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Composable Commerce: how to select best-of-breed components to meet your business needs

Sep 8th 2021 ecommerce

Composable Commerce: how to select best-of-breed components to meet your business needs
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A Composable Commerce case study

Composable Commerce is often referred to as what comes next for the Retail industry. Gartner predicts that “By 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.”

In this case study, we illustrate the power of a Composable Commerce approach via a specific theme: how to drive more value across all customer touch points from one of your most valuable assets: your product catalog. 

But first, what is Composable Commerce?

Composable Commerce is the approach of building commerce systems by connecting, or composing, best-of-breed components into custom applications solving specific business needs. Those components are defined as Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs), which represent well-defined business capabilities such as checkout or search. 

This approach brings many benefits to organizations who adopt it, including higher agility to adapt to customer and marketing trends, higher flexibility to deliver differentiated experiences, and easier implementation of experiences across all touchpoints.

On the technical level, Composable Commerce requires those PBCs to be built upon technologies that allow such flexibility and connectivity. The MACH definition sums it up well:

MACHMicroservices, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless

MICROSERVICES – A microservice performs a set of actions that addresses a specific business functionality, making it easy to adapt to different and changing business needs.

API-FIRST – APIs expose the microservices, managing the underlying data, functionality, and connectivity between the different microservices.  

CLOUD-NATIVE SAAS – Software-as-a-service leverages the full capabilities of the cloud, including the storage, hosting, and scaling of each microservice. 

HEADLESS – Ensuring that the front-end interface is completely disconnected from the back-end logic and various microservices, thus allowing engineers to update the UI or the microservices without impacting other parts of the system. 

The eCommerce MACH architecture and ecosystem components

In a traditional monolithic ecommerce platform architecture, scalability and complexity present the biggest limitation. As a platform grows larger, it becomes more difficult for the engineering team to fully understand the processes and dependencies that impact their ability to iterate fast. The results are: slow start-up time, mistakes, and decreased efficiency, caused by the need to constantly redeploy the entire application on each update.

Headless architecture allows freedom and flexibility by removing the link between front-end and back-end. Site content and UI elements can be instantly changed with no effect on the back-end infrastructure. The modern API-first approach offers the internal teams (product, marketing, and merchandising) to iterate online omni-channel experiences and test new strategies with high agility and scalability. Flexible headless commerce architecture allows companies to create a customized tech stack, and to choose the best API components for their unique use-case, without the need to compromise due to platform elements dependencies or complexity.

The components of MACH eCommerce are:

  • Front-end framework 
  • Front-end deployment and hosting platform
  • Content management system (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM): menu navigation, pages, slots, content types, and digital media assets
  • Commerce functionality: product catalog, carts, orders, pricing, and promotions
  • Search and browse experiences (external for customers and internal for employees): advanced search capabilities, refinement, personalized results, voice search, geosearch, recommendations engine, and search/browse merchandising capabilities
  • Inventory management system

An example of MACH eCommerce store architecture can look like this:

Three essential and complementary elements of a successful eCommerce online store:

  1. Lightning-fast & mobile first
  2. Personalized & relevant contextual results
  3. Online shopping experience is complimentary, not competitive, to the in-store experience

Legacy monolithic platforms are falling short on every aspect listed above, limiting the agility, revenue, and growth of modern eCommerce businesses. The Monolithic “eCommerce in a box” is a one-size-fits-all solution that is readily available to any competing business, while the leaders of the industry, such as Amazon, are able to leverage their custom built online shopping experience to win the customers loyalty and boost their revenues. While a smaller retailer might not be able to afford the amount of engineering resources available to eCommerce behemoths, MACH approach allows them to achieve a similar level of online shopping experiences at a fraction of a cost. The flexibility of handpicking the best in class components for each function, enables retail businesses to position themselves at the same level of the big players.

The benefits of MACH architecture over monolith eCommerce platforms

  • Fast innovation: deploy new features rapidly, have greater control over each feature
  • Lower maintenance costs: have the flexibility to choose the elements and functionality, get automatic software updates instantly
  • Adapt and change easily to any changes in business needs

With the Headless approach to eCommerce, different apps can be built to serve multiple purposes for different consumer types, such as shoppers and store associates.

Now, let’s get practical!

In the next blogs, you’ll discover how this approach can help you create innovative applications based on your product catalog.

About the author
Tanya Herman

Product Manager

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