A rise in consumer expectations has heightened the pressure on e-commerce players to provide better digital experiences. As a result, e-commerce businesses need to continually upgrade their technology to deliver true omnichannel experiences and reach customers wherever they are. It is no longer enough to rely on a one-size-fits-all solution to run an e-commerce site. Composable commerce is quickly emerging as a solution to this challenge.
While legacy platforms are self-sufficient, offering basic capabilities, they are never good enough to meet the evolving demands of both markets and customers. Largely rigid and templatized, businesses find it hard to maneuver with these architectures to act upon the latest trends and rapidly changing shopper expectations across multiple digital consumer touchpoints.
Some typical limitations of legacy systems include:
- Components customized to specific needs are highly entwined
- Restricted adoption of efficient and innovative technology solutions
- Constrained team autonomy and business agility, making any upgrades slow and expensive
- The same basic experience for the entire customer base, without any scope for omnichannel
- Difficulty integrating their CMS with adjacent tools. This means back-end changes often necessitates an overhaul of the entire e-commerce platform
- Limited or no support for delivering content to platforms that customers frequently use
Such persistent challenges paved the path for headless commerce. By separating the front end from the back end, headless commerce was a paradigm shift that helped e-commerce players navigate faster and better innovate to capitalize on market opportunities. But the buck doesn’t stop there. What if you could get all your e-commerce components to align with your business perspective? What if you could custom package all the best capabilities relevant to your business’s specific needs? That’s where composable commerce comes in.
What is composable commerce?
Composable commerce – a term coined by Gartner – is nothing but combining (or composing) the best-of-breed e-commerce components to develop a custom solution designed exclusively with your business requirements in mind. This means you don’t need to build everything from scratch to offer a genuinely unique and innovative customer journey.
Composable commerce enables you to bring together multiple components usually termed Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs). These act as functional blocks for various e-commerce components like search, content, reviews, payments, etc. Built on standard APIs this flexible framework allows players to obtain such SaaS-based functionalities from multiple vendors that can be replaced or integrated based on the digital maturity and evolving market needs. For instance, front-end integrations like Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) or voice commerce-based deployments can be conducted without hindering any backend processes in real-time.
This approach allows e-commerce players to innovate without threats, employ advanced technologies at jet speed without any “re-platforming” qualms. In fact, Gartner states “By 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable commerce approach will outpace their competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.”
Why do we need composable commerce?
The challenges of monolith architectures
Monoliths are basically deeply integrated front and back-end systems. Front-end being that which customers interact with and back-end being all the functions that take place behind the scenes. The disadvantage that their rigid architectures pose is that any customizations to the code can make the system more complex over time. This makes it difficult for businesses to adapt and employ the latest technologies at speed. Any changes made could raise risks, leading to dependencies disrupting efficiencies and finally turning too costly to repair.
Headless commerce to the rescue
Through the decoupling of the frontend from the backend, headless commerce enables more flexibility in delivery. For instance, it allows you to connect a content management system (CMS), digital experience platform (DXP), progressive web app (PWA) or even an Internet of Things (IoT) device.
This makes it easy to switch, change, or customize the frontend without impacting how e-commerce components like checkout and payment security function. As a result of decoupling, changes can be implemented more quickly because other teams are not involved in the process. For example, the design team can work on changing aspects of the user interface while the technology team tests the back end.
MACH architecture takes it to the next level
Yet, some parts may have to stay coupled even with a headless approach. Here’s where the MACH architecture, on which composable commerce is built, comes into the picture.
To help enterprises navigate the modern technology landscape, the MACH Alliance was founded by a group of developers in 2020 to advocate for open technology ecosystems. The four key elements of their approach to creating these open environments are:
- Microservices: Being the building blocks within the ecosystem, microservices are solutions designed to specific business requirements which then communicate with each other. This means that microservices can continue to afford speed and agility even as business needs get more complex.
- API-first: Integrating best-in-class solutions requires an API-first approach. With this capability, e-commerce players can build a tech stack based on their exact business requirements without relying too heavily on pre-built, standardized plugins.
- Cloud: A cloud-native architecture helps ensure your customer experience stays frictionless, speedy, and secure.
- Headless: Headless, as mentioned earlier, is the decoupling of the user interface layer from back-end functionality. With this flexibility, the cross-channel experience is made seamless across multiple touchpoints, ensuring a superior customer experience.
The fundamental tenets of composable commerce
The fundamentals of composable commerce are based on essentially three tenets:
- Modularity Architecture
- Open Ecosystem
- Business Centricity
Modular architecture essentially means that every part of the architecture is a self-contained system and can function independently. It’s an essential element to supporting agile delivery, faster time to market, and better customer experiences across every device and touchpoint.
Highly fragmented microservices and rigid monolith architectures made modularity seem almost unachievable until the dawn of Composable commerce. But now it’s possible to leverage a MACH architecture for your backend functionality and JAMStack for your frontend UI experience enabling an incredibly flexible, modular architecture that’s easy to optimize based on changing customer requirements.
Open ecosystem empowers your teams to assemble best-of-breed components around your core commerce service by utilizing a rich repository of resources, a holistic framework for integration along with guides to reduce development time. In addition to simplifying integrations, eliminating vendor lock-ins, and letting development teams add new features as they see fit, this ecosystem will be decisive for enabling faster time-to-market.
This basically refers to enabling stakeholders such as marketers and product managers to act on their business goals and meet changing market demands efficiently without being too dependent on IT.
Businesses can take advantage of composable commerce’s business tooling and capabilities like pre-composed solutions. These help them get their solutions running quickly without the risk and complexity attached to developing a MACH-based technology from scratch. Marketing and merchandisers can respond to competitive markets in a timely manner with this tenet, which gives them the right amount of control over the workflow.
While many commerce solutions claim to follow a composable commerce strategy, most only adhere to one or two of these tenets. However, taking these three into consideration will help you maximize the benefits of this solution.
Advantages of adopting composable commerce
1. Build your own customized customer experience from start to finish
Preferred consumer touchpoints have evolved. They are less likely to spend their time in stores and instead prefer social channels, marketplaces, IoT devices, among others. Today’s shoppers are engaging with brands in ways they would never have imagined.
Consumers now follow brands like they do celebrities, thus completely changing the dynamics of what’s expected from businesses and how they can use their power. Unlike sales spurring mostly through search and search-based ads, today, they’re streaming in through social, direct, content, and other channels.
Keeping all of those factors in mind when designing the shopper journey means being flexible and offering a truly customized shopping experience that pays off: 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers them personalized experiences.
2. Minimize customer acquisition costs
With shoppers increasingly growing wary of paid advertising, it simply isn’t feasible to rely on paid ads alone anymore. Because of this, many enterprise brands have switched to content-driven or experience-driven commerce, which requires a flexible approach to technology stacks. It is no wonder why an increasing number of businesses are now developing content to publish through their own channels to not only tackle rising customer acquisition costs but also enhance their overall online user experience.
3. Steer clear of vendor lock-ins
A monolithic software vendor offers restricted flexibility. If you stumble upon a better product from a different company, you must wait until your contract ends, or experiment with a costly switch. If you employ a modular build, replacing or switching components that align with your business objectives becomes easy.
Composable commerce is clearly unfolding a new era filled with opportunities for tech-savvy players eager to cut through the noise all while delivering superior customer experience at speed and scale. Enterprises that delay switching from monoliths to such agile architectures will find it hard to survive such fierce competition.