In the B2B ecommerce world, we have many options for enabling vendors and resellers to sell products from a Magento store. For many suppliers, a Magento multi-vendor marketplace extension may be the answer, but that adds complexity and maintenance to managing your Magento implementation. There are alternatives to enable vendors more selling opportunities without a great deal of additional cost or maintenance.
When You Need Collaboration and Security
Recently, one of our B2B clients expressed an interest in just this concept, but they weren’t ready to open-up even limited access to their Magento admin to these vendors. Like many suppliers, they don’t want to take on the management and upkeep of vendor websites or micro-sites. Instead, what they were after was a way to enable their vendors to list the suppliers product catalog on their own websites, but have those orders fulfilled and drop-shipped directly to the end customer.
Step 1 - Picking a Vendor Solution
Our first challenge was finding a simple website solution for these vendors; one that is easily managed, keeps development and maintenance costs low, and has a well-established API. Enter BigCommerce. To minimize development cost for the vendor, we purchased a theme and made some small customizations to support the vendor’s brand message and publish the site on BigCommerce. The vendor then had a simple, easily managed site for listing both the supplier’s products and their own unique products and services. This solution enabled each vendor control of their own website and unique branding. Since BigCommerce is a hosted solution, the vendors don’t have the added burden of ongoing maintenance costs of maintaining the application.
Step 2 - Connect and Support Vendors
Second, we created a few simple API endpoints from the supplier’s Magento store to support multi-vendor order fulfillment from the websites. The first endpoint allows vendors access to the Magento product catalog. We developed these endpoints to return the product details, including product image URLS, pricing, description, etc. This allows the vendors to display the product page details as they see fit on their site. The next endpoint enabled automatic order placement on behalf of the vendor in the Magento store.
Step 3 - Robust Middleware
Next, we created a middleware application to manage the integration between the vendor’s BigCommerce store and the supplier’s Magento instance. One of the primary responsibilities of the middleware application is to pull the list of products from the supplier’s Magento store and create or update the vendor’s product catalog in BigCommerce. We made the product sync configurable, so each vendor can decide how frequently product details and product inventory are synced from the supplier.
Through the middleware application each vendor can see the full list of products available for re-sell, as well as the current order status for any order placed on behalf of the vendor.
For orders placed on the vendor’s BigCommerce store, we leveraged BigCommerce order webhooks to notify the middleware application when an order is placed and push the relevant order details into the supplier’s Magento store for fulfillment. We added a few additional bells and whistles to allow the vendor to exclude some supplier products, manage product update schedules, and update the Shipment tracking on the vendor’s website order after the order has been shipped from the supplier. Now our client can leverage this work and quickly onboard additional vendors and thus sell more products through their vendors and resellers.