In this episode of eCommerce Talks, we meet with Sander Mangel,  Chief of Technology at Vue Storefront and famous for being a long-time Magento Master.

Being in eCommerce for over 12 years, Sander has gained amazing experience as a developer, tech lead and now as an evangelist of modern technologies. Along with our host, Marcos Bravo C., they explain the concepts of microservices, headless and service-oriented architecture (SOA), and how they’re changing the environment of eCommerce. They also take a look at the leading eCommerce platforms like Magento, Shopware or Hybris, their adoption of the headless approach and other modern technologies, and why some of them were bought recently by software giants. 

As our guest predicts, the headless approach will grow in the foreseeable future, and so, together, we look for the answers on their usage and impact on eCommerce. How to securely use microservices and SOA to improve performance or rebuild old, monolithic architecture? How will microservices and SOA impact the security of IT architecture? And how to easily change applications to a  microservice-oriented architecture?

Watch the full episode or dive into our transcription of the talk. 

eCommerce Talks – video:

eCommerce Talks – podcast:

eCommerce Talks – transcription:

Marcos Bravo C.: Sander, thank you for joining me today. We’re very excited! I’ve known you for a little bit, but I’m sure that some people listening to us would like to know more about you. Can you tell us a little bit more? How did you end up in the eCommerce world? 

Sander Mangel: Right, so about 12 years ago I got hired as a developer at an agency. They were doing this thing called Magento, which I pretty much never heard of before. Basically they told me like: “You’re gonna be the lead on this department and get some books to start studying”. I had like 30 days to get into the whole Magento thing, three books, read them in the evenings, and then I started, like “hopefully I’m prepared”.

And I’ll admit it, the first couple of weeks were rough but slowly it started to grow on me. I did eCommerce before that, mostly bespoke solutions which means that everything is painful: taxes, discounts, products, you name it. That’s all you have to build yourself, right? And then you have the solution out there, that pretty much seems to have it all, and if not, there would be a module for it on the ecosystem. So that was interesting, and I started to get more and more into eCommerce since it’s a very dynamic way of working. Before that I did a lot of websites with a contact form and maybe some job openings, but it’s very static, right? And one of the things I love about eCommerce is the direct return on investment that this client is seeing. If you fuck up, they will not have their income.

So, that progress I did: a couple years of development, started to get more and more into lead roles, the dual consultancy at agencies, also freelance, ended up at a merchant for three and a half years. It was a very interesting experience, as you’re somewhat protected from the realities of business when you’re on the agency side, right? If something goes wrong or if you have to do a new feature, there is an eCommerce manager on the other side, on the client side, that scares off a lot of things and then, when you transition to the merchant side, you have to get down into the trenches, do the negotiations with the finance department or logistics, on how we handle packages, and that kind of stuff.

– So, literally you’ve been basically from development, all the way up to the salesman of the solution.

– Oh yeah. And that was interesting. It was a huge amount of learning and not on the technical side, but on the more soft skills side. How do you get people to buy into this kind of stuff? How do you explain X months of development on the feature that for them is like “I just want the button”? That was very interesting. After that, I went to the product development side. I got hired at Vue Storefront, which is a headless frontend for eCommerce, to help them push their product on the market. 

– Now, let me introduce you as a Magento Master.  Even when I got introduced to you, my first question was – what is a Magento Master? This guy is like a Jedi of the Magento world? How do you become a Magento Master? What does it actually mean?

– Yeah, it’s a term that when you’re not around the Magento space can come off as slightly odd. So, Magento in form of Sherrie Rhode, she’s a community manager,  Magento started this program about three or four years ago to recognize some of the more active community members which entails either doing blogs or conferences, or even just mentoring other developers. I’ve been organizing, together with someone else from the Netherlands, Meet Magento for a couple of years, and also an unconference, which is more technical conference, I also have done some online conferences. It’s kind of an escalated hobby, you could say. So, because of that I got elected a Magento Master, one of the 22-23 around the world. Yeah, so that’s very, very cool.

– That is very cool – that’s sounds very cool.

– It’s a bit of an honor I’ll say that.

– I’m gonna try to get in a little more details. You get to see, especially at the conferences, what’s happening with all ideas of microservices and headless pieces of software, which I’m still trying to put my head around. How is it changing the environment? People used to have just one solution, basically host it at their online store or in the computer, but it’s everything in one place. Now there’s tons, if not thousands, of different solutions that you can just literally connect to and I guess it saves you time. How do you see this happening?

– That’s a good question! I think headless has been around for ages. Basically, it means that you have an application, either online or offline, that doesn’t have a graphical interface. In this case it could be your average shop frontend. So, headless is becoming more and more popular, I think, mainly because as technology is getting more and more complex and the whole ecosystem is maturing, you see that it becomes more important to choose the best of breed when it comes to any sort of technology. For example, search is a very, very clear one, where you would have your normal search, which would run on mySQL, a pretty standard database type. A good example is that we all do the typos, right? I’m looking for ‘shirts’ but I type ‘shart’, or ‘shert’, or whatever, right? Now, on Google we’re used to it that it corrects us into whatever you wanna have, and on a lot of eCommerce stores they don’t. They’ll just tell you NO, we don’t have that. Which is …. I mean we’re talking about conversions, so it’s an important thing, right? 

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Aleksandra Kwiecień

Marketing and content manager. Passionate about new technologies that make our everyday life easier, and people who create them. Leader of the eCommerce Trends 2020 report, editor of Divante blog (2018-2020), and reports for eCommerce experts, incl. The New Architecture and PWA Book | LinkedIn

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