GearLaunch: Delivering ecommerce solutions at scale

About GearLaunch

GearLaunch quickly provisions complete ecommerce solutions for online businesses so they can compete with established retailers. Custom storefronts, payment processing, on-demand printing, and other services enable small businesses to sell branded merchandise online without investing in inventory.

Industries: Retail, Technology
Location: United States

As the GearLaunch customer base grows rapidly, its lean engineering team relies on Google Cloud Platform to deliver highly reliable, responsive services.

Google Cloud Results

  • Provisions thousands of customers with a small development team
  • Achieves near-zero downtime using a NoOps development model
  • Scales business to meet seasonal spikes and rapid increases in customer base

Customer base on track to grow 10x over the next year

Competition for online retail shoppers’ attention has never been more intense. Small, niche retailers must work ever harder to create online storefronts to attract buyers and close sales. This applies not only to retail ventures like crafters and solo designers, but also to nonprofits and entrepreneurs who may look to online sales to help cover business operating costs or enhance their reach with branded merchandise.

GearLaunch equips these merchants and operations with a customizable storefront, shopping cart functionality, and a way to print merchandise, such as t-shirts and hats, on demand. Small organizations typically can’t afford to keep large inventories in stock. By offering a complete catalogue of high-quality, customizable, print-on-demand items, GearLaunch expands opportunities for retailers of all sizes, including the entire Shopify merchant base with a recent partnership with the online storefront giant.

Shopify plans to offer GearLaunch as part of its services portfolio, creating the potential to double the GearLaunch customer base in the next 12 months. “GearLaunch experienced one of the fastest uptakes in Shopify app store history. Given Shopify's massive merchant base, simply tracking to current traffic numbers could push GearLaunch to nearly 10-fold growth in the first year,” says Chase Garber, Vice President of Engineering at GearLaunch.

“Demands for ecommerce services can spike at any time based on any number of factors. Google Cloud Platform gives us an elastic infrastructure that automatically scales to meet demands.”

Aaron Roller, Software Engineering Lead, GearLaunch

Handling scale fearlessly

“The inherent speed and flexibility of Google Cloud Platform (GCP) gives us confidence we can meet our extremely aggressive growth targets,” says Chase. The GearLaunch platform is resource intensive, and Google Cloud Storage has been invaluable in handling its demanding large-scale image storage, which includes more than 10 million images.

“The beauty of a Google infrastructure is that it scales automatically. Demands for ecommerce services can spike at any time based on a number of factors, such during special promotions or year-end holidays,” says Aaron Roller, Software Engineering Lead at GearLaunch. “Google Cloud Platform gives us an elastic infrastructure that automatically scales to meet demand.”

Another major benefit of the scalability of GCP is the ability to handle extreme seasonal swings in the GearLaunch business. Last year, GearLaunch generated more than 50 % of its annual revenue in the last three months of the year, with most of that figure generated during a single four-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Because GCP makes it easy to power down unneeded infrastructure, GearLaunch reduces costs. Those cost savings can be passed on to its customers by downscaling during non-peak periods instead of paying for that capacity all year. “If we had to provision for peak usage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, our costs would be at least twice what they are today,” adds Chase.

Maximizing developer resources

GearLaunch has relied on GCP almost since its inception. The organization was born in the cloud and after a brief time using collocated servers, the shift was made to GCP. GearLaunch chose to move to Google because of its reputation for scale and its deep engineering resources. GearLaunch is built on Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, with Compute Engine to support high-performance services and Cloud Storage to handle the large storage required for all the customer sites. With a small development team and a NoOps philosophy that minimizes developer responsibility for infrastructure, GearLaunch is a lean operation.

“Developers can get a development environment up and running very fast on Google Cloud Platform, giving us the ability to move forward with new features and platform improvements at high speed. This efficiency has allowed us to grow the company quickly with a small team of highly effective engineers.”

Chase Garber, Vice President of Engineering, GearLaunch

The GearLaunch IT team appreciates how GCP has minimized setup and maintenance work by abstracting many details into simple UIs and dashboards, removing the need for extra operations staff and allowing developers to focus primarily on programming.

“Developers can get a development environment up and running very quickly on Google Cloud Platform, giving us the ability to move forward with new features and platform improvements at high speed,” says Chase. “This efficiency enabled us to grow the company quickly with a small team of highly effective engineers. We recently brought on a new team of five offshore engineers, and they were able to start on their first project in a day and half.”

Rapid resolution and better experiences

The GearLaunch platform needs rock-solid performance for both buyers and sellers. Sellers need to be able to complete transactions and get inventory to their customers to build their own brands, while buyers have to access the site not only to order, but also to track order and delivery progress. GearLaunch uses Google Stackdriver and Stackdriver Monitoring to monitor service health and detect issues in real time.

“Google BigQuery is outstanding for giving us the deep analytics we need to understand and resolve customer issues. This capability helps us maintain our reputation as the most reliable platform in this space.”

Ritesh Somani, Vice President Product, GearLaunch

When customers experience a problem, errors are usually detected in the browser. Linking them to the source in a specific version of the code is a larger challenge. To identify when a problem started as well as its cause, GearLaunch extracts large volumes of logs from App Engine. It then uses Google BigQuery to provide historical analytics so the GearLaunch support team can drill down to diagnose a problem and fix it.

“Google BigQuery is outstanding for giving us the deep analytics we need to understand and resolve customer issues. This capability helps us maintain our reputation as the most reliable platform in this space,” says Ritesh Somani, Vice President Product at GearLaunch.

Collaboration and security in a distributed workplace

GearLaunch is headquartered in San Francisco, with additional sales, development, and support centers in Salt Lake City, Utah. To enhance collaboration worldwide, GearLaunch uses G Suite, including Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, and Sheets, to provide proven communication tools, calendaring with effortless time zone handling, and better account security.

Not only is GCP security able to handle almost any permission model, but the permissions also link to a G Suite account to make it easier for GearLaunch to streamline its onboarding and offboarding procedures. Employees whose corporate Google account is disabled automatically lose access to everything, without changing passwords or manually finding and removing logins for individual servers. “We use Google authentication for Single SignOn (SSO), so when we disable a G Suite account it also disables access to critical third-party services we use in our day-to-day business,” says Chase.

Faster innovation through microservices architecture

While the Shopify collaboration is poised to greatly increase GearLaunch’s revenue and customer base, GearLaunch continues to evolve technically. GearLaunch currently uses App Engine and has already migrated some of its domains to a microservices architecture using Google Kubernetes Engine. Rearchitecting the rest of its platform to use containers and microservices is a natural next step that will enable GearLaunch developers to innovate faster and support a wide range of programming languages.

GearLaunch initially used Google Cloud Datastore, but as its data grows and diversifies, the company increasingly uses Google Cloud SQL to benefit from the increased ability to understand complex transactional data.

“As we’ve grown, we have constantly needed to expand our ability to store and process customer data,” says Chase. “Google Cloud SQL provides us with a scalable, standards-based platform on which to increase the value we’re providing to our customers, without having to worry about the nuts and bolts of managing hardware.”

Another planned evolution is to provide GearLaunch customers with improved storefront analytics. GearLaunch currently collects aggregate Google Analytics 360 data on all its stores and has the capability to provide simple conversion funnels. It plans to eventually use Google Analytics as the source for more detailed store-specific metrics and path analysis to provide additional value to sellers.

Behind all this innovation and growth, the core stability of Google resources continues to provide confidence. “Our uptime has been amazing,” says Chase. “Our service runs literally without interruption. Google Cloud Platform is a powerhouse.”

About GearLaunch

GearLaunch quickly provisions complete ecommerce solutions for online businesses so they can compete with established retailers. Custom storefronts, payment processing, on-demand printing, and other services enable small businesses to sell branded merchandise online without investing in inventory.

Industries: Retail, Technology
Location: United States
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Try Kubernetes Engine, BigQuery, and other Cloud Platform products with $300 in free credit and 12 months.

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