Composable Commerce for Rapid Business Innovation

Mar 25, 2022
Customer Experience | 10 min READ
Leveraging the tenets of composable commerce to drive personalized and delightful commerce experiences for digital-native customers
Mandar Risbud
Mandar Risbud

Practice Director

DXP and E-Commerce


Composable Commerce: the what and the why
While ecommerce platforms have revolutionized the idea of shopping virtually, traditional eCommerce solutions were built to serve the needs of businesses that wanted to cater to customers shopping via their desktop screens. But, over the last decade, the ecommerce industry has evolved significantly - which begs the question of whether ecommerce solutions that powered legacy ecommerce businesses can keep them in business.
In the process, eCommerce platforms revolutionized the idea of shopping virtually and continue to till date. Traditional eCommerce solutions were built to serve the needs of businesses that wanted to cater to such customers.
Fast forward to today: the number of screens has exploded, and customers are not only shopping via multiple devices but also shopping digitally on the go, via their voice assistants, and inside physical stores. New digital experiences outgrow old ones in a matter of minutes, and those that can provide personal attention to each customer outgrow the rest. Traditional commerce platforms fail to serve the needs of businesses that compete in such an era.
Instead, they need the ability to drive hyper-personalization to every customer, roll out experience innovations every few weeks, and retain the agility to varied market conditions at all times. This is precisely what composable commerce enables businesses to do today. In simple words, composable commerce facilitates businesses to compose new experiences by enabling them to upgrade and alter the components that constitute them.
Composable commerce is driven by a nimble and modular software architecture. It enables small teams to propel end-to-end processes by empowering them with the ability to alter the components of the eCommerce experience independently. In other words, changing what the digital storefront of a website looks like, altering a product search algorithm, or where and how the data corresponding to each purchase or inventory item is stored can be carried out without refactoring the entire application.
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For businesses that wish to continue serving digital-native customers of today, composable commerce is fast turning into a survival necessity. Read on to understand the technical paradigms that underpin composable commerce, how to leverage it to fuel business innovation, and what it takes for the C-level to move from traditional commerce platforms to composable commerce.
Composing composable commerce: architectural components
The composable of composable commerce stems largely from the composable architecture that drives it. In other words, such a platform is not a single monolithic program - instead, it is a cluster of business, compute, networking, and frontend capabilities that come together to drive an eCommerce experience. Following are the key architectural components of composable commerce.
MACH Architecture
MACH architecture refers to Microservices, API-first and Cloud-native, and Headless architecture. MACH is gaining increasing traction in a world where months-long re-platforming efforts driven by hundreds of developers are no longer viable. Here's how MACH architecture drives effortless experience innovation from the CIO's perspective:
  1. Microservices : Microservices are essentially autonomous business capabilities. These are purpose-built to fulfill a single goal in an eCommerce process flow - for instance, ordering, payment, checkout, inventory, or pricing. They can be updated, upgraded, or rebuilt using new technologies without bringing down the entire application.
  2. API-First : APIs or Application Programming Interfaces are leveraged to tie multiple functionalities together. For instance, an API could be used at the frontend to consume product data from the backend. They also facilitate the injection of data into other systems such as an ERP or a CRM by understanding how they work via their documentation.
  3. Cloud-native : MACH architectural paradigm is built on cloud-first principles, limitless bidirectional scalability of the cloud, and continuous delivery. Because enterprises pay only for the resources they consume, cloud-native is the key to turning the IT spend into a function of business demand and output.
  4. Headless : Headless commerce refers to the complete decoupling of the frontend from the backend. As such, MACH architecture makes use of no preconfigured buyer interfaces. However, it may make use of pre-built UI components and templates that are typically offered by technology leaders to accelerate the rollout of eCommerce experiences built on composable principles.
The MACH architecture paradigm is often realized with Javascript, APIs, and Markup stack to detach the application side from the backend logic. This helps deliver fast, dynamically updateable, and secure experiences to shoppers in a high device-fragmentation environment.
Packaged Business Capabilities
Packaged Business Capabilities refer to an aggregation of functionalities (supported by in-house or third-party software components) that can be brought together to compose an eCommerce application. A PBC may be a single microservice or a cluster of multiple microservices interacting via APIs to support an eCommerce capability. A checkout function, a payment flow, or a customer feature enabling shoppers to save products and payment options or view the status of their orders are examples of difference PBCs. They can be built with different types of solutions provided by multiple vendors. This enables the enterprise to leverage newer technologies that enable them to achieve differentiation based on costs, CX, speed, or agility as needed.
Transforming digital commerce with composable commerce
Organizations leveraging composable commerce will find themselves well-positioned to deliver new, innovative, and improved user experiences with speed, agility, and low costs. Below are some of the key vectors along which composable commerce powers innovation and transformation.
Rapid innovation with nimble architecture
Because composable commerce is a set of loosely coupled services, it ensures the independent upgradeability of each PBC. This empowers business units to introduce new services to an existing application independently. For instance, consider an organization that wants to add a BOPS (Buy Online, Pick up in Store) capability to a mobile shopping microsite. With composable commerce, the developers can quickly make use of the Ordering PBC and Payments API and relay purchase information to the storefront management system - ultimately, to enable shoppers to pick their orders at a drive-in. Similarly, a checkout flow that powers multiple shopping sites for an eCommerce business can scale independently as the demand across the websites goes up or down.
Decoupled innovation roadmaps
In traditional commerce platforms, introducing changes in the UI of the storefront required multiple months of a coordinated effort between frontend and backend teams, product managers, marketers, and sales teams. However, such changes can be introduced in headless marketplaces as and when an improvement opportunity surfaces. Moreover, frontend changes can be introduced without unsettling the backend logic and with minimal to no support from the IT teams. Therefore, backend engineers can drive continuous innovation by picking up new technologies to minimize technical debt and costs. At the same time, the UI can be continuously upgraded to delight customers with improved experiences.
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Transform with agility and speed
Composable commerce evolved to meet the needs of a modern-day eCommerce business. Therefore, composable architecture lends itself well to such an environment. For instance, consider the point when the pandemic had hit the globe and hit physical stores. In such times, some organizations deployed mobile storefronts that returned location-specific results. Others implemented BOPS capabilities that enabled them to thrive despite travel restrictions. Composable commerce facilitates rapid development and deployment of such capabilities using reusable components from existing flows. At the same time, it also retains the infrastructural agility for powering innovation efforts. In other words, composable commerce helps businesses de-risk their innovation efforts.
Lastly, composable commerce helps businesses introduce new capabilities across multiple channels in line with the evolving trends. For example, it helps them realize the possibilities of empowering digital experiences in-store with IoT sensors, voice-assisted shopping experiences, AR and VR on mobile channels, and so on – while maintaining granular upgradeability across all components.
Business benefits of composable commerce
In addition to boosting the competitiveness of an eCommerce business, composable commerce also brings crucial business benefits in the following ways.
  1. Business-driven technology : Instead of fitting the business requirements into a pre-built solution, composable commerce enables enterprises to configure the entire stack to meet their unique requirements. By using multiple components from different vendors, eCommerce businesses can deliver targeted, purpose-built capabilities to fulfill their customers' needs.
  2. Prevent lock-in and use best-of-breed capabilities : Each component of a composable commerce platform is loosely tied to the rest of the application. As a result, businesses can effortlessly switch the technologies and applications that power these components. This helps prevent vendor lock-in. Moreover, it also helps CIOs and CTOs leverage best-of-breed capabilities as and when new value propositions are voiced in the market. This keeps the technical debt at a minimum and positions the organization at the bleeding edge of available digital toolsets.
  3. Accelerate time-to-market : Moving from a monolith to a composable commerce platform will take an intensive and targeted transformation effort with the help of a technology leader. However, once completed, businesses can introduce new experiences and improve existing ones within a span of weeks or even days. According to Gartner, organizations that adopt composable commerce will deliver new features to their platforms 80% faster than non-adopters. In addition, if the newly introduced improvements fail to deliver, they can be rolled back to the previous state without hampering the performance or configuration of the rest of the application.
  4. Foster a culture of independent innovation : Composable architecture is premised on PBCs, which are run and maintained by various teams. These teams can be empowered to take ownership of their services, make their own decisions, and decide how to develop, deploy, maintain, and improve their PBCs. With this team-level independence, organizations can foster a culture of innovation in a decentralized manner. Moreover, marketing teams and UI/UX designers can roll out their improvements without requiring repeat support from the IT teams. This reduces the IT overheads of the organization as a whole.
  5. Sustainable on the balance sheets : Composable commerce not only brings cost savings when compared to traditional commerce platforms but also in the form of component-level dynamic scalability. Added to this, composable commerce platforms can be maintained by smaller teams, and the reusability of components raises the value achieved per hour of developer effort. This minimizes the amount of redundant effort logged across the organization as a whole.
So, how can your organization embark on the path to composable commerce?
Your roadmap to adopting composable commerce
Building a composable commerce platform can take anywhere between eight weeks to a few months with the right partner ecosystem to assist your teams through your transformation. However, it is critical to evaluate your decision to adopt composable commerce before committing to a transformation roadmap.
Answer the why first
Here are a few key questions that should be discussed in the boardroom before adopting composable commerce:
  • Do we operate in a competitive market where competitors frequently reset the bar for customer expectations?
  • Are we taking multiple months to deliver incremental updates and upgrades to our user experience?
  • Are the IT teams reporting accruing technical debt?
  • Is our current eCommerce solution failing to deliver the requisite control across each and every process point?
  • Are we failing to monetize customer touchpoints?
After committing to a composable commerce transformation, it is crucial to consider a few factors that can make or break such a transformation.
From traditional to composable commerce: four key success factors
Here are four key factors that determine the success of a composable commerce transformation:
  1. Set measurable goals : Define short and long-term targets across key eCommerce and CX metrics to determine the success of adopting composable commerce for your organization.
  2. Build a partner ecosystem : Adopting composable commerce will, more often than not, require extensive support from a reliable technology partner. These are typically organizations that, in turn, partner with leading technology vendors in the cloud or digital commerce space and are known for helping clients achieve on-time, on-budget transformations.
  3. Leverage accelerators : One of the tenets of composable commerce is to minimize the effort of rolling out new services. Through your partner ecosystem, your developers can make use of pre-built accelerators (for instance, integrations and offerings on leading cloud marketplaces like this one), templates, APIs, and microservices to minimize the time to market.
  4. Comprehensive documentation : The benefits of composable commerce are best realized when the microservices and APIs in use across the organization are well documented and accessible to developers across business units, making documentation a must.
What next?
Composable commerce emerged as a response to today's eCommerce landscape's rapidly shifting needs and volatile customer ecosystems. For organizations that are yet to adopt, composable commerce represents a major opportunity to help them achieve a competitive edge against leading players in their markets and get ahead on the ever-rising curve of customer expectations.
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