a calendar that allows to determine additional non-working days or working days. The shop having a configured connection with the bank servicing the Mint of Poland, each order that has been paid for is without delay transferred for processing. This is ensured by the mechanism connecting the e-shop system with the SAP system of the Mint.
Should an incorrect payment be made (an incorrent amount or some error in the bank account number), the shop crew are notified automatically. This ensures maximum shop automatization, where no extra fees for intermediaries servicing payments are required. Given the nature of investment products, additionally implemented was the digital signature mechanism for each message sent from the sales system to the clients.
Requirements concerning content publication brought about the need to integrate the e-shop system with a Typo3-based system that would carry out cms functions.
This ensures that information about the logged-in user and the user category (the access level) is passed on, and that content blocks within both systems are employed. The cms system screens items and item listings, while the shop system shows the content fed by the cms system (by which means charts featuring prices of gold are generated).
A marked interest in gold for investment purposes coupled with the organisation’s portfolio development, a need has arisen to implement platforms tailored to financial institutions. This enabled banks’ clients to purchase gold bars manufactured by the Mint in specialized e-shops, each of them integrated with the payment system used in a given Bank.
Founded by this means were specialized e-shops for the clients of:
BOŚ Bank, which offers BOŚ Bank quick transfers available for the orders placed.
A specialized investment e-shop for clients of Bank BZWBK, where the payments are serviced through BZWBK Przelew24 quick transfers.
A specialized investment shop for the clients of Bank PKO and owners of the Inteligo accounts, where, thanks to the ‘multistore’ technology, employed within one platform have been two shops accessible from different addresses and servicing a number of payment methods, namely Płacę z Inteligo and Płacę z iPKO.
Bank clients have a tailored e-commerce channel – let us take it further. Through internal systems bank employees have been given access to investment products of the Mint of Poland. They may place orders for investment products on behalf of their clients and monitor the order processing.
But, along with standard functions of sales systems, the internal B2B order systems must meet requirements imposed by banks. That the tailored method of order placement and order acceptance or multileveled order feedback be developed was also necessary. The need to use advanced coding functions rendering digital signatures and data ciphering was also the banks’ requirement.
It is one thing to develop a flexible and scalable system that allows for nonconflicting establishing of new subplatforms for the Mint’s business partners. But to ensure sales quality and efficiency for such extraordinary product is a task in itself, consisting in everything that takes place after the order has been made.
What matters most is making an automatic connection with the product management system, order registration, booking the inventory, processing the order or its annulment. All of this was plain necessary in the SAP of the Mint of Poland, the system to which our sales systems are conforming. Quite a challenge, it was.
Initially communication between sales sytems and the SAP system took form of a semi-automated csv text file exchange. The shop system controlled the catalogue, in which files bearing product data were uploaded (prices and the inventory) and – should the file upload be detected – it would load its content. Information on the orders placed was, on the other hand, exported daily.
This communication system was heavily encumbered. In the case of change in price or inventory, data export from the SAP was effected, and consequently the file could be uploaded in the shop system. This, in turn, demanded that the persons dealing with sales system be involved. Inevitably, delays in order processing followed, and the shop system did not receive feedback on the order status.
W Hence, the task of improving communication between the e-shop and the SAP servicing Client’s business processes took priority.
The beginning point was the client’s needs analysis, done with a view to the product specificity as well as the nature of the business processes. We, then, come up with a variety of solutions, hiding no pros nor cons of each solution proposed.
What the client eventually decided upon was that the SAP system would make all webservice functions available, and that to all of those functions sales services be connected. The choice was made given the following premises: the demand on the SAP system was to meet all requirements of the central system, one that would store all information about products and orders. The client owned a significant number of sales services and support (information) services, all of which were then adapted to communicate with one developed webservice.
As the product prices change in the SAP system every 1.5 hrs, information about prices and the inventory is updated every 15 mins. The parameter calling in the service to extract product information is the system identifier that requests information. This, in turn, allows to determine individual prices in the SAP and the product range within each of the conforming sales systems.
The service registers full data of the order placed, that including the client data, payment methods, selected goods, prices and order amounts, topped with extra fees or discounts on orders. Not only does it register the order, but also books the products and records depleted inventory. Order registration does not initiate order processing. This is controlled by yet another webservice – the order check and order status change service.
Controlled by this function is the two-way information exchange regarding the order status. It can be effected by both the shop system and the SAP. In order to meet the shop needs concerning this service, there has been prepared order status matrix that responds to just any case of the status change requested by each system. The service on the part of the SAP system was developed by the SAP consultant, while working the sales systems was at our discretion.
What we have achieved is a safe and stable platform that swiftly handles business purposes and builds up the client’s brand. The sales figure of the Mint of Poland Capital Group has arrived at a stunning 1.4 billion PLN.
The Mint of Poland Investment Portal is leading the Polish market of internet-based gold turnover.
That the platform is scalable allows to add further business partners of the Mint.
Continuous optimalization and testing helps to maintain a high conversion rate. Thanks to the implemented SLA contract, the e-platform is inaccessible only at minimum time stretches.
I think the eCommerce application has been both well designed and prepared.
I wish to thank the team for working to the deadline that, given all that happened on the way, did at first seem unmanageable.
Łukasz Drop, Deputy Director of Investment Products Sector, Mennica Polska SA (Mint of Poland)
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