VictoriaPlum.com: e-commerce with stability and speed on Google Cloud Platform

By eliminating the need for costly showrooms, online-only bathroom retailer VictoriaPlum.com has become one of the UK’s fastest growing private companies. Every sale is made through its website and call centre, meaning flawless customer experience online is vital to the company’s success. VictoriaPlum.com’s previous cloud provider caused website problems including instability, insufficient speed and inflexibility that threatened the firm’s growth. To resolve these issues, VictoriaPlum.com chose to increase speed and innovation with Google Cloud Platform.

“We are a purely online retailer. We have no stores at all. A bathroom is not something people impulse buy. The whole experience of our site is what drives our conversions. With our previous provider, we had website outages and servers would get hung all the time. You'd try to create and it would hang on the creation phase for two days. Switching to Google Cloud Platform has been a night and day difference. It’s a world apart on all of our key needs: cost, simplicity, stability, and performance.” - Patrick Dobbs, technical architect, VictoriaPlum.com

Fast migration, faster website

To sell complete bathrooms through websites, companies have to create a trustworthy, immersive online experience for their customers. As one of the first online-only bathroom retailer in the UK, VictoriaPlum.com has maintained its dominant market share by remaining one step ahead of its competitors. Its previous cloud provider was slow, unstable, and provided poor customer service and unreliable autoscaling features. VictoriaPlum.com aimed to ensure optimal website availability and speed alongside a development environment to encourage innovation.

That’s why VictoriaPlum.com moved to Google Cloud Platform. It’s small team created a replication of its existing stack on Google Compute Engine and completed the migration in just one and a half months. Now VictoriaPlum.com is moving onto Google Container Engine, using Kubernetes to wrap clunky legacy services for simple deployment. From Google Analytics Premium, the company exports data to Google BigQuery for near real time analysis, while internally, BigQuery stores client-side performance metrics to be queried in real time. That helps staff track KPIs such as site speed on dashboards that measure average TTFP, load time, interactive time, and time to first ping. Reliable autoscaling makes setting up new features quick and simple, and by eliminating the need for DevOps in general, staff can spend more time adding value to the business with new software.

“Cost is always a driving factor, but we’d actually pay more for a better service. Thankfully, we don’t have to make that choice. We’ve never had to struggle with Google Cloud Platform and it’s 40 to 50% cheaper than its competitors. Part of that was due to the simplicity of calculating costs. The GCP console and documentation make it very clear and easy to work out what to do, while other cloud providers made it difficult to work out pricing ahead of time and offered six different services where GCP has one. Compare that to GCP’s sustained usage discount which gives us an ever increasing discount as we go through the month. It’s a no-brainer.” - Patrick Dobbs, technical architect, VictoriaPlum.com

Innovation unburdened by DevOps

VictoriaPlum.com experienced a website speed increase of 50 milliseconds immediately after migrating. Now, to exploit the new opportunities on GCP, the company’s tech team is expanding by 50% as the company moves more and more of its architecture onto Container Engine with Kubernetes. Using machine learning APIs, VictoriaPlum.com is also working on a new feature that recognises items in customer photos of their own bathrooms, while its business intelligence department is moving its OLAP analytics into BigQuery.

“Customer service with Google is fantastic, especially the postmortems they provide following any kind of issue. I can then take these up the chain and say “Look, this is what happened, these are the measures they've put in place to make sure it won’t happen again.” We just didn't get that kind of transparency with our previous cloud provider.” - Patrick Dobbs, technical architect, VictoriaPlum.com

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