NAPA eCommerce Platform Project Plan

Ecommerce has become an integral piece of the business development process of nearly every company. The significance and value of e-commerce cannot be overstated. Specifically, many companies can directly see the benefits of e-commerce growth in supply chains. An online e-procurement model would simplify and improve processes such as ordering, order processing, order accuracy, access to lower prices of materials, etc, (Gibson et. al, 2004). Clear consumer opinion has formed around eCommerce that has allowed it to become one of the more trusted methods of B2B and B2C transactions.

For the most part, there is no longer fear or stigma surrounding e-commerce and many purchasers prefer this method over face-to-face interaction. There are many reasons that can attribute to customers' approbation of online shopping, most state that purchasing online (saves) travel time and travel cost (Hsiao, 2009). This reasoning can also be accentuated with the ease of searching and the availability of products online versus brick and mortar shopping. Often, it is easier to determine how available a certain product is online versus what is in store.

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For example, consumers often question whether stores will have the particular size they need in stock and will often resort to online shopping where they know they can obtain the proper size and at the same price and relative ease as in-store shopping. So the question is, how can the online catalog for NAPA online be improved to better this experience for current and future customers? The goal of this first project phase is to provide a literature review, feasibility study, and detail of the project plan for the newly proposed solution.

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In the literature review for this project, it is clear that there are many ways companies use trying to gain a foothold in the e-commerce market. One of the popular ways companies have tried to exploit the current markets is through investing in user experience designs (aka UXD). The belief of these companies is that through exquisite UX presentations, their system will be the most appealing to consumers and will, therefore, drive sales. While there are psychological studies that can further advance that discussion, most companies are starting to ask systematic questions about their current e-commerce solutions. Western culture requires a continuous drive for a bigger, better, and faster solution in nearly every aspect of life, and e-commerce is no different. A key feature that makes cloud architecture appealing to these businesses is users can access any desired resources on-demand, anytime and anywhere, using various kinds of devices connected to the Internet (Liu et. al, 2017). The glaring option for companies to choose for scalability and serviceability is to implement a cloud solution to their IT infrastructure. Virtualization of services and hardware can also have a positive effect on speed and reliability of service within a cloud infrastructure. It is a non-trivial task to construct a virtual cluster on the basis of virtual machines and achieve a well-defined quality of service (Mauch et al, 2013). Balancing the cost of cloud computing as opposed to a monolithic (and somewhat prehistoric at this point) strategy can be easier to manage for corporations. Many cloud solution providers offer a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model which can help to soften some of the previously hefty IT operations costs. The improvements this move brings to the backend technology have been groundbreaking and truly effective for most businesses that support e-commerce (Varghese and Buyya, 2018).

Problem Statement

The search functionality within the NAPA Online eCommerce platform should aim to provide each user with the fastest and most accurate part of the searching experience in any automotive aftermarket retailer. However, the current state of the search functionality is slower and less accurate than it could be after a system upgrades to a cloud-native environment. By wasting a user's time and providing less accurate search results, this could be resulting in lost sales for the company and a growing market share for other competitors. On average the current search results take 5-10 seconds to load which is above industry standard for an eCommerce solution. Customers expect lightning-fast results when they shop with NAPA and this solution isn't meeting expectations. Among different other factors such as software extensibility, maintainability, and usability, etc., reliability has a greater impact on software's life, because it can make the running application out of order (Ahmed et. al, 2013). Reliability is the first requirement that must be met in order for the other aspects of the application to be meaningful.

The proposed solution for search speed would be to upgrade the database architecture to be cloud-native with multiple geographic redundancies. In order to provide more accurate search results, we will also upgrade the searching capability to use natural language search capabilities. The natural language functionality would be able to reduce the number of zero results searches. This would (in turn) be more likely to present our customers with a better searching experience. The solution being proposed will be a case-based reasoning system (also referred to as a CBR). The outstanding characteristic of CBR is that it does not need to match the user's query exactly, such as in searching problems (Chang et. al, 2013). Often times users do not know exactly the terms they should use within a part search in order to get the results they are looking for. The CBR approach would be able to determine with greater specificity what the user is looking for based on the types of searches they have conducted on the site in the past (Jansen and Molina, 2006).

The goal of the NAPA Online platform is to provide B2C customers with the most accurate searches according user wants in order to sell auto parts. With the current solution, our company is lagging behind in the reliability and serviceability of our competitors. In his comparison of Google's Natural Language and Keyword search services, Adam Styperek and associates discovered that natural language is actually twenty percent more accurate in its search results than keyword searching (Styperek et. al, 2015). Thus, it is necessary (and industry-proven) to upgrade our online e-commerce solution to the cloud and offer a natural language functionality to the searching capability of the website.

Feasibility Study

Executive SummaryNational Auto Parts Association (NAPA) is a leader in the sales of automotive aftermarket replacement parts throughout North America. NAPA's products are sold from over 6000 stores throughout the country and maintain a reputation for superior quality and service. While NAPA's sales have grown over the past 100 years, the rate of growth has recently slowed significantly. One key factor for this slowing growth rate is the shift in the marketplace to purchasing auto parts online. While NAPA maintains an e-commerce solution known as NAPA Online, most sales occur only in its brick and mortar facilities and the company is losing potential customers to competitors (such as RockAuto.com and Amazon.com) who provide a superb online shopping experience. The auto parts marketplace is healthy and shows a continued growth trajectory over the next five to ten years. NAPA is in a position to capitalize on this online marketplace by focusing on a cloud transformation that will enable to company to scale and improve the online shopping experience.

Description of Service Change

In order to establish a solid connection with hybrid cloud infrastructure, we must ensure that the NAPA Online platform can support a cloud infrastructure model. The goal from an IT infrastructure perspective will be to re-engineer the current solution so that it can work in the cloud. In order to provide reliability and serviceability, we must ensure that data is available to all of our customer base in the event of a natural disaster. Fires, floods, earthquakes, terrorist attacks are all potential threats to our serviceability and reliability as a company and we need to ensure these risks are mitigated appropriately by geographically positioning our data centers for redundancy. We will utilize a re-platforming philosophy in this endeavor. By re-platforming instead of refactoring the whole solution to be cloud compatible, it will essentially save the company time, money, and risk. This is a lift and shift approach as opposed to rearchitecting the existing web solution. This allows for our development teams to establish a solution based on industry best practices instead of easily integrating with the existing solution.

Technology Considerations

Upgraded technological capability will be required for NAPA to move toward offering a more competitive online marketplace from which customers can purchase our products. Online customers demand a simple and easy way by which to purchase products and it is imperative that all transactions are conducted in a secure manner. While NAPA maintains a web site with the capability to perform transactions, the product searches and customer experience lacks speed and reliability. This functionality must be integrated with our current web site to allow customers to obtain the products they seek. Additionally, cloud-native infrastructure will be implemented in order to improve the serviceability and profitability of the online e-commerce solution. While NAPA maintains a fairly large information technology (IT) group, the expertise does not currently exist internally to design, build, and implement the sort of extensive online platform required for this effort. Therefore, the recommendation is to hire a proven cloud infrastructure contractor to work with NAPA's IT team in order to meet its needs within the determined timeframe and budget. It should be noted that while NAPA does not have this expertise internally, the technology exists and is in use throughout the marketplace which lowers the risk of this concept considerably. There is a little security risk, considering NAPA will be the owners of this private cloud. The perk of maintaining this solution privately is that The cloud is usually locked behind a firewall with only authorized users allowed access (Salam, 2015). NAPA currently maintains a high-speed fiber internet connection and WAN, web servers, data centers that are geographically spaced along, and the latest software. With the addition of a cloud-native infrastructure using Cloud Foundry open-source framework, it is expected that there will be an overall cost increase of five to ten percent for operations and maintenance costs in the first year and then those costs will be recouped in year two when cloud infrastructure savings will increase NAPA's profit by using the adjustable size of storage volumes on VMs.

Measurements for success in order to measure success for this project, we will need to perform benchmark tests before moving to the cloud and then once again afterward. It would also make sense to install enterprise monitoring on the new virtual web servers so that response times can be recorded and monitored to the new services. The specific key performance indicators for this project will be items per cart increased by at least one item, per transaction sales increase by two percent, and search results speed being decreased by twenty-five percent. The speed measured for the search results is the primary indicator of how successful this project will be. Studies have shown that the faster and more available an e-commerce solution is, the greater the likelihood that customers will order more product per transaction (Chiang, 2007).

Product/ServiceOnline auto sales have skyrocketed in the past ten years. Just last year alone, the online automotive industry boomed with over ten billion dollars in just the United States alone. It will exceed $10 billion for the first time, posting a 16.3% increase over 2017 (Auto Aftermarket Analysis, 2018). Gaining market share in the online parts industry will be the next great accomplishment for NAPA. NAPA's top competitors within the online auto parts space are RockAuto.com and Amazon.com. Both of these companies have well established their online presence over the past five years. Amazon is relatively new to the market, having dominated in other spheres over the past ten to fifteen years. RockAuto.com is the primary competitor in the e-commerce space.

Alternatives

Cloud architecture has become increasingly prevalent in nearly every industry. The other alternatives that NAPA could use in order to upgrade its cloud infrastructure would be to use a service provider for cloud architecture. Both Amazon and Microsoft offer solutions for cloud computing and also offer a pay as you go plan which can ultimately save money in the long run. Our current plan would be the most economically efficient since we will be managing the solution ourselves once the contractor designs it.

Conclusion

The transformation that would enable NAPA Online to be a leader in e-commerce will be essential in defining the future of the company. In the current business environment, e-commerce is absolutely necessary to reach the changing consumer. Many consumers prefer to shop online and our business must adapt to those changes. By providing a cloud-native platform for the NAPA online application, the company will profit from the increased web traffic to the website. This is only the first of three phases to launch a new platform for NAPA. The next phase will be to compare in detail the new proposed system to the old one.

References

  • Ahmed, W., & Wu, Y. W. (2013). A survey on reliability in distributed systems. Journal of Computer and System Sciences, 79(8), 1243-1255. doi:10.1016/j.jcss.2013.02.006
  • Auto Aftermarket Analysis. (2018). ONLINE PARTS SALES TO TOP $10 BILLION IN 2018. Accessed via:
  • Chang, J. W., Lee, M. C., & Wang, T. I. (2016). Integrating a semantic-based retrieval agent into case-based reasoning systems: A case study of an online bookstore. Computers in Industry, 78, 29-42. doi:10.1016/j.compind.2015.10.007
  • Chiang, I. R., & Nunez, M. A. (2007). Improving web-catalog design for easy product search. INFORMS Journal on Computing, 19(4), 510-519. doi:10.1287/ijoc.1060.0184
  • Gallino, S., & Moreno, A. (2014). Integration of online and offline channels in retail: The impact of sharing reliable inventory availability information. Management Science, 60(6), 1434-1451. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2014.1951
  • Gibson, P. R., & Edwards, J. (2004). The strategic importance of e-commerce in modern supply chains. Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations, 2(3), 59.
  • Hsiao, M. (2009). Shopping mode choice: Physical store shopping versus e-shopping. Transportation Research Part E, 45(1), 86-95. doi:10.1016/j.tre.2008.06.002
  • Jansen, B. J., & Molina, P. R. (2006). The effectiveness of web search engines for retrieving relevant ecommerce links. Information Processing and Management, 42(4), 1075-1098. doi:10.1016/j.ipm.2005.09.003
  • Liu, X., Liu, Q., Wang, G., Peng, T., & Wu, J. (2017). Achieving reliable and secure services in cloud computing environments. Computers and Electrical Engineering, 59, 153-164. doi:10.1016/j.compeleceng.2016.10.005
  • Mauch, V., Kunze, M., & Hillenbrand, M. (2013). High-performance cloud computing. Future Generation Computer Systems, 29(6), 1408-1416. doi:10.1016/j.future.2012.03.011
  • Plaza, B. (2011). Google analytics for measuring website performance. Tourism Management, 32(3), 477-481. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2010.03.015
  • Salam, A. (2015). Deploying and managing a cloud infrastructure: Real world skills for the CompTIA cloud+ certification and beyond. Indianapolis, Indiana: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Styperek, A., Ciesielczyk, M., Szwabe, A., & Misiorek, P. (2015). Evaluation of SPARQL-compliant semantic search user interfaces. Vietnam Journal of Computer Science, 2(3), 191-199. doi:10.1007/s40595-015-0044-y
  • Varghese, B., & Buyya, R. (2018). Next generation cloud computing: New trends and research directions. Future Generation Computer Systems, 79, 849-861. doi:10.1016/j.future.2017.09.020

 

Updated: May 19, 2021
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NAPA eCommerce Platform Project Plan. (2019, Nov 25). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/napa-ecommerce-platform-project-plan-essay

NAPA eCommerce Platform Project Plan essay
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