• Andrew Harper

Friday Thoughts On Retail & Microservices

Retail is one of the most charged industries because of the constantly growing demand for products of different kinds. This means all the business processes of each retailer must be clearly tailored and run faultlessly. It would be hardly possible without using efficient software to cover and optimize the operations.

Elements of the Retail Industry


Retail is a complicated mechanism that consists of a huge amount of parallel running processes. The data come from different channels in real-time. It has to be processed and sent to its receiver in real-time as well.

Retail Software Solutions

For example, the processing of a simple online order involves processes like the availability check, product reservation, payment, order confirmation by the contact center, and delivery. The retailer’s ERP system processes data from multiple channels: warehouse, payment system, contact center, and both in-house and third-party delivery services. Moreover, the process includes interaction via different devices: from a laptop to a smartphone.


For the business processes to run consistently and efficiently the ERP systems which support the retailer’s work have to be light-weighted, fast, and adaptable to new business needs. Each module has a clear task within the described process. Our team has implemented certain solutions based on microservice architecture like contact center modules, assortment management systems, and POS-terminal systems for medium and large-sized retailers.


Monolith into microservice


Large monolithic systems tangle the process of business development, its automation, and optimization. This problem is faced by many medium and large-sized retailers. Their legacy ERPs have been developed a dozen years ago and can no longer satisfy the constantly growing business demand. Today, customers want not only to buy a product but also to do it fast and on any device they want. They want to do it here and now. Consumers are ready to pay so the system has to be able to satisfy this wish. The growing customer demand motivates retailers to improve their business processes and software.


In most cases, the best solution is to migrate the monolithic ERP system to a microservice architecture. This optimizes the operation of the system by distributing the load between interconnected modules. This kind of transformation of a monolith into a set of microservices will make the system more flexible, push on the data processing, and makes technical development easier.

Contact center module for ERP


The order confirmation and details definition are not the only tasks of a contact center. They also include additional sales and the generation of customer loyalty. Therefore, the work of the contact center includes interaction with other internal business processes, such as product availability monitoring (both in stores and warehouses), generation of financial documentation, delivery capabilities, etc. Despite the complexity of the process, the contact center module should work fast and solid. The interface should be simple and user-friendly.


Many big retailers face the same problem: their systems are too difficult to manage so they cannot improve the interface by implementing principles of service design. Consequently, managers get lost in the interface and make mistakes that cost money. Training of new employees may take more than a month and the center is slow and limited in capabilities. Thus, the business loses potential profits.


It is difficult to improve and develop a monolithic system. Transferring the system to microservice architecture the business can make improvements much faster and there are enough developers on the market who can support the trendy technologies.


The JEVERA team has experience in developing contact center modules based on microservice architecture. The microservice module makes the data exchange between systems, like WMS (Warehouse management system), shopping cart, internal and external delivery services, payment systems and financial services, etc, much faster. Moreover, the lightweight and clean interface allows the retailer to add new features, for example, KPI statistics for contact center managers.


By transferring the contact center to microservice architecture, the business gets the opportunity to raise the center’s KPIs: operating speed, upsales, and customer loyalty.


Assortment management system


By developing the business, increasing the number of stores, and expanding the assortment, the retailer will eventually face the problem of assortment management. Having over 100,000 products, it becomes difficult to organize them, manage the availability, and stocks in warehouses and stores, and create supply orders without using additional software.

All retailers from small local ones to large international chains use tools for automating their business processes. Some develop custom software, some purchase a license from a vendor, and some maintain an Excel file.


Retailers with over a hundred stores and thousands of products often integrate modules for product placement modeling. It helps the managers to create a perfect shelf with certain products in a certain combination. The assortment manager chooses goods stored in the database, and the system places them on a virtual shelf. The process involves hundreds of products that have to be easy to find and to manage. The set of microservices for product clustering integrated into the module operates with product categories, subcategories, and dimensions, and makes it easier to manage the whole assortment. It takes about 35% less time for creating a product placement model.


"The Assortment management system project has confirmed the experience of the JEVERA team in the development of effective systems for the retail industry based on trendy technologies and methods like microservice architecture", Pavel Scherbakov, Founder & CEO, Consulting for Retail

The process of requesting a supply of missing or running out products is familiar for each retailer. The larger the business, the more obvious the need for automation of this process. Big chains use ERP modules for automated generation of supply requests but with time the need for process optimization arises. Having a clusterized product base with detailed and flexible business rules, the process of supply request generation runs faster and does not require constant attention from the manager.


Conclusion


Microservice architecture makes the ERP system much more efficient and flexible. The business gains the opportunity to improve and transform its processes, create new features, and satisfy the consumer's demand.

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