Audi Launches European Online Vehicle Reservation in 6 Weeks by Building on AWS
In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many European car dealerships had to shut down their sales activities. As a result, the demand for quick and scalable ecommerce solutions increased tremendously. So the digital sales team from AUDI AG, a producer of premium cars, approached the experts at Audi Business Innovation GmbH (ABI)—the company’s digital product development and innovation lab. The task was to accelerate its existing ecommerce initiatives and to develop a lean and fast solution that would enable potential buyers to reserve and purchase vehicles from local dealerships online. The solution would have to align with the AUDI AG environment and be portable to sites worldwide.
ABI had previously worked with Cloud Foundry, but the open-source, multicloud application solution wasn’t suitable for this kind of project. Instead, the team decided to build directly on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which enabled the implementation of serverless architecture. The team achieved initial rollout with down payment functionality in 6 weeks using AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service that enables users to run code without managing servers or clusters. The solution saves Audi 70 percent in costs per month over previous solutions, enables scaling on demand, and is simple to transfer to other sites.
Breaching a New Market with Serverless Architecture
ABI was launched by AUDI AG in 2013 as a wholly owned subsidiary with the goal of rethinking the core automotive business. ABI provides profound expertise in IT, digital services, and product development along the whole value chain with a focus on the digitization of sales processes.
Initially, the notion that people might be interested in buying cars online seemed to counter the automotive industry’s traditional nature. “Buying things online has become normal for most people, but in the automotive world, it’s still something new,” says Christian Zanin, head of ecommerce at ABI. “People believed customers were not interested in buying cars online because they couldn’t examine the features in person. It’s more of a touch-and-feel process. But online, you can check prices, see pictures, and get a good impression of the car without leaving home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the numbers in the reports tell us that people in the market are interested in buying vehicles online.”
With ecommerce capabilities already in place, the team did not need to start from zero; it just needed to enable the selling of dealership stock online. According to Dennis Huning, ABI architect and engineer, the team decided “to implement the infrastructure as code so that teams in other countries could scale up as needed.” Moreover, the team was on a tight 6-week schedule and opted for only a thin layer of business logic. Says Huning, “We could only achieve that timeline if we used AWS services and implemented a serverless architecture.” Additionally, the solution needed to be compatible with AUDI AG’s cloud environment. “AUDI AG manages our AWS account, and there are some security limitations within it,” says Huning.
We were able to meet our timeline because the AWS offerings were simple to use and because the services are bulletproof.”
Architect and Engineer, Audi Business Innovation GmbH
Launching a Scalable, Cost-Effective Customer Shopping Experience
By making use of its existing vehicle transaction solution, ABI was able to create a feature that online shoppers could use to select cars from dealerships and enhance them during the checkout journey. The completed solution gives buyers the perception that their vehicles are already there waiting for them. It is a real car-buying experience without the dealership. “At the end, you receive a confirmation,” says Zanin, “and the dealer gets in touch with you to close the final contract and to arrange the delivery or handover.”
Using AWS enabled ABI to save 70 percent in costs per month compared to past solutions. And because ABI was able to develop and roll out this solution quickly, it could reduce its initial project team of 12 dedicated employees down to 2 managing developers, enabling the rest of the team to work on other initiatives. This resulted in both time and cost optimizations. Huning attributes the team’s creation of a quick solution to the AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK)—an open-source software development framework for defining cloud application resources using familiar programming languages. “AWS CDK helped us create the infrastructure as code quickly because it gave us tools and support in setting things up,” Huning says.
This solution is also neatly separated from the rest of the AUDI AG system. Therefore, it’s simple to transfer to other sites worldwide. “Although we’ve focused on Europe, with France as our pilot market, we have since added countries like Italy and Spain,” says Huning. Additional benefits include the ability to scale. “Instead of having to plan in advance how many instances to provide,” says Huning, “we can use this solution to scale on demand. This is one of its biggest advantages.” The scalability is also useful in adapting the solution to other sites.
As far as security is concerned, the existing AWS-powered infrastructure that underlies the solution provides much of the needed functionality. “For example, the cloud trail logs are transferred to a central system, which enables us to analyze any cyberattacks,” says Huning. “Having this foundation helped us accelerate the security process.” The team also makes use of the fact that AWS acts as a buffer to prevent anyone from using the solution to send spam.
Growing toward the Future on AWS
Although ABI has essentially completed its project, this is only the beginning of the company’s quest to provide more ecommerce products. It wants to focus especially on its Audi Commerce Platform, which lets customers buy advanced functions on demand even after they’ve purchased the car. “We are now live in 17 European and foreign markets, with additional rollouts and new products to come,” says Zanin. According to Huning, some forthcoming projects will be based on AWS Lambda and will use a similar serverless architecture.
By using AWS Lambda and other AWS services, ABI created an online car-buying process for customers in a matter of weeks, achieving a solution that was cost effective, simple to implement, scalable, and portable to other markets. According to Huning, “We were able to meet our timeline because the AWS offerings were simple to use and because the services are bulletproof.”
Audi Business Innovation Reference Architecture
About Audi Business Innovation
Audi Business Innovation GmbH was launched by AUDI AG in 2013 as a wholly owned subsidiary with the goal of rethinking the core automotive business. The company provides profound expertise in IT, digital services, and product development.
Benefits of AWS
- Saved 70% in costs per month over previous solutions
- Rolled out a solution in only 6 weeks using infrastructure as code
- Enabled scaling on demand
- Created a solution that is simple to transfer to other sites
- Analyzes cyberattacks to keep the solution secure
AWS Services Used
AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.
AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK)
The AWS Cloud Development Kit (AWS CDK) is an open source software development framework to define your cloud application resources using familiar programming languages.
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