No retailer is exempt from the rush of “bursty data” flows that result from fluctuations in demand volumes. But it’s how these changes in demand are handled from a technological perspective that will keep retailers and supply chain and logistics providers in step with surges in information flows and increasing customer expectations. An event-driven architecture (EDA) strategy can help.
Can You Plan for the Unexpected?
When combined with rising production costs, first- and last-mile logistics costs, inventory shortages and overages, even abandoned online shopping carts, retailers are under immense pressure to compete in a volatile landscape.
An effective plan for dealing with significant upticks in demand is essential. Recent peak planning research has shown 95% of merchants have had to adjust their planning in response to supply chain disruptions and market conditions. Market disruption is not uncommon — in fact, on average, companies experience a disruption of one to two months every 3.7 years. Gartner argues that despite recent global economic conditions increasing supply chain resiliency, disruptions have exposed further vulnerabilities that need addressing. Resilience and agility need to be top supply chain priorities.
“Bursty Data” caused by surges and drop-offs in supply and demand must be addressed. It will be those retailers and associated supply chain stakeholders who respond to fast-moving events in the moment, as they happen, that will develop a competitive advantage over those who do not.
At the Ready for the Unexpected
“Bursty” flows of data from significant order volumes during peak times are inevitable for all retailers. Rising consumer demand for real-time services and convenience, combined with increased digitization and interconnectivity, has meant that a real-time view of operations is pivotal, all year round.
To meet these challenges, businesses must reconsider how they think about the flow of business-critical data across a complex ecosystem of suppliers, shippers, distribution partners and retailers. The need to operate and share information in real-time to reach the consumer is greater than ever. As Salesforce research finds, “Economic challenges and shifting consumer preferences mean that leading with a data-driven strategy will be critical to reacting to conditions in real time.”
How an EDA Strategy Can Make All the Difference
Every transaction creates data, from the product purchased and timing, to price and customer name. Developers call that transaction an “event.” Other events may include customer purchases on a mobile app, online returns, staffing disruptions, detecting a vehicle arriving for click and collect, or the last of an inventory item being purchased. The event immediately becomes more complex, and the data created by that event becomes more essential to understanding the role of the event in the flow of business processes.
Event streaming and event management — an emerging technology for powering real-time event-driven businesses — can make all the difference. By having an event-streaming and management platform at the core of an event-driven architecture (EDA) strategy, retailers can centralize all data and distribute it to every application or system within the organization in real time and asynchronously.
Take a Leaf From Grubhub’s Book — Preparation is Key
Not being ready to handle volume bursts can prove to be catastrophic to a retailers’ business and reputation. Take the Grubhub food promotion from last Spring — a mission to feed the entire city of New York during lunch-time hours on a Tuesday. With some restaurants not being notified of this promotion, food vendors faced an unprecedented and unsustainable volume of orders, with many customers not receiving their food at all. Of course, stating “we appreciate your patience” amid complaints while simultaneously taking to Twitter during the two-hour promo period to continue to advertise the offer, did not satisfy hungry and angry customers. This was a spike that certainly could and should have been prepared for.
EDA: Overcoming Challenges, No Matter the Location
Of course, enabling consistently fast, reliable, and robust integration processes across diverse business functions is no easy task for a company — particularly for those that frequently see data come in large bursts from geographically dispersed sources. That “bursty” data flow can overwhelm integration platforms that rely on point-to-point communication via synchronous APIs. This can result in duplicate orders, delayed or lost orders, lost revenue and ultimately, unhappy customers.
An event-driven approach will overcome the challenges of “bursty” data flows. It uses advanced event-broker technology to buffer data to help prevent systems from being bottlenecked and overwhelmed due to surges in traffic, and is supported by an event mesh that dynamically distributes data events.
In this way, event-driven architecture (EDA) manages “bursty” data flows regardless of application type or capacity of location, and leads to improved response and processing times that avoid any damaging impact on consumer-facing operations.
The dynamic and robust EDA layer underpins legacy integration and API management technology, allowing companies to “see” data from external parties, prevent data loss, mitigate system failures, and guarantee business continuity in the case of cloud or iPaaS outage. It’s a win-win for retailers, the supply chain, and customers.
Keep “Bursty” Data Flow Nightmares at Bay – Technology Provides the Solution
Effectively managing surges in demand will need an overarching software solution. Not only will it help with performance and operational efficiency, but it will improve brand reputations — keeping consumers satisfied and bottom lines healthy.
Ush Shukla is a distinguished engineer at Solace.
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