The latest disruption in eCommerce is here. Like its core trait, it has arrived in parts and is now shaping up into an undeniable approach all set to change the way eCommerce stores are built.
If you are thinking of Headless Commerce or Jamstack, you are close but not there yet. It’s ‘Composable Commerce’, the modular approach to eCommerce development. In this article, we will be exploring.
- What is Composable Commerce ?
- Fundamentals of the approach
- Evolution of Composable Commerce
- Benefits of Composable Commerce
- Benefits of Composable Commerce
Let’s get started.
What is Composable Commerce?
Composable Commerce is the idea of leveraging several independent tools, technologies, and systems to build an eCommerce ecosystem. It is an approach that allows eCommerce store owners to pick and choose the market-leading solutions for every specific requirement that collectively contributes to a well-oiled system.
Gartner coined the term ‘Composable Commerce’ in 2020. According to Gartner, it’s a modular digital commerce approach. Every element in an eCommerce system (Eg: fulfillment, search etc.) can be replaced at any point without affecting the other components in the application.
“Using the composable application approach, digital experiences are assembled as required, depending on the customer and touchpoint requirements, and delivery of an ‘eCommerce’ site may be just one of these experience types” – Gartner.
Fundamentals of Composable Commerce
Modular – Any component like search, payment gateway, cart, or frontend in an eCommerce application can be replaced for a better one without disturbing the application and its constituting parts.
Open – You can welcome any technology, systems, or tools, integrate them into your existing application, and use them as a plug-and-play component.
Flexibility – Composable Commerce truly redefines flexibility. It offers boundless liberty in picking the tech stack and creating unique digital experiences.
Business-centric – You can build a system that’s highly adaptive to change. As and when consumer expectations or technology evolves, your eCommerce application can respond to the change faster. Innovation can be done faster and with less cost.
Evolution of Composable Commerce
Monolithic eCommerce systems that provide all the features necessary to build an online store have been the backbone of the eCommerce industry. They have helped many brands take the eCommerce route quickly and contributed a lot to the evolution of eCommerce over the years. But now, the rapidly changing eCommerce landscape is posing severe challenges that have paved the way for approaches like Composable Commerce.
Composable Commerce is one of the latest in the many approaches made by the eCommerce industry to move away from the traditional all-in-one software that offers every feature out-of-the-box.
Now let’s take a look at where it all started and where we are now.
Shortcomings of Monolithic eCommerce systems
Monolithic eCommerce systems covering all the essential aspects of an eCommerce store proved handy for brands to get into online selling faster. Though it is good to get all the necessary solutions from one software, all the elements are closely knit together in a monolithic framework.
As you make customizations to improve the business capabilities or adapt to consumer expectations, the whole application would become more complex. The front-end and the back-end are so dependent that it hinders faster innovation.
Headless Commerce – Decoupling frontend and the backend
Headless Commerce can arguably be posed as the first step toward moving away from a monolithic eCommerce architecture. It is the approach in which the frontend is decoupled from the backend.
The frontend here is called the ‘head’, which contributes to the storefront experience. The backend is the administration console that enables operations. It’s freeing the frontend from the backend and allowing them to be used as two independent systems contributing together to the eCommerce operations and storefront experience. In such an approach, eCommerce store owners are free to build experience-rich or content-driven frontend by integrating any CMS.
On the technical side, developers need not worry about the storefront traffic affecting the backend as it can be handled separately with appropriate hosting solutions. Building new features, customizing, and implementing frontend or backend features can be done simultaneously by separate teams without worrying about unexpected consequences.
The MACH architecture is an acronym for the software stack that enables the approach.
M – Microservices spearheads the MACH architecture. Using a Microservices architecture, eCommerce brands can use different Microservices for different functions. All these services can be easily integrated or deployed into a system. They collectively contribute to the system by communicating with other services.
A – API-first – The API-first approach establishes seamless communication between independently deployed Microservices (E.g. Add to cart and checkout).
C – Cloud-native – Being cloud-native enables your brand to scale to fit your business growth adaptively. It also allows real-time data distribution among systems and offers top performance and security.
H – Headless – Headless offers flexibility by decoupling the frontend (storefront) from the backend. Customizing or fine-tuning the frontend will not affect the backend and vice versa.
In MACH architecture, headless commerce is just a start. Unlike the Headless approach, which decouples only the frontend and the backend, MACH architecture aims at decoupling even the small components involved. The architecture emphasizes assembling individual functionalities and focuses on API-first and microservices.
Composable Commerce might sound similar to the microservices approach of putting together several independent units of functionalities to form a cohesive yet non-interdependent eCommerce system. The key difference is that Composable commerce proposes PBCs (Packaged Build Capabilities) over microservices.
Gartner says that the technical definition of Microservices doesn’t align with the modular eCommerce architecture approach and suggests packaged business capabilities (PBCs) as a closer terminology. PBCs can be understood as an assortment or a collection of microservices.
Advantages of Composable Commerce
The flexibility to place your business at several digital touch points
Gone are the days when businesses like yours had to consider only web and mobile as the key digital touchpoints to reach their target audience. Over the years, the number of digital touchpoints has increased, thanks to social media, marketplaces, and IoT devices like wearables.
The way customers find and interact with brands has changed. Weaving experiences for a buyer’s journey across several mediums demand ultimate flexibility, which monolithic architecture might struggle to offer over a certain point. The Composable Commerce approach offers the agility you need to create digital experiences across these channels.
Being responsive to changing consumer expectations
Consumer expectations are changing at a faster pace than ever before. Features like BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in store), contactless delivery, and curbside pick-up, which were once considered additional convenience, have become mandatory expectations as consumers have become accustomed to it. Adding such features or any new feature into your eCommerce system would be comparatively easier and faster in a Composable Commerce approach.
Eliminate vendor lock-in
Composable Commerce allows you to replace any component of your eCommerce system with a better option in the market on-demand. You need not depend on one platform or solution provider to cater to your changing business requirements. You keep adopting modern technologies and practices without waiting for your current eCommerce platform’s contract to get over
Disadvantages of Composable Commerce
Few vs. too many vendors
An all-in-one eCommerce solution takes care of almost everything that your eCommerce store needs, and the SLA of your licensed eCommerce software covers it all. While picking and assembling different vendors for every functionality in a composable commerce approach, you’ll have to deal with factors like price negotiation, security level each vendor offers, and performance monitoring. Simply put, it boils down to the decision of managing a long list of vendors versus a few.
Requires strong technical knowledge and digital maturity
Building an eCommerce store with several microservices and making them interact seamlessly with each other is a tough task. You’ll have to have a team of developers who thoroughly understand the cross-connections and come up with solutions to build a well-oiled microservices-based eCommerce system.
A 100% DIY approach
Building a customized eCommerce store means you’ll have to start from the ground up, all by yourself. You need to connect every component you’ve picked and build a UX that delivers a consistent experience across all the channels. The administrator console should be developed in-house for you to monitor and manage different systems.
How to get started?
In order to transition to a composable commerce model, you can divide your migration process into several parts. If your platform supports a headless commerce approach, then decouple your store’s frontend first. Identify other areas that can be decoupled from the monolithic system.
One by one, you can decouple components from your monolithic system, replace them with microservices, and transition to a fully mature composable commerce model. However, ensure you also take the challenges into account discussed in our disadvantages section.
If you are interested in knowing more about composable commerce, Ziffity’s eCommerce experts can help. Talk to our experts.