What the Heck is Spryker?
What is Spryker, and why it is the best solution for a big number of use cases? These two questions are regularly discussed on the web as well as in our daily talks with potential customers and developers. It’s hard to compare Spryker with existing solutions, primarily because most existing solutions date back to a different era and therefore address different problems. The world seems to turn a little faster every day and a few platforms gain more and more daily customer traction as Spryker does. Single market players need a new mindset to meet the challenges of the digital age - and they need the right tools. They need tools that allow to expand by constantly experimenting and exploring what works for their company. They also need to do this without constantly burning loads of time and money.
Spryker has created just such a tool. The Spryker Commerce OS is an operating system for commerce. It allows to implement various use cases for sales and distribution in the digital age. So, is it a bird? Is it a plane? Or is it an online shop? Yes, yes and yes. Certainly, you can create online shops based on Spryker - but you can and should use it for so much more. Even now, customers interact with companies in various ways using diverse technologies and devices. Besides conventional computers, this includes mobile devices, both using local browsers as well as native apps. But alternative interfaces such as; voice control, blockchain, IoT applications not to mention creating innovative appliances that upgrade traditional in-store experiences are becoming more and more important. Only one thing is for sure: the diversity of customer interfaces is on an exponential growth path and nobody can predict for sure what the future will look like for customer interactions and outreach in the future.
One system to rule them all?!
You may be asking yourself, how can a single software solution provide all these optimized interfaces at once? Dozens of software companies have promised to deliver mega bombastic multipurpose ecommerce solutions suitable for every use case and fallen short on their promises. So, what’s so different about our product? What makes Spryker special?
A sharp differentiator between Spryker and any other ecommerce platform or product in the market is that Spryker was never intended to be a product. In the past 15 years, a thriving start-up culture spread all over Berlin. In super competitive environments such as Project A Ventures, people were constantly creating and discarding new ideas at insane speeds. Therefore, projects had to be implemented first and scaled massively only after successful validation of the business case. Obviously, in this situation, starting from scratch each time is not an efficient path. However, using standard platforms was also quickly found to be an inferior solution: the available platforms were too ponderous for constant adaptation and in the majority of cases they could not be scaled to high volume in a short time frame without investing a fortune
That is why VC companies created so-called ‘company builders’ to make investments in new business models more efficient and reconcilable. Company builders are software platforms that enable companies to implement, roll-out and scale diverse business models in short time frames. Such platforms have to meet a some fundamental requirements:
- In general, different business models have completely different requirements. Therefore, the platform has to be extremely flexible to adapt them.
- VC companies often invest in completely new and untested business cases. Nobody knows upfront how the software is supposed to be designed to be successful. That means lots of quick changes within the software development lifecycle. This requires the code be of extremely high quality - to support the project but moreover when it is a common platform used by many projects.
- To grow a business model fast, the software has to scale well. Nothing is more frustrating for merchants and customers than when a good marketing campaign falls flat because of a dead server. Performance and scalability cannot be regarded as features that may be introduced along the way - they have to be rooted within the system’s architecture from the get-go.
As if this wasn’t already hard enough, technological progress in general and the internet in particular are constantly speeding up. Sometimes, this can make a new business case obsolete even before the project is even published. In the majority of cases, companies need to take the situations and ways customers use their services into consideration: do they work with a browser at work or use their tablet late at night? Are they gathering information with their smartphone on the way to work? Or are they in the kitchen looking for a specific solution from Alexa while their hands are full cooking? In some cases, isn’t really a need for a real person at all: empty or expired milk or an overdue inspection? Why order it yourself when you can have an intelligent device to automatically do it for you?
Spryker: The Making-of
Until the end of 2014, Spryker was such a company builder. The technology wasn’t intended to be used as a product but rather as a foundation for internal projects. Its purpose was to make developers’ lives easier and improve project implementation efficiency. Obviously, a proven platform is a valuable asset not only for Project-A but for many other companies in the field of commerce. It was at this point that the spin-off of the platform as a product was born. At the time, the platform had been tested a couple of dozen times. On top of that, every time a project was implemented, the team deepened their understanding of ecommerce requirements and rebuilt 20 to 30 percent of the platform to meet these standards. Platforms primarily intended as a product very rarely have the opportunity to do huge feedback loops like that, but for an internal platform it’s very important to incorporate the learnings. Today, Spryker customers use the same learnings to their advantage.
A direct result of such enlightenment is the system’s architecture: Resulting from learnings in diverse projects, it became clear that it’s really hard to build one application that meets so many diverse requirements at the same time. People expect ecommerce applications to provide complex business logic with big data and business intelligence while at the same time perform at optimal levels in terms or response times, scalability and adaptability to all sorts of different devices. In fact, these areas of expertise more often than not are accompanied by different types of people in the same organization.
So, what do I get with Spryker?
Spryker is committed to give you all of the above and much more. To fulfill our commitment we divided our solution into two different applications: the Spryker Commerce OS and the apps for different front-ends. The Commerce OS provides business logic aggregated into capabilities. This includes all digital commerce software essential functions such as product data structures, price calculation, availability, workflows for customers and orders and many more. Moreover, it is not a black box merchants have to use as-is: rather an extremely modular system that allows you to do whatever you need to get your job done as a merchant:
- Use features out of the box, to support your business cases
- Drop features, you don’t need at all or yet.
- Adapt all data structures and processes to your business’ requirements.
- Seamlessly integrate external systems into your existing processes or replace the processes completely by calling systems like ERP, CRM or warehouse management to fulfill the job.
- Add your specific data and processes to address your customers’ needs accordingly.
That said, it’s not about being happy with the same old stories standard systems try to sell you. It’s more about using our strong functional foundation as a starting point and taking little steps towards bringing your company’s vision to light. This path will always include multiple changes of direction and investments to stay one step ahead of your competition while always maintaining a strong focus on your customers.
To serve customers properly, different (but not separate) Apps can be added targeting different customer touchpoints. For the time being online shops are by far the most important app, which is why Spryker ships a powerful Shop App out of the box. It contains all popular features but also a sophisticated foundation for modern front-ends including essential mobile optimization. Nevertheless, numbers speak for themselves: the desktop-centric online shop is slowly but surely becoming less important. Some business modules understandably want to shift focus to younger target audiences that already almost exclusively focus on mobile devices. Being able to experiment with new customer channels while optimizing working ones at the same time will be a deciding factor for future success.
Luckily, the underlying business logic does not largely depend on certain customer channels. This is why multiple Apps can leverage the same capabilities of one strong business logic back-end, the Spryker Commerce OS. Customers get a consistent, conclusive and coherent view on their data, orders and favorite products. Ultimately, allowing you to try out new channels within a couple of weeks, maybe even days depending on the business case.