Conrad is one of the leading German B2B and B2C online retailers in the electronics sector. As a central procurement platform, the transformation from a pure shop system to a marketplace-oriented business model was implemented already in 2017. The onsite product search feature plays a key role in customer communication – especially in light of the heterogeneity of the electronics product range. The FACT-Finder standard search used in the previous online store already had severe performance limitations with a product range size of 750,000 items. Scaling the product catalogue to the targeted 10 million product data records in the new marketplace while simultaneously increasing the previous search speed was no longer a realistic prospect for the e-commerce management team at Conrad.
In addition, the numerous feature requests from demanding B2B and tech-savvy B2C customers as well as from internal experts could not be realized with the standard software, or only with very long waiting times. At the central interface between the product catalogue and customers’ needs, Conrad was dependent on the release cycle of the standard software vendor. This presented a big challenge because established e-commerce competitors in particular rely on own custom solutions so they can react quickly to the individual demands arising in their specialized product ranges.
The Avantgarde Labs solution
The optimization potential offered by a custom search application was recognized early on by Avantgarde Labs and implemented in advance through a prototype based on Elasticsearch, which included Conrad’s own product data. Top management, the PIM department and various specialist departments were enthused not only about the performance benchmarks, but also about the new search features, which convinced them of the potential a custom solution held. To validate the prototype as quickly as possible under real conditions in the shop, the existing search application was incorporated into the real data distribution service, the Conrad shop frontend was expanded to include the new features, and the Elasticsearch cluster was migrated to the Conrad GCP IT infrastructure, all in an initial project phase. After only 6 weeks with 2 developers and 1 project manager, the go-live for the Conrad custom solution was realized in an A/B test with the current standard solution from FACT-Finder.
The new e-commerce search feature developed by Avantgarde Labs achieved significantly better performance in benchmarked metrics such as CTR, add2Cart and revenue generated right from the start, i.e. even before any optimizations based on actual user behaviour. Based on the very positive results of the A/B test, the Conrad management decided to roll out the search solution developed by Avantgarde Labs in all B2B and B2C online shops in Europe. In this final project phase, the product quality was transferred from the initial, fast prototype to the productive search application through modularization and test automation. Additional requirements called for by the specialist departments, such as improvement of the search logic for the specific electronics product range or new features, such as range faceting or real-time store availabilities, could then also be implemented for the first time.
Project results & customer benefits
Conrad’s custom onsite product search not only created a significant improvement in the scalability of performance during peak loads, but also simultaneously created future-proofing for the planned growth in product data the marketplace strategy entails. Customer experience benefits include a higher search speed, faster deployment of new product data, highly accurate and relevant search results, including automatic correction of any possible faulty search queries, the avoidance of empty result sets through the presentation of suitable, alternative products and the display of real availabilities in local stores and warehouses.
Efficient access to all product assets provides customers with another important benefit, especially in the area of spare parts trading, since the compatibility information from the manuals of the products sold is also available. This increased the conversion rate sustainably and strengthened Conrad’s market position. The new search application has been undergoing continuous refinement since the go-live. New features can be rolled out with a shorter time to market and be evaluated and adapted based on customers’ actual usage behaviour.