Soluciones Bolívar is a unit of Bolívar Group—insurance and banking—focused on creating and evolving digital products and services, and building new businesses for customer needs.
Soluciones Bolívar operates several online enterprises, including CienCuadras, one of their main digital properties in Latin America that allows users to find houses, apartments, offices, or any other spaces through innovative and interactive tools. Other well known sites include Doctor Akí, a website that connects specialists and patients; Jelpit, a website that connects service providers such as housekeepers, drivers and waiters to clients that need their service; and Conjunto al Día, a platform within Jelpit that helps property managers and also improves communication between owners and residents.
Slow search and outages were exactly what the company was facing with CienCuadras, and the reason why they needed Elastic to future proof Soluciones Bolívar’s digital properties.
Now—after migrating away from Amazon Elasticsearch Service to Elasticsearch Service on Elastic Cloud to overhaul the scalability and search experience on CienCuadras—Soluciones Bolívar has settled on Elastic as the model for its digital services for sustainability and scalability. All in all, with the success of CienCuadras, Soluciones Bolívar is now moving to implement the Elastic Stack for enhanced scalability and for better search and performance for all their other digital properties.
Soluciones Bolívar’s journey with Elastic
Digital products and digital services are meant to always be available to users, 24x7. User experience must be fluid, fast, smart, and friendly.
At recently acquired CienCuadras, that wasn´t the scenario at the beginning. Users looking for places to live, rent, or buy on the website had to wait for up to 7 seconds after every search they´ve made for the website to render. When it comes to any online marketplace, no matter what is being sold, that’s an eternity that impacts the financial bottom line.
In addition, Google’s search engine algorithm also noticed the site’s sluggishness, resulting in a poor overall rank for the website. Even so, as CienCuadras’ popularity grew in active unique users as well as in property data, the site's functionalities were getting slower, and increasingly required more investment in servers and infrastructure.
To shore up the CienCuadras website, Soluciones Bolívar hired Insoftar, an official partner from Elastic, that also had experience with real estate listing websites, and started to implement the Elastic Stack on the site. However, CienCuadras’ legacy code — built in MySQL — was not well architected. So they decided to write both the homepage and the search pages from scratch using microservices and Angular.
A key reason for this increase in unique users was that search results that previously used to take up to 7 seconds now rendered in milliseconds. The outcome was that the dramatic increase in speed enhanced the user experience, in addition to customer satisfaction.
But it wasn’t just the end users who applauded the switch to Elastic. The company’s C-Suite also lauded the changeover, as well.
Elastic also positively impacted SEO. As Google detected the speed increase and started to rank the website better, CienCuadras is now within the top 3 search results with associated search engine keywords (e.g. renting, selling a house, apartment, etc.) that they track, a number which has increased from 4 to 44 since the switch to Elastic.
Moreover, the number of users that are now coming to the website from organic search went from 44,569 to 89,839 per month—an increase of 101.5%. Beyond the sheer increase in traffic, this also meant that CienCuadras was able to decrease their cost per user acquisition along the way.
Future proofing: Migrating from Amazon to Elasticsearch Service on Elastic Cloud
Another decision that has had a huge impact on the business is changing from Amazon Elasticsearch Service to Elasticsearch Service on Elastic Cloud.
With Amazon Elasticsearch, each time the IT team had to increase the server´s capacity, the website stayed unavailable for at least 30 minutes. When CienCuadras had to get more servers and add other machines, the downtime lasted even longer. Because of that, they had to make upgrades late at night, paying extra hours for the team while losing out on potential business as well.
Six months later, they decided to switch to Elasticsearch Service on Elastic Cloud and all their headaches were relieved. Increasing server capacity is easily done from a console without any downtime, and their uptime now is 99.96%.
Once they made the switch to Elastic Cloud, the return on investment was near instantaneous. For instance, now with Elastic their operational cost is 30% to 35% less annually because of reduced database and web server costs.
“When we used Amazon Elasticsearch, we didn't have reserve instances nor did we have access to the latest version of Elastic. If we set up reserved instances to save on annual value, it meant having extra infrastructure support costs. With Elastic Cloud, not only is the version the latest, but support directly comes from the creators,” says Harley Aranda.
In addition, the development team’s productivity increased because they don’t have to spend much time with maintenance anymore now that they have moved away from Amazon Elasticsearch.
“Elastic is a core part of our architecture and we´ll keep it that way in the future,” says Bernal.
The Elastic future roadmap
Now that CienCuadras doesn’t have to worry about search speed and system downtime, they are working on adding some Elastic features that will allow users to see comparable results within a geographic area as well as have access to additional filtering capabilities.
This will help users that want to sell their property, but have no idea what the current market value is. With Elastic, CienCuadras can now provide users with comparable results near their location, making it easier to select a market-appropriate price.
What’s more, CienCuadras, along with Insoftar, are currently testing the machine learning features of Elastic to improve business decisions and also are embracing Kibana to showcase business data to partners and stakeholders more easily and effectively. For example, how many times a property was clicked on.
The success of CienCuadras has paved the way for Soluciones Bolívar to harness Elastic on the group’s other web properties as well. Doctor Akí, for example, took only 4 months to develop and deploy its new search functionality using the Elastic Stack, a feat that would have taken at least 7 months without it, Bernal says.