Salling Group: Denmark’s Largest Retailer Goes Composable
Inside Denmark's largest retailer
As Denmark's largest retailer with more than 160 stores and 62,000 employees, Salling Group is best known for offering to customers a range of groceries and stores selling food and non-food goods such as music, electronics, kitchen items and everything in between. Consider it the Amazon of Denmark.
Salling Group offers a home-delivery service, and even next-gen grocery shopping via click-and-connect technology --- customers use an app or website to choose their food items to pick up, then visit the store to have their car loaded with the groceries, no in-store shopping required.
It operates the Føtex major supermarkets, the Netto discount supermarkets, the Bilka hypermarkets, Salling department stores, and Føtex home delivery.
Why Salling Group needed to move past monolithic architecture
The company's digital team encountered a slew of challenges as their online sites began to attract attention in the late 2010s: downtime, lack of speed to market and reinventing the wheel from project to project.
Developers often faced downtime while deploying, which decreased developer productivity and increased their frustration. The size (and age) of the architecture they were using wasn't capable of handling the storm of requests it was often seeing.
With a multi-brand, multi-platform setup, Salling Group often faced duplicate implementations, adding the same features from scratch in each project. System complexity meant that devs couldn't use Macs to develop.
Essentially, they were trying to make it work with a monolithic system that was slow and inflexible. They couldn't use best-in-class apps and tools, because they couldn't swap in and out anything with an architecture that didn't offer that flexibility.
How a composable tech stack energized their e-commerce division
Going headless with a composable e-commerce ecosystem was the ideal solution for Salling Group's 120-person digital vision. With this approach, they could build tech stacks with applications that performed the exact function they were meant to perform, such as leveraging Netlify as its platform of serverless functions, for both its food and non-food divisions.
Opting for the Netlify solution enabled devs to just click one button to, for example, go back to an old version of the page or site the engineers were working on during their nightly builds.
They also folded in Algolia as its search engine application, powering search across more than eight websites.
Moving towards loosely coupled services had its own hurdles, though. One problem they faced were long build times for their static site generation, especially when they were deploying projects with many SKUs. They overcame that challenge by creating better build scripts, which resulted in improved build times.
Going headless also allowed Salling Group to move quickly with incremental builds. If a dev wanted to publish new content, they simply changed that one page rather than building a whole new site.
A composable architecture also lets them experiment a new app or solution on a less-trafficked site compared to one of their more popular sites where, if something was buggy, many more customers would be affected by that experimentation.
What were the benefits of going composable?
Salling Group's digital transformation, which began in 2019 and is still ongoing, has reaped impressive results so far.
Frontend improvements included 2x reduced development hours and boosting their time-to-market speed. The latter is a key metric: as a classic McKinsey report found, a product that is six months late to market earns 33% less profit over five years.
Turning to a headless architecture also encouraged a more open source approach, which Salling Group wanted to foster amongst its engineers. The more employees can contribute to Salling Group's success, the more inclusive they would feel in steering the company into the future, knowing they had a hand in implementing code that would build new features and content customers would enjoy.
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