Composable Commerce: what is it? A comprehensive walkthrough
In the world of eCommerce, staying ahead means embracing innovation. But innovation is often hindered by legacy systems and rigid platforms. Enter Composable Commerce, a concept that's reshaping how businesses approach online sales.
But what exactly is it?
The Need for Composable Commerce
Traditional monolithic platforms, while comprehensive, often come with limitations. They're rigid, often not tailored to specific business needs, and can be cumbersome to update. Merchants worldwide have already started breaking up their monolithic platforms, adding support for their process using external specialized systems, and seeking more flexibility and scalability in their eCommerce solutions. The shift towards Composable Commerce has begun.
The Global Shift Towards Composable Commerce
As more and more merchants realize a transition from legacy systems is needed, the importance of modular, flexible solutions grows. Constantly changing consumer behavior and increased demands like the "Amazon effect," the need for sustainable choices, and other global trends drive the change. Merchants now realize they need solutions supporting their processes instead of adjusting ways of working to fit legacy platforms. And organizations like the MACH Alliance help champion a new way of building services, educating businesses about the benefits of interoperability and flexibility.
Composable Commerce: The definition
Composable Commerce is a modular, transformative approach to building eCommerce solutions, allowing businesses to craft a tailored ecosystem by assembling various specialized software systems.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all package, Composable Commerce offers flexibility, scalability, and adaptability by combining several products - each built to solve just one thing very well. This ensures that businesses can evolve their online presence as market demands shift.
The foundational principles of Composable Commerce are made possible by MACH technology. For components to work well together in a Composable Commerce ecosystem, they need to adhere to the MACH principles:
- Microservices: This refers to the division of an application into small, independent processes that communicate with each other. Each microservice handles a specific function, allowing for easier updates, maintenance, and scalability. For instance, a business could have separate microservices for inventory management, payment processing, and customer reviews.
- API-first: An API-first approach means that the system is designed with the integration of other services in mind from the outset. APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, allow different software components to communicate seamlessly. This ensures businesses can easily integrate into the existing system as they grow and adopt new tools or platforms.
- Cloud-native: Cloud-native applications are designed from the ground up to operate in a cloud environment. This means they can fully utilize cloud services, from scalability to security. For businesses, this translates to reduced infrastructure costs, enhanced performance, and the ability to adapt quickly to changing demands.
- Headless: In a headless architecture, the front-end (what the user interacts with, usually the "Website") is decoupled from the back-end (where data is stored and operations are performed). This separation allows businesses to change or customize the user interface without affecting the underlying system. It also means that the same back-end system can serve multiple front-ends, be it a website, mobile app, or even IoT devices. Learn more about Headless.
Are MACH and Composable Commerce the same, then? No, in essence, Composable Commerce is about choice and flexibility, and those values are made possible by the MACH principles. Composable Commerce is the "What", while MACH is the "How".
Composable Commerce empowers businesses to select the best components for their unique needs, ensuring their eCommerce operation remains agile, resilient, and future-ready. Whether adopting a new payment gateway, integrating with a different CRM system, or overhauling the user interface, MACH principles ensure businesses can do so with minimal friction.
Components of a Composable Commerce Ecosystem
Various, highly specified components work together in a Composable Commerce ecosystem to provide a comprehensive eCommerce solution. The idea behind Composable Commerce is to offer tailored solutions to support your business needs, so there is no "correct" setup, but here's a brief description of typical components in an ecosystem:
- Front-end Layer: This is the user interface, which can be a website, mobile app, or even IoT devices. Given the headless nature of Composable Commerce built on MACH principles, this layer must be decoupled from the back-end, allowing for design and user experience flexibility. One thing to look out for when selecting back-end components is framework agnosticism. You want to be able to build the user experience using the development framework that suits you.
- Cart and order engine: This is where the business logic resides. It includes cart creation, order processing, payments, and other core functionalities. It communicates with the front-end through APIs. Make sure to select a cart and order engine that can scale when needs are high.
- APIs: This acts as a mediator between the front-end and back-end, ensuring seamless communication. It routes requests to the appropriate microservices and aggregates responses.
- Content Management System (CMS): Allows businesses to manage and update their content, product descriptions, blog posts, or customer reviews.
- Search and Personalization Engines: These components enhance the user experience by providing personalized content and efficient search capabilities.
- Order Management System (OMS): Manages customer orders from placement to delivery, ensuring efficient processing and tracking.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Manages customer data, interactions, and history, enabling businesses to nurture relationships and offer personalized experiences.
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): Integrates various business processes into a unified system, from procurement and inventory management to finance and product creation.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Distributes content across multiple servers, ensuring fast and reliable access for users regardless of geographic location.
- Product Information Management (PIM): Centralizes product data and streamlines the process of managing and distributing product information across multiple channels.
- Warehouse Management System (WMS): Manages and optimizes warehouse operations, from inventory tracking to order fulfillment and shipping.
- Digital Experience Platform (DXP): Integrates digital touchpoints, providing tools and features to create, manage, and optimize user experiences across different digital channels.
- Analytics and Monitoring Tools: Provide insights into user behavior, sales trends, and system performance, helping businesses make informed decisions.
Read more about the Composable Commerce Alphabet Soup
Each component in a Composable Commerce ecosystem should be designed to be interchangeable, allowing businesses to swap out or upgrade individual parts without disrupting the entire system. This modularity is what gives Composable Commerce its flexibility and adaptability.
Benefits of Composable Commerce
- Best of Breed Approach: Tailor your eCommerce ecosystem by selecting the best components for your needs.
- Sustainability: The need for over-capacity and poor utilization of hardware resources are avoided with a serverless infrastructure, leading to significantly smaller carbon footprints.
- Agility: Continuously refine the customer experience, adapting to innovations and changing demands without platform overhauls.
- Business Acceleration: Efficiently integrate components through modern APIs, focusing on core business values.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Pay only for what you need, avoiding unnecessary costs associated with all-in-one platforms. Save on development with modern frameworks and modularized architecture.
- Freedom for your Data: Access your data easily without being locked into a single platform.
- Scalability with Serverless Infrastructure: Adjust capacity instantly, scaling your business globally without limitations.
- Microservices Architecture: Upgrade and develop components independently without affecting the entire ecosystem.
- API-first Connectivity: Connect components seamlessly, ensuring data is accessible when needed.
- Cloud-Native Benefits: Harness the advantages of SaaS, reducing costs and boosting energy efficiency.
- Headless Approach: Connect any front end to your back end, selling through various digital channels without back-end changes.
Drawbacks of Composable Commerce
While Composable Commerce offers numerous advantages, it's also essential to consider potential drawbacks:
- Complexity: Integrating multiple components can lead to increased complexity, especially if they're from different vendors. Ensure all components are built on the MACH principles to minimize complexity.
- Dependency on Multiple Vendors: Relying on various vendors for different components can sometimes make problem resolution more challenging. To avoid friction, ensure clear process ownership for all parts of the eCommerce operations.
- Initial Setup Time: Building a tailored solution from various components can be time-consuming initially compared to adopting a pre-built monolithic platform. While this is true in many cases, the time and cost-saving businesses see over the span of a normal cycle is considerable.
- Skill Requirements: Managing and optimizing a composable system may require other skills, potentially leading to the need to hire.
Businesses must weigh these challenges against the benefits. Composable Commerce may not fit everyone. Learn more about the pros and cons of Composable Commerce.
Knowing the differences in the Composable Commerce World
- Difference Between Composable Commerce and Headless: While both offer flexibility, headless focuses on separating the front and back ends. Composable Commerce, on the other hand, is a broader approach, emphasizing modularity in all components, not just the user interface. Headless is an integral part of Composable Commerce. Learn more about headless vs. composable.
- Difference Between Composable Commerce and Composed Commerce: While both emphasize modularity, "composed" typically refers to a pre-set combination of components, whereas "composable" offers more flexibility in choosing and integrating components. Learn more about Composable vs. Composed.
Case Studies in Composable Commerce
The Composable Commerce principles provide scalability, and a host of features tailored for modern businesses. Here are just a few examples of success stories:
Happy Socks: From a monolith to composable in under 16 weeks
"It was a massive shift away from that kind of old-school architecture to something new." - Isaac Kuenhle-Nelson, Head of Engineering, Happy Socks
The Swedish friends' big idea turned global. Growing fast, Happy Socks migrated to Composable Commerce in 16 weeks.
Zero downtime for C'est Normal
“We didn’t really know how to react at first?! This is the first time we’ve ever done a drop without anything crashing” — Warner Nickersson, C’est Normal CEO
The first drop using their new solution resulted in zero downtime and no payment gateway timeouts. A first for C'est Normal.
Why the Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) is Lower
Composable Commerce offers cost savings in multiple areas. Businesses can realize significant financial benefits from avoiding unnecessary features to efficient integrations and updates.
Getting Started with Composable Commerce
Transitioning to a composable approach involves:
- Evaluating current needs and pain points.
- Researching and selecting the right components.
- Ensuring smooth integration and testing.
- Microservices: Small, independent processes that communicate with each other to form a complete application or ecosystem.
- API: Application Programming Interface, a set of tools for building and connecting software applications.
- Cloud-native: Cloud-native products are designed to provide consistent development and automated management experiences across private, public, and hybrid clouds.
- Headless: An approach where the front-end is decoupled from the back-end.
Composable Commerce FAQs
What is Composable Commerce?
- Composable Commerce is a modular approach to building eCommerce solutions. It allows businesses to select and integrate various components based on their specific needs rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all platform.
How does Composable Commerce differ from traditional eCommerce platforms?
- Unlike monolithic platforms, Composable Commerce offers flexibility and scalability by allowing businesses to pick, choose, and integrate different components, ensuring a tailored fit for their unique requirements.
What are the core principles of Composable Commerce?
- The core principles are encapsulated in the MACH architecture: Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless.
Why is the "headless" approach critical in Composable Commerce?
- A headless approach decouples the front-end from the back-end, allowing businesses to customize user interfaces without affecting the underlying system. This offers flexibility in presenting content across various platforms, from websites to mobile apps.
How does Composable Commerce enhance scalability?
- By utilizing microservices and cloud-native architectures, businesses can easily scale specific components of their system based on demand without overhauling the entire platform.
Is Composable Commerce cost-effective?
- Yes. Composable Commerce can be more cost-effective as businesses only integrate necessary components, avoiding costs associated with unnecessary features in monolithic platforms.
How does an API-first approach benefit businesses?
- An API-first approach ensures seamless integration of various components, allowing businesses to adopt new tools or platforms as they grow.
What challenges does Composable Commerce address?
- It addresses issues like rigidity in monolithic platforms, scalability concerns, slow time-to-market for new features, and the need for a tailored eCommerce solution.
Can I switch from a traditional platform to Composable Commerce?
- Yes. Many businesses transition to Composable Commerce to benefit from its flexibility, scalability, and adaptability.
Is Composable Commerce suitable for small businesses?
- While Composable Commerce offers features that benefit enterprises, its modular nature means that even small businesses can adopt components that fit their specific needs and budget.
How does Composable Commerce support international expansion?
- With its cloud-native architecture and support for multiple languages, currencies, and regional integrations, Composable Commerce is well-suited for businesses aiming for global expansion.
Are there any security concerns with Composable Commerce?
- Like any digital platform, security is paramount. However, Composable Commerce, with its modern architecture, often benefits from the latest security protocols, especially when utilizing reputable components and services.
How does Composable Commerce impact customer experience?
- By offering businesses the flexibility to tailor their platform, Composable Commerce can lead to a more personalized and efficient customer experience.
What's the learning curve for businesses adopting Composable Commerce?
- The learning curve can vary based on the components chosen. However, the modular nature of Composable Commerce often means businesses can implement changes gradually, easing the transition.
Where can I find resources or experts in Composable Commerce?
- Organizations like the MACH Alliance offer resources and guidance on Composable Commerce. Additionally, many vendors and consultants specialize in this area, ready to assist businesses in their transition.
Where does Brink Commerce API come in?
Brink Commerce API is just that; a commerce API. We see it as the foundation for Composable Commerce. It's built to handle the most critical eCommerce process: orders; the order engine can handle massive amounts of orders worldwide. Furthermore, it enables you to integrate all the necessary components in your ecosystem. You can add, remove or replace functions for any market as you see fit.
On top of that, Brink Commerce API is framework agnostic, allowing for any front-end technology you want to use. This enables you to build just the customer experience you want. Speak to us today to get started.