MultiMerch 8.8 Stable with CSV imports and marketplace activity is here just as we promised earlier!
This release marks 6 months of improvement and evolution of MultiMerch Marketplace. We've come a long way since January and I wanted to take a closer look at what has changed since MultiMerch 8.3.
Improved MultiMerch setup and maintenance process
While MultiMerch has always been a powerful product, using it required a strict adherence to installation and maintenance guidelines - you would get lots errors if you didn't.
This year, we've been working hard making using MultiMerch as easy as possible. The main thing we did was to add a number of extra checks and validation to all MultiMerch areas to make sure nothing breaks due to misconfiguration or a user error.
No more blank screens and error dumps.
If something is wrong, you'll now be able to see all of the errors in a separate MultiMerch debug log.
For developers, we've also introduced a verbose debug mode that makes it easier to find out why something isn't happening as it should.
Order management improvements for customers, vendors and admins
Since MultiMerch lets customers purchase products from multiple vendors at once, we felt the need to make it easier for customers, vendors and admins to manage their orders and suborders in MultiMerch.
We introduced a number of order system improvements to achieve this.
First, customers now have a detailed overview of all their orders with extra information on each product such as which vendor does the product belong to and whether or not it has been shipped already. In addition to this, customer's detailed order info page now lists all vendors the products belong to as well as the product shipment statuses and status changes.
Customers can now also message each vendor directly from the order info page.
For vendors, we added extra controls that let them communicate with the customer from within the order info page. In addition to this, vendors can now see whether they've received their marketplace earnings for each specific order and product.
Finally, we've pulled all of this info together to display it to the marketplace admins.
Administrator's order information page now lists all vendors that belong to each specific order as well as their marketplace transactions.
In addition to this, the marketplace owner also sees the full status history of each vendor's products so it's now possible to track all order status changes from within the same order page.
Attributes, options and categories for vendors
This is something many marketplace owners have been waiting for for a while.
MultiMerch has always supported product options, attributes and categories, but vendors were only able to choose from a predefined list of elements created by the marketplace owner.
This year, it has finally changed!
MultiMerch now makes it possible for vendors to create and manage their own product options, attributes and categories.
This makes it a breeze to manage the marketplace for both marketplace owners and vendors. The owners don't have to create thousands of positions upfront and vendors can define any options and attributes they need themselves.
Vendor categories are designed specifically to give vendors control over their own stock while allowing the marketplace owner to stay in control over the global marketplace categories.
If needed, vendors can submit products to both their own categories and to the global marketplace categories.
Better multiple language support and additional translations
It's always been possible to use MultiMerch to build marketplaces in multiple languages from the very beginning, but it lacked a few things. This year we made it even easier.
In addition to product names and descriptions, vendors can now fill out their profiles in multiple languages as well. This makes it easier for customers to browse vendor profiles in their own language in a multilanguage marketplace.
We've also improved language field selector design in vendor accounts to make it easier for vendors to manage their stock and profiles in multiple languages - no more ugly tabs!
Revamped and redesigned private messaging system
Private messaging has been available in MultiMerch for quite a while, but it was crude. We've completely redesigned the system to bring it up to today's standards.
New private messaging makes it possible for customers and vendors to exchange files and images. This is especially important for marketplaces with manual payment flows.
In addition to this, the marketplace owners can now view and participate in all conversations through the admin area.
Conversations related to new orders can be initiated by both vendors and customers directly on the order details page.
We've also replaced the old dated messaging design with something more modern and relevant in 2017.
Improved vendor rating and review system
Ratings and reviews are crucial for any online marketplace - whether a regular store or a multivendor platform.
We've updated the MultiMerch review system to make it both usable and useful.
First, vendors can now finally see all of the reviews left by customers in their accounts without having to go through product pages. Furthermore, vendors can also respond to customer reviews directly from their accounts.
We also made it possible for customers to use images in reviews to make them more personal and trustworthy.
As for the admins - just like with messaging, the marketplace admins now have complete overview of all reviews in the marketplace with a possibility to browse and moderate them.
Code quality improvements and vQmod xml refactoring for developers
While early versions of MultiMerch 8 on our new architecture were a great improvement compared to MultiMerch 7, they weren't perfect. We still had an excess of vQmod xmls and it was quite an issue for developers, especially if you intended to run MultiMerch with a custom theme.
This year, we've refactored our vQmod xml code and introduced the hook system to make it easier to adjust MultiMerch for third party themes as well as to maintain theme integration files. Now there's only one major xml file that needs to be adjusted for MultiMerch with custom themes and the rest xmls will rely on it instead of relying on template files directly.
The next step here is to simplify xml mods further and switch to OpenCart's event system and/or OCMOD wherever possible to minimize the number of potential conflicts with third party themes and mods.
Multivendor shipping improvements and combined shipping upgrades
MultiMerch Shipping was first introduced last year to make it easier to sell tangible products in MultiMerch. This year, we've greatly improved it and introduced a number of upgrades to both fixed and combined shipping.
As of now, vendors can specify different shipping rates for different products, delivery methods and locations as well as define combined weight-based rules - both per weight unit rates and flat per weight range rates.
We are now working on further improvements to MultiMerch Shipping such as tracking numbers and integration with third party shipping APIs.
Mass CSV product imports for vendors
I've already covered this in our Beta blog post, but here's a short recap.
Vendors can now upload and update their products in bulk from CSV files.
This happens in three simple steps where vendor chooses the import file, maps CSV fields to product fields in MultiMerch and confirms the import.
We offer our own demo import file to make it easier for vendors to prepare product imports and MultiMerch will try to map product fields automatically, but the second step makes sure vendors can adjust their imports without having to edit the import file.
Lots of additional controls for marketplace owners
We want MultiMerch marketplace owners to have complete overview and control of their marketplaces. With this in mind, we've been constantly improving MultiMerch interfaces to make life easier for marketplace owners and staff.
In addition to messaging, review, order and catalog improvements mentioned earlier, we've added extra information to vendor management pages that give the marketplace owner complete overview of each vendor's account.
This means that it's now easier for the staff to have a complete overview of each individual vendor and their products, orders, payments, messages, reviews and badges.
Recently we've also introduced Marketplace Activity log, which is a system for the marketplace owner to keep track of all events happening in the marketplace such as vendor signups, account and product modifications as well as new customers and orders.
Themes by ThemeBurn and further partnerships
MultiMerch may be perfect, but you still need an OpenCart theme for your marketplace to make it stand out.
This year, we've partnered with the great guys over at ThemeBurn!
They're the team behind some of the most popular OpenCart themes so we made it possible to use MultiMerch with all of their themes:
We love their quality themes, therefore MultiMerch Professional now includes compatibility files for all current and future ThemeBurn themes.
MultiMerch is also focusing on helping develop local marketplace communities in different countries. We've recently partnered up with the team behind OCStore and the largest Russian-speaking OpenCart community to bring localized MultiMerch to the market and are currently working on MultiMerch for Brazilian, Chinese and Arabic OpenCart communities and various local payment and shipping platforms.
Now when we're done with most of the crucial MultiMerch marketplace improvements, we'll focus on a number of other important things:
- new dashboard and interface design for MultiMerch as a whole
- better reports, stats and analytics for marketplace owners and vendors alike
- improvements in MultiMerch core related to SEO and conversion optimization
- payment system improvements and lots of additional payment gateways
- new social features for vendors to boost customer engagememt