Event Streaming (Apache Kafka): Integrate Your E-Commerce Platform

Event streaming and Apache Kafka

What does e-commerce have to do with event streaming (using Apache Kafka)? For modern e-commerce businesses, the speed of their platform is a crucial factor for their success. How fast can they respond to customers? Can they provide their services quick enough? How fast do their websites load? Maintaining a high speed is now necessary for catering to the demands of impatient customers and for expanding services.

While operating quickly helps in expanding your business and becoming more successful, business expansion, in return, can negatively affect your performance.

This is especially true for online platforms. When traffic and customer interaction on the platform increase and new features are introduced, it inevitably takes a toll on the platform’s performance. If you want to avoid that, one of the best ways is integrating your e-commerce platform with event streaming (e.g. with Apache Kafka).

Event streaming gives your online platform the ability to scale up without worrying about negative effects on the platform-wide performance. In fact, its real-time approach to event handling guarantees better-than-ever performance of your platform.

You don't know what exactly event streaming entails and how it can help an e-commerce platform? Our article will explain the importance of event streaming for building a better platform. We will also talk about Apache Kafka, one of the best choices for implementing a streaming platform.

What is event streaming?

Let’s use an online grocery store as an example. As a customer, you place a grocery order for a few items that you are in a hurry to buy. If this online store is not using event streaming, the process following your order is something similar to this:

First, your order details will be sent to a database. This database will store the order details until someone involved with the store’s operations makes a query to see if there are any new orders.

You’ll be in luck if that person decides to check the system as soon as you have placed your order. But what if they don’t check the system again before the time you want the order delivered? You will be a very unsatisfied customer who is unlikely to use that online store again. As a result, the business will have lost a valuable customer due to their system’s inadequacy.

The online grocery store could have prevented such a situation had it integrated event streaming with the platform. With event streaming, you don't have to wait for someone to query the database for new orders. Instead, once your order arrives at the database, the system itself will notify the grocery store. The store can then deliver your order with minimal delay. And you, as a satisfied customer, will continue to use the same store for your future grocery needs.

Events

This is the basic idea of event streaming. Every new event triggers the system integrated with event streaming to act, instead of you having to manually or routinely check the data storage for changes. So the system no longer wastes resources by sending useless requests when no new data is available. Instead, it speeds up the reaction and response time of the system by notifying about changes as they occur. It streamlines the complete process and keeps you up-to-date on every aspect of the business in real-time.

You can set up an e-commerce platform to trigger an event, when

  • a user places a new order,
  • the status of the order changes,
  • a user carries out a product search,  
  • a user sends a message to a retailer,  
  • the payments are processed,
  • your store is running out of stocks,
  • the shipments are made.  

These are only a few examples of instances where event streaming can help increase the performance and speed of your business and business process.

Benefits of integrating your platform with event streaming

In addition to speeding up the business process by delivering data to stakeholders in real-time, incorporating event streaming benefits an online platform in many other ways. Here are some of them:

Reduce system dependency

Event streaming prevents different services in the system from unnecessarily depending on each other.

As a business expands, the number of features and services provided by the online system increases. Traditionally, this expansion would cause the entire system to depend on a single or limited number of resources (for example, databases). One would have to wait for one task to finish before continuing with the rest of the tasks.

But event streaming provides the necessary facilities for different features and thus enables them to be less dependent on others. With its help, an order management system and a user data management system can operate as separate services without relying on the same system resources as the other. If the order management service wants to retrieve data from the user management service, the system uses the event streaming platform to retrieve data asynchronously.

This kind of decoupling helps an online platform to respond to user requests with a minimal delay. It also makes the task of scaling up and expanding the system much easier in the future. If you are introducing a new service, you have the option to add it separately without changing the operations and architecture of other services.

Increase system reliability

Event streaming platforms like Apache Kafka provide facilities to store data when streaming them. This feature is important if a system failure occurs in one or several services.

Take an instance where the payment management service is sending payment data related to an order to the order management service through an event stream. When data is in transmission, if the order management system is unavailable to receive data due to a system failure, those records will get lost unless the streaming platform has a way to store them until the receiver becomes available again.

Apache Kafka not only stores the data it streams, but it replicates them on several servers to ensure a failure in Kafka’s system doesn’t cause any data loss.

Why use Apache Kafka for event streaming?

Apart from the common benefits of integrating an online platform with event streaming, why should you choose Kafka as your streaming platform? In the previous section, we mentioned one reason. What are the others?

Kafka is free and lightweight compared to other solutions on the market. It has a very low latency and the ability to scale up to deal with large amounts of data.

It is also the favorite event streaming platform of tech giants like Netflix, Uber, eBay, and Yelp, and is used by over 60% of the Fortune 100.

Using Kafka connectors, you can connect to your other systems to pull data from or push data to. Connectors are available for many of the most popular data systems (e.g. Amazon S3, PostgreSQL or Elasticsearch).

Event streaming with Apache Kafka - Summary

If you want to build an e-commerce platform that can adapt to the high demand and needs of the future online business world, integrating your platform with an event streaming platform like Apache Kafka should be a priority in your plans for business expansion.

We hope this article helped you understand the basics of event streaming and its benefits.

See here how we used Apache Kafka to implement an IoT data streaming platform!

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