PriceMinister.com Automating Data Exchanges Improves Reactivity

PriceMinister.com integrates near-real-time price changes and partner inventory- between 1,000 and 2,000 data files per day.
Updating 1,000 to 2,000 data files daily requires reliability and a processing ability that many integration solutions lack, particularly those in this price range. Talend fits seamlessly into our information system, which is critical to our business. With more than 100 million items on offer, it's important that we don't overload our systems and degrade the fast response times that our customers expect.
Justin Ziegler, Co-Founder and Information Systems Manager

Second-ranked e-commerce site in France

An independent French Group founded in 2000 and employing 180 people, PriceMinister (www.priceminister.com) created the Internet concept "Buying and Selling just got safer"€ in 2001, based on the "€˜trusted third-party" model. PriceMinister puts sellers and buyers in touch providing the necessary guarantees to ensure that all transactions are successful. This means that, the seller is paid and/or the buyer is reimbursed if the sale doesn't work out.

Today the Group is structured into four major areas:

  • New and second-hand products (www.priceminister.com) - 20 million visitors per month; 120 million products at reduced prices-PriceMinister is France's second-ranked e-commerce site
  • The automobile industry (www.priceministerauto.com) - 300,000 unique visitors, 3.3 million pages viewed
  • Real estate - (through the "A Vendre A Louer" group, one of the leaders in real-estate ads)
  • Travel and tourism (www.voyagermoinscher.com) - 2 million unique visitors

In 2006, PriceMinister expanded its presence in Europe with the establishment of its Spanish subsidiary, PrimeMinister.es. At the end of 2008, the English version of the website was launched in the UK. Today, the conglomerate claims 9 million members and over 170 million products.

30 million sellers and more than 100 million products

Product volumes range from a few units for individuals, to millions for the largest vendors; and these sellers add or change stock on a daily basis. Because PriceMinister's 60-person IT team integrates and updates all of this data as it rolls out, automated data feeds were needed to facilitate information processing, and ensure fast online posting.

"€œTwo elements are really critical-how quickly we can import files and how quickly we can set up a new feed,"€ said Justin Ziegler, Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer at PriceMinister. "We process huge volumes of data and pricing updates are frequent because of PriceMinister's role as aggregator - a number of sellers offer similar products and that drives the price down. The number of items is also significant - on average, we manage 30 million sellers with more than 100 million items in inventory, and 2 million price changes per day. Typically, we sign up a new partner every day. And between 1,000 and 2,000 data files are updated daily."

To manage this data, PriceMinister used software developed in-house which was very expensive to maintain over time. "We thought about developing an exchange format and requiring our sellers to use it; however, this is contradictory to our core strategy which puts no constraints on the sellers," explained Justin Ziegler. "€œIn addition, since it wasn't our software, it seemed more efficient to put an established data integration tool in place; that way we wouldn't have to worry about development and could take advantage of the latest innovations."

Talend Open Studio for Data Integration - business facilitator

Because the in-house software could neither meet increased demands nor support the XML feeds, PriceMinister tested and implemented Talend Open Studio for Data Integration. "€œTalend's solution is a real business facilitator," said Justin Ziegler. "€œPreviously we had to turn down contracts because the sellers needed to exchange XML files that we couldn't handle. That's no longer the case. In addition to XML, we now use Talend Open Studio for Data Integration every time our old system is not up to the task. Importing this data is really critical, because we have more chance to sell if we can offer 20 items instead of 10."

The ability to quickly absorb any change is also critical for customer satisfaction - prices are frequently lower because PriceMinister favors competition.

Today Talend Open Studio for Data Integration is connected to both an Oracle database containing the 100 million products marketed via PriceMinister and also to FAST, which provides advanced search features. PriceMinister's IT department is now considering interconnecting the tools to handle data quality issues. "Data quality is clearly a priority for improving our services and we are monitoring and analyzing the quality of all files before integrating them into our database," added Justin Ziegler. "€œWe now offer customers a report providing details on key indicators - revenue generated and the success rate of the data imports, for example. Clearly, this data quality feature will help improve our interaction with sellers and increase sales."

Flexible and fast - manages large amounts of data

After using Talend Open Studio for Data Integration intensively for a few months, PriceMinister determined that the product offered three major benefits. "€œFirst, the solution lets us integrate data quickly," said Justin Ziegler. "€œThis is critical for several reasons. Customers want maximum reactivity from us to prevent lost sales or to avoid offering an item that is not actually in stock. Outdated information can lose sales and may also result in the loss of both buyers and sellers and thus in lost revenue. We can also add new sellers quickly."

The second benefit is Talend Open Studio for Data Integration's ability to support integration operations on huge volumes of data. "€œUpdating 1,000 to 2,000 data files daily requires reliability and a processing ability that many integration solutions lack, particularly those in this price range. Talend fits seamlessly into our information system, which is critical to our business. With more than 100 million items on offer, it's important that we don't overload our systems and degrade the fast response times that our customers expect,"€ said Justin Ziegler.

Finally, Talend Open Studio for Data Integration is highly flexible, reacting quickly to any requirements. "Parameters of new feeds need to be defined in less than a day to satisfy our sellers and to provide fast integration of the updated data. Talend Open Studio for Data Integration gives us the ability to react quickly and to migrate development from one project to another. Our data integration team is currently using the tool and we plan to bring it into general use, in the near future,"€ added Justin Ziegler. "€œWe have a number of projects coming up - communicating transaction data to our partners and setting up Web Services, just to name two - and Talend Open Studio for Data Integration will play an integral role in our IT plans going forward."