Fashion is a dynamic industry and any fashion retail business needs to be as agile as possible, particularly in the present era of e-commerce and instant customer gratification. This is a reality that the Scandinavian based fashion chain Lindex is all too aware of, having been around since the 1950s. Currently Lindex has 470 stores in Scandinavia, Central Europe, Baltic states, Middle East, and the UK, with an employee base of over 5,000. Their business is underscored by sustainability, as 55% of their clothing is made from sustainable materials. Lindex decided to enhance their digital services by exposing APIs over their existing monolithic architecture. This enabled them to build applications that improved user experiences for both customers and employees.
Move With The Times
15 years ago, Lindex began their first foray into e-commerce. This was very much an experimental project, where a team was tasked with designing a platform and more importantly, monitoring customer responses to such a platform. Lindex started with a monolithic architecture which had worked satisfactorily for a decade. But there was a snag - they had accumulated a lot of technical debt over the years and moreover, security models had changed. It was time to try something new. Lindex considered open source, as they understood that it provides greater extensibility and flexibility when building a solution.
That something new was the development of a customer loyalty app - their change agent. Lindex wanted an omni-channel app which gave users a hassle free experience, with product information, prices, and promotions being shared between the app, website, and stores. They were clear that they did not want to integrate this new system with the existing monolith and furthermore, they also knew that a new team was needed.
The new platform consisted of customer loyalty app, the new ‘My Store’ app, and other customer experience solutions on the top layer, all to be exposed via an API layer. Once Lindex had completed the implementation of this first set of APIs it immediately became apparent that different levels of complexity within the backend systems would require different versioning of each of the created API's moving forward as each monolithic application was adapted to become digital. It was recognized that the team would require some form of management for the API framework and a business case was undertaken to assess a number of API Manager systems which complied with industry standards and more importantly, would work seamlessly with their existing customer repository. Lindex also had a preference for a security solution that was able to work seamlessly with their existing customer repository. These requirements, along with the need for an open source solution, led them to WSO2 API Manager (which addresses API management, development, and integration). They also chose WSO2 Identity Server, which is optimized for identity federation and single-sign.
Multiple Teams for Multiple Customer Experiences
While the app team was developing the new application, Lindex’s team responsible for their existing monolithic architecture was busy refactoring the code in order to expose functionality in the customer shopping experience - i.e. features like shopping cart, wish list, pricing, promotions, and order details. They also had other development teams working on other areas of customer experience simultaneously. The ‘My Store’ program was upgraded, they were able to create a ‘My Stock’ app and a ‘My Customer’ app (when in-store personnel were acting on behalf of customers). During the complex process of setting up multiple levels of authentication across different user groups, Lindex found that WSO2 Identity Server provided the authentication capabilities needed for these apps. In total, there were 5 teams working on enhancing customer experience and there are plans for expansion.
Like their initial venture to e-commerce, this project has also been an experimental one for Lindex, to understand what works best and adds business value. They now believe that a gradual replacement of backend functionality is what works for them. “Thanks to WSO2 and the open source model, this has been a breeze. It’s been risk-free for us. The middleware has been rock solid from the get-go really,” says Johan Edling, an enterprise IT architect at Lindex.
Some Lessons Learnt Along the Way
Lindex gained some valuable insights when they worked on this project, and if they were to return to square one, their key advice to others starting this journey would be as follows:
- Set up API statistics right at the start of the project, even if it looks expensive at first glance. Failing to do so is not the best course of action.
- Time is always important - time must not only be allocated to the development of API resources, but to changes you anticipate as well.
- Perform automatic testing of API resources and ensure that teams working on the project have the relevant API development skills are things to consider.
- Document error handling guidelines.
With the new API design in place, Lindex now offers a modern shopping experience for their customers.
For more details, watch Johan’s talk.