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Emma –The Sleep Company rises and shines with modern e-commerce solutions

Emma –The Sleep Company rises and shines with modern e-commerce solutions

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Emma – The Sleep Company, a leading direct-to-customer sleep brand, has selected commercetools and Fluent Commerce to provide a new e-commerce platform for its rapidly growing business.

The retailer, which sold 1.5 million mattresses in 2020 in more than 30 countries, is famous for its foam Emma Mattress – which is commonly ordered online and delivered to consumers in a box. This business is rapidly growing with an annual revenue of €405M in 2020 which is a 170% increase on the previous year.  

Committed to providing the best shopping experience for customers, Emma decided to replace its e-commerce platform to better support business growth plans. The company selected commercetools, a MACH Alliance member, whose platform is built on modern MACH principles – Microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless) and supports Emma’s technology strategy, as its online store backbone.

Alongside commercetools, Emma chose a distributed Order Management System (OMS) from Fluent Commerce (also a MACH Alliance member) to streamline online and offline order management, providing a single view of global inventory and the ability to fulfil and return customer orders in the future more efficiently.

AyataCommerce, a technology services company, helped Emma with the rollout of the new distributed OMS. Fluent Order Management will be rolled out to more than 30 countries, including the USA, UK, China and India. The rollout kickstarted in Colombia in August 2021, just few months after the partnership was formed, and will incrementally cover all current and future markets. Emma aims to complete the rollout in 2022.

Andreas Westendörpf, CTO at Emma – The Sleep Company, said: “The commercetools platform is one of the cornerstones of Emma’s new composable e-commerce architecture. In this partnership, we share a high degree of strategic principles and practices of software engineering with the goal to provide agility to our rapidly growing business.

“commercetools is the first e-commerce platform to be designed for headless and cloud-native from inception, with excellent developer tooling and thus our choice for the e-commerce backbone. We are happy to have found the perfect partners for Emma’s e-commerce platform of the future.

“Emma is on a steep growth trajectory with the aim of doubling in revenue every 12 to 24 months. Ensuring we build the best technology platform that enables our business to scale and stay agile is key to our success. 

“With Fluent Commerce we found a partner that shares a high degree of strategic principles and practices of software engineering with the goal to not only meet customer demand but exceed their expectations.” 

Intelligent SME.tech spoke to Westendörpf to find out more about the project.

Andreas Westendörpf, CTO at Emma – The Sleep Company. Photo: Mortiz Reich

What challenges were you experiencing with your existing e-commerce platform?

If you start like Emma did in 2013 – as a start-up – you design your IT systems with tools and knowledge available to you to get the business running and growing. In only a few years, we successfully scaled our business to more than 30 countries, to €405m in revenue and 1.5 million mattresses sold in 2020. Although already running on the cloud, the existing e-commerce system had a legacy monolithic architecture with many customised extensions developed over the years, servicing the business as it grew. This inevitably accumulated a lot of functionality that did not provide distinguishing intellectual value to the company, but that nonetheless needed to be maintained and operated.

In this set-up there were a lot of hands involved to implement even simple changes and that prevented us from scaling our organisation. We had more than 30 market teams going through the same bottleneck of software development. That needed to change. Beyond scalability, another issue holding us back from becoming business agile was fragility. The technical debt of the old tech stack became a burden – often up to 30% of development capacity was necessary to fix bugs occurring by unwanted side effects during development. And more than occasionally, the platform would break.

Reviewing the status quo and anticipating Emma’s highly ambitious business goals, it became apparent that the current technical landscape would not enable us to further scale our business as quickly as we did in the past. That is why we took a leap forward to modern software development and designed the e-commerce architecture of the future.

Why did you select commercetools and Fluent Commerce as vendors for this project?

We defined key principles and paradigms of modern, cloud-native software development that the solution candidates would need to follow to match our expectations. Given the fact that website delivery performance is critically important for e-commerce conversion rate, and having our globally-spanning, fast-paced business in mind, we wanted to make sure the solutions could fulfil our requirements with the least effort possible – especially in terms of infrastructure. Also, looking into the future, we made sure the technologies we selected would not only work for e-commerce today but could support the challenges of the new and exciting area of sleep tech and IoT ahead of us in two or three years.

Part of these principles are flexibility, performance and organisational scalability, as well as a harmonised software development.

As these principles partly overlap with the MACH Alliance manifest, it is no surprise the solutions of commercetools and Fluent Commerce are part of our target architecture. commercetools was chosen as the vendor for the Emma e-commerce backbone, since it is providing the industry leading headless e-commerce platform and is highly flexible and extensible, with excellent developer tooling. Fluent Commerce OMS was selected as the best fitting Order Management System.

How did AyataCommerce enable a seamless implementation during the first phase of the rollout?

AyataCommerce supported us to get going with the Fluent Commerce Order Management System and have it swiftly set-up and configured for launching our first two markets, Colombia and Chile, within just a couple of months. They are strong partners of Fluent Commerce and were able to immediately bridge the knowledge gap that occurs when selecting a new, complex system and the need to model business operations into it. 

How will you manage the rollout across other geographic locations and what is the timescale for this?

We are currently active in more than 30 countries. At Emma we refer to three classes of business footprints in a market that has an increasing complexity.

A deep understanding of the respective business requirements is the basis of the global rollout of our re-platforming project. The details of the business in our markets are quite different, so complexity in terms of the required features also differs heavily. 

At the same time, these requirements need to be challenged. Using the MoSCoW (Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, Won’t Have this time) classification method, this rigid process helps us to minimise the requirements intake and increases speed for a first working version. Through this, we quickly get to the point of running the business of a country entirely on the new platform and thus can stop developing features for it on the legacy one.

We did not plan the rollout of our business onto the new platform as a ‘big bang’ scenario where you flip the switch for all of the business in a single instance. Instead, we used an incremental approach, starting with as little complexity as possible, i.e., with new and small markets, while then unlocking the more complex markets case by case. We are thrilled to have successfully rolled out the first countries and are now preparing intensively for the higher complexity class of markets.

Another key element of our approach is that we are building blueprints for each complexity class and replicate rollouts in similar countries in parallel by dedicated rollout teams. This way, we plan to finish the rollout of all markets within the ambitious timeline of 18 months, ceasing development of the old platform by mid 2022.

What are the key benefits of these solutions?

As we are still very early in our development of the new platform and its global rollout, the primary effects to enable business agility and running business development actively in parallel in more than 30 markets are yet to come. However, what we already see is that, due to better architectural de-coupling and separation of concerns, discussions and decisions on where to implement certain business logic are more straightforward and localised so teams can work on multiple topics concurrently.

How much of a priority is customer experience in your technology strategy?

Creating a delightful customer experience while being able to rapidly iterate business development with minimal effort is key for us. It is where the sweet spot of the customer, the business and technology resides, and our ambition is nothing less but being at the centre of it.

How far has technology been a key growth enabler for your business?

We are a digital company and the beating heart of our business today is e-commerce. Therefore, technology has always been part of our company and of our growth success story. At Emma, it gets even more exciting. Beyond what I consider the second degree of digitisation, meaning e-commerce and everything you need to sell or distribute your conventional products, we also do the first degree of digitisation. This is where technology becomes the product itself. At Emma, we work intensively in this ‘sleep tech’ domain to research, design and implement smart products that will actively improve people’s sleep. Stay tuned. 

How far will this technology enable your organisations to scale further?

As we keep extending our markets, channels, and products, a scalable, robust and flexible platform for e-commerce and fulfilment is key for long-term and sustainable growth in both direct-to-consumer as well as B2B business. We are confident that our re-platforming endeavour and the result of a new composable platform enables Emma to sustain its stellar growth trajectory.

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