Composable commerce: the new strategy for online innovation

Composable commerce is a relatively new term in the e-commerce industry. Companies have to adapt faster and faster to changes in the online landscape. Composable commerce can help you with that. But what is composable commerce and how do you get started with it yourself?

In recent years we have mainly talked about multichannel and omnichannel e-commerce. Composable commerce has now joined the list of ‘ecommerce buzz terms’.

What is composable commerce?

Composable commerce is a strategy in which you set up your IT architecture by combining various microservices and best-practice tools in one application. Instead of a monolithic solution, you opt for an approach in which you best-of-breed business components (composed). You therefore divide your application into separate components and microservices that together provide the business components (Packaged Business Capabilities). Examples of these PBCs are:

  • checkout,
  • inventory management,
  • search,
  • catalog, and
  • payments.

Monolith vs. Packaged Business Capabilities

The different business components are loosely coupled (loosely linked) through an API. This means that if you update one business component, it does not require any changes to the other components. In addition, the front-end of the e-commerce application usually consists of a headless frontend. In this way you ensure a scalable application that uses the best possible functionalities. And which, despite the complexity, still remains flexible.

Gartner Ecommerce Platforms for composable commerce.

Click for a larger copy.

The rise of composable e-commerce is also reflected in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant where, for example, commercetools between the row e-commerce leaders stands. Commercetools is an example of an e-commerce system that fits perfectly within a microservices strategy. In addition, we also see that with Magento Adobe is trying to focus more on offering features based on components and API access. We are therefore seeing a shift towards increasingly flexible systems that are ‘cut up’ into separate parts within the e-commerce package.

Examples of PBCs

Packaged Business Capabilities are the core components that make up the e-commerce system. It is therefore no surprise that separate SaaS services have also been developed around these separate core components. By combining these with each other you can ‘shop around’ between the best solutions and combine them into a fantastic webshop. Below are a number of components showing a number of best-breed solutions.

Packaged Business Capabilities

Examples of Packaged Business Capabilities

on the Mach Alliance website there are several SaaS tools that you can use for your composable stack.

Composable commerce relies on the so-called MACH Architecture:

  • Microservices
    Microservices-based architecture makes it possible to combine PBCs. Unlike monolithic applications that are too closely integrated and connected.
  • Api-first
    Only if all functionality is available via APIs, it is possible to connect the various microservices and components into one working e-commerce platform.
  • Cloud-native
    By leveraging the full capabilities of the cloud, you are assured of scalability and flexibility throughout the application.
  • Headless
    By unlinking the presentation layer (frontend) of the backendfunctionality, it is possible to continuously improve the interface. And then the e-commerce platform can communicate with the customer on all touchpoints and devices.
Examples of MACH e-commerce stack for composable commerce.

Example of MACH ecommerce stack.

Using the MACH architecture provides several benefits for your organization:

  • Flexibility
    You can choose which functionalities you connect to your e-commerce platform. And you can easily replace it too. You are no longer dependent on one total solution.
  • Scalability
    All services run in the cloud and can be scaled indefinitely due to this design.
  • Agility
    You are more agile and you can add functionalities and bring them to the market faster.
  • Minder vendor lock-in
    You are no longer dependent on one supplier and you can quickly replace suppliers with new ones where necessary.
  • Innovation
    You can quickly implement new ideas and experiment with the various out-of-the-box tools that exist.
  • Best-of-breed
    You can use the best tools for every functionality. With ‘all-in-one’ packages, there are always parts of the solution that do not work as well as alternatives in the market.

Who is composable e-commerce for and how do you get started?

A strategy based on microservices is currently mainly used by larger companies and retailers such as Grand Vision, Netflix, Autoscout24 and Audi. For most SME companies, MACH solutions will be out of reach for a while. The implementation of this headless solution is initially complex and expensive.

In the long term you will reap the benefits of more flexibility, lower complexity and lower costs. But in the short term, it requires an investment in strategic vision, internal and external IT resources, and initial platform setup costs. Many companies will therefore first have to undergo a digital transformation and slowly grow towards composable commerce.

Storefront view

Storefront view

However, as an SME you can already familiarize yourself with the subject matter for the future. If you are going to switch to a new e-commerce platform, for example, it is important to choose a platform that unlocks its functionalities and data via APIs.

Both Shopware and Magento are a good choice without having to opt for the more complex tools, for example. In this way you open your platform to the future and you can, for example, see per functionality whether you arrange this via a best-of-breed SaaS solution or via a functionality within the ecommerce platform itself. You then end up with a kind of hybrid solution that helps you on your way. Also developing a headless frontend like Storefront view a good exercise to embrace flexibility in your e-commerce strategy.

If you want to embrace composable commerce, start like this:

  1. Strategy & vision
    What are your business goals and what strategic competitive advantage does your company have? How can you distinguish yourself online and how do you best serve your customers?
  2. Required functionalities
    Which functionalities in your current e-commerce system work well and which deserve improvement. Which functionalities best support the goals and processes from your strategy and vision?
  3. Ecommerce Platform Selection
    Choose which e-commerce system you want to use and which best suits the required functionalities and processes. Determine which best-of-breed tools you want to use.
  4. Implementatiepartner pitch
    Often the implementation of the headless solution will be done by external experts. Choose a partner and solution that best matches your organization. Write a pitch to judge with whom you want to go further and rate the proposals with a scorecard.
  5. Design phase
    In a so-called discovery phase, map out together with your development partner what the scope of your project is (MVP) and what exactly needs to be developed. Provide a schematic overview of the IT architecture you want to set up and map out all costs (OPEX and CAPEX). Work out screen sketches and designs for the webshop.
  6. Developmentfase
    The actual build of the platform. The emphasis is on good project management leading to the delivery of an MVP. An agile way of working is necessary.
  7. Go-live
    The champagne moment! Your new MVP is live and you can easily connect new microservices and components to further expand the platform.

Use it as a competitive advantage

The online market is becoming increasingly saturated, making it increasingly difficult to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. For example, you see that most e-commerce platforms already build in optimizations for a good SEO strategy by default. And with that, that becomes more and more commonplace and less and less a unique advantage. On the other hand, there are more and more SaaS solutions that specialize in excelling in a specific part of the online customer experience.

Composable commerce enables you to use the solutions that best align with current online best practices. Gartner predicts that by 2023, companies with a composable commerce strategy will be more than 80% ahead of the competition in terms of speed of implementation of new features. If you can change faster than your competition, you stay ahead. And that makes composable commerce an important competitive advantage.

Source: Frankwatching by

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