April 6, 2020

The impact of microservices on eCommerce – Sander Mangel | eCommerce Talks #2

Divante presents eCommerce Talks for
industry experts share their insights about the ever-changing world of
e-commerce. Today we’ll be talking with chief of technology at Vue Storefront
and Magento master Sander Mangel. Sander thank you for joining me today
we’re very excited but I know you for a little bit but I’m sure some people
would like to know a little bit more about you so why don’t you stop me.
You’ve been around for a while so can you tell us a little bit more how do you end
up in the e-commerce world. Right yeah so about 12 years ago I got hire as a
developer at an agency and they were doing this thing called Magento which I
pretty much never heard of and they basically they told me like “You’re
gonna be the lead on this department and get some books to start studying” so I
had like 30 days to get into the whole Magento thing about like three books
read them in the evenings and then and then I started like hopefully I’m
prepared I might say and I’ll admit it like the first first couple of weeks
were rough but slowly it started to grow me I did ecommerce before that mostly
bespoke solutions which means that everything is being full taxes, discounts,
products you name it that’s all you have to build it yourself right? And then you have the solution out there that pretty much seems to have it
all and if they didn’t haven’t there would be like a module for it on
the ecosystem. So that was interesting and I started to get more
and more into e-commerce since it’s a very dynamic way of working but before
that I did a lot of websites where if your contact form and maybe some
job openings but it’s very static right? And one of the things I love about
e-commerce is the direct return on investment that this client is seeing
you fuck up and they will not have their income for an evening or something like
that. So that progress I did a couple years of development started to
get more and more into lead roles the dual consultancy at agencies also
freelance ended up at a merchant for three and a half years which was a very
interesting experience as you you’re somewhat
protected from the realities of business when you’re on the agency side
right? I mean if something goes wrong or if you have to do a new feature there is
an e-commerce manager on the other side on the client side that they scare off a
lot of things and then when you transition to a merchant side you have
to get down into the trenches do like the negotiations with the finance
department with logistics on how we handle packages that kind of stuff
so so literally you’ve been basically from development all the way up to the
salesman of the solution Oh yeah. And that was interesting it was a huge
learning and not on the technical side but on the on a more soft skill side how
do you get people to buy into this kind of stuff how do you explain x months of
development on the feature that for them is like “I just want the button” you know
that kind of request so that was very interesting and after that I went to
product I got hired a Vue Storefront to help them push their product on the
market which is a headless front-end for e-commerce. Now I introduce you to
everybody watching this as a Magento master and even when I got introduced to
you my first question was like what is Magento master? This guy like a Jedi of the Magento
world or like how do you become a Magento master or what it actually
means Yeah it’s a term that when you’re not around the Magento
space can come off as slightly odd so Magento in front of Cherie roadies she
stay a community manager and Magento star at this program about three or four
years ago to recognize some of the more active community members whichin there’s
either doing blogs or conferences or even just mentoring other developers
I’ve been organizing together with someone else from the Netherlands Meet
Magento for a couple of years also an unconference which is more technical
conference I’ve done some online conference it’s kind of like an
escalated hobby you could say so because of that I got elected a Magento master
one of the 22-23 yeah Around the world Yeah so that’s very very cool That is very that’s sounds very cool It’s a bit of an
honor I’ll say that I’m gonna try to get in a little more and I’m gonna ask you
that were you get to see especially in this last conference like what’s
happening with all this like a ideas of microservices and headless pieces
of software that still to me I’m still try to put my head around but how
is it changing the environment I mean people used to have just one
solution basically host at their store or in the computer but it’s everything
in one place but now there’s tons if not thousands of different
solutions that you can just literally connect to and it gets a safety time
and how do you see this happening That’s a good question so I think
headless has been around for ages basically it means that you have an
application either online or offline that doesn’t have a graphical interface
in this case it will be or your average shop front-end and that we all know. So
headless is becoming more and more popular I think mainly because as
technology is getting more and more complex and the whole ecosystem is
maturing you see that it becomes more more important to choose the best of
breed when it comes to any sort of technology I think for example certs
is a very very clear one right where you would have your normal search which
would run on my sequel a pretty standard database type which good example is like
that the typos that he do right? I’m looking for shirts but I type shart or
shert or whatever yeah right? Now on Google
we’re used that gets other completely into whatever you wanna have and on a
lot of e-commerce stores they don’t they’ll just tell you no we don’t have
that. Which is we can be I mean we’re talking about conversion so it’s an
important thing right? Yeah you get frustrated if you don’t get what you
want straight away exactly Don’t go back to the store So we
have these solutions out there from some solutions as algo Leah or clay
vu or whatever is out there that specializes just in search but they
don’t sell their software you rent it they didn’t want to give up their IP so
they tell you “Okay installed this plug-in or piece of
JavaScript and it’s talking to our services”. So here you see already an
introduction into service-oriented architecture where you are talking to an
API an abstracted interface that code can consume. We do the same for payments.
Nobody’s really handling credit cards on their own anymore in the bigger store or
maybe the bigger stores but not the smaller stores you give them off to a payment
service provider and that make sure that So why not do the same thing for
your catalog or your checkout or even your pricing or stock keeping you know
you wanna invest in the Best of Breed technology that’s out
there and the decision of making or buying is becoming more and more
actually buying, and buying means a SAS product everything is rented nowadays
right? You don’t really buy software anymore and that’s a big change
for the e-commerce platforms out there especially the ones like Magento
or a bit more downmarket WooCommerce they traditionally have been an
monolithic application made out of all these modules that you download from the
internet that might or might not be of high quality that might or might not be
actually leaking cyber information I mean nobody knows and that’s becoming
less and less and I think it’s a trend that will continue for at
least for the foreseeable future And I mean you’ve been in both sides well you’ve
said you were developer and you also been on the front side literally
representing the brand how do you see the perception from the client-side is
are they willing to give away their monolithic idea of having everything of
control of everything into just hooking up from smaller bits here and there is
this is something that people is is more into it or they’re still not very ready
to do? It depends a lot on the merchants like the more traditional ones
want to own stuff right they are the ones that might even buy cars for
the company instead of leasing them that kind of stuff right they want to have
this piece of software on their server that they can go in and touch to the I
mean they want to be able to move it around and almost feel It’s the ownership feeling Right and
then you have a I would say a new generation of merchants that doesn’t
really care about it anymore they are used to renting stuff right
they use Airbnb they use bike sharing they use whatever you have out there and
they’re also used to just renting a search engine and it’s perfect because
you don’t have to take care of the maintenance you don’t have to take care
of upgrades you it just works and it works really well you just need
to take into account if you’re paying x amount of money every month to have
that and so it’s definitely something that the newer generation
seems to be embracing also some bigger companies are more and more investing in
that kind of a solution because they see that long term investments for IT are
hard to make right we have a general lifecycle of about five years I would
say after the refresh your whatever back-end you have so
why not go with the solution networks from multiple platforms and that can
adapt to the multiple business strategies that you might have because
who knows where you’re gonna be at in five or ten years Yeah yeah but you’re
right I mean that the new generations are very in touch of what it means to
not own a software just rent a software or use a service now I mean for Magento
obviously is a change of paradigm I mean Magento used to offer everything at once
like here you go right? So with this whole wave I mean how is Magento turning
or how is Magento adapting to this new this new paradigm Right so Magento saw
the same thing happening right and they have been going at cloud hosting for a
while what makes success some might remember the dough period where they
offered Magento hosted solutions for Magento One now they are back with
another Magento cloud offering but it’s always a very monolithic cloud
offering basically they’re hosting you a e-shop on Amazon and that’s it. More
recently they have become aware of this issue and are gearing their
architecture towards more service-oriented offerings so they
promoted a new director of commercial architecture Igor Miniailo
and he will start to transform that whole architecture into actual services
so what we might call module now will be an independent service that might still
act a part in a monolithic set-up but can be replaced by an outsource search
engine or a hosted SAS solution Very carefully adapt to Magento Magento
also see some some benefit there when it comes to revenue right
because now they’re just giving you a big SAS solution that that cost
let’s take 30,000 a year well they might go after even smaller or bigger
merchants when they have this let’s say menu where you can pick from okay I’ll just have
very basic search it’ll cost me 500 a month well And you can’t customize it right? Exactly and but then I want to have stock keeping which has to be like
state-of-the-art can do everything maybe something like a b2b right?
You don’t really need powerful shirts maybe in some b2b because you just want
this or that die rip but stop heaping is so important in b2b so they might offer
you a very expensive or very advanced b2b stock-keeping platform All right
well it makes a lot of sense of it companies need to evolve into I mean
it’s evolve or die now I want to switch a little bit the
conversation not to farther but um I want to ask you about a Shoper six
because I mean it is the open source is there but what are
the benefits to work with something like that So Shoper has been around for
ages I think it’s not as old as Magento I’d say but like it’s getting there it
has been a closer system for a long time and more recently they’ve been starting
to open source and they got onto this whole service oriented architecture
pretty early and that’s Shoper basically so it is built as a headless
system they do offer a simple front-end that you can slap on it they also teamed
up with Vue Storefront to have a dedicated PWA enabled headless front-end on
it but they very much focus on the back-end. That’s what they’re good at
that’s what they understand they wanna do that. So you see already that they have
the service isolation where it’s easy to replace certain components they have a
very comprehensive API coverage they have api’s did not just only get and set
data but actually perform actions and that’s a big difference where if you
think of creating an order you have to have products you have to have an
address you have to have shipping method all these things are not simply set
right? Because the shipping method might be dependent on the kind of products
that you have so you don’t want just api’s that set data for you, you want to
have api’s that encapsulate business logic
I think that That’s your product Right and that’s what they’re doing very well there so it
has been in I think they call it alpha right now we should see a release can
the end of the year and that’s something I’m very much looking forward to I’m
already spending it up at home to play around with it a little bit Okay Sander
let’s say I’m a big player I have tons of money I’m ready to go to the
e-commerce world I’m already your best friend I know well for that will be the first
thing right but I have a very decent budget and I’m ready to go
but I still have no clue of what to do so what will be the first step beyond
the money beyond like what will be the first step for me to set up a proper
ecommerce platform Right so one of the first questions I would ask is are you
gonna go national or international that’s a big one right? Because you have
to deal with language especially in Europe it’s languages its currency it’s
even between Germany and Austria which are two german-speaking countries
there’s a lot of difference maybe Switzerland is even a better example
where you have still differences in the language French, italian and german and all in one Totally different like way of
shipping goods so you want to choose a platform back-end that can support it.
Now for example Magento would be a good solution for that also Hybris or Demandware you have a couple of solutions out there that might fit that.
Another question that will be very important to ask is what kind of
integrations are you doing. Now you’re a bigger player you’ll already
have Salesforce in place you might already have Pimcore in place or Akeneo for your product management you have a warehouse or maybe
even more than one through Europe so there’s a lot of implications come
from that now running in Salesforce you might want to go for Hybris by default
because you know they tell you that it comes with it but it’s still good to do
your due diligence and really look at the various options out there
and especially the cost of ownership so whatever budget you have take 1/3
of it put it in the bank and keep it for the first year especially when you’re
gonna head out to new markets you’re gonna need that money to do your
marketing keep the shop running right? You’re not gonna turn a profit on this
new market right away so you want to have a buffer and you don’t want to blow
all your budget and have management coming after you because you know
you still have to improve stuff after lunch
you’re going to deal with things that you didn’t foresee yet translations
is an important part there so whenever you have to republish some products or
whatever you need to get translations you need to get artwork
that kind of stuff that’s very expensive so there you have your budget
right it’s about 2/3 of what you should have available to you and then we can
start to decide on the platform that is best Now usually and I’ve seen it a lot
here especially here in Europe a lot of successful companies they start with no
team no technical team which is keep growing and the technical team comes
later so I’m a CEO of a successful company with all this money I could go
two ways I can try to hire a whole team for my company to manage all this or I
can literally just give this to someone else to do it for me
how do you see that as a well spend money? Or as what are the pros and cons
of choosing one or the other? That’s an interesting question so and
this is my opinion right but I think that if you’re a c-level executive with
very little affinity for technology you are gonna have to have a lot of trust in
your CTO to do the right thing and otherwise there’s gonna be a lot of
frustration because you might not be aware of what the IT team is actually
doing. IT is a lot of times “Yeah we’re working on this upgrade” or you
know and it takes ages and you can’t really see any end results from it
because the front-end is still the same what I’m
a paying for right well agencies you kind of pay what you get for
or you get what you pay for the way you want to see it but like they
keep you more in the loop of “Okay we’re working this and we’re doing workshop”
and I’m not saying it’s cheaper it might even be more expensive because they’re
used to entertain the client at least you know keeping keep him engaged Throw a couple of buzzwords
okay, they’re working A lot of powerpoints lies there but it’s
a company that you know you feel more in control because you’re paying the money
and they are supposed to do what you want them to do so I think
it’s for c-level something that they have to be comfortable with one way or
the other I’ve been in situations where I was part of an IT team where c-level
might not have been fully aware of what we were doing and that’s question the
value of what was going on there and whenever you need more research they
will be like “Okay but are you gonna deliver more not per se we just need to
invest in this” right? So it’s there are different situations and I don’t think
there’s one definitive answer to that. Okay now that I mean that makes
a lot of sense. Now let’s say we have companies that they’re completely
settled right imagine suppose or Zalando khorinis like that the environment is
moving very fast and a lot of companies tend to chill and not do anything so for
companies that they’re established already what should
be they looking at or what will be the steps that they gonna evolve into
something that they better be prepared In a lot of companies we see that the IT
team is very reactive Logistics wants a new warehouse ok we’ll implement
the new WMS we’ll get up to the system and then we move on to the next project
because it’s already waiting well in Zalando and in some other
companies you get this almost incubator where an engineer might try different
technology on the weekend he becomes passionate about it he starts he
advocated on the work floor and all of sudden you see a small team popping up
I think Zalando called some gilts and basically if they have two or three
people that are interested in technology they allow them to investigate this and
to start investing time in this and I think that is what defines these
companies as it drives them forward Definitely companies definitely need to
invest in innovation Right so one of the benefits of hiring a solution provider
like a bigger agency is they should be able to do this on their own right they
have developers that do their hobby projects and then get the room on the
Friday afternoon that’s a famous only The hackathons The hackathons where they can just try
out any new technology and that’s where a lot of interesting projects come
from so Vue Storefront what I work for was actually a project for one
client and one of the lead developers on that invested heavily on
the technology on PWA what it stands for the benefits we have from it and he
basically created this whole product around it and and now it’s something
that we sell separately right which is a pretty amazing journey if you
ask me but that’s one of those clearances were investing in technology
can lead to a beautiful solution that now enables merchants with less
budget to still have a PWA enabled web shop That’s it’s a overdiet that’s
what I was think is companies I mean I met tons of data scientists from
Zalando which when the first time I hear like you guys sell shoes where is
data science but I would say it makes a lot of sense when you think about like all the
innovation behind the company and why they are where they are yeah
I think in general a good way to know what kind of technology you should be
investing in is to look at other platforms that your target audience is
is investing in time in let’s say and then look at the issues that you might
have so for example why PWA is for me one of the hot up-and-coming technologies for
e-commerce is people are starting to get used to the more offline experience it
should be snappy right I mean Spotify has it, Instagram has it so when they go
to on your ecommerce shop it feels clunky They expect the same speed right? It should be snappy what we see a lot of b2b customers that the tell us “Okay we’re
out in rural areas we’re out at trade shows and the Wi-Fi is crap” I mean
you’ve been to conferences they have for some reason they always have like one
dial-up connection for 500 attendees right? Five six six Exactly so and the guys out there selling products pushing their
services they have this iPad with them and then they’re like we have this new
product and it’s loading you have to wait a little bit don’t worry yeah no it’s amazing
you’re gonna You’re gonna love it And now with PWA were able to catch that offline just
before they go into the conference they have all the images they have
all the prices there and they’re gonna be like yeah this is fast right you love this
new director or whatever I don’t know But I guess that’s one of the things that this whole
micro services environment is creating this is its innovation is let’s have
something people wants about the same time pushes people to want things faster Actually that that’s spot-on I think that the whole service-oriented
architecture enables you to adapt technologies faster so there’s a bigger
investment of front where you have to what they call there’s more
orchestration right how do you take control of deploying a certain
application or how do you do the logging in the monolithic environment it’s a
bit easier to do it or its feels easier maybe when you go into
services and they come with Docker and Kubernetes as hosting the solutions
there is a bit more tech involved in general but once you have that right
it’s so easy to start swapping out parts I’ve worked for merchants and it
was time to switch to a different fulfillment solution because there were
more warehouse and that kind of stuff and what we did was simply built a new
application with the same API’s backwards compatible and add some new
features for the new warehouse that the other systems didn’t need to know of and
just swapped it out in one go and nobody noticed it even and that’s for me
felt so powerful because normally you would go into the system start to swap
out modules right it will you had feature flags like if it’s this country
use this It’s time and money And we see with a lot of companies
expanding into more international territory let’s say you’re webshop
from Germany right? You might be looking at the Netherlands which is a
fairly big market so it’s safe to put down a new instance of a know Magento or
Hybris but maybe going to let’s say Greece but you have a couple of
customers from you don’t know why but let’s give it a try you might actually
want to plop down some Shopify there just to try it out you don’t want to
invest too much money right you just want to have a fairly simple solution
for that now you’re gonna plop down this very
simple solution and then have your still your service-oriented back-end
that handles like fulfillment or payments that you can hook up to it I
think that is very interesting that you’re exposing your business
logic to the outside with some log again I would suggest but you’re making
it much more democratic you’re enabling other smaller platforms to use
it while not having to invest big time in
setting up this whole infrastructure Even I mean beyond smaller companies
beyond seller companies everybody thinking of expansion I mean
not everything is everywhere right and it’s part of your plan I mean you want
to be everywhere I mean definitely is a good step to take
investing all of your budget and all right we’re well all over
the world but we’re selling still in the same places is the test like the smaller
services that allows you to test differently And even when it comes to a
replatforming later on right you’re now in let’s say ten countries
and you started 15 years ago in Germany on some IBM WebSphere and since this is
huge right and then in other countries you weren’t able to put that down
because it’s simply too expensive so you have Magento and then other country
have you know commercial shop fight because you’re just exploring that now
when you want to start either moving it all to one platform or you want to
start replatforming some of the stuff there it’s comfortable to have the
option to do it one country after another because if you have to do a big
bang let alone the technical implications of that which is daunting
you also have the soft side right the the people have to be trained with the
new system which is a challenge I’ve been through that and I’ve done the
trainings and these are people that are not used to working with different
systems so it’s it scary for them you have to make sure that your whole
logistics is catered to – or is integrated into this new solution
so being having the comfort of thing this step-by-step that’s
something very very valuable I think Yeah and I’m sure I mean not only for CTOs but I
mean what they report to the CEOs is like we’re not gonna blow our budget we
we’re doing everything step by step so it make a lot of sense Yeah and even being able to go
to your colleagues to say okay well so you’re doing the logistics don’t worry
you can still use and I don’t know whatever obscure fulfillment company you’re using in that
country because we’re just going to switch over this country now
and then go on to the next one Sander well first of all thank you, thank
you for being in the show today. Where can people find you next I mean I know
you’re basically in every Magento event so where can they find out where
you’re gonna be Right so I’m not gonna list all the conference I am at I would
suggest people to go to Twitter follow me there sandermangel I post
there a lot of the events I’m going to some articles I’m working
on in general what keeps me busy that’s a good place to connect with me Cool
we’re probably gonna put Twitter here or if the editor hates me here I don’t know. Well thank you
one more time again and thank you everybody for watching next time please don’t miss
the show because we’re gonna on the road we’ll be in Berlin very soon
thank you very much thank you Sander again Thank you for having me See you next time

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