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Built With Make: Habitium's Automated Order Management System

Jul 28, 2021 | 4 minutes

At one point or another, companies in the ecommerce industry face a difficult question: How to manage orders?

The usual answers to this question are to get a canned order management system or build a custom one from scratch.

Both options have their own pros and cons, which you surely heard about.

Canned products can be difficult to scale, and may lack flexibility (meaning that companies have to adapt their processes to the product, and not the other way around).

On the other hand, developing an order management system from scratch is risky, lengthy, and certainly expensive.

The tradeoffs are real, but that’s not where the choices end.

The third alternative is to use a product to build a personalized order management system. In other words, a middle-of-the-road solution that combines the best of both worlds.

This is what a rising player in the European building materials and accessories market did to compete against giants like Amazon, Orimat, and Ikea.

Moreover, this company didn’t conform itself with having built a sound order management system. Instead, they came up with an automated one that:

  • Reflects their conceptions of efficiency in business

  • Delivers on those premises

This is the story of Habitium, and how they used Make to automate order management, and beyond.

A direct-to-consumer business model: The secret is in the processes

Habitium (also known as Materialesdefabrica in Spain) is a Spanish ecommerce company that sells building materials, accessories, and appliances straight from manufacturers.

Since its foundation in 2014, the company has expanded to cover multiple countries in the Eurozone, including Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, and Portugal.

Their high-volume, low-margin business model turned them into a prime option for consumers across the Eurozone but also showed the limitations of traditional processes.

Among these, order management stood out as the most crucial one, since time spent on orders was significantly affecting fulfillment and delivery times.

To compete with the likes of Amazon, the first step was to accelerate order fulfillment to a whole new level.

At this point, the founders saw themselves at a crossroads.

Coding an automated order management system from scratch was out of the question given the risks and resources involved, and canned solutions weren’t cutting it.

So after researching a number of options, they decided to create their solution using Make, plus a number of other well-known tools like Trello and Google Sheets.

Now, let’s take a look under the hood of their automated order management system.

Order automation, made simple by Make

The company’s new order management system works in a delightfully simple way. The moment a customer places an order, Make parses the information and creates a Trello card with all the details of the order, including:

  • Full name, address, telephone number, email address

  • The product (or products) purchased

  • The payment method, and the amount paid

The order card is placed in a “brand” column on a board within a dedicated Trello folder. In parallel, Make sends the order data to a Google Sheets spreadsheet, where all the orders are kept.

This is what the system looks like:

Since each company manager is in charge of a folder, they get all the relevant information lined up for them automatically.

With all the data in place, the manager checks that everything is correct and proceeds to study the logistical feasibility of the order.

Once the logistics have been sorted out, an email is sent to the companies or vendors that manufacture and stock the products.

Then, those companies send the product to a distribution warehouse, or directly to the customer (depending on what’s more convenient).

Finally, the manager who carried out the logistics management supervises delivery through a tracking system until the order reaches its destination.

On top of this, the order management system is enhanced by other Make scenarios, which have been deployed to deal with expectable incidents, such as changes in orders and canceled orders.

Pretty neat, huh?

Tangible results and other considerations

According to Habitium’s founders, automation is saving them “countless hours” of repetitive work on a daily basis.

The most interesting achievement, however, is the reduction in order processing times. 

Before implementing this system, it took around 15 minutes to fully process each order. Now, it takes 1 minute to do it.

And this reflects in customer satisfaction levels as well, as thousands of outstanding reviews prove. This has led Habitium to start working on further automations with Make.

The company is currently developing a stock management automation in collaboration with some of the brands they sell, so whenever a product goes out of stock the website will reflect it in a matter of seconds.

Final thoughts: Keeping order management simple and to the point

It’s easy to go overboard with order management, but the main requirements of such systems remain more or less constant:

  • Order data has to be forwarded on the spot

  • Incidents have to be captured and forwarded to relevant stakeholders

  • Data has to be backed up for safety and operational purposes

Make not only allows for this but also lets you build as you go.

This way, you avoid paying for features you won’t use, and expand your IT infrastructure as your needs evolve.

Better processes pay off, and once you start automating there’s no turning back.

Happy automating!


Martin Etchegaray

Content Manager and Senior Editor at Make. I enjoy writing and reading about history, science, and tech.

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