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Enabling best practice for omnichannel retail

MongoDB Atlas keeps fulfillmenttools on track to deliver-best-in-class service

INDUSTRY

Software and Technology

PRODUCT

MongoDB Atlas MongoDB Charts

USE CASE

Data as a Service

CUSTOMER SINCE

February 2021
INTRODUCTION

Simplifying the omnichannel complexities

REWE is a supermarket chain in Germany and the main brand of REWE Group. The retail giant operates over 3,000 supermarkets and over 5,500 other stores in Germany alone, and a total of over 12,000 stores across Europe, it serves around 12 million people a day at its grocery, DIY and gardening supplies, and travel outlets.

As one of Europe’s leading trade and tourism groups, REWE sits at the leading edge of progress and developments relating to wholesale and retail trade, food, sustainability, business, digitization, and tourism. Headquartered in Cologne, it is Germany’s second-largest supermarket chain, and the country’s leading e-food operator.

Built using experience gained by REWE’s delivery and pick-up service, fulfillmenttools, a spin-off of REWE, provides a software as a service (SaaS) solution that connects online and store-based businesses of retailers through a fully fledged Omnichannel Fulfillment System. It handles all processes, from order distribution, supporting in-store processes, inventory management, shipping to the customer and returns, digitally. Retailers benefit from more efficient and flexible fulfillment processes, improved resource utilization, and shorter delivery times.

“We provide innovative and easy-to-use software tools that simplify the complexities of omni-channel fulfillment in retailing,” explains Tim Dauer, Vice President, Technology at fulfillmentttools. “We provide fulfillment solutions for chain stores, but also in general for omni-channel retailers that operate both online shops and physical branches.”

THE CHALLENGE

Handling more complex queries

fulfillmenttools is building a powerful API first developed platform, accompanied by an Android native app as well as web-based clients. It operates in the cloud as a SaaS application. Its database needs were originally handled by Firestore on Google Firebase, and while this met many of the early requirements set by fulfillmenttools, such as enabling a rapid time to market, problems began to emerge.

Backups could only be carried out through database dumps, leading to risks of inconsistency that the business wasn’t willing to take. A second problem was the developer experience; Firestore’s software development kit (SDK) was limited, and even relatively simple database management tasks were time-consuming and hampered by tooling issues. A third issue was the development time needed to index database queries.

“During the development phase you needed to know what queries were likely to be requested by customers during live operation,” explains Dauer. ”If, for example, I wanted to sort orders by date and then by customers in a certain zip code, I would have needed to build this index ahead of time. At that point it was clear that Firestore and its current range of features wasn’t working for us.”

If fulfillmenttools was to achieve its ambition to become the leading provider in omnichannel fulfillment, it needed a database that would provide solutions to all these issues, and also deliver speed, strong connectivity, a quick ramp-up, and the ability to handle complex queries.

"It's always nice to have a solution to any given problem - be it a tool, a person, a role, whatever” concludes Dauer. ”It's even better to have a good solution that also represents best practice openly. And for us that solution is MongoDB."

Tim Dauer, Vice President Technology, fulfillmenttools

THE SOLUTION

Availability and integration

Although the requirements that fulfillmenttools places on a database may be less intensive than other operators in terms of transaction volumes, the business places particular importance on other critical factors, primarily availability and the ability to integrate vertically.

“I'd heard good examples of how MongoDB provides innovations on multiple levels, be it search or mobile device management,” says Dauer. “But what convinced us was the excellent feedback from developers about working with MongoDB. The user community is very large and readily available, and the solution integrates with our cloud provider very effectively.”

Dauer’s primary target for MongoDB Atlas was to provide a quick and effective replacement to its previous solution. fulfillmenttools ran Atlas in parallel with Firestore, gradually syncing data until engineers were happy that both databases had the same content. The switch was then completed by simply changing the read access solely to Atlas.

“It was very easy; we just did it step by step and there was no loss of service,” explains Dauer. “We achieved a completely normal migration to MongoDB Atlas, with nothing wild or unexpected. It was completely painless and highly effective.”

“Our Customer Success team is very excited about the possibilities available to them by harnessing data. It’s so easy to manage that people can just do it themselves, and that’s a decisive reason why we are investing further in MongoDB.”

Tim Dauer, Vice President Technology, fulfillmenttools

THE RESULTS

Cloud-based best practice

While fulfillmenttools may have initially looked to MongoDB Atlas as a replacement for its previous database, other features and advantages quickly became apparent to Dauer and other departments within the business. MongoDB Charts in particular have proved to be very popular.

“Our Customer Success team is very excited about the possibilities available to them by harnessing data,” says Dauer. “It’s so easy to manage that people can just do it themselves, and that’s a decisive reason why we are investing further in MongoDB.”

As a provider of a SaaS solution itself, fulfillmenttools also saw the importance of a cloud-based platform that worked effectively on Google Cloud.

“We don't even have any on-premises systems for our internal organization. We have a network switch in our server room - that's about how much on-premise we are. Everything we operate is in the Cloud,” says Dauer. “That's very important; that's the present and of course the future for us. We're aiming to deliver a product that is SaaS across the board and serverless.”

The longer-term goal is that fulfillmenttools continues to provide excellent customer service while its software and MongoDB work efficiently but unnoticed in the background, enabling staff to focus on doing what they do best, and with the best available tools.

"It's always nice to have a solution to any given problem - be it a tool, a person, a role, whatever” concludes Dauer. ”It's even better to have a good solution that also represents best practice openly. And for us that solution is MongoDB."

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