Retail has earned a reputation as one of the most advanced industries, often pioneering the world of digital transformation. Today, even the most advanced brands in the industry are still evolving.
Back in 2008, Avenue Code saw several leading U.S. brands successfully scale their platforms and efficiently extend their market reach. But even leading companies within this advanced sector faced many new challenges and threats with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis highlighted the importance of mature technology within retail, especially for those companies that either hadn’t begun or were in the beginning stages of their digital transformation journeys. No matter where they were in the process, companies had to accelerate digitally to stay competitive or, in some cases, operational.
Many retailers envisioned growth opportunities in the midst of the crisis, and these transformation initiatives are still underway. These include:
- Real-Time Visibility: a rapidly scaling omnichannel approach makes it very difficult to maintain accurate information about which items are in stock at which locations, yet real-time visibility is crucial in offering customers a high level of fulfillment speed and accuracy.
- Cost Optimization: with the increased challenges in logistics and supply chain management, retailers are challenging themselves to optimize processes and improve costs to gain a competitive edge.
- Consumer Behavior: retailers are implementing methodologies to understand consumer behavior in order to optimize offerings according to consumer profiles, thus encouraging more purchases.
As a digital transformation partner for some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies and enterprise organizations worldwide, Avenue Code has helped several retailers overcome large-scale challenges to achieve goals such as these.
Case 1: Integrated Inventory Management for Iconic Clothing Retailer
Avenue Code partnered with this global company to integrate multiple channels into a single inventory engine, providing a centralized repository for inventory management. This centralized repository for online offerings reserves items in user shopping carts in real time and identifies strategic fulfillment locations (whether fulfillment centers or stores), based on customer location and product availability.
This resulted in an enhanced purchase experience thanks to accurate product availability information, an enhanced overall experience thanks to reduced shipping and delivery time, and cost savings for the retailer thanks to automated logistics and shipping products from strategic locations. The entire solution was built in a distributed system architecture as well as in the cloud environment.
Case 2: A Unified Ecosystem for a Fast-Growing Online Retailer
A fast-growing online retailer depended on an outdated and very heterogenous ecosystem; some systems were created in house, while others were third-party. The more the company grew, the more this splintered ecosystem became problematic.
The company needed a centralized system to consume the latest information on customer orders. Previously, some teams received the information through streams, some relied on data warehouse solutions, and others relied on file dumps.
As a solution for this challenge, Avenue Code utilized an event-based architecture. Kafka was used as the streaming bus due to the power and flexibility of Kafka Streams and KSQL. Using an open-source project also resulted in cost savings and strong community support.
A streaming platform was created where different teams and services could feed events into the system and those events would be processed to generate the latest state of any given order across all platforms. Through KSQL, the company’s teams could query order data in real time. A data extraction process was also created so teams could easily access specific data.
After implementing the system, the company saw gains in:
- Performance: State-of-the-art technology guaranteed high performance throughout all phases of order processing with near real-time information being delivered to platform users.
- Integration: Scattered information was consolidated into a single streaming platform.
- Reliability and Scalability: The use of Kafka replicas paired with infrastructure as code resulted in a highly reliable system that could be scaled at will.
Case 3: CI/CD Pipeline to Support Weekly Deployments and Faster Time to Market
Prior to working with Avenue Code, this retailer lacked a cohesive platform and was unable to deploy new releases. The company was new to the concept of continuous integration and needed help from subject matter experts to implement a pipeline that would support multiple weekly deployments. Specific challenges included:
- Integrating cloud native applications with back-office supply chain systems;
- Communicating across a wide range of protocols and data structures;
- Managing distributed inventory in real-time at scale.
Avenue Code worked with this retailer to design a microservices architecture that exposes consumable REST APIs for orders, reservations, and other items. Leveraging Mulesoft’s Anypoint platform, the team built a functioning CD pipeline on a platform that supports blue/green deployments and easy rollbacks.
With this solution, the company now enjoys multiple deployments every week as well as an effective integration with multiple systems in multiple languages.
The pandemic created a “do or die” scenario for retailers that resulted in accelerating their digital transformation, placing them years ahead of where they would have been without the added pressure to evolve. Now, they are reaping the rewards of their investments and expanding their clients, increasing their revenue, and creating more effective operations.
There are still challenges to be overcome in retail, but one takeaway from the pandemic is that companies that have an innovative mindset will always be ahead, leading digital transformation and increasing their market share. In an environment where there are so many competitors, innovation is a key difference between failure and success.
Orlando Neto is a Java Engineer at Avenue Code.