Data: The Unsung Hero of Retail’s Digital Revolution
Innovation in retail is powered by the need to create a competitive advantage. To achieve this, retailers have to deliver always available, differentiated services at pace while reducing costs and business risks. The retail industry has undergone a complete digital revolution over the past few years, and recent technological advancements have enhanced the customer experience and streamlined business operations.
Omnichannel services; just-in-time inventory; buy online, pick up in-store; and mobile shopping are just a few examples of the industry’s modernization. Once viewed as conveniences, these services are now standard in retail. Consumers expect these services to be always available and to work seamlessly with their shopping experience. The success of these capabilities — and modern retail organizations — hinge upon their ability to access reliable data quickly and securely on any device from any location.
Microservices Enable Modernization at Scale
Faced with competition from digital-native companies and e-commerce startups, more traditional organizations are able to grow their digital channel by leveraging cloud-native microservices. These microservices process large amounts of data and give consumers a personalized, seamless shopping experience.
Business-essential microservices are deployed from pre-purchase to in-store touchpoints and beyond. They include shopping carts, shopping lists, product catalogs, promotions, and payments systems. Microservices and application modernization initiatives claim to support these capabilities, but to deliver on these assurances, modern applications need resilient systems of record that can quickly and easily scale without compromising performance.
The Shortcomings of Traditional Databases
Retailers need their services to evolve rapidly without downtime, but traditional databases can struggle with resiliency, availability and scalability. Unplanned (and planned) downtime can cost millions of dollars in lost revenue. A significant contributor to this downtime is the data layer. Failure and outages such as network partitions, node and zone failures, and datacenter or region failure due to natural disasters are the norm in public clouds.
Periodic software upgrades typically require scheduled maintenance windows and emergency security patches that force AMI or image refreshes cause the node on which the database is running to incur downtime. Additionally, the inability of a database to horizontally scale can cause service disruption or performance degradation when spikes in traffic occur during events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Not only does all this force the IT team to dedicate unbudgeted time and resources to fixing inconsistencies and outages, it also negatively impacts the customer experience.
The Power of Distributed SQL
Different microservices may need different data architectures. However, a distributed SQL database enables organizations to support the most demanding, scalable, resilient and highly performant transactional applications.
A modern distributed SQL database allows retailers to withstand failures and outages because it automatically re-replicates data to ensure resiliency and zero downtime. It can scale horizontally to meet business demand with low latency, processing hundreds of thousands of transactions per second with hundreds of terabytes of data in production.
Distributed SQL offers flexible deployments for geo-distributed applications and data, empowering retail and e-commerce organizations to deliver faster response times for real-time interactions from locations closest to their customers. Distributed SQL databases provide transactional consistency in the data layer to eliminate the burden of managing consistency in applications.
Retailers have seen a dramatic shift in consumer buying behavior over the past decade, but through it all, data has remained at the center of the customer experience. Shoppers have moved online to research products, read consumer reviews, compare prices, and complete transactions, and now have greater expectations regarding the speed and availability of these services.
Organizations that want to deliver a superior customer experience should adopt a distributed SQL database for the best chance of achieving this goal.
Karthik Ranganathan is the co-founder and CTO at Yugabyte, the company behind YugabyteDB, a transactional distributed SQL database for cloud native applications.
Karthik Ranganathan is the co-founder and CTO at Yugabyte, the company behind YugabyteDB, a transactional distributed SQL database for cloud native applications. Ranganathan received his BS and MS in CS from IIT-M and UT Austin. Ranganathan was one of the original database engineers at Facebook responsible for building distributed databases such as Cassandra and HBase. He is an Apache HBase committer, and also an early contributor to Cassandra, before it was open-sourced by Facebook.