AWS-native personal shopping assistant portal for a leading luxury department store chain

AWS-native personal shopping assistant portal for a leading luxury department store chain

Jul 22, 2022 • 3 min read

Unique shopping experience portal to optimize personal assistant interactions for select customers, designed and implemented as a greenfield AWS-native solution.

The customer

Our client is an American chain of luxury department stores focusing on high-end curated products and excellent customer service, including unique experiences like personal shopping assistants and more.

The challenge

The client operated the majority of its e-commerce experience based on legacy ATG logic hosted in a private datacenter. This slowed down and increased efforts to support and extend the system with new functionality required to meet changing customer and business needs.

Grid Dynamics was engaged to support the client’s vision of providing new ways to shop by creating a set of omnichannel experience solutions developed separately from the main system. The long-term strategy is to migrate all (or the majority of) workloads to the cloud, with AWS being the platform of choice.

The solution

Without the new functionality, there was a significant gap between in-store and online experiences. To resolve this, Grid Dynamics developed a custom application that facilitated new ways for sales associates and personal stylists to collaborate.

Later on, with the addition of another application that blends content and commerce for consumers on the go (also developed by Grid Dynamics), the new application allowed sales associates and personal stylists to work directly with a select group of privileged customers and engage seamlessly across channels. The solution was able to provide unique differentiating experiences for customers that helped improve conversions, customer loyalty, and ultimately provide impactful business value for the company.

The technology

The solution is based on an AWS-native technology stack and heavily employs AWS API gateway, SNS, Kinesis, S3, DynamoDB, and other AWS-specific technologies, as well as featuring integration with Okta to facilitate authentication for personal shoppers (company employees). The business logic is represented by a set of Lambda functions, which are built and deployed to AWS via CI/CD pipelines implemented company-wide.

Why AWS Lambda?

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that runs your code in response to events while managing the underlying compute resources automatically for you. You can use AWS Lambda to extend other AWS services with custom logic, or create your own back-end services that operate at AWS scale, performance, and security. AWS Lambda can automatically run code in response to multiple events, such as HTTP requests via Amazon API Gateway, modifications to objects in Amazon S3 buckets, table updates in Amazon DynamoDB, and state transitions in AWS Step Functions.

There are still physical hardware and virtualization layers even for the "serverless" environments, but they are hidden from the application engineers standpoint. One of the main advantages of the serverless approach is that there is no need to maintain any servers or containers explicitly.

For the particular project in question, the main driving factors for choosing AWS Lambda over alternatives were:

  • Speed. As there is no infrastructure management overhead, the solution naturally reduces overhead on engineering and maintenance of the infrastructure layer.
  • Scalability. As the scale factors for the Lambda-based workloads are managed by AWS automatically to some extent, there is no need to over-provision or put engineering efforts into complex logic in order to accommodate burst loads.
  • Cost optimization. Combined with dynamic scaling taken care of by the AWS platform, the Lambda functions are billed on a “pay as you go” principle, which can dramatically reduce the costs in case usage patterns are not known in advance or expected to be irregular.
  • Integrations with other AWS services. As the solution is built off an AWS-backed technology stack, having native integration between components is a key factor to smooth execution of the project. AWS Lambda comes with all the integrations required for this project “out of the box”, allowing engineers to focus on business logic rather than technical aspects of integrating the components together.

The results

The solution was able to bring new and unique experiences for the client’s shopping assistants (and later customers) as part of the overall omnichannel platform initiative. It proved extremely effective as the pandemic hit and disrupted the usual business model of department store retailers, allowing the client to continue conducting business and delivering excellence to its customers via personalized shopping experiences.

Sales associates have used the platform to support over 1.5 million engagements in the first 3 months following its release. This includes texts, emails, phone and video calls, leading to additional purchases totaling more than $60 million dollars.

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