Building a custom e‑commerce and ERP solution for a pharmaceutical manufacturer
Based in London, Biorelevant specializes in creating products that simulate the conditions of the human digestive system, crucial for developing oral medications.
Their unique solutions, replicating the gastrointestinal tract environment, enable laboratory experiments to predict drug behavior in the human body. Biorelevant's advanced offerings, mimicking stomach and intestinal fluids post-meal, provide vital insights into the impact of food presence on drug efficacy.
The innovation of these products is reshaping drug development and contributes significantly to reducing animal testing. These products are utilized by clients worldwide and delivered to over 100 countries.
The product is a custom-made Python web application that serves two main purposes:
on the frontend, it’s a ecommerce platform enabling Biorelevant to sell its products online and ship them worldwide,
on the backend, it’s an ERP system that enables stock management, order fulfillment and financial reporting.
Back in 2010, Biorelevant had already established a strong online presence and had successfully sold its products globally via a custom PHP-based ecommerce store. Experiencing a steady, year-by-year growth of online sales, the company decided to develop new features in the application in order to expand its product offerings, provide better support for the order fulfillment process and generate more sophisticated financial reporting. Moreover, the company planned to continue expanding its global sales and needed a technically solid system to support conceived marketing and SEO activities.
The existing e-commerce platform was a custom PHP application that had already had a considerable amount of technical debt and hampered the company’s growth potential. The main challenges encountered included:
- a legacy architecture that followed functional programming paradigm, which made new feature development, maintenance and bug fixing costly and prone to errors,
- no development environment, infrastructure and processes established, which effectively made modern collaborative development impossible,
- a niche, unreliable payment gateway and an outdated PDF-based ordering process that caused operational complications, prompting a need for more efficient, digital-first solutions,
2010 - 2023
Upon engaging, we conducted a comprehensive code and infrastructure audit to get a full understanding of the current state of the system.
It quickly turned out that:
- the current e-commerce application constituted a major bottleneck in company growth and with no easy, economically-justifiable strategy for its modernisation it needed to be completely replaced by newer systems,
- the unique specifics of Biorelevant’s products, sales and marketing strategy, global sales and shipment nuances, rigorous industry regulations, and complex international tax and customs policies deemed popular, out-of-the-box solutions unsuitable, requiring the client to take a custom software development approach.
Based on our findings, we recommended and then undertook a number of steps:
1. Frontend redesign for improved user experience
The redesign helped us achieve several goals:
- new interfaces created the support for the growing lineup of products and also a new, expansive sales and marketing strategy,
- it supported company rebranding and allowed for A/B tests and experimentation around how to best present non-trivial pharmaceutical products and educate users about their benefits and appropriate usage,
- it gave rise to the back-office ERP system that handled product stock, fulfillment process and financial reporting.
2. Complete application rewrite using Python/Django for enhanced reliability, maintainability, security, expandability and scalability of the system
An absolutely essential step, the rewrite allowed us to say goodbye to faulty legacy systems and to introduce a robust e-commerce and ERP platform that met the functional requirements of the client, contemporary standards and best practices of the software development industry as well as complex legal regulations characteristic to pharmaceutical manufacturing.
3. Migration to a new hosting provider - Digital Ocean, separation of the staging and production servers, and a setup of modern CI/CD processes
Infrastructure upgrades were initiated to rectify the capacity and performance issues, separate staging and production environments and implement CI/CD. The change significantly impacted the maintainability and scalability of the application.
4. New feature development to address all pressing user and employee needs
Over the years, our team kept developing and adding various new features and functionalities related to areas such as:
- company dashboards,
- stock management and order fulfillment (ERP),
- advanced financial reporting,
- sales predictions,
- product recommendations,
- product bundling and advanced promotion/discount management,
- contact and feedback forms,
- guides, how-tos, calculators relating to products and their usage,
- website analytics,
- document generation (quotes, purchase orders, invoices, Certificates of Analysis (CoA),
- Safety Data Sheet (SDS), Technical Data Sheet (TDS) and other).
Our collaboration with Biorlevant lasted for 13 years and is the longest one in the history of Sunscrapers. During that time we provided a dedicated team for the project, which included full-stack engineers and supportive leadership.
13 year long collaboration
5x increase in online sales
13 year long collaboration
5x increase in online sales
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