Building on our experience, we chose to write our own technology platform in 2017. The architecture is designed to offer the optimal solution for selling and processing multi-item orders and integrating into an existing retail business.
Why a Custom Platform
Existing e-commerce platforms have been evaluated based on the requirements of selling food & drink online. Platforms including Shopify Pro and Magento have been evaluated, prototyped & trialled since 2011 and they continue to have restrictions that meant a custom solution was the best solution for Frozen Value.
While at AF, we attempted to migrate the custom platform to Magento with each major update, v1, v2 & v2.2, but Magento lacked required functionality that couldn’t be emulated. The Online store was paired via XML with an internal custom Windows .NET/C# for BI, Fulfilment, Marketing and more. The Windows App was also moved over to web-based applications to improve user access, functionality and reduce platform costs. That system was constantly used for 1000s of simultaneous shoppers and >1,000 orders per day.
Over 8yrs of first-hand development experience of that food & drink eCommerce platform influenced the system improved design for CommerceStar.
The “Shop” design is focused on User Experience and Performance for quick & easy sales. Data Security is a first-class requirement across all platforms. Additional benefits of the re-design are a reduction of running costs, elastic scaling, reduced attack surface & a micro-architecture for external apps.
- Targeted at selling Food & Drink
- Low cost of ownership
- Closed system improves security
- Highly scalable
- Low maintenance overheads
- Rapid feature updates
Stock Management is Critical
It’s worth reiterating that accurate stock management is absolutely critical when the product being sold has a finite amount of stock. The problem is more acute when demand outstrips supply and the nature of the product changes often, as is the case with StarBargains.
This is obviously different from traditional retail where a customer physically has the product before they pay for it. Distance Selling online is the other way around, they pay for something based on a promise and then expect to receive that exact item. Differences in Best Before date are a good example of a property that changes often on a product.
Technical Infrastructure Costs
The technical custom platform below is optimised to minimise overhead costs through elastic scaling to meet the immediate demand within a 5 minute period. E.g., the system will scale up automatically during a TV advert then scale back down afterwards, it will scale down during the quiet hours during the night.