Background

Scientific American, the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S., now offers readers access to its complete archive, back to the inaugural issue in 1845. The Scientific American “All Access” subscription, one of more than 20 different subscription offerings now managed in Slatwall Commerce, provides access to the magazine’s full archive. The archive contains more than 165 years of historic medical and technological advancements and scientific discoveries, including more than 170,000 articles. In that history, 151 Nobel Prize-winning scientists have written 245 articles. Gems include original reports of major inventions, such as Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1876 and Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1879.

Situation

The problem that Scientific American faced was that managing and selling their content, both online and in print, was difficult and inefficient through their existing legacy systems. Like any company, Scientific American has very specific business requirements; ways that they promote, price, fulfill and report products. The problem for them, and most other eCommerce businesses, is that legacy solutions are not designed with flexibility in the architecture to meet business requirements.

Solution

Scientific American is using ten24's Slatwall Commerce application, an open source software, to facilitate content sales and build custom marketing promotions. Slatwall also provides a platform for subscription, account, and customer service management for the www.scientificamerican.com website.

Through a tight collaboration, the ten24 team implemented and customized all aspects of the Slatwall system, while the Scientific American team and Blue River (the folks behind Mura CMS) focused on the content migration. All of this was accomplished in only 6 months!

“The ten24 team went above and beyond to deliver this complex project on an aggressive timeline,” said Angela Cesaro, Senior Digital Product Manager at Scientific American. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with ten24 and utilizing the Slatwall Commerce platform to meet our ongoing business objectives.”

Key highlights of the project:

Integrations

Two key integrations for the Scientific American website are with CDS Global (http://www.cds-global.com) and the Mura Content Management System (http://www.getmura.com). CDS Global manages Scientific American’s print fulfillment enabling a seamless integration of data between CDS and Slatwall.

The Mura CMS was deployed to manage all of the digital content pages for Scientific American, and the tight integration between Mura and Slatwall allows Scientific American to sell access to an entire edition of the digital magazine.

CDS

The Scientific American project posed a challenging integration with their existing fulfillment system, CDS. Since users can have multiple subscriptions at once, the sharing of account data in a seamless manner was critical.

Some of the highlights of the integration between Slatwall and CDS include: 

  • Allows for account registrations based on existing CDS subscriber information like name and email.
  • Pulls in existing subscriptions to give web and iPad access to CDS subscribers.
  • Automatically sends new subscription orders in real time to the CDS fulfillment systems, including the ability to “gift” subscriptions.
  • ten24 built admin-facing helper applications to easily manage data discrepancies between the two systems.

We also built user-facing management tools for members to update and suspend their CDS subscriptions.
The Slatwall integration extended CDS functionality by allowing one user to have multiple subscriptions by maintaining multiple CDS accounts for a single web or iPad user.

Mura CMS

Slatwall provides a seamless integration into the powerful Mura Content Management System. The integration includes the sync of content from Mura to Slatwall, allowing Scientific American to choose any page in Mura and mark that page as restricted by purchase or subscription.

Products

The Slatwall eCommerce system gives Scientific American the ability to create and sell unique product types.

Content Access
Scientific American can sell individual magazine issues separate from subscriptions. The integration between Mura CMS and Slatwall allows them to sell any content as a product, bundle, or subscription – something that Scientific American had not been able to do in the past.

Subscriptions
Slatwall subscriptions allow site administrators to define the specific benefits for each subscription. Scientific American can define the benefits for each subscription, allowing access to digital products, print products, tablet products, or a combination of products. They can also define the terms of the subscription.

Attributes
Slatwall allows site administrators to extend the data associated with products, accounts, subscriptions, and orders. These extended attributes can be any type of field and are available throughout the application (both front and back-end) for customization of views, advanced search/display, and reporting.

Customer Support

Slatwall has the tools to help Scientific American's customer support better service subscribers.

Search
From any section within the Slatwall admin, customer support can do a text search and receive a result set that include:

  • Products
  • Promotions
  • Orders
  • Accounts
  • Vendors

Every section of Slatwall has a keyword search and search/filtering within each column of the listings, allowing users to get the information they need quickly.

Comments
Comments are available throughout Slatwall, allowing customer support to leave detailed information about the history of elements, such as:

  • Customer Orders
  • Vendor Orders
  • Customer Accounts

Account and Order Management
All of the details for an individual account or order are available on one screen, giving customer support everything they need at a quick glance.

Email Communication
Slatwall allows Scientific American to create email triggers based on almost any user action on the site, and then customize the communication that is sent. Customer support can also manually trigger specific emails from within the admin. For instance, from an order detail page in Slatwall, support can choose to send an order confirmation email, and customize the email before it is sent.

Marketing

Beyond the technology platform and administration functionality, Slatwall provides Scientific American with marketing tools. These tools can be used to gain more flexibility, speed to market, and marketing intelligence than ever before.

Promotions
The Scientific American marketing team can now use the Slatwall promotion engine to deliver promotions through a number of different methods. They can create promotions on individual landing pages, create offers for specified products, offer site-wide promotions, or a combination of both.

Landing Pages
With a custom integration between Mura CMS and Slatwall, the Scientific American team can take advantage of expanding landing pages and marketing page functionality.

The landing pages are linked directly to dynamic products and product content within Slatwall. Based on selections and products, administrators can choose from a number of preset configurations to generate unique landing pages or work with the in-house design team at Scientific American to create custom designs and layouts. They can tie those pages directly to products and promotions within Slatwall.

“Scientific American took the right approach with this complex project. They put their business requirements first and then looked for a technical solution to meet their needs, instead of letting the technology dictate functionality,” explained David Crouch, president at ten24 Digital Solutions. "The Slatwall Commerce system gave them the flexibility to configure the system according to their marketing and fulfillment logic. And the Scientific American team did an excellent job at steering through all of the inevitable road blocks of a project of this magnitude, we can’t wait to continue our partnership.”

Reporting

The built-in Slatwall reporting engine provides a framework for Scientific American to create any number of reports related to sales, promotions, orders, returns, and transactions. These reports can be customized by date range, while adding different dimensions and metrics. The reports can also allow comparison between date ranges and can be exported or saved for future use.

Open Source Stack

The Scientific American project is taking advantage of two powerful open source applications to deliver pages and manage eCommerce. Mura CMS is delivering over 150,000 pages of content and allowing Scientific American editors and marketers to easily add and manage content assets. Slatwall, with its close integration with Mura, provides an enterprise level application for the management of products, promotions, accounts, and orders.

The key benefit of implementing this open source solution, beyond the fact that it meets Scientific American’s business requirements, is that they are not relying solely on one company for application support or ongoing enhancements. They will benefit from the Mura and Slatwall developer and user community involvement as new features are added, and are able to bring internal resources into the project as needed.

Close Collaboration

Project Management
The entire project team (including ten24, Scientific American, and Blue River) consisted of close to 30 people, working on various pieces of the project, in multiple locations in the US, over a 6-month period. A central point of communications, messages, files, and tasks was used as well as communication through Skype, IM, and phone as needed. Each team has a project manager that managed the day-to-day tasks and the backlog.

Sprints
The entire project was broken down into twelve, two-week sprints over a 6-month period. It was an aggressive timeline that was watched closely through daily internal stand-ups and weekly team meetings to address any specific concerns.

Results

  • The most important result of the project is that Scientific American has a system that works for their business, supporting their content management, marketing, eCommerce, and customer support needs.
     
  • With Slatwall, they have a platform that is scalable and flexible, allowing Scientific American to meet new challenges as the market evolves and new opportunities arise.
     
  • With an open-source platform, Scientific American can utilize internal resources or look to the Slatwall community to lead new development efforts.
     
  • Slatwall provides Scientific American subscribers with real time access to paywall content in multiple formats such as browser-based content, web exclusives, PDF, and Tablet for iPad.
     
  • For the first time ever, the entire Scientific American archive is now available for access – that’s over 167 years of content at a user's fingertips, not to mention the new opportunities that presents for the Scientific American marketing team.
     
  • The ability to get quick to market of timely content through a straightforward interface and integration of Slatwall with Mura.

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