One of the biggest advantages of moving from monolithic architecture to microservices is the speed of delivery. While not every component of your commerce system needs frequent updating, granting those that do independence from your monolith and other services allows you to push code hourly or daily, rather than weekly or quarterly. No matter how long your organization’s “typical” release cycle is, beating it can translate to real revenue and customer delight.
Which components of your digital commerce system benefit most from this agility depends on your individual business. But two microservices that benefit most from independence for most digital enterprises are Promotions and Loyalty.
Promotions are a strategic lever you can pull to acquire and retain customers and keep orders coming throughout the year. Still, most companies struggle with the “sweet spot” and either under or over promote — offering discounts too often, giving away too much margin, targeting the wrong customers or discounting the wrong products.
While real-time data is your best friend for optimizing promotions, it’s rarely involved in promotional scheduling. Sales events are scheduled months to a year in advance, partially because monolithic commerce platforms require them to be slotted into slow release cycles.
A Promotions microservice allows you to be highly responsive to real-time data, and any event or condition that might impact your merchandising strategy. For example, if you’re responsible for online P&L and sales are softer than your target, or you have an excess of seasonal inventory, you want the agility to set up and modify promotional events in real time.
Economic and weather conditions can impact real-time sales trends. Bumping this discount on your seasonal and sale items the moment they start cooling off helps move inventory before it becomes unsellable. The ability to code and deploy changes faster through a Promotions microservice, rather than wait days or weeks for IT to model and regression test across your entire system, ensures you miss no opportunities.
A Promotions microservice can also help you correct errors more quickly. Because only the code within the Promotions microservice needs to be modified and tested, no other teams or components are impacted by a promotion that needs to end early, add conditional restrictions or otherwise be “fixed.”
In the age of Amazon and digital competition, loyalty is a key tactic to differentiate and grow customer lifetime value. But most enterprise commerce platforms lack loyalty features out-of-the-box, requiring integration with third-party SaaS solutions that typically can’t be altered or extended. Nevermind being held back by your own release cycle, outsourcing loyalty ties you to your vendor’s roadmap and release schedule.
A Loyalty microservice allows you to assign a smaller, independent development team to take full end-to-end ownership of your Loyalty service, develop its own strategic roadmap and iterate over time. For example, you may wish to differentiate and augment your loyalty program by offering advanced loyalty features, such as:
- Award points for non-transactional activities such as submitting reviews and user-generated content, referring friends, social activity and contests
- Support annual memberships or free shipping subscriptions (like Amazon Prime)
- Allow customers to pay with or donate points
- Tie loyalty rewards to house-branded credit cards
- Integrate rewards program with third-party applications
Walgreens is an early adopter of using microservices and APIs to augment its Balance Rewards loyalty program. Members can earn points for activities tracked through lifestyle apps like My Fitness Pal, Runkeeper and Google Fit to award loyalty points for healthy activities such as walking, running and lowered blood pressure. Over 800,000 users across 250,000 connected devices have earned over 2 billion points through third-party app engagement — arguably much higher than it could realize through its own, branded shopping app.
With smaller codebases to work with, independent deployment and the flexibility of APIs, microservices make it possible to respond to real-time conditions and treat any component of your system as its own application with its own roadmap. Rather than be constrained by the size, complexity, and rigidity of monolithic code, microservices can help you beat your release cycle and check more features off your innovation wishlist.