DCKAP eSessions 2021

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DCKAP eSessions | Acing Magento Commerce with Midland Scientific

March 9, 2021

Ensuring Growth and Sales by Choosing a Robust Platform by Rodrigo Neves from Midland Scientific

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1) Opening note (00:12-01:36)

Tim Diep: Good morning everyone. Welcome to the DCKAP eSessions 2021. This is the one for March. We’re going to have a special showcase for Midland Scientific and all the work that went behind it, including some of the technology partners that were integrated into the eCommerce site. My name is Tim Diep. I’m the host for today.

I’m the customer success manager for DCKAP. I’ve been with the company for about eight-nine years now. I’ve just been leading events on a monthly basis ever since COVID happened, which has been over a year now. And we’ve really taken the advantage of just really hosting these events online rather than onsite now.

Today we have a really good session and hopefully you guys are able to take lots of notes and enjoy it. I would like to thank our sponsors for this event. These are the guys that you’ll be hearing later today with a short presentation. We have Midland Scientific. We have Avalara, Nexcess, Magento, and DCKAP Cloras.

Now I’d like to bring up Rodrigo from Midland Scientific. He is going to be talking about ensuring growth in sales by choosing a robust platform. Rodrigo is the Director of Information Technology at Midland Scientific. He has over five years of industry experience focused on digital transformation and leading results-driven teams, managing short and long-term projects from concept to completion. So I would like to bring up Rodrigo and he’ll be giving the presentation for this.

2) A brief introduction about Midland Scientific (01:38-03-12)

Rodrigo Neves: Thank you Tim. And good morning everyone. As things are today I’m going to be talking about the process for us to choose our new eCommerce platform and also some of our partners, how was the process for us and sharing a little bit about some of the results that we got so far.

First I just want to explain a little bit about what Midland Scientific is. We are a full line distributor of lab supplies equipment, mainly in the U.S. We have been serving the industry since 1975. We have five customer service centers in the U.S. and seven distribution centers.

Talking a little bit about our customers, they are mainly in the food and beverage industry and agriculture also. We have more than 35 active customers here in North America and one of our main competitive advantages is that we try to be a customer-centric company.
So everything that our customers ask us to do or to change our process, mainly also in the eCommerce area, we try to adjust and accommodate our process to our customer’s needs. That has a huge impact on our eCommerce platform and where we were looking to find a new eCommerce platform, this was one of the main things that we were looking for, like a way to be flexible and be able to adapt to our customer requirements.

3) The hurdles in their way (03:14-08:45)

Talking a little bit about how we were before, we were using an eCommerce platform called B2B Seller, we already had around 20% of our orders online. Over the years, we had a lot of customization that we had to make on that platform to accommodate all customer requirements, especially in the B2B market.

We had some corporations that had a lot of different sites and sometimes they have different levels of shoppers. So they would have the person in their lab join to purchase something for their laboratory. Sometimes they would have multiple roles. So you would have a lab person trying to buy something for the lab, also a lab manager, and on top of that, sometimes a purchasing team also.

We had to accommodate all of that inside our own website, having different profiles for people to see different things inside our website. But the main challenge that we were facing was search. It is something that we used to try to adjust on our site, but its speed and accuracy were some of the big factors that were affecting our site.

Normally most of our customers have part numbers. They know exactly what they’re looking for. So if they already have a product, then they’re just trying to purchase again. We were being successful on that, but when they were trying to search for all the options and describe the product that you’re looking for, we were struggling a lot.

Not being able to customize our website was a huge thing for us. We were able to adjust a couple of things. There were some core features that we were trying to change. And now we have the flexibility to change those that were impacting us. Also we’re trying to improve the integration with our ERP and with other systems.

We have more than 400,000 products. So we adopted a PIM system to accommodate all the product information. We were trying to take more advantage of the features that we had on the PIM system, also on the eCommerce site. Then we decided to look for a new platform and when we were choosing our new platform and all of the systems that are around our eCommerce area, we had to answer some of the questions before we started even talking about requirements.

One of the things is, what are company goals? While we were like two gaps on the website and for us, the main thing was flexibility. As they said, we tried to be a customer-centric company. So we would have to have a platform that would be able to accommodate all the requirements that we have from our previous platform, but also be able to adapt and change in the future as well.

When we were looking for the requirements also, we had to talk to some of our customers, and our sales team has a big impact on that because they are in constant communication with our customers. They brought to us a lot of requirements of things that they were struggling with, and also things that they were seeing in the different platforms as well that they would like to see in our new eCommerce platform.

What were the main challenges that we were trying to solve? Or I put on the previous slide main things that we were struggling with, mainly on search and have a better user interface and giving more visibility also to our customers to their ordering process. So they place an order with us and they want to follow up because not all the times that we would have their products in our lab, some of the products go to a back order status where we are still waiting for some of our suppliers to have the products available and sending information to us.

So we had to give them full visibility. If we have the product we already shipped, what was the tracking number? If it didn’t have them, then when were we planning to send that information to them.

Also after we shipped the product to them because a lot of our customers pay on terms. They don’t pay before we ship the product to them just after. Having the visibility of also the invoice side, the ability to see the invoices, verify their invoices online. So we were hoping to accomplish, to give them visibility to all of that.

Looking at our competitors, what were the features that were seen in some of our competitors’ websites that we couldn’t include on our website and we made some adjustments, we created some custom modules trying to accommodate some of that features as well.

Especially in our industry, we are a little bit behind in terms of technology. So we’re trying to figure out what are the new trends of technology that we could be applying to our site. One of the things that we’ve tried to focus a lot on is mobile. We don’t have a lot of customers using mobile. Normally most of our customers just use a desktop computer to place orders.

We are trying as the new generation started becoming part of the labs. Also it’s something that they expect and is not something that you would be having another advantage being compatible to mobile as well. There’s not a lot of customers of ours and also in our competitors using mobile right now, but it’s a trend that we are trying to adapt and change as well.

4) How their digital transformation journey began (08:47-16:26)

After we answered all of these questions, what we did was we just created a list of software business requirements. We interviewed a lot of different platforms trying to choose what would be the best one that would fit our needs. After we chose the platform, we ended up interviewing a lot of developers that would take care of adding all of this customization on top of our eCommerce platform, and also figuring out a way to integrate all the multiple systems that we have our ERP, our PIM system.

We also have a lot of images for our multiple products. So we had to find a developer that would take care of all of that. After evaluating some options for hosting, our choice for the eCommerce platform was Magento. We figured out that having an open source platform and that you would have access to the code and being able to change was a huge thing for us.

Also, they already have some of the B2B features that we were looking for, especially for quotes and the company structure, where you will have the ability to create multiple orders from the customers, but also some focus on B2C features as well because we like to treat our shoppers as B2C customers.

They are part of a corporation, but inside a corporation, they have multiple roles and when they are shopping, they will expect the features that they see in B2C. Their ability to extend also to being able to create more features using some models that already exist with some of the features that we’re looking for.

After we chose Magento, we were looking for multiple developers and the one that best fit our needs was DCKAP. They had experience integrating with our ERP system before. They had a really great tool for integration. It’s something that we were already worried about, how it would have been able to be flexible and be capable to integrate with everything and experience in developing Magento. Luckily they were also the one that has the most competitive price for us.

In terms of proposing before, we were hosting everything in-house and we have a small team who are struggling along maintaining the hardware, we ended up having limitations to buy new hardware and we don’t have a lot of experience managing hardware.

So we started evaluating hosting companies and we found Nexcess and we couldn’t be more happy than this decision that we made about hosting our website on the cloud, because now we don’t have to worry anymore about hardware. It facilitates a lot of our development process because now we are able to just duplicate our main production service and create new service for development, for testing.

So it facilitates a lot on that side. Also we already had to rescale. So we saw some limitations on the hardware after we went live on our website and also the search engine and we were able to adjust with a few clicks and communication with support just to rescale our server.

That would be a really painful process if we had bought the hardware before. So, hosting everything on the web and also for a company that specialized on Magento, it helped us a lot and for taxes, we were already using Avalara on our ERP system and to automate the taxes we looked for an extension to integrate also with Magento and the process was super easy for us.

I don’t know a lot about taxes and I didn’t have to learn anything about it. We just used the integration screen to put Avalara on our site and everything was working. So it was a super easy process for us.

For the integration with our ERP system and gathering some information also from our team, we are using Cloras. We have a lot of flexibility on integration and disability also. We were struggling a lot with the integration before, just because we didn’t know when the integration was working or not, when the information was syncing or not.

Now we have full visibility. If everything is working and when it fails, we receive notifications, but also we have the ability to change and adapt to the new requirements. So talking a little bit about the benefits, we thought we achieved our main goals when we went live. It was in August of last year.

We’re literally more than six months of life and we were able to achieve all the goals that we had in the beginning of the process. And the main thing that we were looking for was to have full control over the website and the ability to change and adapt to our customer requirements.

We’re still in that process. Now, one of the things that we decided was just to keep listening to our customers. We have a feedback link on our website and are trying to keep that link there to keep hearing from our customers forever. They’re always going to be in need of new features, new functionalities, and changing the requirements specific for them.

We’re trying to keep improving and developing our websites, adapt to them. Also with these surveys, we were able to just to start measuring, having some metrics about the search, because we were happy with the new search that we had and with the new features that we were developing. But we decided just to listen to our customers.

And luckily in terms of search, right now we are at 95% in terms of the customers being able to find what they were looking for when they are searching. Also another rating to measure how satisfied they are right now, we are now at 92%. Just with that question now, if our new website is able to meet their needs, and in sales, we saw an increase in 7% in terms of online sales.

Another thing that’s important for us is that we use what’s called a punchout system. Some of our big corporations are fully integrated with our sites. From their ERP system, they are able to just shop on our website and get all the information directly to their ERP. They’re able to create fields that way, and we are seeing a huge increase in the number of punchout customers and transactions as well.

We had a limitation of the number of punchout customers that we could have on our previous website, but now we don’t have that anymore. So we are able to adapt and change to that. And it’s something that is increasing a lot. We see a trend and some of our transactions go in that direction as well.

So we couldn’t be more happy with all the paths that we went through. We are still seeing a lot of things that we’re going to have to change and adapt on our website, but we are happy with all the choices that we made and the partners that we had. Yeah. Now, Tim, I’m passing the presentation back to you.

5) Concluding note (16:28-17:12)

Tim Diep: Thank you so much Rodrigo. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to work on this website and we wish continued success for many years, so thank you so much for that. Thank you again for all the sponsors from Midland Scientific, from Avalara, from Nexcess, Magento, and Cloras. Without you guys, this eSession wouldn’t be possible. Thank you guys once again for all your help and your contribution to this.

And then just mark it on your calendars. The next DCKAP eSession will be on April 13th and this will be in regards to the ADA compliance. That’s another hot issue within the B2B market. That’s all I have here. Thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully you guys have a great day and stay safe out there.

So we’ll see you guys. Have a good one.

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Importance of Tax Regulation for a B2B eCommerce Setup: Maria Tringali from Avalara

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1) Introducing Maria Tringali (00:00-01:33)

Welcome to the DCKAP, E-sessions, 2021. This is the one for March.We ‘re going to have a special showcase for Midland scientific and all the work that went behind it, including some of the technology partners that were integrated into the e-commerce site. My Name is Tim Diep. I’m the host for today.

I’m the customer success manager for DCKAP, then with the company for about eight, nine years now. And I’ve just been leading events on a monthly basis ever since COVID happened, which has been over a year now. And, you know, we’ve really taken the advantage of, just really hosting these events.

On online rather than onsite now. So today we have a really good session and hopefully you guys are able to take lots of notes and enjoy it like to thank our sponsors for this event. These are the guys that you’ll be hearing later today, with a short presentation. So we have Midland scientific.

We have Avalara, we have Nexcess, Magento and DCKAP Cloras. So next I’d like to bring over Maria Tringali from Avalara. She’s the Senior Solutions Consultant at Avalara, which provides end-to-end tax compliance solutions for any business, large or small in any industry. As you move your business online, we know there are tax compliance concerns.

She’ll be sharing a few best practices. You can leverage this to make this transition easy while creating a seamless customer experience. She’s going to be talking about the importance of tax regulations for B2B e-commerce setup.

2) The basics and diving into tax regulations with Maria(01:34-05:12)

Awesome. Thanks Tim. Happy to be here and thanks Rodrigo for that introduction.

Great overview and Kudos from Avalara. We really enjoy working with you. I’m so happy to be here. Let me share my screen and let’s talk a little bit about Sales tax. So, first of all, just a little bit about Avalara. So as Rodrigo mentioned, he’s partnered with us for his tax compliance for all of their business, not just their e-commerce business, but all of their sales and tax compliance.

So Avalara is a global company and we’ve been in business since 2004. We have over 30,000 customers worldwide. We are a publicly held company. We go to market with integrations and Rodrigo did mention their integration with Magento and with his ERP. So we actually have over a thousand integrations now with different accounting platforms.

So pretty much whatever you’re using our platform can integrate with it. We also work with every type of industry. So one of the things is that I work a lot with manufacturers and distributors and B2B businesses, and they sometimes say, we don’t charge tax. So it doesn’t apply. Well, every business has tax compliance.

Our platform is not industry specific. It is absolutely available to assist you with tax compliance across any type of business that you might be in. Everybody has clients, so let’s start with that subject. So what most of us think of it, when it, when we talk about sales tax is the sales tax rates. And that’s what we generally see on our receipts. When we buy something, I kind of call it the sexy part of sales tax, because it’s what we see. It’s the popular part. But the truth is when you’re in business, there’s a lot of things that a business has to worry about or think about, not worry about cause you have us.

But to think about when it comes to tax compliance. So it’s not just the rate calculations and most of us in manufacturing and distribution, or have a B2B component or who sell to businesses who are exempt like the healthcare industry, we don’t charge any tax at all. So all those things under the iceberg are things you really need to know about in your business.

And that’s one of the things that we can help you with is like Rodrigo said he doesn’t know anything about sales tax and he doesn’t have to, but you do have to worry about where you’re, which means where does your business have the responsibility to collect and remit tax? You need to worry about your exemption certificates, filing those returns, even if there’s $0.

You still have to report to the state, just like if I don’t owe any money at the end of the year to the federal government, I still have to report. So people say, Oh, it’s $0. It doesn’t matter. You still have to fill out all the forms, understand your tax compliance, be prepared for an audit. Yes, they can happen.

Also, customer satisfaction is important. We sort of tend to underestimate, and I think Rodrigo alluded to this a little bit. We wanted to make a really easy platform for his customers to buy from him and customer satisfaction is something that we tend to overlook a little bit, especially if you’re in a highly wholesale or exempt business, we make them jump through hoops.

We get calls to set up an account, create orders. And our goal here is to help make their process, our biggest customers, our B2B buyers, a little easier, whether it’s locally or whether it’s online.

3) Audit and importance of sales compliance for B2B (05:13- 07:19)

Rodrigo was talking about why is this all important? It’s important because manufacturers and distributors and B2B businesses are at very high risk for audit auditors, know that getting a sales tax rate wrong is just a little bit of revenue, but not having an exemption certificate on file for a sale.

Can be a lot more money to them. If you had a $10,000 item that you sold and you did not charge tax and you can’t prove why you didn’t you’d have to pay the full tax rate to the government, that you did not charge the customer. And believe me, trying to recoup that from your customer is not easy, especially six months or three years post sale.

So it’s an industry wholesales and manufactured. Wholesalers and manufacturers are high target industries for audit as well as for use tax are not going to go into use tax so much today. But use tax is something that a lot of manufacturers have to account for, especially if they have multiple locations and States know that businesses generally aren’t very good at this.

So they tend to really try to analyze your purchases and what you might’ve paid or not paid. So we definitely need to think about tax compliance in our world. So, um, as I said, a lot of people are telling me, well, we don’t have a sales tax problem because we don’t charge it. We’re talking about tax compliance here.

We’re not talking about just charging retail rates. You do have to charge retail rates to that customer, but there’s a lot more to do with tax compliance. And the key things here are a poor process for handling these exemption certificates or your exempt businesses. Creates a negative customer experience your customers want to buy from you quickly.

Rodrigo said they don’t have mobile phones yet. Something they’re thinking about. He wants his B2B customers as well as his B2C customers to go on his website and be able to purchase very quickly, very seamlessly without having to worry about providing extra paperwork and being asked questions and pause the sale to have to call them.

4) Your duty towards your employees (07:20-09:45)

We don’t want your employees to have to have the responsibility of knowing what they’re collecting. Our credit manager doesn’t have sales tax experience. They’re not tax professionals. We need to help them understand and guide them through the process of what they’re collecting and make sure that it’s the right form.

Make sure that it’s not the business license. It’s actually the sales and use tax license or something like that. We need to make this process easier on our staff. They’re not tax experts. So, a lot of people ask us about the economic nexus laws. So you may or may not know that about two and a half, little more than two and a half years ago.

I guess we’re heading up three years ago, laws were passed where States are now allowed to ask for essentially a cut of your sales. Any items you ship into their state. So you no longer just have to have a physical presence in a state in order to register and collect and remit sales tax to them.

You just have to ship into that state. When these laws were first passed, they kind of got dubbed as e-commerce laws and only for e-commerce sellers as if e-commerce sellers are the only people that ship something into another state. So that was a big misnomer. And I can tell you over the past year, and it’s still happening in 2021, we have so many manufacturers and distributors that never registered.

They are hitting these economic nexus thresholds that you see here on the right side of my screen. If you are selling a certain amount of revenue or a number of invoices, a certain number of orders into a state can definitely require you. To collect and remit sales tax, even if you’ve never fully set foot in that state.

So we need to make sure that you have your nexus footprint in line and you are collecting and remitting either certificates or sales tax in all the States where you have a legal obligation to. And this can have a big effect on the number of exemption certificates. So you may have like this example on the left, you may have 75 on file now, but once you’ve had to register in New States, you may end up with over a thousand.

And these are actually two real cases of customers that I spoke to is we had another national retailer that had 500 on file. Now they’re going to have to have 500. How on earth are they going to collect, manage, and track these certificates now? That their exposure is in all these States because of the new laws.

5) Moving ahead of Excel: (09:46- 13:05)

Excel is no longer a viable way to collect these or a file box or an online share account. File alphabetically. That’s not practical when you get up to these higher numbers. So what is a B2B seller to think about? Let’s go back to Rodrigo as examples. So he wants to bring B2B online for both his, B2B and B2C business.

So regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C online, you still have to be concerned with nexus. As we just talked about. You have to be concerned with your exemption certificates. How do I collect them? Does my staff know about them? Do I have the expertise to know what I’m collecting? How much time is this taking me?

And of course, that customer experience. So all of these things apply to your local business as well as to your online business. So what does end to end tax compliance look like? What it looks like is that the process needs to start with your customers as, especially if you have expanded next as meaning you’re adding, or you have recently registered or you need to register in additional States, or even if you’re still in your home state, do I have the right.

First file for that customer. So making sure you’re compliant from end to end is making sure that everything that you have on file now, or that you need to have is currently valid and accurate. So you don’t get caught in an audit. And then ideally as Rodrigo said, you leverage a platform like ours.

That is cloud-based. And that will allow you to do tax determination in real time. And by determination, I mean, notice it doesn’t say calculation tax determination means your platform. And this is what Rodrigo platforms are doing. Both his ERP and his website are checking to see if a customer is exempt.

Before it calculates tax. So it’s a check to see that little blue arrow going back to exemption management is first checking the address. It’s then checking to see if he has nexus there. And then it checks to see if a customer is exempt. And if the customer is not exempt, then it does proceed finally with the tax calculation.

That is the last thing that it does and then, because we’re connected to both the Rodrigo invoice platforms. He has everything he needs for us to file and remit his sales tax returns because all of his transactional data is coming through to this platform. So what you need at the beginning, there is not Excel, but you need a compliance platform for your exemption certificates that connects with your tax determination engine.

And I won’t go too deep into this, but Avalara cert capture does manage all those incoming certificates and make sure that they are current and valid. You can send reminders to those about to expire. It is a platform specifically for managing exemption certificates, which is not document management, document management.

Doesn’t do any of these. Things that can maybe track one thing like an expiration, but it doesn’t validate documents for you to communicate with your customers, um, provide access to all of your employees, etc. And then vendor exemption management. I wanted to mention this. I don’t think that Rodrigo company’s using this yet.

6) Certification collection and Vendor exemption: (13:06- 14:51)

It’s actually a relatively new capability of the same platform. So not only can you collect certificates from your vendors? You can also easily send certificates out to collect them from your buyers. Sorry. You can also easily send them out to your friend’s vendor. So if you’re a distributor and you send a lot, you provide a lot of exemption certificates, because you’re going to be reselling their items.

You have a lot of certificates you’ve sent out to vendors. So the platform also allows you to do that. So now to the fun stuff that Rodrigo was talking about on an online platform like cert capture, actually, we’re the only ones who do this, allow you to create a seamless experience on your website and Rodrigo, you talked a little bit about being as good as the competition.

I will tell you these two things here. Our competitive differentiators and you were doing them, which is amazing. We have a lot of businesses that see this experience on a shopping cart where they’re buying something and they come to us and say, I want that too. So what we have here is two options. If you’re in a business where you want someone to provide an exemption certificate on the fly, in a shopping cart, you can do that.

I’ve totaled up in my little sample here. I’ve bought a laptop. And a laptop case, and it says it calculated the tax of $31 there. And it says, do you want this purchase to be tax exempt? If I do, it will launch a little portal and I can literally submit an exemption certificate in real time that would apply to that sale.

So if I’m a designer and I want to buy just one item on a one-off, I can do that in my shopping cart. What Rodrigo has done is taken that one step further. So this is now I’m logged into my account here. You can see over here on the left. I’m in my customer account. I have my orders and I also can manage my tax exemption certificates.

7) Understanding the process (14:52- 16:15)

So the same process. Now that I’m logged into my account, I can pop up an exemption certificate and renew it. I could submit a new one. If I have a new ship to address. So what you’re doing here, what I love about this is you’re pushing the responsibility of collecting the right certificate and providing those certificates gently over to your customer and away from your staff.

Your staff doesn’t have to have the sales tax expertise. They don’t bill without tax and then get, have to do those darned credits and rebuild. You’re putting the responsibility into the hands of your customers to be proactive here. So again, it pops up a portal that can fill these out online in a flash, provided it goes right into your system.

And literally the next order can be tax exempt and you can be comfortable that it’s a complaint. So with that, Tim, I’m going to leave you with this little slide for those of you listening, I highly recommend that when you get this slide deck that you print off this one slide, stick it up on the wall in a conference room and take a look at your business.

How many States do we have? Have we registered in or do we need to register in a nexus study that is worth its weight in gold or a sales tax risk assessment. You can do those through Avalara and can do them through an accounting firm. That has assault practice, typically a local firm that wouldn’t have this national expertise.

8) Key takeaways ( 16:16-18:14)

You need to affirm the as is state and local tax practice, but have someone do a nexus study for you to understand your nexus footprint? Uh, talk about, is that our current processes scalable? Are we adding B2B, Rodrigo? Are we adding our B2B online? Are we moving more B2C online? Do we want to make B2B easier for our customers?

To buy from us. Think about your business and how you’ve talked. Some clients are affected and can we afford delays? Uh, you know, really, we don’t want to have to stop the presses. People want a fast purchasing experience. And I have, uh, another, um, program that
I did where we surveyed some businesses and most B2B businesses.

Like 75% of them say it is cumbersome to purchase from their vendors. They want a better experience and tax compliance is definitely part of that. So with that, I’m going to stop sharing Tim and turn this back over to you. Thank you so much, Maria. It’s a great presentation and we leave all the tax headaches.

You guys do such a great job, so thank you so much for that. And, thank you again for all the sponsors from Midland scientific, from Avalara, from Nexcess Magento, and CLORAS without you guys, this presentation, this E-session wouldn’t be possible so that you guys want to get for, for all your help and your contribution to this.

And then just mark it on your calendars. The next DCKAP e- session will be on April 13th and this would be in regards to ADA compliance. So that’s, another hot issue within the B2B market. So, but that’s all, that’s all I have here. Thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully, you guys have a great day and stay safe out there.
So we’ll see you guys have a good one.

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Enterprise Hosting Made Easy With Magento Commerce by Gary Smith from Nexcess

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1) Diving into the session (00:00-01:33)

Welcome to the DCKAP, E-sessions, 2021. This is the one for March.We ‘re going to have a special showcase for Midland scientific and all the work that went behind it, including some of the technology partners that were integrated into the e-commerce site. My Name is Tim Diep. I’m the host for today.

I’m the customer success manager for DCKAP,, then with the company for about eight, nine years now. And I’ve just been leading events on a monthly basis ever since COVID happened, which has been over a year now. And, you know, we’ve really taken the advantage of, just really hosting these events.

On online rather than onsite now. So today we have a really good session and hopefully you guys are able to take lots of notes and enjoy it like to thank our sponsors for this event. These are the guys that, that w you’ll be hearing later today, um, with a short presentation. So we have Midland scientific.

We have Avalara, we have Nexcess. Magento and DCKAP Cloras.

Introducing Gary Smith

Next I’d like to bring up Gary Smith from Nexcess. He’s a strategic partner. Um, Partner development manager at Nexcess. He’s worked in the e-commerce industry since the early two thousands as a merchant consultant and emergency manager. Since early days of Magento, he’s seen the potential in Magento’s customizable and extendable platform.

He currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama, and he’ll be talking about enterprise hosting made easy with Magento commerce. So Gary, I’d like to welcome to the stage.

2) Handing it over to Gary Smith (01:34-03:11)

All right. Thanks Tim. Well, we’re going to move now tax Nexcess to Nexcess Nexcess hosting. And I don’t know that I’ve heard the word Nexcess that many times in 15 minutes before in my life, but I have lived through some of those problems, Maria, and some of my previous work.

I worked with the Nexcess partner team. And I worked with DCKAP primarily as a partner manager and together we support customers like Midland scientific. I was what Rodrigo had to say about his site and the things that they’ve accomplished with it is really outstanding.

It really shows that the value of open source software, when Midland scientific began hosting with us. Midland scientific began hosting with Nexcess in mid 2019 with an extra small cloud plan to begin development work. And they’ve since scaled up to a larger production instance, but they continue to operate a number of development and staging environments.

That’s one of the main things I want to talk about today is how, what they’re doing with those development environments differs from the typical progression where we have local environments, which often live on a developer’s own machine. We’ll briefly talk about the disadvantages of that through various stages and I’m sure QA and automated testing and so forth that they do together with DCKAP to the live site.

3) Overview of Nexcess and evolution of cloud hosting(03:12-04:55)

And we’ll talk about that in a moment, but I want to begin with an overview of the Nexcess cloud services that make this setup possible. A few years ago, a typical Magento server set up consisted of one or more physical servers. Rodrigo talked about, the headaches of dealing with hardware. So frankly, whether you’re literally on prem or even if you’re using a hosting company like Nexcess and the older days,It was a box. It was a server or a combination of servers like I’m showing on this slide and they are actually still the right choice in certain circumstances.

If you need to do certain things, then this can still be the way to go. We have many, many customers on them, but increasingly virtualized servers, which we host in our own data centers allow us to provide highly performance server instances and they range all the way from extra small, which starts at $49 a month scaled for about 20 users all the way up to two X servers at $849 a month.

And those are conservatively scaled for 120 concurrent users, 800 gigabytes of storage. And so on three 30, two virtual CPU’s 32 gigabytes RAM. So highly, you know, Really really massively scaled up cloud plans for medium to large businesses. Midland is a company that works actively on their site regularly together with DCKAP and they have a number of plans deployed both for production and development. So I’ll just talk a little bit about concurrent users and scaling a site.

4) The top features offered by Nexcess (04:56-07:34)

Those concurrent users or visitors who are actively clicking, downloading, adding to their cart, that sort of activity, given that many users arrive at your site and spend time reading content, product descriptions, looking at images that have already been downloaded. The actual number of users that these plans can support can be considerably higher.

And for traffic spikes and heavy admin usage, which often occurs, especially in a B2B site, we’ve got another resource to improve performance, which is auto-scaling Midland’s cloud plan that they’re on and production allows their site to flex a little, when resources are under heavy load, we provide 24 hours of auto-scaling at no charge every month.

So you don’t get a surprise bill when you have those relatively contained. periods of auto-scaling. For significant more significant load events. Like a retailer might see on a black Friday cyber Monday kind of situation. We also have advanced auto scaling. Those do carrier costs, but they also allow the merchant to significantly increase the resources at short notice and without incurring long-term contracts or charges like that.

Another way we make resources go further is the way we containerize resources and set up your development instances in a way that they don’t take up any resources from your production environment. Again, thinking back to a traditional server situation. Have you set up development instances on that server?

You can do it, but you’re taking some resources away from production. So if you have a busy day in development at the same time, you’re having a product launch or something, you may be in a bit of a problem. Our development environments allow you to just add them in a kind of a push button basis at different sizes and scales.

We can also extract the data from your production site in case you want to look at that in development, and you can even anonymize that data so that you’re not putting confidential customer information on your development site, where you have another vector for exposure.

5) Diving the resources for perfect output (07:35- 10:01)

Containers are a way that we take certain services and we, again take those resources where they’re not being consumed by the main site. Biggest instance, which is now mandatory for magento 2.4 and higher additions is elastic search. Now,it’s required. So everybody needs it. A rabbit MQ is another popular container that we have for many customers.

it’s an open source message broker that helps websites to exchange data between processes, applications, and servers, and that reduces load and delivery times by delegating those tasks to a third party and a solar and varnish round that out varnish in particular acts as a reverse proxy for cassius dynamic content.

So by provisioning, all of these are services, dev servers, as well as containers with various sizes as needed. We avoid bogging down the cloud server and taking up your main resources that you need for traffic.

I mentioned earlier that Midland is using Nexcess cloud instances where, where some development teams might be using local dev branches. When I was with an agency, this was how we did things. We would, fire up XMP on a, on a laptop or a PC. And we would set up that local branch and different team members would merge those branches.

We’d go to testing and then we’d take it to production. This requires a high end machine to do this right. I’m talking to you right now on a basic entry-level Macbook Pro. it’s still not a cheap machine, but it doesn’t cost nearly five grand. So when you add the horsepower to a local machine that you need to do this kind of work.

You can really run up your costs and that’s not really the least of it. We can, you can also wind up with inconsistencies with the production environment. And another thing that we experienced when I was in the development world is your local environment becoming corrupted which often required four to six hours to restore.

6) Key takeaways (10:02-11:19)

And you can’t always, you know, certainly if you’re the merchant, that’s just dead cost. And even if you’re a development firm like DCKAP, you can’t always charge that by contrast deploying different, cloud plans with Nexcess, you know, just adding those $10 development instances. Allows you to deploy as many as you like.

Um, you can anonymize the data. As I mentioned earlier, you can share common services like search and by doing it this way, you can save time, you can save cost and you can also skip spending those up and down. You can destroy them at will if you don’t need them anymore. So that’s the main things I wanted to cover as far as Nexcess hosting, when it comes to Midland, again, they’re a great customer, really happy to be on this panel with everybody and for a really competitive price.

I think Midland has got a hosting set up that allows them to scale up as they need to, depending on their live traffic and development environments. And I look forward to hearing your questions when we get to the panel. And I’ll turn it back to you, Tim. Thank you so much, Gary. Thank you for the presentation.

7) Closure (11:20-12:17)

That was great. You know, it was great to, to be a part with you guys on this success story for Midland scientific and thank you again for all the sponsors from Midland scientific, from Avalara, from Nexcess Magento, and CLORAS without you guys, this, this presentation, this E-session wouldn’t be possible so that you guys wants to get for, for all your help and your contribution to this.

And then just mark it on your calendars. The next DCKAP session will be on April 13th and this would be in regards to the ADA compliance. So that’s another hot issue within the B2B market. So, but that’s all, that’s all I have here. Thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully you guys have a great day and stay safe out there.

So we’ll see you guys have a good one.

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Combining the Right Middleware Solution by Haritha Sridhar from Cloras, DCKAP

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1) Opening note (00:12-01:48)

Tim Diep: Good morning everyone. Welcome to the DCKAP eSessions 2021. This is the one for March. We’re going to have a special showcase for Midland Scientific and all the work that went behind it, including some of the technology partners that were integrated into the eCommerce site. My name is Tim Diep. I’m the host for today.

I’m the customer success manager for DCKAP. I’ve been with the company for about eight-nine years now. I’ve just been leading events on a monthly basis ever since COVID happened, which has been over a year now. And we’ve really taken the advantage of just really hosting these events online rather than onsite now.

Today we have a really good session and hopefully you guys are able to take lots of notes and enjoy it. I would like to thank our sponsors for this event. These are the guys that you’ll be hearing later today with a short presentation. So we have Midland Scientific. We have Avalara, Nexcess, Magento, and DCKAP Cloras.

I would like to bring up Haritha Sridhar. She would be talking about combining the right middleware solution and choosing DCKAP for Midland Scientific implementation. She’s an integral part of DCKAP’s Magento team. Haritha is an experienced coder and her expertise lies in solving intricacies for clients from both B2B and B2C eCommerce.

She is one of the primary team members to create the presence of Midland Scientific online and has taken care of the technicalities with their problem solving nature and systematic approach. I’d like to bring up Haritha Sridhar. She’s a senior software engineer at DCKAP Cloras. So welcome Haritha.

2) The challenges faced by Midland Scientific (01:50-05:22)

Haritha Sridhar: Thank you Tim for the introduction. Let me share my screen. So hi everyone. Thank you for having me here today. I’m going to talk on behalf of DCKAP about combining the right middleware solution and why Midland Scientific chose us for their website implementation.

Before jumping onto the agenda, let me give you a brief introduction about myself. I’m Haritha Sridhar. I have been working with DCKAP for about five years now as a senior software engineer. I had an early opportunity to work on Magento 2 from its booming days. Since then I have achieved a couple of certifications, which comprises Magento Commerce Developer and Magento Commerce Front-End Developer.

So, jumping on to today’s agenda, we’ll be talking about the challenges that were faced by the Midland Scientific team in their legacy website and how our product serves as a middleware solution for them to integrate the B2B features from Magento to Epicor P21. We will also see a bit about how flexible they are using our current platform in extending their features for B2B strategies.

Before talking a little bit about challenges, I want to thank Rodrigo for providing the detailed introduction about what they do. I just want to give a quick recap about what Midland Scientific does. They are the full-line distributors for lab supplies, chemical products, and equipment, supplying over the entire United States.

Before reaching out to us, their earlier eCommerce platform was Epicor B2B Seller. So while extending the product for B2B strategies, they faced some hindrances and that made them rethink about the platform. So these are the challenges that they were facing in their earlier website.

The first one to talk about is the customization. In the B2B seller, there were no parts of code that were customizable. So they had to rely upon Epicor to make these small changes on the website. And every time they reached out to them, it was a long period and it was way more time consuming.

Also, the speed of synchronization was a bit slow because they had to find the right time to update the information and they had to sync them manually. Even after making things on track, they weren’t able to relax. With respect to their daily sync failures, it was very hard for them to identify the cause, troubleshoot it and fix it.

Again the cycle repeats itself and it was making it very hard for them with their earlier site. So for several years, they were looking for one platform that could provide them more flexibility to implement the B2B strategies.

3) How Cloras saved the day for Midland Scientific (05:24-15:48)

After finding our product Cloras, which seamlessly integrates the Magento website with Epicor P21, their challenges have come to an end. Finally, what is Cloras? To talk a little bit about Cloras, it is a cloud rapid automation system, which runs as the Integration Platform as a Service. It means that the system can be integrated seamlessly over cloud and irrespective of the technology we are trying to integrate.

So we need not worry about the different environments they are running upon. This serves as a middleware solution used for connecting two or more systems automatically. We are able to see the real-time data just by seeing the user interface. For using the Cloras product, we do not need a special coding knowledge for extending the features. So that makes it very much easier for the distributors to integrate over the site.

Let us dive into some of the integration that has been done for Midland Scientific based on their company and their customer integration. The first one to talk about is the customer registration. We have customized the Magento platform comprising both the brand new customer and the existing customer.

Whenever the existing customer comes to the site, they will be provided with the three options for collecting the email ID, customer ID and the zip code, then they are able to register onto the website. Even a brand new customer, who can come and register on the website is able to register with the form we have provided and all those information will be synced to P21.

Once they have registered onto the website and are approved, they are able to see a wide range of portals available on the dashboard. Using the feature we have provided, they can place an order with different shipping addresses, by creating a new shipping address or even editing the existing shipping address.

So all those information will be synced back to P21. And, it is one classic instance for bi-directional sync. Whatever we update here, all those information will be synced back to P21 and whatever the edits we made in P21 will be synced back to Magento. This is a simplified mapping interface, which is one of the features available in Cloras.

Let me give you a scenario where the simplified mapping comes into play with the customer registration. This is the mapping between two systems- Magento on the left and ERP on the right. With the customer registration, there will be two different sets of fields for collecting the name.

One is the first name and the second one is the last name. So by an ERP, there is only one field to collect the information. We have to map these fields in order to get their information to the ERP. After this is mapped, it can be modified using the advance modifier. This is another Cloras functionality.

Once this has been lined up, the first name and last name can be concatenated using the advanced modifier. There are other modifiers such as capitalizing and removing the unwanted words and combining or splitting up words and many more are available on the system.

So far, we have seen some of the customer and company-level integration. Now we’ll talk a little bit about product-level integrations. The first one to talk about is the dynamic pricing. Every customer will have a different set of pricing libraries for each product that will be available on P21.

We have provided the option to display on the product detail page and category page. Also to talk about the inventory sync, the customer will be able to see the real-time inventory available when they go to the product page. Some of the products that are available on the website are restricted.

Even though they are displayed on the website, buyers are not able to add the item to the cart. Until they are approved from the P21, the product will remain as a restricted on the website. Similarly, there is another set of products, whose price will not be displayed on the website.

If the buyers want to see the pricing, they can request it to the Midland Scientific team. Once they have approved on P21, they are able to see the pricing on their dashboard. All these integrations will be dynamically pulled from P21 to Magento using Cloras.

Moving onto the order integration, the first one to talk about is the order sync. Once the customer reviews the product and places the order, all the information will be synced into P21 using Cloras. Next one is the offline orders. To talk a little bit about offline orders, these will be placed directly on P21.

All the information regarding the offline orders will be fetched from P21, and it will be displayed on the website. This is one classic instance which provides the omni-channel experience for the customer. The next one to talk about is the back orders. We still allow the customer to place an order, even when the product is out of stock.

The next one is about the scheduled order. This is kind of like a subscription basis where the customer can order in bulk and get it delivered once in a while for a month or so. To talk about the invoice payment, some of the customers wanted to see the invoices that are present on P21 and the website.

After the data is pulled in dynamically from P21, this will be displayed and open invoices can be paid from the website using the credit cards that they are using. We have provided a feature for requesting the quote from the website as well as dynamically pulling the quote from the P21 as well.

All these quotes will be converted to orders on the website. This is the scheduler, the one feature that is provided by the Cloras. This is used for automatically syncing the orders or creating the customer and more. We can set the frequency for about five minutes or an hour also.

The one main advantage of this scheduler is that it not only automates the synchronization between Magento and P21, but it mainly tracks the information including missed record and updates the call from the last synchronized. Let’s say if any of the orders fail, all the notification will be sent to the support team.

Once they have been notified, they are able to troubleshoot the issue instantaneously on Cloras. To troubleshoot the issue, we have provided them a feature called detailed logging. This detailed logging will provide the detailed information of the issue that has occurred. Also we can download this information as a file, which provides clear-cut details. These are the key features that Midland Scientific found to be very much beneficial.

Overall the Midland Scientific was very much satisfied with respect to the flexibility of the platform they are using. With the customization being done by them, they find it more as an absolute solution than any other product. By using the detailed logging and failure notification, it was made very much easier for them to troubleshoot the issue and by using the user interface, they find more visibility over the workflow.

Overall the Midland Scientific find that they are very much happy and their overall sales have been improved and they find it more flexible than any other solution. Thank you, Tim. Over to you.

4) Concluding note (15:48-16:35)

Tim Diep: Thank you so much Haritha on your presentation and just thank you for all our presenters as well, just bringing everything together and what was done behind the site for Midland Scientific.

Thank you again for all the sponsors from Midland Scientific, from Avalara, from Nexcess, Magento, and Cloras. Without you guys, this eSession wouldn’t be possible. Thank you guys once again for all your help and your contribution to this.

And then just mark it on your calendars. The next DCKAP eSession will be on April 13th and this will be in regards to the ADA compliance. That’s another hot issue within the B2B market. That’s all I have here. Thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully you guys have a great day and stay safe out there.

So we’ll see you guys. Have a good one.

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Discussion Panel Moderated by Catherine Sulskis

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1) Opening note (00:12-03:03)

Tim Diep: Good morning everyone. Welcome to the DCKAP eSessions 2021. This is the one for March. We’re going to have a special showcase for Midland Scientific and all the work that went behind it, including some of the technology partners that were integrated into the eCommerce site. My name is Tim Diep. I’m the host for today.

I’m the customer success manager for DCKAP. I’ve been with the company for about eight-nine years now. I’ve just been leading events on a monthly basis ever since COVID happened, which has been over a year now. And we’ve really taken the advantage of just really hosting these events online rather than onsite now.

Today we have a really good session and hopefully, you guys are able to take lots of notes and enjoy it. I would like to thank our sponsors for this event. These are the guys that you’ll be hearing later today with a short presentation. So we have Midland
Scientific. We have Avalara, Nexcess, Magento, and DCKAP Cloras.

I would like to bring up Catherine Sulskis. She works with the marketing team at DCKAP as the partner manager, bridging connections, finding ways to co-brand and co-market our solutions, and building lasting relationships with our partners.

She works to ensure that our partnerships add value to the community and to expand the partner ecosystem. I’d like to bring her up. She’s going to do a deeper dive into integration and B2B features along with all the presenters. And then we’ll also bring up Efi from Magento. Welcome.

Catherine Sulskis: Thanks Tim. Yeah, I’m happy to be moderating the panel with our partners and guests today and continue to start the discussion on our solutions, the successes with Midland Scientific, some B2B strategy and the benefits of the integrated eCommerce experience. A lot of great points have been made in the presentations and going over the solutions.

Thanks again to everybody for that. I’ll be asking our guests some questions and then opening it up for some further conversation. We’re going to have Haritha stay on with us. Then I’ll kindly invite Rodrigo from Midland Scientific, Maria from Avalara, and Gary from Nexcess to come back with us.

As Tim mentioned, we do have a great special guest Efi Shabtai, customer success manager from Magento, Adobe, who will be joining us to contribute to the conversation. Efi comes with 14 years of experience working with enterprise clients in her role as operations manager at Magento Commerce.

Today, she stands at the position of a senior account manager and handles 20 plus enterprise accounts in the Midwest West. Her experience comprises a detailed understanding of customer relations, licensed consulting services, upselling annual multi-year license retention. Welcome Efi. We’re really happy to have you and looking forward to our conversation.

2) Throwing light into the digital transformation journey (03:05-06:12)

Catherine Sulskis: All right. So I’m going to start with some questions and I’m going to go back over to Haritha first. I’ll start with asking you just further on the project. When it comes to the customer experience, what are you most proud of accomplishing on the Midland Scientific project. And then perhaps you can expand a bit on how integral the migration to Magento 2 was.

Haritha Sridhar: Thank you for that. That’s a good question. Regarding the customer experience, I’ll talk a little bit about it. There are many features built with the website that we are happy about accomplishing. One thing that always strikes my mind will be the customer registration and our company structure, which is one of the large customizations we implemented.

We have customized the wide range and to talk a bit about the customer structure it is more or less like the admin administrator will be on the main level and our managers will come and users will be present.

We have customized this functionality to provide them the purchase limit while placing the order. So the user is able to place an order using the ‘Pay on Account’, which is a special payment method we have provided them. So, let’s say if the purchase order exceeded their order amount.

What we’ll do is, we’ll just suspend the order and we’ll notify them to the managers and managers are able to view and edit the orders and they can approve it. So once the order has been placed, this will be synced back to the P21. So overall, we have an end-to-end integration, right from PIM to Magento and from Magento to P21.

Also there are some bi-directional sync from P21 to Magento 2 also. So, once in a while, we’ll update the products from Akeneo and the product pricing and inventory will be synced from P21. So, this provides them more flexibility. This serves as an integral part of migrating from the B2B Seller to Magento 2.

3) How Cloras aids integration (06:14-07:52)

Catherine Sulskis: Okay. Great. Yeah. Thanks for expanding on that. I think that’s helpful to kind of go over some of the specifics there and then additionally, we’ve heard some of the higher level points on Cloras in your presentation and the ways that it can help simplify and automate and could you just expand a little bit more on that such as the systems that supports.

Haritha Sridhar: Yeah sure Catherine. Cloras is a middleware solution that connects their application end-to-end. So it has the potential to manage and automate data synchronization across multiple systems with great security and provide seamless integration for cross-platform.

It provides a wide range of integration with respect to ERP, eCommerce, and CRM. And many other systems have been successfully integrated. So far, we have integrated about hundred customers over these years . We have some pre-built connectors and templates are readily available.

So, whenever the signup has been done, we can easily get it onboard. Another thing is the user interface, which provides more workflow visibility for the customers. So that will provide the workflow and real-time experience can be provided. We have connected the eCommerce channel with Magento one and two, BigCommerce, Shopify and all that.

With respect to ERP, we have connected P21, NetSuite, Acumatica, Epicor Prelude, and all, and with CRM, we have integrated HubSpot, Salesforce, and Bronto.

Catherine Sulskis: Yeah, thank you. I mean, certainly a lot of different things that can be automated altogether, which is one of the great points of it. Thank you so much for contributing to that.

4) How DCKAP resolved the challenges faced by Midland Scientific (07:54-15:22)
Catherine Sulskis: Rodrigo, I would love to go over to you and I wonder if you might tell us a little bit more about your experience with DCKAP in implementing Magento Commerce and integrating P21 using Cloras. Could you explain some of the benefits and highlights and what you think might be the best features of that?

Rodrigo Neves: Sure. Yeah. Our implementation process was really long. I think it took a year for us to go over everything and be ready. Mainly because we had a lot of customizations already implemented in our previous ERP and the type of features that were required to be part of the new platform because we had a lot of important customers and that created a lot of challenges during the implementation.

We had a lot of requirements and they had a lot of details. One of the things that I asked DCKAP since the beginning of the implementation was to have daily meetings with the development team. I think that kind of surprised DCKAP because the customers would demand all of that attention.

But it was one of the reasons that our implementation was successful. Just meeting every day and making sure that all of our requirements were understood by the DCKAP team and reviewing and testing the platform was something that made a huge difference on our implementation. I think one of the characteristics also that the DCKAP team had was being able to adapt.

Because we didn’t know Magento that well, a lot of the time we had something in mind and we had to change. So we kind of have a similar implementation, like using the agile method where you have to review your requirements and adopt and change all the time.

The DCKAP team was always able to list them to us and explain what has to be changed and being able to adapt to the requirements and meeting every day for a year, it was something that we value a lot. The DCKAP team was able to do that with us. And sometimes we had to test things at night and meet again in the morning and work over the weekend. So, not all the partners would agree to do something like that for your customers.

So something that we appreciate a lot that DCKAP did for us and talking like more about Cloras. It was one of the main reasons that we chose DCKAP. Integration is something when you were talking about a PIM system and ERP system and all our different softwares that you have information and you need to make that available to the costumer, find a solution that would be able to just offer all of that to you in a place that you can see and you can manage.

That’s great. It was amazing. Even notification is something that DCKAP was changing and adapting the solution for us because of some of our requirements. It’s something that is really valuable for us because users are really creative. It’s really hard to predict how they’re going to act and how they’re going to interact with your site.

And being able to just receive a notification if something failed right away and just act on top of that and change the platform and fix the problem sometimes in a matter of minutes, it’s great. It’s just something that we didn’t have before. And after six months of using the system and also being able to change and adapt to new requirements, it’s been great for us.

We couldn’t be more than happy about this. Using Cloras, it’s a great software. And, yeah, just being able to expand and receive notifications, monitor and being able to see if something is going wrong. Yeah, it’s great. We also use that, we have cases that we had an issue with the network and we started receiving a lot of alerts on Cloras just because something was wrong on our side, nothing related to what DCKAP did.

It has been great. We are finding new ways to monitor our system and all other pieces of our network as well. So, yeah, that’s great.

Catherine Sulskis: That’s always great to hear. And certainly, along with our partners as well, taking care of clients is certainly a priority to make sure that everything that we provide for solutions is working as needed. If you could also just let us know what you think are the benefits of using multiple development environments from the hosting company instead of using local development environments.

Rodrigo Neves: Sure. Yeah. I can definitely talk about that. So yeah, we started with local environments and we were having a lot of headaches trying to manage hardware and making sure that all the local environments had the same resources and the same information.

Also search is something huge for us. We have, as I said, almost 400,000 products and being able to bring back, so all of the products and making sure that all the local environments also have a search engine. So we were spending a lot of time on things that were not bringing any value to our customers like just trying to manage with a small team.

Local environments were just slowing down our development process. So, we decided to try it out, just using that, just for that also. And it’s been great for us. So now we can just have one main environment. One server having our production side and also our staging site where we do caching before putting code to our live site and having that site, each developer had their own system.

Then you have some share resources like search. All of the dev environments are sharing the same search. So you just need to worry and take care of only one search engine for all the dev sites and also because of COVID and also because of office space, we had to just adapt and we have developers working from anywhere.

Sometimes we also have some internal teams doing development as well, not only DCKAP. So sometimes they work from home. Sometimes they work at their office. Sometimes they have to travel and work from a different place and not have to worry about it about the hardware again. Just having all that information on the cloud is speeding up our process so they can work basically working from anywhere.

The main thing is just because we had a lot of different dev environments and the test team was having to just be in touch with each one of the developers and making sure that they were doing the right things. It is just sped up the testing side because you can just be in touch with the developer and check the website and our team doesn’t need to have access to the local environment anymore. You can just bring up the site on your phone or from any desktop and because it’s on the cloud, you get access right away.

5) Gain more insight into the dev environment (15:24-17:12)

Catherine Sulskis: Yes. Great, great points. And, I’d love to bring it over to Gary for you to chime in and maybe elaborate on that. I mean, Rodrigo touched upon obviously, you know, improving speeds and simplifying processes, but maybe you can go a little bit further in some of those benefits for us.

Gary Smith:Yeah. I mean, Rodrigo really told the story in a way better than I can. I actually got to harken back to my own experience with an agency. I mentioned it in the presentation, but I’ll elaborate on it. Man. It was a headache. We would frequently have developers that worked with the agency that I helped run. And it’s like, well, something blew up on our local dev environment and it happens because that’s what you do as a developer as you are trying to fix things and sometimes trying to break things so that you can understand why they’re breaking and so on.

And these things can result in unrecoverable errors. So now you’ve got a Macbook or a Linux machine and you’re just going, ‘well, it’s just easier to start over’. And that’s five, six, seven hours. That again, if you’re the merchant, that’s just dead cost. If you’re the development agency, you can’t bill it, or you have trouble building it.

So, here you go. I think to be candidates, it’s something that not a lot of our customers are doing. I would like to investigate that further with you Rodrigo because I think it’s a great application and what we’re doing with the cloud environments, more typical scenarios just simply like the main dev environment.

Like when you’ve pushed all the branches up, that’s when you use a dev server. So Midland is unusual in how many they have, and I think that’s really cool.

6) Benefits swept in for B2B operations from eCommerce websites (17:14-19:58)

Catherine Sulskis: Nice. Cool. Well, let’s go a little bit further into how B2B operations benefit from eCommerce sites if they rely on salespeople to answer questions for customers.

Gary Smith: Okay. Sure. Again, I’m kind of harkening back to some of my experiences before Nexcess. Again, I would like to hear the experiences of others on this, but if you sell something that’s a product that gets used in manufacturing or it’s an additive or it’s chemical or something. Well, that’s not like going onto Amazon and picking it off a shelf.

Rodrigo mentioned the imperative nature of search because people aren’t going with physical descriptions. They’re picking up a container perhaps and looking at a part number and they want to order from that part number.

If I go on to Amazon and I search for something and I get a lot of amusing, similar suggestions, okay, cool. But if I’m buying B2B, I want to know exactly what I’m getting. So search becomes super important. But getting back more to your question, even if I can get tons of information straight off the eCommerce site, then I may very well still need a rep.

I may need to get on the phone or chat with the company’s rep and say, okay, but will this work with that? Or can I customize this? Can I add something to it? And depending on the workflow, which is always one of the cool things about B2B is it’s always so unique. Every company is so different compared to a seller of packaged goods.

That need for expertise from the reps, which means that the reps really kind of need to join the customer at the website as it were, and be able to look at what’s going on there. And so it becomes a tool for the sales rep and the customer jointly.

I’m old enough to remember carrying a whole bunch of catalogs into sales calls with manufacturing clients. And I would have loved to have had an iPad and say, okay, well with this system, you can get this printed or we’re out of stock on this and so on.

Catherine Sulskis: Yes. Well, having that increased support is certainly an important part of that. Yeah, thanks for expanding on those ideas.

7) Tap into the benefits of Magento Commerce in the B2B space (20:00-23:30)

Catherine Sulskis: In regards to B2B, maybe going a little bit with that and going over to you, Efi, thinking about this project and others, perhaps in a similar position, looking to start their eCommerce, tell us why Magento Commerce for B2B and what some of those benefits are.

Efi Shabtai: Yes. Thank you. Well, one of the first things being at Magento for so long, it’s really great to see everything evolve from day one and how so much effort and passion went into all of these projects and making Magento a really, really strong platform. We were one of the first open-source platforms that enabled merchants to succeed with scalability and flexibility.

With being open source, you have that opportunity to create and innovate to what your business needs are and to be able to structure things that way. B2B allows sellers to offer their clients a variety of things, overall better service, attracts new customers and transitions everyone into this new technology that we’re in, in this new ecosystem of no more faxing orders or kind of moving away from that.

So Magento is really trying to encourage everyone to be up-to-date with technology and be able to grow their business on both the B2C level and B2B level in one platform. There’s a lot of features that are available that could be really useful to our merchants with respect to policies, procedures, approvals, and workflows. So there’s a variety of things that could be very beneficial to B2C.

Catherine Sulskis: Correct. Awesome. Yes. I mean, it’s certainly something that needs to be considered and in taking a venture like that and knowing that you guys are there for support and have that experience is certainly helpful to them.

Maybe you can expand a little bit further too, and just your experience, what are some of the biggest pain points that you’ve seen in the B2B market perhaps specifically and how Magento can help solve those pain points?

Efi Shabtai: Yes. And one of those things, the biggest thing is being open-sourced. So with a B2B module that is included in Magento, it is completely open-sourced. So you’re able to modify it to your business needs, client needs, how you work with distributors and kind of, again, moving away from the fax, making EDI a little bit more easy flowing and easier to work with.

And I think that is the biggest strength of the B2B market today on how Magento can help with that. Since we manage or we help so many different types of B2B businesses that have a large variety of SKUs, that have different workflows, different purchasing procedures, there is that flexibility to be able to kind of create the workflow based off of certain levels and what the company wants to see as far as how the workflow works for them, right.

Catherine Sulskis: Having that kind of flexibility and openness. Great.

8) Tackling the tax challenges and barriers in moving online (23:33-26:40)

Catherine Sulskis: Well, I guess I’m going to go ahead and go over to Maria. I wanted to touch base with you on some tax challenges and perhaps you can talk a little bit about what the biggest tax challenges you see for manufacturers.

Maria Tringali: Yeah, thanks Catherine. I’ve mentioned that a little bit during my presentation, but I think the biggest challenge for manufacturers right now is just understanding what their tax requirements are.

Well, two things, one is understanding that Nexcess footprint that we talked about, where do you. Really, according to the new laws need to be registered, to collect and remit tax and then getting registered. The second thing is moving online. It’s exactly what we’ve been talking about.

We need to move more of our business online. We’re adding B2C and we need to make that transition and the purchase process so much easier for both our B2C customers and our B2B businesses. And we need to move that B2B process online, it’s no longer sustainable to go out with your, um, with your stack of catalogs, Gary, you know, out to someone’s office, that’s just not going to happen anymore.

I really think people hesitate to move B2B online when really that’s what our B2B buyer wants.

Catherine Sulskis: Yeah, definitely with lots of things changing in the industry and the way that people are just shopping online businesses are shopping online.

Maria Tringali: And tax compliance shouldn’t keep you from doing that right, Rodrigo. It’s not a reason to not go on the line. It’s not.

Catherine Sulskis: Well going off of that then re um, what would you say are the biggest barriers to moving more businesses online?

Maria Tringali: Well, the fear I think of what’s out there. We hear a lot of fear of connecting to their platforms. Rodrigo added to P21, where people have a fear of connecting the cloud to their platform.

So I think there’s a lot of data security and maybe just fear of the unknown, what’s that experience going to look like? How much work is that going to take? That’s what we’ve been talking about for the past couple of hours, but you know, what is the process for doing that? I don’t know how to do this.

And so I think people get sort of stuck in moving forward because of all these things. But there are people there’s a bunch of us on the call here to help walk you through each piece of that and create the experience that you want for your customers. I always tease my customers that yes, we’re going to connect cert capture certificates to our website like Midland has.

My web developer might not be a tax expert, but don’t worry. We’ve got people that will help you get both your web experience or tax compliance, your ERP. There’s a team of people that do understand this and can walk you through it and are doing it every day.

So I think it’s really the fear that I see a lot. Maybe cost, but I think at the end of the day, Rodrigo sure can vouch for this, that their sales have been increased. So you will, there will be a return on your investment. We promise.

09) Dive deeper into the enriching thoughts shared by the panelists (26:42-35:03)

Catherine Sulskis: That is always important. Of course. All right. Great. Well, that’s basically the question portion that I wanted to go through with you guys, what I would actually love to do is just step away a little bit from direct questions and just ask for maybe some more thoughts and experiences or personal stories and some insights around sort of the main topic that we’ve been speaking about, which is the importance of integrated eCommerce in B2B and bring incidence you just spoke about some of these barriers when businesses are facing moving online, perhaps you can start by expanding on that and talking about how tax compliance might pertain to the idea of the integrated experience.

Maria Tringali: In addition to what we’ve already, what we already talked about, but you know, you do have to connect, uh, you have to think of tax compliance as connected to everywhere that you do create an invoice. And again, Rodrigo has Magento on P21. It’s not just an online requirement. It’s not just an eCommerce requirement, right.

States do require that you report all of your transactional information. So when you look at a solution for anything. It needs to be a centralized solution that doesn’t just cover eCommerce it covers everywhere else that you also create invoices. Sometimes even quoting, a lot of people do quotes and they require their tax calculation there.

As you might have a quoting tool, a CRM. So you need to think of all the platforms where you might create an invoice or a quote that requires tax determination needs to be made. So definitely want to connect all of those, not just one. It doesn’t work with just one. Also, you can’t do this with just your taxable sales. People do that. Well, can’t I just do my taxable sales, no tax compliance covers all of your sales.

Gary Smith: Hey, Maria, harkening back again to my experience as a rep, CRMs and reps get put in some tough spots when it comes to tax. And I could see tax compliance software helping with that. Because when I found that a lot of my customers in other industries insisted they were tax exempt, but they’re not.

And so it’s really helpful to be able to put up the criteria. It said, okay, well, you’re tax exempt. As long as you can provide this documentation, here’s our handy process. Like you described in the checkout process. Here’s our handy process to give us that paper so we can prove your tax exempt.

Maria Tringali: Yeah. Every sale is taxable sans that proof. There’s no honor system here. It’s taxable or you have proof. Yep. And here’s our system to provide that proof. I like that.

Rodrigo Neves: Yeah. And just adding to that also, I think one, one of the things that we see in our customers is when they are having a relationship with our company, they are expecting to have the same experience.

It doesn’t matter how they reach out to you if they call you and they want to talk about their taxes and exemption is just one state, they want to have the same experience if they go to our website and check that information as well, if they send you an email and ask that question in a different way. So having all the systems integrated is something that makes a huge difference when you’re talking about customer experience.

You have the information saved on your ERP and the customer expects to see it when they go to shop on your site. So having all the systems communicating and offering that same experience to the customers is something that is really important when you talk to B2B, because in our case, we deal with corporations.

So you have a lot of users that expect to see the same information related to their company. And they’re going to reach out to you in a different way. Some of them are going to prefer to call. Someone is going to prefer to send an email. Someone is going to prefer just to ask for the website and know how to interact with anyone.

And when you don’t have all of the information integrated and offering the same experience and make it really a challenge for your business. So that’s why I think one of the reasons that it’s really important for us, that we are a small team having partners that are specialized in different areas.

So when I said that I don’t know a lot of taxes, our accounting team knows way more than me and just me being on IT and not having to be specialized on taxes is really important for us. So we rely on Avalara to just take care of all of our business challenges in terms of taxes, but also looking for new trends and being able to adapt to the new regulations and the same apply for hosting and for other areas.

So I think that’s why it’s really good for us to have partners as they can not only have our current requirements, but are looking for new things that are coming up as well.

Catherine Sulskis: Yeah, that’s a great point for sure. And, having those partners available, like you said, is certainly an integral part of making sure that the customer experiences as best as it can be and maybe Efi, you’d have some contribution as well to the integrated experience.

Efi Shabtai: One of the great things in regards to tax is that Magento has a quick order form. So once somebody places a quote or wants to get pricing on specific items, they can see in addition to the taxes on what they will be charged, what the total is going to look like.

They have full transparency on what to expect and then they go ahead and they’ll be able to place the order through the workflow that they’re alone. In regards to taxation and how that works, that’s also something that is really helpful to a lot of companies to have that transparency in the ordering.

Catherine Sulskis: That’s great. Great to know, certainly that that kind of information can be very helpful as well. And then maybe Haritha, if you had some contribution on the integrated experience, you wanted to expand on it a little bit.

Haritha Sridhar: Sure. So one of the main motives for creating the whole website or creating the omni channel experience for the customer, I believe that we did that shopping experience for the customers. So they are distributed all over the world and all the information will be on the ERP.

By using the product, Cloras and the extra step of continuing the integration with Magento Commerce platforms. So all these are integrated and it is a great feature for the customers. So they’ll be happy to see the changes that are made offline and online. So that is one key benefit that can be provided from getting the whole site integrated.

Catherine Sulskis: Great. I think there was a little bit of a noise in your background there, but yeah, for sure. Having that integrated experience, like you said, with everything being connected with ERP included, certainly some great benefits to that. And, I’m going to go ahead at this part of the session and go ahead and bring Tim back on board for us, for if there’s anything additional in questions.

10) Concluding note (35:05-35:52)

Tim Diep: Awesome. Thank you guys so much for a great presentation. You guys are the superstar team just really showcasing the whole process of bringing Midland Scientific with their eCommerce website. So thank you guys so much for your time.
Thank you again for all the sponsors from Midland Scientific, from Avalara, from Nexcess, Magento, and Cloras. Without you guys, this eSession wouldn’t be possible. Thank you guys once again for all your help and your contribution to this.

And then just mark it on your calendars. The next DCKAP eSession will be on April 13th and this will be in regards to the ADA compliance. That’s another hot issue within the B2B market. That’s all I have here. Thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully you guys have a great day and stay safe out there.

So we’ll see you guys. Have a good one.

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Agenda

10:00am - 11:00am EST

Pre-Event Networking Room

11:00am - 11:05am EST

Housekeeping with Tim Diep

11:05am - 11:20am EST

Ensuring Growth and Sales by Choosing a Robust Platform

Rodrigo Neves from Midland Scientific

11:20am - 11:35am EST

Importance of Tax Regulation for a B2B eCommerce Setup

Maria Tringali from Avalara

11:35am - 11.50am EST

Enterprise Hosting Made Easy With Magento Commerce

Gary Smith from Nexcess

11:50am - 12.05pm EST

Combining the Right Middleware Solution and Choosing DCKAP for Midland Sci Implementation

Haritha Sridhar from Cloras, DCKAP

12.05pm - 12.35pm EST

Discussion Panel Moderated by Catherine Sulskis

Rodrigo Neves from Midland Scientific
Efi Shabtai from Magento, an Adobe Company
Haritha Sridhar from Cloras, DCKAP
Jordan Carpenter from Avalara
Gary Smith from Nexcess

12.35pm - 1.15pm EST

Post-Event Networking Session

Our Speakers

RODRIGO NEVES

Director of Information Technology from Midland Scientific

Rodrigo is an experienced digital leader with 5 years of industry experience focused on digital transformation. Experienced in leading results-driven teams, managing short and long-term projects, from concept to completion. He is an expert at curating eBusiness strategies, B2B and B2C eCommerce, Software Development amongst many other roles.

MARIA TRINGALI

Senior Solutions Consultant from Avalara

Maria Tringali is the Senior Solutions Consultant at Avalara, which provides end to end tax compliance solutions for any business, large or small, in any industry. As you move your business online, we know there are tax compliance concerns. She’ll be sharing a few best practices you can leverage to make this transition easy while creating a seamless customer experience.

GARY SMITH

Strategic Partner Development Manager from Nexcess

Gary Smith is a Strategic Partner Development Manager for Nexcess. He’s worked in the eCommerce industry since the early 2000’s as a merchant, consultant and agency manager. Since the early days of Magento, he’s seen the potential in Magento’s customizable and extendable platform. He lives in Huntsville AL.

HARITHA SRIDHAR

Senior Software Engineer from Cloras, DCKAP

An integral cog of DCKAP’s Magento team, Haritha is an experienced coder and her expertise lies in solving intricacies for clients from both- B2B and B2C commerce. She was one of the primary team members to create the presence of Midland Scientific online and has taken care of the technicalities with her problem solving nature and systematic approach.

Guest Panelist

EFI SHABTAI

Senior Commercial Customer Success Manager from Magento, an Adobe Company

Efi comes with 15+ years of experience and has extensively worked with Enterprise clients through her role as an operations manager at Magento Commerce. Today, she stands at the position of a Senior Account Manager and handles 400+ Enterprise accounts in the Southeast U.S. and Canada. Her experience comprises a detailed understanding of customer relations, license/consulting services up-sell and annual/multi-year license retention.

eSession Host :

Timothy Diep
Customer Success Manager from DCKAP

Moderator: Panel discussion

Catherine Sulskis
Marketing & Partnerships from DCKAP