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Omnisend: Helping e-commerce companies create impactful advertising with Google Cloud

About Omnisend

Omnisend's mission is to help ecommerce businesses make their marketing relevant by sending personalized messages to the right person, at the right time, using the right channel. For shoppers, that means tailored messaging. And for marketers, the power to get better results. More than 70,000 e-commerce brands now use Omnisend to grow their businesses.

Industries: Technology
Location: Lithuania

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Omnisend uses Google Cloud to power its marketing automation platform, enabling small and medium e-commerce businesses to forge lasting connections with customers.

Google Cloud results

  • Scales up and down on demand during peak sales periods with Google Kubernetes Engine, without compromising service
  • Empowers software engineers to take full responsibility for a product instead of depending on system administrators
  • Develops a richer, more mature product by testing and validating their hypothesis more frequently

Cuts product scaling from two hours to 15 minutes

For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), online retail presents a mix of opportunity and challenge. Without physical storefronts, maintenance and staff costs are minimized and the barriers to entry are far lower than for traditional brick and mortar retail. However, that accessibility means that e-commerce retailers have to go the extra mile in distinguishing themselves from a variety of competitors, many of whom have more resources.

For SME e-commerce merchants to survive, reaching customers isn't enough, they must also build lasting connections. That's where Omnisend comes in. Formed in 2014, Omnisend provides SMEs with an omnichannel marketing automation platform that makes smart use of automation and data analytics to simplify customer acquisition, engagement, and retention. "When we started, there were plenty of platforms for large enterprises to connect with customers, but no real solutions for smaller businesses," says Tomas Kazragis, VP of Product Engineering, Omnisend. "We found companies who were sending 2,000 emails a day by hand. Our mission is to help SME e-commerce businesses connect with their customers at the best time and in the best way without wasting resources on outmoded methods."

Omnisend saw rapid growth in its early years, tripling its customer base every year. By the start of 2020, Omnisend's existing cloud-based infrastructure had reached its limits. If the company was to continue growing at the rate it had been, it needed a new type of infrastructure, based not on virtual machines (VMs) but on Kubernetes, the open-source container technology developed at Google. So Omnisend chose to build its new solution with Google Cloud.

"We expanded and reorganized our product engineering team in 2020, and that meant our existing infrastructure, designed around virtual machines, was no longer suitable," says Kazragis. "We knew we wanted a Kubernetes-based architecture, and we thought that Google Cloud had the most intuitive, easy-to-use platform for that environment."

"We expanded and reorganized our engineering team in 2020, and that meant that our existing infrastructure, designed around virtual machines, was no longer suitable. We knew we wanted a Kubernetes-based architecture, and we thought that Google Cloud had the most intuitive, easy-to-use platform for that environment."

Tomas Kazragis, VP of Product Engineering, Omnisend

Entering a new phase

Omnisend places its product at the center of its operations. Everyone in the company is recruited based on their ability to look at the product as a whole rather than concentrating on their own particular field. "We focus on outcome rather than output," says Kazragis. "We don't want to have a lot of very technically proficient people working in silos. We want to hire people who care about the product and care about moving the needle."

Many of the company's new hires had previously worked on Kubernetes-based systems and it became clear that this was the way to go for Omnisend. While Google Cloud was unfamiliar to the newer engineers, after looking at other cloud providers, Kazragis felt confident that it was the right platform with which to build the new infrastructure. "We thought that there was a maturity with Kubernetes in Google Cloud that we didn't see elsewhere," Kazragis explains.

Omnisend redesigned its platform to run on Kubernetes. As the migration came to an end, Kazragis and his team worked in close consultation with Google Cloud engineers to ensure that the new infrastructure, orchestrated with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), could handle the upcoming pressures of Black Friday and the ensuing holiday season.

"Google Kubernetes Engine is really central to our new infrastructure," says Kazragis. "The horizontal autoscaling that comes with Kubernetes has really helped us grow in a way that we couldn’t before." In addition, Omnisend migrated its data warehouse to BigQuery, which also acts as an analytics platform for internal reporting and benchmarking.

Once its main infrastructure and analytics platforms were established, the company began to look at other options, including the Google Cloud AI and ML range of tools. Vision AI has proven to be useful in identifying and responding to bad actors who try to copy other sellers and trick customers into buying counterfeit goods. This is always a risk and Omnisend has a dedicated team looking for bad actors. In the past they have been identified by scans of their text communications. However, over time, some bad actors have become more sophisticated and started embedding more text in images, making them harder to scan automatically.

"We didn't want to reinvent the wheel and spend our own resources on creating an internal image verification algorithm," explains Kazragis. "With Vision AI, we could build a solution very quickly and at very little cost that identified the bad actors so we could disable them."

"Google Kubernetes Engine is really central to our new infrastructure. The horizontal autoscaling that comes with Kubernetes has really helped us grow in a way that we couldn’t before."

Tomas Kazragis, VP of Product Engineering, Omnisend

Scaling for bigger, longer peaks

By October 2020, Omnisend was ready to put its new infrastructure to the test, just in time for the peaks of Black Friday and the holiday season. But things had changed since the company started its migration.

Over the course of the year, much of the world went into lockdown in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. As a result, e-commerce businesses saw a massive uptick in business. "It wasn't just more sales in the peak season, it was more sustained peaks as well," says Kazragis. E-commerce retailers had to prepare themselves for the busiest, longest lasting peak season yet.

A key metric that Omnisend was tracking was how quickly it could scale its product in a peak period. On its previous architecture, provisioning and spinning up new virtual machines took an average of about two hours. For the migration to have been worth it, the company needed to reduce that time significantly.

Powered by Google Cloud, Omnisend passed its first test with flying colors and no disruption to its customers. The two hours needed to scale up a product was slashed to an average of 15 minutes, with some product parts needing as little as 10 minutes to scale up. The company had to deal with three times the amount of traffic than it did the previous year and did so without compromising its excellent standards of service.

Building a culture of self-service

The switch to Google Cloud has affected more than just operational effectiveness. By moving to a Kubernetes-based architecture and infrastructure-as-code processes, Omnisend has changed the way its employees work. Previously, software engineers and developers were dependent on system administrators to set up new environments and provision more resources, which could be a bottleneck in their work.

"With Google Cloud, our software engineers and developers have become totally autonomous teams, able to deploy and manage their own products at will," says Kazragis. "It's not just a technological change but a cultural one." Since moving to Google Cloud, Omnisend's product organization runs ten times more experiments per month than before, resulting in a richer, more mature product for Omnisend customers.

For Omnisend, continuous improvement is a way of life and it hasn't rested on its laurels. The company is currently exploring tools such as Cloud Pub/Sub and Dataflow to further improve its infrastructure. "Right from the start, our culture was very adaptive and focused on changing very quickly," says Kazragis. "Google Cloud enables us to build on that culture and I think we have a bright future ahead of us."

"With Google Cloud, our software engineers and developers have become totally autonomous teams, able to deploy and manage their own products at will. It's not just a technological change but a cultural one."

Tomas Kazragis, VP of Product Engineering, Omnisend

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Omnisend

Omnisend's mission is to help ecommerce businesses make their marketing relevant by sending personalized messages to the right person, at the right time, using the right channel. For shoppers, that means tailored messaging. And for marketers, the power to get better results. More than 70,000 e-commerce brands now use Omnisend to grow their businesses.

Industries: Technology
Location: Lithuania