BestSecret is a leading European online destination for off-price fashion. With a focus on premium and luxury apparel and a permanent assortment of around 3,000 international brands, the Group provides its customers with highly desirable fashion at attractive discounts in a premium shopping environment. At the same time, BestSecret enables its brand partners to clear overstock at scale with minimum visibility and maximum brand equity protection and offers them a flexible combination of a wholesale model and Curated Platform. The unique business model is based on its closed character with an invitation-only customer membership, the longstanding brand partner and customer relationships, a tech-focused mindset, and an inherently sustainable value proposition. BestSecret has a strong track record of profitable growth over many years. It generated revenues of EUR 1,051 million in 2022 and employs around 1,900 people from over 90 nations. The Group draws on a heritage of nearly 100 years in the textile and fashion industry and today is owned by Permira Funds and the founding families Schustermann and Borenstein.
Delivering exceptional digital and mobile experiences is also paramount to their customer experience strategy.
To do this, BestSecret needed a way to ensure stability, scalability, and reliability for their eventdriven architecture.
In 2017, BestSecret chose open source Apache Kafka® as their data streaming service. Prior to Kafka, they mainly relied on batch processing, which at times resulted in data availability delays and made swift changes difficult. With a rapidly growing business, they realized they had to connect their systems in a flexible and controllable way to meet future demands.
BestSecret looked for messaging solutions and the distributed approach of Kafka was their number one choice. “Kafka addressed our needs and ensured scalability without creating any barriers. It’s built for massive amounts of data, and the underlying concepts and ideas resonate with us. That’s why we chose Kafka,” said Tobias Früchtl, Senior Principal Engineer, BestSecret.
As a mid-size German company, BestSecret needed to take a conservative approach to onboarding Kafka. “We started with a low-risk setup, using open source, on-prem, with existing hardware. We wanted to see where it would take us. And it was a success,” added Früchtl.
Over the next 18 months, they chose noncritical use cases that could be down for an hour without any adverse effect to the customers or the business operations.
The use cases focused on campaign planning. For example, if there was a brand or seasonal clothing item to be promoted, there was typically a lot of prep work in the hours before the 12 midnight launch time. Further, website traffic was unevenly distributed through the day, with peak events happening in the late evening.
Previously, they used a legacy system that could not be optimized nor decoupled to the website traffic patterns which led to a slow customer experience.
The solution used stream aggregation which entailed joining all the product information (text descriptions, images, categorization, search tagging) from multiple systems in real time and sending it to their webshop system via the Elastic Sink connector.
The concept proved itself on the use cases and the team felt confident to use Kafka for the more critical use cases.
In parallel to the introduction of new technology, BestSecret also wanted to evolve the mindset among team members regarding how data is used.
“We used Kafka as a way to guide the company in a mindset change. We wanted domain separation to make sure data published by one domain can be used by others,” said Siegfried Polysius, VP Cloud & Architecture, BestSecret.
The guardrails in place enabled data to be shared across domains, and instantly provided operational data to anyone who needed it. All data was obtained from Kafka topics, which ensured that all areas of the business had access to a very stable, reliable, and realtime data source.
Solution: Move to Confluent Cloud
Once Kafka was established as the right solution for the business, the next decision was whether to continue to manage Kafka in-house or to move to a fully managed solution.
A lean team at BestSecret needed to manage its Kafka instance. “We had to be very efficient and either had to scale up our employees or find a partner to do this for us,” said Polysius. “If we wanted to run this ourselves, we would have needed a much bigger team to keep it up and running.”
That’s when BestSecret decided to pursue a managed approach with Confluent Cloud to serve as their central messaging platform.
“We liked that Confluent had a lot of people on their team that had built this system and we felt confident that they could support us. Reliability and scalability were our primary drivers in choosing Confluent.
With Confluent Cloud, the amount of administrative work we have to do is staggeringly low. It frees us to focus on developing high value business applications. It’s literally a machine that’s running,” said Polysius.
In addition to the operational support and expertise, the relationship with the Confluent account team was also important to BestSecret. In the early days of the project, BestSecret worked closely with the team, who were on hand to provide support and advice where needed, to ensure the implementation went smoothly and was a success. “Our relationship has grown and we have a true partnership, where I can advise on how to get the best out of our features, and ensure their business is maximizing the potential of the platform,” said Felix Gittinger, Account Executive at Confluent.
All the operational business metrics can only be found on Confluent Cloud in various Kafka topics and it acts as the central system for the business. Even data from legacy systems is integrated via Change Data Capture (CDC) so that it is easily accessible in real time.
Out-of-the-box, ready-to-use sink connectors (Snowflake, Elastic, and Postgres) are easy to use and save months of development time. The connectors enable BestSecret to seamlessly and reliably move data into all the sink system. In addition, the data is legally handled according to DSGVO (GDPR) and all regulations are complied with.
Results: Improved Customer Experience
“With Confluent Cloud, we can now provide operational data in real time to any team that needs it. This is really powerful and significantly reduces our operational burden,” said Polysius.
As a customer-centric organization, if there is no improvement for the customer in the end, then the effort isn’t worth making.
Consumers want the best app and website, and they now “see a huge benefit because we can react to changes based on their demands much faster,” said Polysius. Beyond their customer base, BestSecret focuses on their brand partners who also benefit from a faster implementation of their needs. “An example for this is our Curated Platform. On this marketplace model our brand partners can sell their high fashion directly to our truly closed member community. It took two months to launch this initiative and it runs fully on the cloud platform of Confluent.”
“Our messaging platform is key because it gives us access to core business functions. We can launch new initiatives very quickly from the cloud and via Confluent,” shared Michael Huber, Architect, Cloud Service Platform, BestSecret. For example, they recently implemented a new model where anyone can suggest a new business idea. The team then works out the innovation part and Confluent enables them to come up with an app or a website within a couple of days to support the idea. Previously, this may have taken months to complete.
Looking Toward the Future
BestSecret has experienced significant growth in the last few years. The biggest challenge to opening up new markets is being able to keep enough supply to meet the demand. With Confluent Cloud, BestSecret has the ability to meet new demands, including the launch of a new fulfillment centre in Poland to scale with growth.
They can also experiment more and create proofs of concept without making major changes. Now, prototypes are created and taken to the board—rather than vice versa, as in the past.
The future is looking bright for BestSecret.
“Confluent Cloud is so valuable to us because we know we can scale,” said Früchtl.
Huber agreed. “We don’t want our customers to notice our technology. We want them to experience a high-quality, stable and intuitive customer journey on our website and apps. Having a reliable system that scales opens us up to not having to invest so much in keeping things stable, so we can improve and innovate. We have gained inherent stability because of Confluent Cloud.”