“By 2023, organisations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.”
Gartner

 

Four key components make composable commerce the hot topic that it is: it’s modular; open-licenced; flexible; and business-centric. Everything composing a business’s customer experience (like customers’ shopping carts, CMS, analytics, mail and marketing) can be interchanged and deployed independently. Traditional ties to a single vendor licence become obsolete. As a result, the solution components that businesses select to include can be changed easily without affecting other parts of the system. This flexibility allows for solution building from the ground up – gone are the days of paying for unused features that serve no purpose to the end customer – or worse – that negatively impact the customer journey. The flexibility of composable commerce also extends into how businesses adapt and evolve over time. Commerce is ever-changing, but traditional solutions are static. The ability to respond to rapid market shifts is one of the key features and attractions of a composable approach to commerce solution building.

One-size-fits-all technology solutions were once the best option for many. Monoliths dominated this space, providing security in numbers and assuring straightforward solutions. This is the space where many businesses are still comfortable and familiar. In many cases, they are easy to use and almost every top name in commerce began as an all-in-one platform user. But problems arose as businesses grew and changed. These all-in-one platforms became obviously restrictive in their features and functionality and often included the cost burden of paying for unused features. Technological advances were also and continue to be, slow to develop. Creating personalised solutions within these platforms ultimately becomes cost-prohibitive. This has been exacerbated by the fact that front-end and back-end systems are often tied together within such platforms.

 

Headless Commerce

So the emergence of more suitable solutions began to take shape. ‘Headless Commerce’ was a step in this direction. It was the leap into the uncoupling of the front-end and back-end systems and the first move away from one-size-fits-all technology solutions. The balance of control began to shift away from the platform provider and back into the hands of the developers. The front-end (or ‘Head’) could be adapted by developers to improve presentation elements of a site without affecting the underlying structural elements of the back-end, such as check-out or payment systems. ‘Headless Commerce’ was a huge step in the direction toward improved flexibility for changing and customising their sites and apps. The speed at which developers were able to make interface changes, personalise for different devices, and improve customer experience, was exponentially increased.

 

MACH Commerce

The intermediate step on this journey toward fully composable commerce was ‘MACH’ decoupling. ‘MACH’ is an acronym standing for Microservices; API-first; Cloud-native and; Headless. Where in ‘Headless Commerce’ some parts of the system are decoupled, in MACH all the platform and service-orientated architecture are fully decoupled. What this offered over and above ‘Headless Commerce’ was the option to fit pieces of a solution together like pieces of a puzzle. It allowed for the exclusion of obsolete features, the inclusion of required features, and the constant plugging in and out of these features over time to account for change. Pieces of the solutions puzzle could easily be switched in or out without adversely affecting the remainder of the system.

 

Composable Commerce

‘Composable Commerce’ has become the next evolutionary step on this journey toward personalisation. Beyond the focus on micro-services that ‘Headless Commerce’ and ‘MACH’ focus on, composable commerce focuses on the bigger picture of packaged business capabilities (PBCs). Both micro-services and PBCs are component-based and hook into the business architecture, but PBCs are not limited by size, they can contribute both micro and macro capabilities to the solution. The customer experience is front and centre – rather than the developer-centric focus of older systems. Parallel to business evolution, how customers behave continues to change. Seamless experiences are no longer a ‘nice to have’, but an expectation. Multiple potential entry points to purchase, various channels and devices of use are accessible to customers nowadays.

Customer experience touch-points can be in-store, on social media, on mobile, desktop, tablet, car screens, or on websites or apps. Sessions can begin with personalised advertising, search, marketplace or referral to name a few. In a recent report by Gartner, over 60% of consumers are brand loyal to businesses that offer them a personalised and consistent experience. Composable commerce has become the means for businesses to create and deliver on these diverse experiences. COVID-19 became the wake-up call for many businesses regarding the necessity for adequate scalability. It also became the catalyst behind a deeper analysis of the wasted costs of unused features and slow turnaround times for updates. Composable commerce began to emerge on the radar for commerce businesses for its flexibility.

 

The Future of Digital Commerce

Implementing composable commerce into a business can also be achieved incrementally. This means that one single migration from a monolith into a composable set of solutions does not have to be the imposing task that it might seem. This involves the lessening reliance on the monolith solution over the course of time. This also allows businesses to test different composable solutions as they go. In reality, building a solution is never final. It is always in a constant state of evolution. Composable commerce allows businesses to integrate seamlessly, and maintain this flexibility for future changes in the market.

To find out more about composable commerce, take a look at our beginners guide.