Penn State Industries sells their own line of pen-making kits and supplies for woodworkers around the world. They are known for their quality pen blanks and components. Penn State also strives to educate both new and experienced woodworkers to help them gain experience in their craft.
About the Project
We’ve worked with Penn State Industries for so long that it’s hard to remember why we started! Our engagement began in 2002 when we originally converted their website Miva Merchant 4 to Miva 5. The Miva shopping cart had some major changes between those versions, so this was almost equivalent to a re-platform.
As part of the conversion, we worked together Susan Ruff to design and implement a brand new interface for their e-commerce website. Over the years, the overall design has stayed basically the same, but we’ve converted it to a Bootstrap-based framework, incorporated jQuery, and moved from an adaptive mobile design to a responsive one.
Penn State Industries has a number of requirements that could not be met intrinsically within Miva Merchant, or by an existing third party module. To meet those needs, we developed quite a few custom modules to support their business. Some of these modules include:
Custom Feeds – Penn State Industries uses Listrak, and we created several feed modules to send data in the requested format to Listrak.
Box Display – On the product display pages for pen kits, they wanted to display the compatible boxes that makers could use to store and package their finished pens. Different sized kits are compatible with different boxes. We couldn’t use related products for this, because we already use those for their standard purpose. So we created a new module that reads from custom product fields to determine what boxes fix which pens.
Discount Messaging – When Penn State runs a promotion, they often wish to display messaging across the website to support the promotion. Examples include a sitewide banner with separate versions for mobile and desktop, a countdown timer showing how much longer the promotion is available, and messaging above the shopping cart telling the shopper how much more they can save if they reach the next threshold of a multiple-layer discount. Although Miva supports the actual discounts by using price groups, the messaging had to be manually coded each time, and then manually turned off. We created a module that allows their employees to manage the messaging and to automatically turn it off when the promotion ends.
Order Dropoff – Penn State uses a legacy backoffice system that had no way of integrating directly with Miva Merchant to receive orders from the website. However, it could read information from flat files. We create a fulfillment module that creates a “dropoff” file for each order, that the backoffice system can periodically retrieve and import.
Reverse Related Products – The built-in related products feature in Miva allows product A to show products that are related to it, for example, products B, C, and D. However, the reverse relationship isn’t exposed. Penn State wanted to show the reverse relationship so that accessories like bushings could list the pen kits that they apply to. We created a module to expose the reverse relationship for this purpose.
Third-Party Modules and Solutions
As their platform has evolved, so has the Penn State Industries website. We’ve continued to add new features to the site, and to replace previously-used (but no longer supported) third party modules. Some of the modules we’ve used are:
SearchSpring – To improve their site search functionality, we integrated their website first with Nextopia, and later migrated them to SearchSpring. SearchSpring allowed us to create a robust search and refinement system by using their Angular-based platform. Not only can shoppers refine their search by facets such as style, finish, and price, but also by discounts and special offers.
Various Discount Modules – the site originally used several discount modules, as well as a third-party coupon module. Many of these modules are no longer supported. All coupons and discounts have been replaced with newer Miva Merchant price group functionality for cohesion and ease of management.
Ultimate Wish Lists – this wish list and registry module is no longer available, but it still works well, and so we’ve had no need to replace it. In the future, we may migrate this to the built-in wish list feature.
Ultimate Addresses – this third-party address book module is also no longer to be found, and we may replace it if in the future if needed.
Sales Tax Support
Because Penn State Industries is a large business, they are required to collect sales tax in many states, not just their home state of Pennsylvania. In order to do that, they needed a reliable way to calculate the correct sales tax on each order placed in Miva Merchant. Additionally, they needed a system that could import transactions taken over the phone and entered into their backoffice software.
They chose to work with AccurateTax (our sales tax product) and have registered as a volunteer seller with the Streamlined Sales Tax organization. This allows them to save money on their tax software usage while remaining in compliance with the various laws of each state where they collect sales tax.
Penn State also has tax-exempt customers who purchase goods for resale. Those customers need to have any sales tax excluded when they make a purchase, and Penn State also has to maintain accurate records of their customers’ sales tax exemption certificates. All of this is managed by AccurateTax, too.
Results of Our Work
Over the years, we’ve seen the revenue from the Penn State Industries almost quadruple from where it was in the early days of e-commerce. We continue to tweak and test and make improvements, along with input from ConversionIQ and their wonderful split testing optimization work. Penn State Industries is now known as one of the premiere website destinations for woodworking supplies and tools.
Words from Our Client
We’ve been working with Susan at NetBlazon for almost 20 years and only have great things to say. Anything we throw at her she gets done, and gets done efficiently and effectively. I highly recommend her to any e-commerce manager looking for a great programmer. – Kevin Levy, Penn State Industries