Barcelona based PromoFarma by DocMorris is an e-commerce marketplace which groups together the health, beauty and personal products catalogues from more than 1,000 pharmacies and other sellers into one single website. Part of the Swiss Zur Rose Group and twice winner of an E-Commerce España Award, PromoFarma offers consumers the best prices on over 180,000 different products, and provides sellers access to over 200,000 customers and an opportunity to increase their visibility and sales online in Spain. The marketplace takes care of the complete online sales cycle on behalf of its registered sellers, from uploading product photos through to managing payments and deliveries, as well as providing a customer care service.

At the core of what makes PromoFarma successful is being a highly data-driven business. With data products forming a part of their core platform, Promofarma processes and algorithms are used to price products, market bidding, recommender systems, and more. There are stakeholders from all departments across the organization, from logistics to marketing, that regularly access data through Qlik Sense to track KPIs, generate reports and extract insights needed to make quick, data driven decisions.

Challenge: Legacy data warehouse difficult to maintain and scale to meet business needs

However, the data management team at PromoFarma faced considerable issues with their data warehouse, which was not only slow and time consuming to maintain but also presented a number of budgetary challenges when scaling up the storage capacity. 

PromoFarma started with one node, then each time they ran out of space, they had to add another. Adding a new node required a data engineer to work 4-7 hours overnight – creating a new cluster, moving all the data from one cluster to another, including any real time data – to avoid downtime for the company during business hours whilst the migration was taking place. Getting queries to run quickly also needed time and effort in terms of manually configuring the sort and distribution keys and having to think carefully beforehand about how data tables would be consulted.

Furthermore, the pricing model of their incumbent data warehouse platform meant that they were obliged to purchase extra compute capacity they didn’t want in order to obtain additional storage space they actually needed as the business grew and data volumes increased. At first, they were adding nodes once a year but soon they were adding a new one every 3 months on average.

The Promofarma data management team decided they needed to explore a new solution in the cloud that required less maintenance and would seamlessly scale with the business.

Exploring Snowflake, And Proving Effectiveness Through A New Business Segment

DocMorris, the leading online pharmacy in Germany and PromoFarma’s sister company in the Zur Rose Group, was trialing Snowflake with their e-commerce business, so the team had already heard about Snowflake as a potentially promising solution. 

The first step however was to run a pilot project with Snowflake on a new business segment they were developing. PromoFarma operates the marketplace in Spain and France, and acts as a tech hub for the group as a whole, deploying projects for other parts of the business. The first step was to run a pilot project with Snowflake on a newly developed business segment, specifically the addition of a new marketplace functionality to DocMorris, for which the team in Barcelona was to manage the data and provide BI capabilities.

“We decided to use Snowflake for this new business segment and immediately began to realize the benefits. So the next step was to migrate our other already existing marketplaces over to Snowflake”, says Sierra Brader, Head of Data at PromoFarma by DocMorris in Barcelona.

“The near-unlimited scalability of Snowflake and rapid ETL times meant that our data platform is always loaded with the latest data, which enables us to make more up-to-date data driven decisions.” – Pablo Ros, CTO, PromoFarma by DocMorris

Solution: Snowflake as PromoFarma’s future-proof data platform

Migrating to Snowflake on AWS freed up for the data engineers to focus on tasks important to the business. As Proforma continues to grow and data volumes increase exponentially, Snowflake’s seamless scalability removes the burden that data engineers previously had. 

The data management team no longer worries about scaling and maintenance, and with Snowflake’s separation of compute and storage, teams across PromoFarma can freely run queries. “We don’t need to carefully plan out how queries will be managed anymore. We used to have to manually intervene whenever there was a pile up of queries caused by frequent concurrency problems with our old solutions. With Snowflake, it doesn’t happen. Saving time, cost, and resources,” says Sierra Brader.  

“We never run out of storage space with Snowflake so now, instead of asking ourselves ‘Is this data worth storing?’ in order to keep costs down, we say ‘Why not store it? – Sierra Brader, Head of Data, PromoFarma by DocMorris

Other functionalities with Snowflake, not previously available with their legacy solution, have also proved highly useful for the team. These include the time travel feature that allows them to reverse unwanted or accidental changes to tables, as well as the ‘Zero copy cloning’ function for development environments that allows them to test no-production versions of the data without affecting working processes.  

Future: Everything on Snowflake

PromoFarma by DocMorris now has all data relating to the common platform they operate for the online marketplaces across Europe on Snowflake. The company’s role as tech hub for the group as a whole is continuing to grow and evolve so everything new they do will be on Snowflake. This includes management of the common platform for the new marketplace in Switzerland, which although in a different region, will be run on Snowflake AWS from Barcelona.

“When we started out we thought it all sounded too good to be true”, says Sierra Brader. “I’d read up some research into the architecture of Snowflake and saw that it was really an ingenious system. It seems like magic and we’ve proven it really works”.