Last updated on March 29th, 2021 at 12:19 pm
There is a fundamental shift happening in retail. Yes, consumers now expect convenient, easy, and seamless experiences. But what we’re talking about here is a shift in software development that makes these things possible. The engine that makes the system work.
Increasingly retail brands are choosing software-as-a-service (SaaS) over traditional IT. With true SaaS and evolving architectural design, more customer experiences are possible.
The modern technology landscape is complex, but microservices can make it simple. Gone are the days of monolithic applications pigeonholing your brand. Hello to modern architecture that allows you to quickly deliver omnichannel experiences to your customers.
Monolithic vs. Microservices Architecture
Retail has long been built on traditional monolithic software. From the databases to the user interface, each component is integral to the whole. And because the services are connected, if one thing breaks, the whole system can break. This can happen every time there is an update or something new is added. And so the cycle goes.
Keeping legacy systems up-to-date is a slow, expensive, and involved process. Today’s brands don’t have the time, or the teams, for this kind of retail technology world. The market is evolving quickly and customers expect new features every day. The pandemic has proven this to be true. Unfortunately, the brands with the clunky systems are the ones that have struggled to roll out high-demand capabilities like store fulfillment.
A more agile option for brands is a SaaS platform with a microservices architecture. Not only does it simplify the retail IT landscape, but it also enables brands to adapt to dynamic market conditions. More importantly, it allows them to evolve their systems. All to deliver the best customer experiences.
What Are Microservices?
According to MACH Alliance President Kelly Goetsch, microservices are discrete pieces of business functionality that are independently developed, deployed, and managed. Keeping each system independent means microservice applications can be updated or added without a chain reaction. Overall, the architecture is more resilient than a monolithic system.
But how can you possibly meet business goals if everything is separate?
Core to a modern microservices setup is the use of application programming interfaces or APIs for short. APIs are what allow each microservice to communicate and integrate with each other. For retail brands, this means you can integrate partner solutions for a comprehensive customer experience. Seamless integrations for appointment scheduling and last-mile delivery services come to mind.
Additionally, APIs enable the loose coupling of parts of the solution. You can make changes with little to no risk to the system as a whole. Microservices thus provide a solid foundation for future development. We know retail is evolving at lightning speed. By taking an API-first approach, you have a consistent foundation on which to easily build modern customer experiences.
Delivering Business Value
All-in-all, a microservices architecture adds a lot of business value compared to a monolithic one. Building microservices can create a more efficient retail IT landscape, positively impacting both people and revenue. We’ve mentioned a few of the benefits of microservices, but let’s list them out here.
- Acceleration: It is easier to speed up feature development, testing, and deployment when context boundaries are established and microservices are owned and operated by an individual development team. The organizational alignment around services also encourages teams to build more iteratively and at a higher clip.
- Agility: With a robust set of APIs, organizations can quickly and efficiently roll out new features. And if there’s a problem with deployment, you can simply roll it back because it’s an independent microservice.
- Flexibility: Independently deploying components gets news features into production more quickly and provides more flexible options for piloting and prototyping. This allows you to keep up with your customers’ evolving expectations.
- Resiliency: Instead of modifying the master codebase, you make changes to just the service’s codebase. There’s minimal risk of development conflict, which means less downtime and a more performant system.
- Scalability: Service independence means you can decouple logic and scale certain parts of the system as needed. It is also easy to scale certain functionality on-demand with the microservices in the cloud.
Digital Transformation and Microservices
Microservices are enabling the next generation of enterprise applications for retail. Until recently, most system architectures required a series of steps for every action. Events now communicate via webhooks. When something of interest happens, the service emits an event to an event channel. The channel decides what action to take.
Why does this matter? For brands on the path to digital transformation, this can help them streamline and create a more agile enterprise.
If you’re looking to enhance your retail technology stack, the answer is not to customize or expand your monolithic architecture. You also don’t need to completely rip and replace the systems you’ve invested in over the last decade. A microservices and API-first approach can help you future-proof your retail business and improve your customer experiences today.
Want to learn more about microservices? The MACH Alliance is a great resource, check it out for more information and insights.