Emanuel investigated options and weighed them up against the CHRONEXT goals and resources. He immediately realized that building wasn’t the way to go. To get an amazing search functionality would take years to be on the same level as a company whose only focus is search, and CHRONEXT had other features to work on. “Building your own stuff is sometimes liberating, but it’s usually the slow way,” says the CTO. Emanuel knew that it didn’t need full control of their code, or all the flexibility in the world, “we just wanted to have a kickass watch shop quickly and at a low cost with no additional complexity.” So CHRONEXT decided to mix and match the services they would buy as it was the fastest way.
For its technical infrastructure, CHRONEXT chose to buy its frontend from the Frontend-as-a-Service and headless CMS provider Frontastic, the store software from commercetools, the CMS from Contentful, and the payment solution from Adyen. “We were faced with a difficult decision back then,” recalls Schleussinger. “The Frontastic technology was promising, but at a very early stage of development. But once we met with them, even though the team was very small, they were all experts. They had lots of experience in the B2C industry. They were also truly shining passionate creators who wanted to ship something special, something at the forefront of technology. And because the finished product would meet our needs so perfectly, we were willing to take the risk,” says the CTO.
Frontastic scored points with various features such as the site editor, which allows all departments in the company to quickly and easily change the content in the store; the flexible and modern option of building Progressive Web Apps (PWA); the pragmatic and consistent application design; a convincing roadmap accompanied by a quick reaction to bug reports and requests for improvement; an existing integration with commercetools; and a convincing price-performance ratio. “If we had built such a solution ourselves, it would have cost us person-years,” Schleussinger knows. The CTO and his team of developers had reservations when it came to platform stability and developer friendliness, rendering speed, and the lack of world-class references. But the team believed Frontastic was likely to build a remarkable system, even if the start will be rocky.
In May 2019, the CTO created a 6-month plan where CHRONEXT would move from its monolith architecture to a fully microservices one but be able to run both versions at the same time. It meant that the new world would connect to the services in the same way as the monolith, which allowed CHRONEXT to phase the rollout of its different stores. The new shop had to do exactly what the old shop could do, plus a refreshed mobile first design, custom made checkout, more payment options, and so much more.
By August 2019, the teams had a working site that used the Frontastic Editor, and by October 2019, the Austrian site was launched on the new workflow to get an initial glimpse of how it would perform. The CTO believed that they could now launch new sites so much quicker with this new technology, and now he could put it to the test. In November 2019, the team did just that. The French version of the CHRONEXT site was built from scratch and released in just 4 weeks. It included a new language, a new locale, new payment options, and everything else that goes with it. Then CHRONEXT did the same in December 2019 with the Australian version. .com relaunched in March 2020, then both the UK and Switzerland followed in April 2020. By this stage, only the German version of the site was left to launch. It’s CHRONEXT’s biggest market, so it was vital the rollout was smooth. In May 2020, the .de site relaunched, and it immediately had a better conversion.
By July 2020, the 8-month phased rollout allowed CHRONEXT to improve site performance, optimize conversion, enhance SEO, and many more things. So by the time it launched the .de site, there were very few post-launch issues and meant the team could focus on new features and more improvements. In August 2020, CHRONEXT switched off the old monolith system and haven’t looked back.