The PDF problem

The PDF problem

In one of our recent implementations that required us to integrate a marketplace platform with a commerce platform, we faced an interesting operational problem that is often overlooked during design: The PDF problem.

Background: This was a new marketplace for overstock items that aimed at attracting sellers that wanted to liquidate their old stock.

While sellers were happy to sign-up and make some money on old stock, they weren’t particularly enthusiastic in spending work hours to enrich product content on some items destined to the yard for recycling. They wanted an easy way to associate product specifications that were in pdf format to their products on the website, else they would have to manually key them through the marketplace seller portal.
Client as the operator of the marketplace was principally inclined to provide product specification information on the PDP pages and hence obliged to seller’s request to upload the pdfs during product creation and not needing to key-in the information.

But alas, the marketplace platform did not support pdf upload at the time of our implementation. Hence came into being “The PDF problem.”

The PDF problem

The ask was to be able to associate a product specification pdf to a product during its creation in the seller portal within the marketplace platform.
The data along with the other product data (images, offer, product basic data etc.,) would then be transferred to the eCommerce platform and be displayed on the website. The issue arouses due to the fact the seller portal did not support upload of pdfs.

How did we solve

Pragiti’s analysis resulted in knowing that this is a business operations problem that required a technical solution. Our analysis resulted in the following findings

  1. The client as the operator mandated attaching a pdf spec sheet for all items on the website
  2. Not all sellers had a pdf spec sheet for the items they sell
  3. Few sellers had pdfs stored in their file systems
  4. Some sellers were able to only provide public URL references for the pdf spec sheet of individual product than to download and manually send them, simply due to the sheer volume of items

Based on the analysis, we came up with a solution that was cost effective, easy to use and was accepted by all parties involved.

Our approach was to ensure that irrespective of the seller’s approach to share the pdf spec sheet, we would create a consistent experience in product & offer creation, thereby keeping the impact on business operations minimal.

To address the challenge, we simply leveraged the existing IT infrastructure of the client and created a technical solution that adapted to the variations in sellers’ approach to pdf spec sheet and one that did not adversely disrupt existing operations.

  • Per the client’s need, we mandated the need for a pdf spec sheet for every product.
  • We defaulted to a standard ‘Spec sheet not available’ template for those items the seller did not have a pdf spec sheet.
  • We repurposed client’s unused server as a file server and made it available to sellers to securely access and upload the pdf spec sheet.
  • We created code to extract the pdf file from an URL and loaded it into a local file server that was not attached to the marketplace platform. We then simply referenced the file directly within the website.

It was a solution that we turned around in quick time and one that was effective in addressing all the variations. It was a gratifying experience to have used an IT solution to solve a business problem.

Up next is the ‘FTL Dilemma’ – stay tuned to know what was it and how we approached to solve the problem.