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Carstore

The development of the Carstore web application was a challenging undertaking mainly due to thecomplex requirements, distributed teams and very tight 6-month deadline. It was critical to have thesite live in December 2018 so the marketing team could spend the month adding content and runningSEO campaigns ready for the new year which is the busiest time for car sales.Carstore.com’s claim to fame is that it allows customers to purchase a vehicle, apply for finance(with an immediate online decision) and arrange home delivery making the entire buying process 100% digital. This was the first UK car supermarket website to offer this functionality.


Pendragon have a large marketingdepartment which has a significant investment in Sitecore to manage the content of Carstore.com. All the content drivenby Sitecore is hosted on the root www.carstore.com domain. This features articles, reviews, content and personalisationthat the authoring team add/update on a daily basis.The other area of the application is the ASP.NET MVC Web Application hosted with the sub-domain shop.carstore.com. Thisis a bespoke .NET C# MVC Web Application driven by the suite of Microservices. This area of the website allows users tosearch vehicles, view vehicle details, make enquiries, get a vehicle valuation and features the buying and financejourneys. A key area to note is the vehicle search. This uses SOLR (Searching On Lucence with Replication) an opensource Java based enterprise search solution that allows very fast search with advanced capabilities. SOLR providesfaceted search which means that search filters based on the schema will automatically update. For example, if a user selects the colour “Green” and the results come back with a limited number of vehicles, all other search filters such asmake, model, Body Type, Transmission, ect of the vehicles not in the result set will be greyed out from the searchfilters. This makes it impossible to ever return zero results significantly improving the User Experience and Customer Engagement.


The development of the Carstore web application was a challenging undertaking mainly due to thecomplex requirements, distributed teams and very tight 6-month deadline. It was critical to have thesite live in December 2018 so the marketing team could spend the month adding content and runningSEO campaigns ready for the new year which is the busiest time for car sales.Carstore.com’s claim to fame is that it allows customers to purchase a vehicle, apply for finance(with an immediate online decision) and arrange home delivery making the entire buying process 100% digital. This was the first UK car supermarket website to offer this functionality.

The web application is split into 2 distinct areas. The first being Sitecore for the Enterprise CMS and Content Personalization and the second being an ASP.NET MVC front end driven by a suite of ASP.NET WebAPI Microservices. The API Services, around 20 in total, have been designed to provide all data for Carstore and for both existing and future customer facing and business to business applications. For a more in-depth article detailing my experience with the Microservices project see this article -> link


From an Architectural perspective the Sitecore application, Microservices and MVC app are all hosted in Azure using 100% PaaS (Platform as a Service) Cloud Services such as AppServices, SQLAzure and Reddis Cache. Each of the services is set to auto scale and is geo-replicated between UK Azure datacentres. Azure doesn’t currently offer SOLR as a Service so to ensure we had zero virtual machines We have used a 3rd party SOLR as a Service provider SearchStax to manage our SOLR infrastructure. For additional resiliency the SOLR services are hosted geographically close to Azure’s UK south datacentre in Google Cloud and AWS. We also use SearchStax for Sitecore’s SOLR server.For the Sitecore development we have been working with a 3rd party Sitecore agency. I have been working closely with their developers assisting with the development of integration modules within the Helix solution for integrating with internal services. As the 2 applications are fully de-coupled, they are deployed independently.