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Empiricus and Cinq develop a robust and flexible e-commerce platform

Business rules required a high level of customization. Proprietary platform accommodates Empiricus’ business model with precision.

Background

Empiricus, the largest financial content publisher in Brazil, began to develop its own platform in 2019. Flexibility, robustness, and scalability were the necessary requirements to accommodate the large volume of sales and renewals. Empiricus chose Cinq as its development partner due to the importance of achieving excellence in the project’s management by applying agile processes and methodologies.

Solution

Cinq proposed a sprint that covered the project’s most critical aspects. The UX team defined, prototyped, and tested screens with end users. Only after approval did the screens advance to the development pipeline. The development team implemented all the e-commerce business rules required by Empiricus, including cart system, checkout, payments, catalogue, antifraud, administrative tools, and subscription management.

Results

After being fully operational for about six months, the new e-commerce platform was totally stabilized and moving forward according to the roadmap.

The challenge for Empiricus was developing its own B2C e-commerce platform, focused on selling financial education products in the form of subscriptions or courses. The recurring billing functionality was not common in platforms available on the market, so the company wanted to develop its own from scratch.

Change of course

Empiricus began product development in 2019. Flexibility, robustness, and scalability were the necessary requirements to cater to the large volume of sales and renewals. Empiricus chose Cinq as its development partner due to the importance of achieving excellence in the project’s management by applying agile processes and methodologies.

There were also additional challenges. First, Empiricus had not yet defined all the requirements and details of the product. The second challenge was the deadline: Cinq would need to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) within a tight schedule, split into two-week sprints, during which the scope would be constantly refined.

“We had wished for an internal e-commerce platform for a long time, and we found in 2019 the ideal time to execute the strategy,” explains Rodrigo Gianotto, head of e-commerce and partner at Empiricus. “We needed a company to develop customized solutions, with agility embedded in their culture and a highly qualified technology team. Among the companies that met these requirements, Cinq was the one that best understood our project and offered a better value proposition.”

“Our business model is a little different from the traditional B2C subscriptions available on the market. We work with digital sales offerings that generate peak traffic periods almost every week, bringing a technical complexity that requires the platform to respond and scale quickly,” says Gianotto.

Empiricus offers more than 20 subscriptions that cover different types of investments. There are products for all levels, from beginner to advanced, which can be combined in bundles that vary according to the number of products in the package and the subscription duration. As the subscribers master certain topics, the platform suggests new products that cover other investment strategies with different risk profiles.

“Our subscribers are eager to learn and apply the strategies we suggest in our products. As they start gaining knowledge about specific types of investments, they also get interested in other types, and we are able to assist them in this journey,” Gianotto explains. “It is very important for us to follow every subscriber from the moment they show an interest in investments to the moment they achieve their main financial goals.”

How the project unfolded

Before writing any code, Cinq’s team carried out a two-week immersion at Empiricus. Developers and UX (user experience) specialists spoke with people from all areas of the company to identify the biggest paint points and difficulties, and to ensure understanding of the project scope. Cinq then proposed a sprint to cover Empiricus’ most critical aspects.

The UX team defined, prototyped, and tested the screens with the end users. Only after approval did the screens advance to the development pipeline. The leaders of the main technology and product areas at Empiricus were very engaged in this initial phase, contributing toward its success.

Cinq developed most of the project through its first half, with Empiricus’ team members working closely with the client team. In the initial strategy outline, after the first half, Empiricus planned to take charge of the product architecture and development and adapt to the processes and the agile mindset.

It was a gradual transition. As Empiricus grew its internal team, the project also headed toward the final phase, enabling knowledge transfer to happen naturally and at the right time.

“Cinq helped us with agility,” says Gianotto. “We had bi-weekly meetings between the companies’ leadership to improve progress visibility. It enabled an agile adaptation, which was very important to us.”

The development team implemented all the e-commerce business rules required by Empiricus, including cart system, checkout, payments, catalogue, antifraud, administrative tools, and subscription management. They developed an advanced technical architecture that uses Kubernetes as the container management system, Ambassador as the API gateway, and Istio as the service-mesh, all in AWS. Python and Java microservices were used for the applications. The team also developed a new in-app purchase functionality.

The project’s first MVP — selling subscriptions through apps — went to production at the end of the first half of 2019, while web sales and renewals remained in the old platform. By October, the team fully delivered the project, including migration of all data, and Empiricus started operating entirely in the new platform.

“It is a very complex system. For the end user, it is only a checkout screen, but there are a number of business rules involved,” explains William Ramalho, project manager at Cinq. “Our system makes this possible in a very flexible way. Empiricus can now create offers it could not create before.”

Results and expectations

After being fully operational for about six months, the new e-commerce platform was totally stabilized and moving forward according to the roadmap. In the e-commerce perspective, the most important KPIs are sales conversion rate, renewal rate, and page and transaction response time. Platform usability is important to the end user and the company’s operation, as it tends to naturally generate and increase in revenue.

However, “having a proprietary e-commerce platform is not only linked to improving these KPIs, it also gives us full autonomy to evolve the platform and gives Empiricus the tools to boost our growth,” says Gianotto.

Cinq’s team will keep collaborating with Empiricus in regard to developing and mapping improvements.

Future projects are in discussion. They may include Growth Hacking and Design Thinking with the purpose of identifying the company’s and the subscribers’ potential pain points.

“Now that we have our own platform, it is time to move forward with the implementation of our best ideas,” explains Gianotto. “It is a new phase for Empiricus, both from an institutional point of view and in the evolution of processes, technologies, and operational improvements.”

About Empiricus

Empiricus is the largest financial content publisher in Brazil, with over 350K subscribers and 24 products covering topics like shares, real estate funds, fixed income, and investment funds. The team of specialists has more than 30 professionals that came from institutions such as Itaú, Credit Suisse, and Santander. The company was founded in 2009 and it is located in the heart of Faria Lima Avenue, in São Paulo.

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