In my previous post, I discussed the state of retail commerce platforms and why adaptability is the single most important attribute for long-term success in the retail industry. As leading mega-retailers like Amazon, Rakuten and Alibaba have proven, building your own commerce infrastructure offers flexibility and agility unmatched by the traditional platform providers. Once thought to be the preserve of only the largest businesses, the new wave of DevOps-focused retailers are providing a route for many other smaller companies like Yoox and ASOS to create competitive advantage and agility to innovate by building their own commerce platforms.
Whilst DevOps is an engineering practice which aims to unify software development and software operations, the building blocks used in today’s technology-savvy business are microservices. A variant of the service-oriented architecture (SOA) architectural style that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services, microservices also parallelizes development by enabling small autonomous teams to develop, deploy and scale their respective services independently, which makes building e-commerce applications faster and easier, capable of operating at extremely high scale with the ability to change or evolve services in a much more agile way. In this way, retailers create a foundation from which to respond to customer needs more quickly and innovate faster. DevOps provides the processes, microservices provide the building blocks but the glue in any successful commerce build is identity.
Today’s commerce applications are required to perform actions on behalf of customers across a verity of interactions in the customer journey – be that in the website, the mobile app, through a call centre, in store through beacons or IoT enabled technologies or even through other services provided by third parties all in the same environment and often in the same shopper journey. For a consumer to experience frictionless interaction across these different channels there must be one notion of identity passed through and authenticated all of the associated microservices. Essentially at the back-end architecture, each microservice needs to know who the consumer is and what they are allowed to do.
Building a single back-end with microservices for all of the front-end applications to consume provides a clear advantage of reducing software complexity according to Martech Advisor. I would argue that the reduction in software complexity in a retailer must equate to faster innovation and therefore the ability to response to their consumers’ needs more quickly. That to me sounds like competitive advantage!
Doug is VP, Retail and CPG Industries, at ForgeRock