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Flaconi

How Algolia helped flaconi transform its search experience at MACH speed

Search at flaconi is powered by Algolia, and is a key feature that helps our customers find the products they are looking for quickly and seamlessly across both our website and mobile app. Moreover, Algolia's user-friendly backoffice dashboard provides additional features such as pinning products, defining rules, and running A/B tests, this empowers our business users to test their hypotheses without the need for engineering support and improves time to market.

Adeel Younas

Head of Engineering @ Flaconi GmbH

Summary

With growing customer expectations, flaconi, one of the leading German online retailer for beauty and fragrance, decided it was time to move away from its monolithic e-commerce platform. It adopted a MACH (microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) architecture, based on best-in-class solutions including commercetools, Contentful and, for Search and Recommend, Algolia. Find out how Algolia’s flexibility, ease of use and API-based approach has contributed to the company’s e-commerce transformation.

Flaconi
Use case

B2C Ecommerce

Headquarters

Berlin, Germany

Customer since

2020

Feature usage

Algolia API, Recommend, Dynamic Re-Ranking, Rules, Personalization, Visual Editor, Query Suggestions, Facets & Filters

Key results
  • Ease to use and update for business teams

  • Reduced dependency on developer time

  • Increased performance and better customer experience

  • Improved product discovery for increased sales

The challenges

  • 1.

    Cumbersome, inflexible search platform

  • 2.

    Heavy maintenance and developer involvement

  • 3.

    Difficulty in quickly adjusting to consumer demands

The solution

  • 1.

    Composable commerce approach

  • 2.

    Flexible, easy to use Search APIs 

  • 3.

    A/B Testing, Personalization, Rules, and more

  • 4.

    Recommend on checkout cart page

The result

  • 1.

    Reduced developer dependency

  • 2.

    Easy to use for business teams

  • 3.

    Increased performance; better customer experience

  • 4.

    Improved product discovery driving sales

Founded in 2011 in Berlin, flaconi is the biggest online pure player for beauty and fragrances in Germany, boasting nearly 1,000 national and international brands and more than 50,000 products.

Through its online shop, flaconi provides its more than three million active customers with everything from drugstore and natural cosmetics to premium and luxury products, including perfumes, skincare, makeup, hair care, beauty tools, and more. 

Proud to provide holistic beauty products, the company has a commitment to sustainability and helping customers get the products they love while enabling them to make purchasing decisions that respect nature and people equally. 

“At flaconi, it’s all about our customers but also our internal users,” says Adeel Younas, Head of Engineering at the online retailer. 

“Our teams are built by these values and they define our culture, which is characterized by being #customerfirst, #build4scale, #courageousinnovation, #trustinpeople, #livingdata.” 

It’s also a culture, he says, focused on “living data” and building for scale. He adds that the company’s now more than 700 employees and the leadership teams really strive to live by those values in everything they do. 

From an engineering perspective, Younas oversees a wide range of responsibilities, particularly aligning the company’s technology with its strategy and implementing best practices and processes to reduce dependencies — making the most of technology. 

“Our main goal is to have processes in place that evolve themselves over a period of time and are less people dependent,” he says.

From monolith to MACH

In 2020, to better meet its business and stakeholder goals, flaconi decided it needed to re-platform its online store, which was cumbersome and required the company to host its own infrastructure. Consumer expectations had grown significantly in recent years, and customers wanted nothing less than the absolute best experience. 

“Our legacy platform was completely developed and managed in-house and that was using up development time and maintenance for something that is industry standard and didn’t not help us differentiate in the market,” Younas says. “Secondly, we lacked the flexibility to quickly adapt to new developments in the industry and scale at the level we operate..” 

To meet consumer demands, flaconi wanted to incorporate functionality like personalization, but doing so on its aging legacy platform, again, proved “tricky,” he says. 

Rather than maintain its current state, flaconi decided to start from scratch, migrating from its monolithic architecture to one using MACH (microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) principles, future-proofing them with the flexibility to adapt quickly and to ability partner with market leaders across categories. 

Those leaders included the composable content platform Contentful, commercetools headless commerce platform, and for search and discovery: Algolia.

More than a Search technology provider

“We weren’t just looking for service providers but for strategic partners,” Younas says. 

“We looked for those known as market leaders. We asked, how did they start? What have they done since then? What do they do to keep their customers competitive in the market?” 

Selecting partners with flexible API-based solutions and strong integration capabilities was important in avoiding following a path back to a monolithic solution. Team members also had previous experience with Algolia, and it was selected as the search solution based on its market reputation and ability to empower internal stakeholders with less dependence on tech and engineering. 

More than a Search technology provider The company implemented Algolia Search across its site, including all product listing pages, categories, brands and sales, and promotion pages. Also, all filters across the site use Algolia Facets & Filters. The initial implementation of Search took only between two and four weeks, thanks in part to responsive support, a joint Slack channel and clear documentation. 

“Our main reason to go with Algolia was Search. We use Algolia to power our search, and it’s very crucial since it’s a key feature we provide on the website and app that helps our customers to find the right products for them. Other features that add on to Search—like the pinning of products, custom rules and dynamic re-ranking that helps our internal stakeholder test different hypotheses without any dependencies on tech — all come together very well and give us a lot of flexibility and opportunity.” 

- Adeel Younas, Head of Engineering, Flaconi GmbH

Flexibility, user-friendliness, and happy engineers

Algolia provides the flexibility and stability that flaconi needed to successfully re-platform their website. Younas says Algolia’s user-friendly and intuitive interface (and APIs) allow business users to try new things, customize search, and test hypotheses to improve experience and results without having to rely heavily on the development team. 

The company has recently begun to experiment with Algolia Recommend on its cart page to share frequent recommendations. “It’s also pretty good,” Younas says. “Our intention is to expand our use of it.” 

Nearly every team at the company has benefited from the move to Algolia, Younas notes. All the teams benefit from highly relevant search results, improving product discovery and driving sales. The development team has improved application performance and user experience thanks to Algolia’s fast response to search queries.

Flaconi image 1

The retailer’s commercial team is improving SEO through A/B Testing, while category management uses Algolia Dynamic Re-Ranking to pin and boost products based on stock levels and supplier contracts. 

Perhaps most importantly, Algolia has helped engineering meet its goal of reducing the business’s dependency on the tech team — letting technical engineers be more productive and focus on providing more value to customers. 

Flaconi’s tech/engineering team is pleased to be spending fewer hours on regular, routine maintenance and overhead tasks related to Search, and with the ability to see the end results of their efforts to improve search functionality. 

“Now the engineers are happier, building a Search feature that they can see live on the site, with a visible outcome that you can relate to and feel proud of.”

Flaconi image 2

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