Unique E-commerce System

  • The client is a US e-commerce selling luxurious Italian fashion brands worldwide.
  • We started the project supporting the client in system migration from a monolith to a modern microservice-based architecture.
  • Our main goal was to transition without interrupting daily operations keeping the system running at all time.
  • At the same time, we were presented with many ideas for new features we've been designing and implementing.
  • Our team replaced the client's team over time, and now the whole development, support, project and product management are on our side.
Italist is an eCommerce like no other.

They have a network of Italian partner boutiques and offer over 1,500 luxury brands, making them accessible to the world with their tailor-made system. A web application is the center of gravity.

First fittings

In 2014 a unique startup was born in Silicon Valley with a promise to bring Italian fashion brands to the world, keeping Italian retail prices and delivering the product to customers from 180+ countries in 2-4 business days. All that while upholding the highest standards, verifying partner boutiques on-site, and training them to meet required product and packaging quality.

The Italist's business model had to be supported by a custom system to handle all twists and turns of global retail, starting with over 200,000 products in a catalog through a payment system to worldwide shipping.

The system was designed and built up as a PHP monolith, but after some time, and with a growing client base and partnership network, it started to get to the point where it was no longer maintainable nor extensible.

The client was looking for a backend-proficient tech partner to plan and execute the migration seamlessly, keeping the system operating. We were happy to take on the challenge.

Cutting and sewing the fabric

The first step was to plan the architecture of a new system. We teamed up with the client's CTO and agreed on microservices written in GoLang and orchestrated in Kubernetes.

The second step is an ongoing process of selecting a system part that we will migrate. Our goal here is to keep the system going without interruptions and develop new features simultaneously. We take small steps, consistently moving more and more pieces to the new instance and integrating them with the legacy system.

The biggest challenge here is the infrastructure robustness as it has to support many aspects of business and handle peaks in several sessions, e.g., during seasonal sales or Black Friday.

Accessories make everything better

The migration process was going very well, so we started developing new system features.

"They've made our collaboration effortless and pleasant; we can't imagine working without them now."
Tim Mansfeld, CTO at Italist

Some of the more significant increments we delivered were:

  • Redesigning the entire web application frontend to meet the highest SEO criteria connected with performance and page structure;
  • Handling more and more 3rd party integrations as the business was growing and becoming present in new markets;
  • Internationalizing the system by building an engine that allowed us to make the web application native to Japanese and Chinese markets (the Arabic right-to-left version was also production-ready);
  • Supporting Italts's marketing team by automating remarketing processes such as user tracking followed by personalized mailings.
A custom-tailored set

Some of the burdens of having a dispersed team is a communication clog between business and development. As the business priorities have high dynamics, we have to have a high level of understanding to stay flexible and react to them quickly.

That’s why we put some big effort into starting end-to-end project management on our side after the client’s PM let them know she would be leaving soon. We’ve added PM and PO to our team and made the transition go very smoothly. We're now better suited to work in the US timezone and can plan our work miles ahead.

To optimize the workflow, we divided our development team into smaller squads to keep the team collaboration and peer reviews possible but make the artifacts (meetings, planning, etc.) as short and efficient as possible.

This way, Sparkbit is now at the core of Italist platform development, tightening the connection with the business and supporting its growth.

Sparkbit has the intellectual rigor to handle quite difficult problems that are at the intersection of, for example, distributed systems, AI and the specific vertical that your business is.
Tim MansfieldCTOItalist