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What on Earth is Hyperscale Commerce? ASOS has the Answer

Thinking


The number one fashion destination for 20 somethings knows a thing or two about scale; it has built one of the fastest-growing and most successful ecommerce fashion businesses from zero to £1.5bn in only 15 years, and now boasts 13.4 million active customers, 125 million unique visitors per annum and 100 million page views daily.

Even the smallest amount of down time is costly, considering that it depends on the Black Friday peak for a significant percentage of its annual revenues. In fact, for some pureplay retailers, the Black Friday peak can represent as much as 10% of their annual revenues; a simple calculation reveals that one hour’s downtime on Black Friday would prevent them trading to the tune of £6.25 million. And this is before even calculating the forward impact of down time on customer expectations and negative media coverage.

And protecting revenues and customer equity is not just down to availability but to page loading speeds as well. Customers will not wait, with the result they will move to competing web sites unless they can access information quickly.

Customer equity is also down to consistency of service. ASOS is an extremely ambitious company and sought early in its life to become a global player. It always made the commitment that it would try to offer the same level of service in every single one of its territories no matter how distant from its UK heartland, in contrast to other ecommerce players that provide a steadily worsening service as distances increase.

New Platform

ASOS agreed in 2011 that the software stack that had enabled it to grow from scratch would not support its next stage of growth.

As Bob Strudwick, CTO of ASOS explained, it was no longer able to innovate and add new capabilities. It needed a new global architecture. “We wanted to start where we would have most impact and that was on the customer experience.” And a large part of the customer experience lies not just with how the web site looks but in how it performs for ecommerce. The new platform supports as many as 30 distinct transaction sets, including identification, product, bag, check out and payments.

The platform had to be flexible in other ways, so that ASOS was able to experiment and innovate; and of course it needed to be mobile first reflecting the growing number of customers who browse and order through their phones. And it needed to be able to personalise pages on the fly in order to create a more meaningful experience for individual customers.

As Simon Evans, CTO of Amido explained, “It is no good being locked into an experience that is at least no worse than Amazon.”

And it also wanted to be able to keep pace with developments in e-commerce such as augmented reality and conversational commerce, so that customers are able to interact more meaningfully with the site.

When designing and building these kinds of systems, you need specialist advice from a best of breed cloud partner. With their expertise in cloud-based hyperscale transactional systems and their previous work on customer identity management, we trusted Amido to help us in our next stage of growth
Bob Strudwick, CTO, ASOS

An Independent Air

With this level of control, it was clear that ASOS wanted as much independence as possible, rather than relying on the limitations of a packaged e-commerce platform.

It wanted to be able to make enhancements itself in order to take advantage of new business opportunities and to deploy in any combination of services anywhere in the world. This meant designing the new platform to support global growth in terms of being able to offer multiple languages, payment and delivery methods, but all of them appropriate to each territory.

ASOS chose to deploy in the Cloud on Microsoft Azure, as it was already familiar with Microsoft technologies, and had always bought into the concept of platform as a service. ‘When designing and building these kinds of systems, you need specialist advice from a best of breed cloud partner. With their expertise in cloud-based hyperscale transactional systems and their previous work on customer identity management, we trusted Amido to help us in our next stage of growth,’ Strudwick explained.

It is no good being locked into an experience that is at least no worse than Amazon
Simon Evans, CTO, Amido

ASOS’ need for scale can be described in three distinct areas

1) Transaction Volumes

13.4 million active customers, 125 million unique visitors per annum and 100 million page views daily.

2) Service

The ability to trade in any territory with the same level of service as the UK and rapidly deploy in new regions.

3) Availability

99.99% availability and full disaster recovery in every territory and the highest redundancy of any ecommerce platform anywhere in the world

During Halloween 2016, we offered 20% off everything and this turned out to be the day when we had our busiest ever hour. Over the period, we had 25 million bags opened and 650 requests a second. Average bag size went up by 20%
Bob Strudwick, CTO, ASOS

Strudwick concluded by saying, “The next exciting challenge will be to start to make greater inroads into our enormous volumes of data, as we want to develop deeper insights into our customers’ needs and buying behaviours.”

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