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CultureTruck is an eCommerce marketplace focusing on niche products. Unlike Amazon & Alibaba, and their likes, that accepts products from any vendors and allows them to sell online, CultureTruck focuses only on small scale, cottage industry merchants from rural regions of India. It aims to elevate the culturally rich products that are created by these merchants and showcase them on a big platform. Their USP is to bring on board those merchants whose products aren't available in any malls or markets, and give them a nationwide channel of sales. From the customers perspective, they get to browse and buy products that have never been featured in any catalogue before. It makes the entire online shopping experience very exclusive.
The merchants come onto the CultureTruck platform and list down their portfolio of products. After the curation team at CultureTruck reviews their products and approves them, they are available on the front-end platform for users to buy. People at CultureTruck don't have any limitations on the type of products that should be put on the website for sale. They sell everything from furniture to smartphone cases, from pillows to paintings. Their only criteria is that the products should be creative and should have a cultural value to them. They don't wish to list regular products that may also available elsewhere. They've got a dedicated team that focuses on discovering the most creative merchants from the deepest pockets of India and bring them onboard.
Before the website was launched in 2016, CultureTruck operated as a trade fair on grassroots level with the same merchants. Those trade fairs were hosted on various locations across the country twice a year. At these exhibits, the merchants used to showcase their products and people could buy them. Soon, these trade fairs became very popular and with their success, the founders decided to take the CultureTruck brand on the next level. Hence, they began working on the web platform from early 2016. Their main problem was to help their merchants in managing their product portfolio and empower them in processing the orders easily that they receive on their catalogue. Now, since these vendors are small business owners from small towns, they aren't internet savvy and thus offering them an elaborate web-based vendor panel system would only complicate the matters further. Another challenge was the front-end website. Since this was a marketplace for niche products, its UI/UX had to communicate that message precisely. It had to stand out from the bandwagon of other ecommerce websites that sold everyday lifestyle products. From the moment the user landed on the the CultureTruck website, the message should be pretty clear.
The project was launched with 3 distinct modules: (a) the front-end ecommerce website, (b) the web-based admin panel and (c) the mobile app for merchants to manage their product portfolio and their orders. The front-end website was designed completely around the narrative of showcasing multi-cultural products. There merchants were categorised based on the states that they belonged to. This gave a unique culture-based structure to the products on the website. People would immediately know what they want to shop for once they selected the state and the category of products. All merchants were able to showcase their products on a dedicated page.
For easy management of their product portfolio and timely processing of the orders, all the registered merchants were given a Vendor Mobile App. The vendor app allowed the registered merchants to set up their store and upload their products in complete detail. Every time someone purchased the products from a merchant’s store, the Vendor Mobile App would show a push notification to the merchant. The merchant could immediately begin processing the order and once the product was shipped and on its way, the merchant would be able to easily update its shipping status and tracking info in the app for the customer to refer. This way, the merchants wouldn’t need a computer to manage their storefront on the CultureTruck marketplace.
For the back-end admin panel, we had set-up the admin features using the features provided by X-Cart, the carting framework that we had used in this project. This admin panel was so powerful that it allowed the CultureTruck team to manage every operation exactly as they wanted. They could vet the merchants and help them with the curation of their product catalogues. They could observe all the user activity from the front-end website to make subtle tweaks that’d improve the user experience. If any vendor faced difficulty in processing his order, the admin team would be notified immediately so that they could step in and salvage the situation. Also, if any customer had any queries regarding their orders or anything else, then the admin team could help in resolving those requests as well. Thus, it did a great job in keeping the system healthy and away from any and all bottlenecks.