Miniconf increases its revenues by 200% after developing an e-commerce portal for B2B purchases

InitZero S.r.l. was established in 2004 by young founders who already had significant and varied experience in software development, server systems management, and hardware support. InitZero was a dynamic company from the start, and over time it has become well known and appreciated throughout Italy, acquiring a portfolio of major clients such as Miniconf.

According to InitZero CEO Massimiliano Sorcinelli, “I like to be able to say yes to customers who come to us with urgent needs, asking if we have a solution for their problems. One of the most interesting challenges came when Miniconf, a clothing multinational, asked us to develop its new B2B e-commerce portal. The company requested a series of features that were very complex to implement, and we did not have extensive experience in designing eye-catching user interfaces for the public.”

To deal with the complexity of the project, the InitZero team used Instant Developer, a high-productivity development environment for web and mobile applications, delivering the team's most complex project ever in under three man-months of work.

A new shopping experience for B2B customers

For some time Miniconf has based its commercial structure on two sales channels: an initial sale made by agents offering products from new collections to clothing boutiques, and all subsequent sales through online re-ordering of the items originally purchased. With this business model, it was of utmost importance to make the re-ordering/purchase experience as simple and enjoyable as possible, in order to impel customers reordering products to purchase new related products. Meanwhile, to gain more rapid direct feedback on the most popular products for customers, Miniconf had another great idea: why not augment the e-commerce system with an inventory management utility for its direct customers? This way, customers would have control over inventory and reordering levels, while at the same time Miniconf would have a statistical analysis of the sell out of its products.

To be able to meet the needs of customers, Miniconf needed a system that was well integrated with its enterprise management, with easily modifiable modules given the continuous demands for expansion. Moreover, with expansion of the e-commerce portal to allow management of catalogs and direct selling through a variety of devices, what was needed was an IDE that was also capable of developing mobile applications.

According to InitZero PM Marco Pancini, “it's very exciting to work with customers like Miniconf, because every time they contact us they have new ideas they would like to implement. We knew that this new project would also require many additions and modifications, so we immediately looked for an IDE that would minimize the costs to implement the changes.”

A 360-degree platform

Although the InitZero team had used Instant Developer for other database-oriented applications, this time the goal was much more challenging, because in addition to developing a solid infrastructure that was well connected to the enterprise management systems, InitZero would also be responsible for designing an elaborate graphical user interface that was professional and eye-catching at the same time. What was the right IDE to address all these factors?

Massimiliano Sorcinelli explains, “from experience we knew that development environments built to create a certain kind of program were unlikely to be optimal for other kinds of solutions as well. We had to make sure that Instant Developer would allow us to develop an eye-catching interface that would make an impact on the end customer. We therefore consulted with Exprimo Design, our web design partner, which confirmed the absolute suitability of the development platform for this purpose and offered to help with the UI design. At that point we were ready for the challenge.”

A state-of-the-art portal

Within a few weeks of work, the InitZero team completed the infrastructure part of the portal, making way for the graphic design of the interfaces using Instant Developer. It was crucial that the web application created by InitZero worked smoothly and without errors on all browser types, to satisfy all customers.

Exprimo Design CEO Luca Omizzolo confesses, “software companies spend a lot of time and money adapting their applications to the latest versions of the various browsers that come out every month. It's a significant competitive advantage to be able to develop web applications knowing that someone else will take care of this. Although these maintenance services are currently part of the services we offer, I know that will not always be the case...I'm convinced that an IDE like Instant Developer is the future.”

In addition to the benefits derived from the development environment's high-productivity, Massimiliano mentioned other reasons he is particularly pleased with Instant Developer. “There are two things that I think also make Instant Developer really useful in the post release modification phase. The first is that, since the code written with Instant Developer is divided into blocks, the program is incredibly easy to read, even if you have not written it yourself. I think this is one of the main advantages of Instant Developer's particular variation of model driven development. The second very positive aspect is that by automatically mapping all the dependencies of the code as it is written, Instant Developer helps to understand the consequences of changes to a piece of code that has dependencies elsewhere.”

Thanks to the ease with which Instant Developer integrates with external libraries, InitZero developers were able to make use of open source components they had worked on in the past, including a utility for managing the print queue directly from the web service on a local printer, and a Single Sign On component, essential for account management in large companies.

InitZero CTO Ugo Viti explains, “the members of our team, even before getting together, were fans of open source projects, and when each of us came to InitZero, we brought a wealth of knowledge and applications developed. We really appreciate an IDE that is not afraid of external components and integrates them optimally.”

InitZero + Instant Developer = 200%

The portal, which took three man-months of work to complete, just a short time after launch has led to a 200% surge in sales and a 300% increase in visits, proving the undisputed success of the project.

Massimiliano Sorcinelli comments, “we expected an increase in sales, but not a surge like that. One of the most interesting results is that with the new system, users stop to look at the new Miniconf products five times longer than before, and they often buy related products that the portal suggests to them based on the type of objects they have in their cart. Even with more than 150 users on average connected to the portal, the infrastructure is robust and efficient.”

Today, the portal continues to grow in functionality, and it is complemented by a mobile application used by sales agents, containing catalogs and a module for direct selling. Naturally, the mobile application was also created with Instant Developer, allowing significant savings of development time and cost, with the ability to leverage the same knowledge acquired developing the portal and the same team of programmers.

A fruitful partnership

Even though the programmers at InitZero have generally favored a do-it-yourself approach to Instant Developer, a sort of mindset similar to that of young American whiz-kids, just ten days after installing the IDE they already produced their first functioning mobile application.

Simone Pucci, Microsoft Specialist, comments, “we like to learn things on our own, using the documentation and running many tests. Given the complexity of results we had to achieve, we were expecting an environment that was more difficult to manage, but in a few months we have completely tamed the new IDE.”

Veterans of the open source philosophy, Massimiliano and the other members of his team were immediately involved with the Instant Developer Community and Forum, working with other companies to develop new components for Instant Developer.

Massimiliano explains, “it's nice to feel part of a community all aiming to solve new technological challenges. With Instant Developer and Pro Gamma we really feel capable of using our skills more effectively.”

Ugo Viti, CTO, InitZero

About InitZero

InitZero S.r.l. was established in 2004 by young founders who already had significant experience in software development, server systems management (Windows/Linux/VSS), networking, and hardware support. Today our dynamic company is well-known and respected both regionally and throughout Italy.

Our constant interest, dedication, and passion for new technologies allows us to be a dynamic company that is always at the cutting edge in the complex world of Information Technology. This factor, which is part of our company DNA, is why our customers recognize us as a constant source of new ideas and solutions.

We love taking on new and rewarding challenges that can further increase the value of services that we offer.

To contact us, visit our website http://www.initzero.it/

izAPM, e-commerce system aimed at B2B customers

Sector: Children's clothing
Customer: MiniConf
Customer benefits: 200% increase in sales; 300% increase in site visits
Development time: 3 man-months
Technology: 100% Instant Developer
Web application: Java 1.7
Mobile application: Android, iOS
Database: Oracle 11g
Integration with other systems: Oracle