Nibs.com (formerly Classic Fountain Pens) focuses on the custom design and creation of high-end fountain pens. Each part of the pen can be customized for the end user’s preferences, from the grip and nib material to nib properties and tip measurement. They’ve been online since 1996, but their sales process was entirely manual.
Nibs.com knew they had to become an ecommerce retailer. Prior to the site build, users could only place orders over the phone. That limited the company’s fulfillment because the sales team could only handle so much traffic at any one time. They were also limited by the number of available phones and staff on hand to accept orders. This created a bottleneck that ultimately led to missed sales opportunities.
Since their products are so unique, Nibs.com needed something custom. Drupal was selected due to its flexibility to handle unique purchase flows and product variations.
"Complicated logic had to be developed to ensure the appropriate options were presented to the customer while they customized their pen."
First, we needed to establish a new process for the business. This required a thorough visualization discovery process, which involved mapping out the site before going into production. We needed to create a solid architecture solution that would leave their customers with a simplified user flow and positive experience. The visualization helped establish specific functionality and page flows to handle complex product customizations. We also knew that not all customers would be familiar with some of the more advanced customizations, so integrating helpful content into the buying process — without derailing the customer — would be crucial to the final solution.
Complicated logic had to be developed to ensure the appropriate options were presented to the customer while they customized their pen. Pens are paired with nibs, but the compatibility of the pen and nib is different depending on the specific pen and brand. Furthermore, the nib customization is dependent on the pen/nib combination. And on a particular brand of pen, customers have the option to customize their pens even further with additions such as Kanji--text that will be converted to Japanese characters and embedded in the barrel of the pen. We also needed to be able to highlight nib options that were possible, but not recommended.
On top of this, Nibs.com had to have a unique order and payment process that fit their fulfillment timeline. As their products are all custom and therefore unique, additional planning, architecture, and development was needed to incorporate this into the purchase flow.
In order to facilitate this unique payment timeline, we created an automated system where pens are purchased using pre-authorized payments. However, the customer's card is not charged until the pen is shipped, which could be more than six months away in some cases, and a typical pre-authorization lasts no more than 30 days. So we developed a payment process implementing reference transactions. This allowed Nibs.com to charge cards at a much later date without having to contact the customer to authorize their card again.
The following custom modules were used to solve the issues surrounding the project:
- Commerce PayPal Express Checkout - Given Nibs.com's authorization/capture workflow, Commerce PayPal was the clear choice, as it is mostly plug and play. With advanced features configurable via the PayPal side, there was not much configuration needed to get the desired functionality right out of the box.
- Commerce QuickBooks Webconnect - Like many businesses that use QuickBooks for their accounting needs, Nibs.com wanted a bridge between their website and accounting software. This module provided a good base for that bridge, which was ultimately rounded off with a bit of custom code to allow Nibs.com to push stock back up to Drupal from QuickBooks.
- Commerce ShipStation - Commerce ShipStation is a robust service that streamlines processing, fulfillment, and shipping. This module made integration a breeze and worked exactly as desired out of the box.
- Rules - Rules is a requirement for Drupal Commerce 1.x, and is therefore found on every site that’s been built on Drupal Commerce. However, its power was leveraged greatly in this project to carry out many things such as dynamic pricing changes, automatic publishing and unpublishing, and much more. This project required many custom conditions and actions, most of which were able to be reused throughout different areas of the project.
Nibs.com continues to take orders over the phone in addition to the web orders. Because of this, the admin order process included additional development to streamline the order process for salespeople taking orders over the phone. This included building the order form as an inline entity for orders placed in the back end. This allows Nibs.com's salespeople to place items in an order and group items that belong to each other using a drag-and-drop interface.
The result has been an increase in units per transaction and a simplified process for their salespeople. Because of Drupal’s adaptability, we could work around QuickBooks, which meant that Nibs.com's business operations were able to stay much the same. This minimized staff training and allowed their business to keep running seamlessly as this new system was integrated. Since this site has been built, Nibs.com has seen their business more than double.