Case Studies

Smart Kitchen Ecommerce Optimization

Julian Dutton

Project Summary

PINT’s engagement with Smart Kitchen began as a technical consulting agreement where PINT performed work pertaining to:

  • Market research
  • Service/product viability and optimization
  • Business efficiency and effectiveness
  • Code analysis
  • Payment gateway research
  • Tooling applications & systems review

The results of this consultation surfaced opportunities for improving website features for end users and refactoring code to remedy front-end errors.

PINT also improved the efficiency and costs associated with Smart Kitchen’s online payment processing and promotional offerings by switching to Stripe.

Client Overview

SmartKitchen.com educates it subscribers online at their convenience, with video and text lessons that lead to a hands on "practical application" of the information covered in a classic culinary education environment.

Smart Kitchen’s progressive culinary curriculum starts with "first principles" and builds towards advanced cooking techniques. Smart Kitchen has offered this proprietary education online with the goal of spreading culinary knowledge as far as possible.

The company wants people to improve their gastronomic experiences, build their palettes, save money on eating out (by cooking in), and create healthier meals for themselves and their families.

Client: Smart Kitchen
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Industry: Culinary Education
PINT Services: Technical Consulting, Systems Integration, UX Improvements
Technology: Hotjar, Stripe

Challenge

The root of all the challenges Smart Kitchen faced were the outdated, unsupported, and heavily customized platforms being used to dynamically feed the website its content. Basically, the front-end and back-end of the website are completely enmeshed, making it difficult to manage the site and its features.

User accounts, content, promotions, discounts, and payments were all being managed via a single proprietary system with no documentation on how the database was constructed, or how each component communicated.

Solution

PINT’s technical consultation offered deeper insight into what challenges needed to be addressed and allowed our team to provide a list of recommendations and options for moving forward. Our initial recommendation was to rebuild the entire website and database, but this was a bit outside of Smart Kitchen’s budget at the time. Instead, the most pressing or “worst hurt” items were tackled first, and Smart Kitchen decided to revisit the rebuild at a later date.

PINT helped remedy these initial items:

  • Document.write code refactor
  • Paid user accounts unable to access content
  • Broken contact form
  • Auto-generated emails not sending
  • Improve Gift card/Promotional code system by switching to Stripe

Replace document.write with DOM manipulation:

To start, PINT refactored some of the code that ran functions on the Smart Kitchen website, specifically, the use of document.write. This method is used to ‘write’ code files to a ‘document.’ It’s a piece of code that injects another piece of code, and it makes your website slow and insecure.

PINT’s development team removed the use of document.write where applicable, and in other cases, refactored the code with DOM (document object model) manipulation to directly query and add node/html elements to the document. The DOM is a programming API for documents, it informs the structure of documents and the way a document is accessed and manipulated. The DOM tells the code files how to be constructed once they arrive in the user’s browser.

Paid content not accessible to active accounts:

There were several components and features of the website that were broken, which was negatively impacting user experiences during their visits. The most pressing was that active user accounts were unable to access paid content.
smartkitchen_membersonly
PINT’s technical director determined that the code function that was supposed to tell the system that a user was logged in ($userLoggedIn) was not being set in the proper location. The system didn’t know the user was logged in, and didn’t allow the user to access content. We modified the function directly on the live server to ensure its success.

Contact form broken due to insecure recaptcha script:

Another feature on the website that was not working was the Contact Us form. Users were unable to submit the form because the page was trying to load recaptcha script (the thing that verifies you’re not a robot) over non-SSL on an SSL page.

If you try to load an insecure script over a page that is secure, the browser will throw an error. We changed the script URL to be protocol agnostic, meaning it can run via http or https to fix this issue.
smartkitchen_contactform

PHP generated emails not sending:

Smart Kitchen’s website allows users to purchase a monthly subscription as a gift certificate. Upon purchase, the user can schedule the gift certificate email to send to the recipient on a specific day and time, but it wasn’t sending the email.
smartkitchen_phoneemail
A PHP script that was not executing caused this malfunction. When executed, this script was supposed to generate the gift certificate email and code that was used upon sign up for Smart Kitchen’s monthly subscription. Rather than fix this script error, PINT determined to replace it with a cron job, a time-based scheduler used to run software, to execute the gift_email.php script daily at 12 pm PST.

Change online payment gateway to Stripe:

PINT recommended that Smart Kitchen switch their payment processor from Vantiv to the online payment application Stripe. Because Stripe is cheaper than Vantiv, it reduced processing costs. More importantly, Stripe’s API is well documented and flexible, whereas Vantiv’s API was not easily manageable and did not provide much for moving data.

Another feature that Smart Kitchen wanted managed through a payment gateway was the creation of promo codes that could be associated with a specific period of time (1 month, 2 months, etc). Originally these were implemented via the Smart Kitchen custom backend, which was clunky, slow, and didn’t provide enough reporting. The integration of Stripe allows the Smart Kitchen team to easily and efficiently receive online payments, as well as create, manage, and track success of promotional codes.

Results

PINT’s technical research and recommendations have helped to improve Smart Kitchen’s business processes and online efficiency. As a result:

  • User experience has improved
  • Errors on the checkout, gift card purchase flow, contact forms and other key areas of the site have been resolved
  • Transaction costs have dropped considerably on each purchase

But, there is still a lot left to do. In fact, PINT and Smart Kitchen have recently begun discussing the rebuild of the existing database, and moving the website into a fast, mobile friendly, and modern design layout.

Please contact PINT if you or your company are using outdated systems to manage user accounts, online payments, promotional items, or are just in need of some guidance on managing an ecommerce website.

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