MediaMarktSaturn: Powering up the online retail experience with Google Cloud

About MediaMarktSaturn

A subsidiary of CECONOMY AG, the MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group is one of the leading consumer electronics retailers in the world. The group employs 55,000 people in 14 countries, generating sales of approximately €21.5 billion per year.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Germany

MediaMarktSaturn used Google Kubernetes Engine and BigQuery to build an omnichannel retail solution capable of scaling with demand and integrating complex data.

Google Cloud results

  • Scales up to meet the demands of heavy traffic periods and back down, without sinking resources into hardware
  • Improves search conversion rates by 30% with optimized search technology and high-performance data handling
  • Deploys new instances and updates in minutes instead of months, without disrupting the customer experience

Deployments increased from two per month to more than 200

The larger the organization, the more challenging it becomes to embrace change for greater success. But the rewards can be that much sweeter. Founded in the 1960s, the MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group is now one of the world’s largest consumer electronics retailers, with more than 1,000 stores across several brands in 14 countries throughout Europe. For the first few decades, the group found success by offering the public a wide range of consumer electronics at competitive prices. As the internet brought more competition and changed customer expectations around convenience, range, and price, MediaMarktSaturn evolved its traditional “brick and mortar” structure to include an online store. Launched in 2010, the group’s online stores embraced a multichannel philosophy, linking online orders to in-store availability. Customers could browse for products online and pick them up in-store, combining the convenience of the internet with the instant availability of the store. Pioneering this approach helped the group stay competitive in an increasingly tight market.

“We wanted to transform the group into a true omnichannel retailer. That required big changes not just to our infrastructure but how we worked. The Google Cloud team shares the same outlook as us and really helped us get into an engineering mindset.”

Dr. Johannes Wechsler, Managing Director, MediaMarktSaturn Technology

By late 2017, it was clear that technology and online sales were crucial to the group’s continued success. At the same time, the on-premises infrastructure that it had first built its online stores with was showing its age. MediaMarktSaturn decided not only to upgrade its infrastructure but also to adopt a new way of working, placing technology at the heart of its strategy.

“We wanted to transform the group into a true omnichannel retailer,” explains Dr. Johannes Wechsler, Managing Director at MediaMarktSaturn Technology. “That required big changes not just to our infrastructure but how we worked. The Google Cloud team shares the same outlook as us and really helped us get into an engineering mindset.”

Scalability at speed with Google Kubernetes Engine

Over the past decade or so, online retail has rapidly gained popularity and shows no signs of slowing down. For a successful, and primarily offline, company like MediaMarktSaturn, that can come with opportunities, but also challenges of scale and complexity. The group’s original ecommerce infrastructure was built on-premises and engineers would scale it up manually as sales got bigger in size and scope. This led to complex configurations and workarounds, and after more than seven years, the technology needed an update. “In general, the older the system, the more complex it is, and that was really delaying our time to market with new products. We’d have to wait months before things worked. We had a legacy stack that was just holding us back,” says Renato Batistic, Lead Product Owner of the Multichannel Experience at MediaMarktSaturn. The group’s focus on multichannel sales was often challenged by the complexity of MediaMarktSaturn’s infrastructure, with data scattered across different databases.

As well as overhauling its technology, MediaMarktSaturn wanted to recruit more developers and engineers. Its aging on-premises servers made it hard to attract the brightest and best talent, who prefer to pioneer new territory with cutting-edge tools rather than work around older technology. The group quickly decided it needed a cloud-based infrastructure that could scale up and down with demand without compromising the high-quality service its customers demanded. After trialling the leading cloud providers for several months, MediaMarktSaturn chose Google Cloud for its ease of use, maturity of its products, and the expertise and professionalism of the Google Cloud team. “They seem to get more fun out of developing creative solutions to our challenges, rather than just presenting a sales show with a slide deck,” says Johannes. “They’re a great fit.”

“Google Kubernetes Engine has been the biggest quantum leap for us, compared to how we managed infrastructure before. We used to plan things out months in advance. We never had the ability to ramp up our compute power the day before big campaigns and scale back down the day after.”

Renato Batistic, Lead Product Owner of the Multichannel Experience, MediaMarktSaturn

MediaMarktSaturn started with two projects on Google Cloud. The first of these was to build a new data lake that consumes several data streams and combines all the information in a single place. From here, the group can mine and analyze the data for brand new insights on how best to respond to customer needs. BigQuery is the core component of the analytics solution, allowing MediaMarktSaturn’s team to store and query data with ease. Given the range of data streams, the group also uses Cloud SQL and Datastore PostGres and NoSQL data handling. With the ability to collate and standardize its data with ease, MediaMarktSaturn has started building a range of analytics tools exploring price elasticity and price prediction based on several internal and external factors.

The second project was to replicate and improve upon the existing online shop. Work began in June, 2018, and the goal was to have a major part of the online store ready for the busy Black Friday to Christmas period. The new online store uses Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), to manage the Kubernetes clusters that form the backbone of the new system. Compute Engine virtual machines help with the few stateful services required by the group. Cloud Interconnect aids with the difficult job of integrating the legacy system with the new infrastructure, while Stackdriver takes care of the monitoring and logging processes.

“Google Kubernetes Engine has been the biggest quantum leap for us, compared to how we managed infrastructure before,” says Renato. “We used to plan things out months in advance. We never had the ability to ramp up our compute power the day before big campaigns and scale back down the day after.”

Mass market stability, start-up agility

MediaMarktSaturn worked hard to get the new Google Cloud-based online store ready for Black Friday 2018, as well as maintaining the existing store. Google Cloud passed with flying colors, maintaining high performance without a single outage over Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas, as shown by the open source performance measuring tool, Lighthouse. “With Google Cloud, our online shop is much more stable, performs much better than before, and loading times have improved drastically,” says Renato. “Our Lighthouse scores put us much closer to some of the top ecommerce retailers than we’ve ever been.”

Now that it can properly handle the wealth of data at its disposal, the Group is able to offer more relevant suggestions and offers to its customers. It has revamped its search technology with the popular tool Elasticsearch, running on Google Cloud, for a more intuitive, better performing internal search engine. “We have much better options to filter and sort, and everything’s laid out better in the search now,” says Renato. “As a result, search engine conversion rates have improved by 30%.”

“We work so much faster with Google Cloud. We can set up a configuration file and launch a fully featured production environment in just a few minutes. We went from doing two updates a month to two hundred. We don’t need any downtime either so our customers aren’t affected.”

Dr. Johannes Wechsler, Managing Director, MediaMarktSaturn Technology

Technology isn’t the only thing MediaMarktSaturn focused on during the migration to Google Cloud. A crucial pillar of its new strategy has been the reorganization into cross-functional product teams. This meant turning the components of its platform into “products,” which each team could take full responsibility for, from development to testing to production. With a Kubernetes-based infrastructure, the group could more easily introduce new programming approaches to its staff, such as the React framework for building better user interfaces. “Modern frameworks fit very well with a cloud approach,” says Johannes.

By changing its infrastructure and optimizing its workflows, MediaMarktSaturn has dramatically improved the speed at which its IT teams work. Deployments used to take months with the old infrastructure, because new hardware had to be ordered, installed, and configured.

“We work so much faster with Google Cloud. We can set up a configuration file and launch a fully featured production environment in just a few minutes,” explains Johannes. “We went from doing two updates a month to two hundred. We don’t need any downtime either so our customers aren’t affected.”

The SAP suite is critical to the smooth day-to-day running of MediaMarktSaturn’s business, so the company was keen to ensure maximum availability and supportability when running on Google Cloud. It turned to the Google Cloud Professional Service Organization (PSO) for help in addressing this challenge. Through the PSO “Cloud Sprint for SAP,” MediaMarktSaturn was able to gain the hands-on knowledge needed to both assess the readiness of Google Cloud to run its SAP workloads and migrate its SAP BW on HANA to Google Cloud. Just two months after the end of the Cloud Sprint, MediaMarktSaturn successfully went live with SAP on Google Cloud. “Our first measurements after the go-live on Google Cloud showed a dramatic performance increase of up to four times compared to our previous on-premises installations.”

After a successful 2018, MediaMarktSaturn’s priority is to get the rest of its core services running on Google Cloud. Keen to get a more mature understanding of cloud technology, the Group has also started to experiment with other Google Cloud products such as serverless Cloud Functions for even more efficient ways of working. Meanwhile, the team has been exploring more advanced enterprise solution suites such as Progressive Web Apps to give its customers faster loading, more engaging web experiences.

“Google Cloud is continuously innovating and coming up with new products,” says Johannes. “What’s impressive is that these are industry-specific products that we wouldn’t be able to build ourselves without a lot of resources and expertise. That’s why we choose Google Cloud.”

About MediaMarktSaturn

A subsidiary of CECONOMY AG, the MediaMarktSaturn Retail Group is one of the leading consumer electronics retailers in the world. The group employs 55,000 people in 14 countries, generating sales of approximately €21.5 billion per year.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Germany