Zulily offers moms an exceptional shopping experience — and low prices — driven by Google Cloud Platform analytics

Challenge

Zulily is a fast-growing e-commerce company, launching more than 9,000 product styles and 100 sales events every day. To make the shopping experience as easy as possible for its 4.9 million active customers, zulily uses data and analytics to help drive business decisions. This includes using data to connect customers to the most relevant products, enabling buyers who are responsible for procuring and selling products via the site, obtaining complete visibility into customers’ orders, managing a complex supply with thousands of vendors, and consolidating data from all marketing channels to assess which programs deliver the best ROI to drive decisions in near real-time.

In order to keep up with the demand, zulily had to redesign the way it processed, analyzed and used big data. The biggest challenge was to figure out how to design a data platform that would allow hundreds of users across the business to make decisions at lightning speed when business data is exponentially growing. Another challenge: It was impossible to scale legacy infrastructure. In addition, the business increasingly needed to aggregate multiple data sources, including the website clickstream, email, and advertising data from various ad partners.

Solution

After exploring various options including self-hosted solutions, the cost economics of the cloud were just too good to be ignored. According to Sudhir Hasbe, director of software engineering, the combination of Hadoop on Google Compute Engine, data storage in Google Cloud Storage and analytics using Google BigQuery, was the perfect solution for design, coding, deploying and managing the zulily system — and offered the lowest cost as well.

Hasbe’s team began developing the new solution on Google Cloud Platform in June 2014, and was able to roll the solution out to hundreds of users only six months later.

Google Cloud Platform offered the scalability that zulily required. In the company’s legacy solution, storage and compute capability were on the same machines; this offered low latency but increased cost over time because growth in storage is much higher than the growth in computational requirements. By separating compute resources from data storage with Compute Engine and Cloud Storage zulily could scale both capabilities in the most cost-effective manner.

Results

After only six months of operation with its cloud-based data system running on Google Cloud Platform, zulily was able to see exceptional results. Business users now have item-level visibility across the organization, which was impossible with the previous legacy solution. Consequently, zulily’s leadership can better understand the effects of marketing campaigns, and adjust them quickly to improve ROI.

zulily can provide detailed analytics on every sales event to buyers and vendors through its vendor portal, enabling those merchandise providers to also make more informed and better decisions. Thanks to Cloud Platform, zulily is able to deliver an exceptional daily shopping experience, as well as great prices, to its 4.9 million customers.

BigQuery also boosts employee productivity by cutting the runtime of complex queries from minutes or hours down to a matter of seconds. Finally, when scaling quickly with big data, designing infrastructure around peak loads is critical. Cloud Platform’s on-demand flexibility ensures zulily will never pay for more than what they use.