ConvertFlow Drives E-Commerce Success for Thousands of Marketers on Heroku

The lean team can deliver more features and manage rapid scale thanks to Heroku’s low-ops platform.

Acquiring e-commerce customers is expensive. Even a single website visitor can cost tens, if not hundreds, of dollars in online advertising. Once someone clicks through, the race is on to help them find what they need and then to convert them into a customer.

ConvertFlow is a no code platform that helps thousands of marketing teams to do just that. By delivering personalized landing pages, on-site messaging, calls to action, and more to millions of website visitors worldwide, ConvertFlow improves the return on marketing investment for businesses of all types. However, managing the spiky traffic patterns, huge data flows, and tight response times required to run an e-commerce business would be a challenge for even a large development team. Thanks to Heroku’s managed platform, scaling to serve a growing customer base has been no problem for the lean ConvertFlow team.

ConvertFlow homepage screenshot

From side project to international business on Heroku

Great tech success stories often start as side projects, and ConvertFlow is one of them. Its founders were running a marketing agency when they recognized that many of their clients had the same problem: most marketing teams lacked the tech skills needed to execute their web strategies without depending on costly or busy engineering resources.

To help marketing teams succeed, ConvertFlow’s founders created a set of tools that let their clients customize their websites, measure the results, and tune their approach without having to write a line of code. But as a side project, the time needed to develop those tools had to fit in with other work at the agency. This made Heroku the ideal platform to run their app. By taking care of many DevOps tasks, and providing easy access to an array of technologies, Heroku enabled the ConvertFlow founders to focus on delivering the features their customers needed to be successful. Then, when other marketing agencies asked to buy the fledgling ConvertFlow tools for use with their own clients, the founders recognized that the software they’d built for their agency customers was, in fact, a business in its own right. Aided by the TechStars accelerator program, ConvertFlow launched on Heroku as a standalone company in 2016.

Managing data and scale seamlessly

ConvertFlow today is an enormous data aggregation and analysis business. Millions of clicks, signups, purchases, and other user events flow into the platform from customer websites. ConvertFlow processes that data and makes it available to customers, so they can adjust their campaigns accordingly.

Marshalling that process, and powering the customer web portal, is ConvertFlow's Ruby on Rails application running on Heroku. From day one, ConvertFlow's usage patterns have been spiky. Not only do seasonal events, such as Black Friday or the pre-holiday gift buying season, lead to usage peaks, but even different times of the day put varying levels of demand on ConvertFlow's infrastructure. To manage these highs and lows efficiently, ConvertFlow uses an autoscaling tool called HireFire, which uses Heroku's Logplex to monitor queue times within the platform. When queue times go beyond a set limit, HireFire automatically spins up more Heroku Dynos. When queue times remain flat for a period, the tool closes dynos to avoid waste. On a typical day, ConvertFlow runs between 30 and 50 Standard 2X dynos.

ConvertFlow dashboard showing various calls-to-action

Similarly, when a visitor lands on a ConvertFlow customer's website, that event triggers a call to the Rails app. The Rails app then launches a background job, using the Sidekiq framework backed by Heroku Data for Redis, to take care of the personalization, lead management, and so on as configured by the customer. Heroku Data for Redis was a natural choice for pairing with Sidekiq, as together they can be up and running with minimal configuration. That provides a quick win by adding a high level of elasticity to ConvertFlow's ability to handle rapidly changing demand.

Heroku Data for Redis is the gold standard, and we found it to be a natural fit for our service, especially as it meant that we didn’t have to worry about configuration. That’s one of the beautiful things about Heroku. Jonathan Denney, Co-Founder & CTO, ConvertFlow

Heroku makes it easy to integrate with Citus Data

As with many large software platforms, ConvertFlow deals with both operational and analytical data. At launch, Heroku Postgres took care of both types of data that flowed in from millions of customer website events.

While Heroku Postgres still remains the home of ConvertFlow's operational data, the growth in its customer base led to a massive increase in the volume of analytical data. With usage in the hundreds of terabytes, the ConvertFlow team recognized that their use case required specialized tooling. Seeking help in the Heroku Add-ons marketplace, they found Citus Data, a Postgres service that is focused on handling very high volumes of data.

Migrating their analytical data from Heroku Postgres to Citus Data was made easy, thanks to the tight integration between Heroku and the Citus Data add-on.

When our data needs changed, Heroku gave us a friction-free path to integrating Citus Data alongside Heroku Postgres. We get the best of both worlds. Jonathan Denney, Co-Founder & CTO, ConvertFlow

Simplifies DevOps shifts the focus to feature development

As a lean team, ConvertFlow developers have limited time for managing DevOps. The business depends on focusing as many engineering resources as possible on delivering new features and updates to their customers. At each stage of their process, Heroku's operational experience gives ConvertFlow the data and tools they need to improve their execution.

In particular Heroku's application metrics provide a real-time view of dyno usage, response times, errors, and throughput. Combined with add-ons, such New Relic APM and Scout, the ConvertFlow team gets deep insights into their platform's performance, without having the day-to-day management burden of updates, patches, and platform security.

Similarly, Heroku’s Git-based workflow makes Heroku an integrated part of ConvertFlow’s development and build cycle.

Heroku Add-ons are amazing because we get access to exactly the right technologies, all with excellent Heroku support and under a single invoice. Jonathan Denney, Co-Founder & CTO ConvertFlow

ConvertFlow editor, showing a page with the heading being edited

ConvertFlow’s future is on Heroku

ConvertFlow’s customer growth has put greater demands on the platform over time. Straightforward scaling, the availability of differentiated dyno types, and a range of add-ons mean that the ConvertFlow team see Heroku as their product’s home for the long term.

Heroku has enabled ConvertFlow to go from an internal suite of tools to a platform that serves millions of website visitors every day. One of the biggest factors has been Heroku’s managed platform that takes care of time-consuming distractions, such as DevOps tasks. Crucially, this frees the ConvertFlow team to slash the time it takes from having an idea to delivering a feature to the market.

Inside ConvertFlow on Heroku

ConvertFlow records detailed visitor data in real time from 10,000+ websites and feeds that data through a Ruby on Rails app hosted on Heroku into a multi-terabyte Citus Cloud database. Visitor actions also trigger background jobs using Sidekiq and Heroku Data for Redis, which serve personalized content to people visiting the websites of ConvertFlow's customers. Heroku Postgres provides operational database functionality, while Heroku Add-ons, including New Relic APM, Fixie, and Scout, enable the smooth running of the platform.