Improving the user experience in the long term Using microservices in e-commerce
E-commerce providers are confronted with increasing customer expectations and new technological possibilities. With microservices, however, the user experience can be optimized quickly and continuously.
Microservices can also help e-commerce to become more agile and flexible.
Online retail is booming: According to the industry association bevh, sales grew to over 100 billion euros last year – with an annual growth of 19 percent. This means that Germans spend almost every seventh euro available to them for household expenses in e-commerce.
This development is not surprising, almost every industry now sells its goods on the Internet – not only clothing or food, but also cars or insurance. The COVID-19 pandemic has its share in this. Even companies that have relied heavily on brick-and-mortar retail in the past had to find new sales channels as a result of the repeated lockdowns in order to be able to ensure their survival in many cases.
At the same time, many customers have migrated – possibly permanently – to the digital space: according to a survey by Bitkom, if you spent a good one hour a week shopping online in the past, it is now 2.8 hours. And even after the end of the pandemic, consumers estimate, there will be significantly more time than before (1.9 hours).
Are you ready for the future? Flexible software architecture versus monolithic systems
A return to the old status quo is therefore not only impossible; e-commerce companies must even be able to adapt even faster to new internal and external changes. In just a few years, technologies and developments such as blockchain, augmented or mixed reality (AR/MR) or the metaverse, which are currently still in their initial phase, may be everyday life.
Those who are not able to adapt quickly to these new developments will soon be overtaken by competitors who can offer customers what they want. Today, a flexible software architecture is already crucial to continuously improve the user experience. Because customer expectations of digital applications and online shopping experiences are constantly increasing – also because they spend more and more time online.
Convenience and security are the most important factors here: The entire process – from browsing the online shop to selecting items to the payment process – should be as intuitive and goal-oriented as possible and secure at all times.
However, many providers still rely on a large, monolithic e-commerce system, which is also often an in-house development. These systems combine the shop, a Product Information Management (PIM) system, a content management system (CMS) and a data asset management (DAM) system.
If changes are to be made to such a software architecture, companies have to expect several months of projects, since the individual components are closely interlinked and can only be isolated with difficulty. Likewise, in the event of problems, the entire system is often directly affected and may fail completely. Microservices, on the other hand, offer more flexibility and agility.
Microservices: (further) developing applications in a more flexible and agile way
In a microservices-based architecture, the core functions are broken down and developed and provided independently of other functions. The various services have their own code base, are loosely coupled and communicate with each other via APIs in order to function as an integrated overall solution.
Although customers do not consciously experience the advantages of a microservices architecture – because it is invisible – but directly, because developers can more easily create a better user experience and continuously improve it. As a rule, the developers are only responsible for one or a few microservices. This allows you to focus on managing and optimizing this service without having to keep an eye on possible effects on the rest of the system.
Microservices are also generally less complex than monoliths, which also makes working with them easier. The same applies to testing new functions: here, too, developers can work independently of the other components and do not have to fear that any problems will immediately shake the entire system and possibly scare users in the long term.
But not only new functions of the individual services can be tested and implemented more easily in this architecture. The software can be supplemented comparatively easily by completely new functionalities in the form of microservices, for example to integrate new channels or new technologies. For example, the microservice “Headless CMS” works as a content distributor and data collector. This creates the conditions for meeting the increasing expectations of users for an ever more advanced experience.
E-commerce companies can also act more flexibly and agile, as well as try out new functions faster and continuously improve them – and discard them again if they do not work as desired or the interest of customers decreases. This iterative approach allows you to position yourself as a digital pioneer compared to competitors who still rely on monolithic architectures and therefore required a lot of time for changes to their system.
Consumers are spending more and more time online and spending more and more money online. For e-commerce providers – regardless of whether they are already in business for the long term or only recently as a result of the pandemic – this offers opportunities to attract and retain new customers.
The prerequisite for this is that your digital applications must meet the high expectations of a seamless, perfectly functioning experience at all times. In a monolithic architecture, however, even a small problem can have serious consequences for the entire system and make users turn to the competition.
Microservices, on the other hand, offer the right architecture to develop applications flexibly and agilely and to continuously optimize them to meet customer expectations. Innovations can also be implemented more easily and quickly in such a system. If you want to win the competition for customers in the long term, you have to create the prerequisites for this today. That’s why the following applies to e-commerce companies: It’s better to switch to microservices now, before it’s too late.