Survey results show that real-time data distribution is a priority among retailers. Adopting event-driven architecture proves to be top of mind for retailers looking to gain business efficiencies and offer personalized customer experiences.

The appetite for real-time data sharing as a means of coping with constantly changing landscapes in Retail and CPG companies is increasing.

Retailers are acutely aware of the necessity to be real-time data driven, and how disruptions like global pandemics and supply chain volatility can impact customer experiences (CX) and the systems that underpin them.

Reacting in real-time to business events has become critical to digital transformation efforts and event-driven architecture is the method by which innovative retailers have started to transform their businesses.

Whatever their maturity level, retailers face common challenges, such as education, skills, and efficiency. Now is the time for business leaders to come onboard and drive the industry forward.

Solace, with independent research firm Coleman Parkes, surveyed 840 respondents across all industries, roles and geographies on their need for real-time data sharing and how event-driven architecture is being adopted to address these real-time requirements. This post looks specifically at the dynamics surrounding retail and CPG company responses.

It’s Time for Real-Time Retail

Retailers are acutely aware of the benefits of real-time data distribution, with 56% stating they are “very aware” and that “real-time data has provided tangible benefits” vs the average of 47% for all industries. One area that benefits greatly from real-time data is inventory management, and as Forrester notes, “real-time visibility of store inventory is a key capability of omnichannel fulfillment transformation1.

Event-driven architecture is a key enabler of real-time business but to understand it, one much first understand what an event is. An event is anything that occurs within an enterprise or its ecosystem of customers, consumers, and partners. In the context of event-driven architecture, an event represents a change in state of data, like a sensor signaling a change in temperature, a field changing in a database, a product being scanned at the checkout counter, or a checkout button being clicked in an e-commerce app, etc.

In a world that increasingly equates speed of information with customer satisfaction, retailers need to know when each of these events happen, as it happens.

From the click of an online order to a shipping container’s journey across the oceans, event information has never been more crucial for retailers and their supply chain. It is no surprise that 85% of organizations globally have turned to event-driven architecture as their real-time backbone.

Organizations across all industries say the #1 business benefit gained by adopting event-driven architecture is improving application responsiveness, cited by 46% of respondents, followed by improving customer experiences at 44%.

Retailers noted different priorities, citing improved customer experiences as the #1 business benefit gained by adopting event-driven architecture (53%), followed by improved application responsiveness (42%). Response to events and changes in real-time and improving application resiliency and availability are the next two benefits cited, consistent across all industries.

The Architect’s Guide to Real-Time RetailHow retail IT professionals can architect for resilience and rapid response by leveraging event-driven architecture.Download NowSolly logo

Right choice, right time: Costs vs. Benefits of EDA

The business landscape is in a constant state of flux driven by events. Looking at the advantages of event-driven data distribution, 77% of retailers see benefits outweighing the costs, or at least equaling them, yet almost a fifth of respondents, 19%, are not in a position to direct resources to implement EDA.

Across the globe, over half of organizations have enthusiastically bought into the benefits of event-driven architecture. The UK (79%), Canada (79%) and France (73%) are the first ones to admit that the benefits outweigh or equal the costs.

pie chart where 77% of retailers see benefits of EDA outweighing the costs, or at least equaling them.

Belief about Costs vs. Benefits of Event-Driven Architecture

What do Businesses Stand to Lose Without EDA?

Organizations know event-driven architecture can help sharpen the competitive edge. Beyond the inherent advantages of adopting event-driven architecture, businesses are equally keen to avoid the negative effects of lacking real-time event-driven data distribution.

Retail organizations know that without accurate, up to date information they cannot make smart decisions nor exceed customer expectations. Moreover, when data is inconsistent, or out of date, decisions become poorer and customer experience is negatively impacted. This is key for 44% of respondents.

Similarly, 44% of retail organizations also believe not investing in real-time data could hinder their ability to deploy innovative new products, mobile applications, or services to customers.

The inability to detect threats and opportunities in real-time or being unable to respond quickly to those threats/opportunities rounded out the responses at 31% and 28% respectively.

A bar graph about what negative impacts of not adopting EDA businesses want to avoid.

Challenges faced when NOT using real-time, event-driven distribution.

Your Retail Peers have Adopted EDA… Are You?

It’s clear that retail and CPG companies appreciate the value of real-time data distribution within their organizations, and results show they are ahead of other industries in terms of adoption. The survey showed that 23% of retailers have already augmented their batch and point-to-point data distribution with real-time data movement (vs. an average of 15% for all industries), with another 33% working toward implementation in the next 12 months (vs 29%). That represents over half of retailers already making plans to leverage real-time data.

The state of retailers and their plans to leverage real-time data.

As to what might be holding others back, retailers don’t seem to be hampered with the same challenges that some other industries are, or at least not to the same extent. For example, across all industries, 33% of organizations struggle to find candidate use cases for event-driven architecture, whereas only 20% of retail & CPG companies struggle with this. Similarly, only 33% of retailers indicates they need more education on the benefits of event-driven architecture, vs 38% across all industries.

Retailers also aren’t impacted in the same way regarding challenges around standardized tooling or approaches and are more willing to adopt new and innovative approaches if they meet their requirements. Only 26% of retailers cited the lack of commonly accepted industry standards and protocols as impacting event-driven architecture implementation versus 36% for all industries. Similarly, the lack of visibility and/or lack of data tooling only affects 20% of retail organizations (30% for all industries).

How Can EDA Help Retailers Today?

Many organizations know how real-time data sharing can help. With event-driven architecture as the foundation, they are able to tackle the disruptions thrown in their path, while also keeping up with innovation to cope with newly rising demands of their business.

Overall, 62% of all businesses see real-time data distribution as beneficial for over 4 in 10 business operations, even more so with retailers at 65%.

EDA was especially important in reacting in real-time to COVID-19-related issues, according to 52% of retailers. Many organizations have turned to using event-driven architecture to combat issues brought on by COVID-19, like ensuring inventory and online commerce systems are updated in real-time for BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store), creating more flexible supply chains to cope with lockdowns, and keeping employees safe with effective track-and-trace systems.

A graph of the disruptions that retailers were faced with that EDA helped manage.

Areas where event-driven architecture is beneficial.

EDA Plans for Today and Tomorrow

There are two main reasons businesses are looking to invest in event-driven architecture: its real-time capabilities, which allows them to react faster and more efficiently to a fast-paced business environment; and its decoupled nature, which grants the ability to easily adapt to unanticipated disruptions. In the face of this dual imperative of handling disruption and innovating at speed to stay afloat, event-driven architecture enables the resiliency businesses need.

According to this survey, the three most common applications of real-time data are: application integration (60%), connecting IoT devices for operational control (42%), and connecting IoT devices for data ingestion & analytics (41%). These are all crucial as organizations face new demands such as sales spikes, burst handling, hybrid working, and need to develop new services to keep their customers happy. However, businesses’ ambitions do not stop at these use cases: 92% of retailers stated they would consider applying event-driven architecture to further ones.

A graph of the most common applications of real-time data and whether or not retail business have considered them.

Use cases considered for event-driven architecture.

Where do we go from here?

When asked what other use cases they would consider in the future or that would spark future interest, retailers cited connecting IoT devices for data ingestion and analytics (47%), developing distributed applications (45%), sharing data across applications (38%), and understanding customer interactions better, i.e. supporting omnichannel at 32%.

The EDA Maturity Curve: Adoption Surges Forward in Retail

For most retailers, 76%, event-driven architecture is in widespread use, albeit at different levels of maturity.

The largest proportion, 26%, has already adopted event-driven architecture, with a central team promoting it, supporting a centralized event store/ecosystem, and often integrating it with API initiatives. The fact that the largest proportion is at such an advanced level shows a growing wave of early adopters, with the rest following close: 17% have a central team promoting EDA and support a number of event distribution tools and use cases, while 22% already have several instances of event-driven architecture across multiple use cases.

Just 11% of respondents have reached the peak of event-driven architecture adoption, where skills are prevalent, and event-driven architecture is applied throughout the organization to most use cases. Conversely, 6% have no plans to look into event-driven architecture, while 10% do have plans but have made no progress yet.

A graph of where retail businesses are with adopting event-driven architecture.

The state of event-driven architecture maturity for retailers.

Pressing On Despite Challenges

Progress in the space is undeniable. Organizations are seeing their peers move towards full implementation of event-driven architecture, and they know they need to cover that distance or risk losing their competitive edge. They point at a number of challenges they must face on the way to achieving their goal.

Across all industries, the majority of organizations, 75%, cite the lack of adequate technology to implement event-driven architecture as a roadblock, while others, 59%, say they haven’t yet identified the right tools and vendors to meet their needs. Retailers seem even less prepared, with 82% of retail organizations citing the lack of adequate technology to implement event-driven architecture.

One of the most critical hurdles is educating the company on the benefits of event-driven architecture, cited by 33% of retailers as a top challenge in their organizations, as well as understanding the benefits of taking an enterprise-wide approach to event-driven architecture despite having success in one or more silos (35%).

When considering how to implement event-driven architecture, 36% of retailers feel they need to hire more talent with the necessary skills to guarantee success. Approximately a quarter, 27%, point to cost as the main issue.

With the benefits of event-driven architecture accepted by tech-savvy staff, the next step is to convince the wider business.

A graph of the challenges retailers must face on the way to achieving their goal with adopting event-driven architecture

Challenges to adopting enterprise-wide event-driven architecture.

IT Needs to Explain EDA Benefits to the Business

For event-driven architecture to succeed, it needs buy-in across the business. On the IT side, 54% already appreciate the value of real-time event-driven data distribution, pointing at an appetite for event-driven architecture. This is to be expected as IT jobs are the ones to be immediately aided and streamlined by it.

This number, however, drops off to just 40% when looking at business roles, where decision makers might have a harder time connecting the technology with the bottom line.

On the IT side event-driven architecture is well understood: 53% of IT operations and 55% of IT leadership appreciate the value of real-time data, while in the business line the largest proportion, 43%, is senior and executive management, followed by 38% of line of business executives.

This disconnect means the business value of event-driven architecture is getting lost in translation between IT and business. It’s now more crucial than ever to articulate how an enterprise’s bottom line can benefit from event-driven architecture.

A chart of which levels of an organization appreciate the value of real-time data

Who appreciates the value of real-time, event-driven data distribution.

The 5 Keys to EDA Migration

Once an organization has bought into the benefits of event-driven architecture, there are five keys to successfully implementing it.

The most frequently cited key to implementing event-driven architecture, 82%, was identifying the right technology. Along those same lines, the second most common response, 53%, was identifying the right partner to help them implement their chosen platform and tools.

The next most commonly cited keys to successful event-driven architecture migration were organizational in nature: 33% identified the need to educate stakeholders across their organization about the benefits of enterprise-wide event-driven architecture, and 36% said hiring the right skills for implementation was key.

Just over a quarter of respondents, 27%, said finding a cost- effective solution is a key to embarking on their event-driven architecture journey.

  • Identify the right technology
  • Identify the right partner
  • Evangelize the benefits of event-driven architecture
  • Source the necessary skills
  • Identify cost effective solutions

What’s next?

Retailers and CPG companies should benchmark themselves against the results of this survey to determine if you are ahead or behind your peers and take the appropriate steps from the “keys to EDA migration” above.  

To learn more about how event-driven architecture can help your digital transformation, visit 

If you’re looking for your next step in your event-driven architecture journey, consider downloading CTSO Sumeet Puri’s detailed white paper that follows a proven 6-step method for implementing event-driven architecture.

The Architect’s Guide to Real-Time RetailHow retail IT professionals can architect for resilience and rapid response by leveraging event-driven architecture.Download NowSolly logo

Source: Forrester “Paving the Path to Omnichannel Commerce” Dec 20 2021, Brendan Witcher

Roger Sabourin

As the leader of Solace’s analyst relations program, Roger has leveraged his technical background and analyst relations experience to develop a solid technical understanding of event-driven architecture, event streaming and event management that he uses to help analysts understand the many ways EDA and events can enable, complement, and accelerate the latest trends in computing and technology.

After kicking off his career as a programmer and professional services consultant, Roger shifted his focus to analyst relations with business intelligence innovator Cognos and IBM’s Business Analytics and Global Business Services consulting division when IBM acquired them, and for 20 years now he’s been working alongside Gartner, Forrester, IDC and other analysts to help them understand his employers’ position in the enterprise IT landscape.

Married for 30 years, Roger is the proud father of 3 adult children and enjoys DIY projects around the house and spending quiet time at the lake.