I work regularly with global brands on Composable Commerce solutions, which means I’m frequently asked to explain what composable solutions are and why we at Myplanet are so committed to them. Composable architecture offers a number of advantages for businesses in nearly every industry and vertical, but they offer distinct advantages for commerce in particular.
1 - What is Composable Commerce?
I describe Composable Commerce as being like LegoTM bricks for ecommerce. With Lego, there are individual pieces of different sizes, shapes, and colors. Each one can be connected to another, and another, and another, allowing you to build nearly anything you want. Composable Commerce architectures work the same way, except instead of plastic bricks you’re working with different digital features or functions.
A company that supports a Composable Commerce approach like Elastic Path, for example, empowers brands with business-centric tooling and adaptability, modular MACH-based architecture, and an open ecosystem so you can flex and adapt the structure to suit your needs. If we go back to the Lego example, it’s a little like getting a Star Wars set. Each piece of the set serves one purpose that builds to a larger whole, but you can also put them together however you want. For example, the same pieces that build the Star Wars set could be used to build a Titanic set, or a mansion, or a pirate ship, or anything else you could dream up. With Composable Commerce, as with Lego, the options are practically unlimited.
2 - Why is Composable Commerce important?
This is the biggest and most important question, in my opinion. There are lots of workable options in the world, so why is this one such an important one to consider? I see three primary reasons for why Composable Commerce is going to be the biggest differentiator for retailers in the future:
- Technological evolution: Technology is an undeniably fast-moving force and its impact on the retail industry is going to be profound. Already we’re seeing significant changes at every level—from back-end inventory management and logistics to front-of-house customer profile management and couponing implementations. Things are changing rapidly and the solution you need now may not be the one you need in three or five years. With a composable approach, you get building blocks that you can shift around, add to, or change out for new ones with ease, allowing you to keep pace with a market that will not sit still.
- Flexibility: Unlike out-of-the-box monolithic solutions, which give you one thing that may or may not meet all of your needs, composable solutions let you customize to get the exact solution you’re after. You can tailor your solution to the specifics of your business, instead of relying on a pre-set assortment of components.
- Customer demands: Customers have exposure to the absolute leading edge of what technology can deliver, and their expectations are being raised faster than ever. With Composable Commerce, you’re able to experiment quickly and respond to the new expectations of your customers by leveraging easily integrated, industry-leading solutions into your composable framework.
3 - What are the major use cases for Composable Commerce?
The goal of Composable Commerce is to give you customizability and flexibility in creating your digital experience, so it could work for nearly anything you can dream of. But here’s where I’ve seen it applied the most:
- Commerce: A Composable Commerce platform might include pricing, PIM, cart, checkout, catalog, ordering, account management, and more. This means you can sell digitally with more flexibility to add in purchase-channel options such as social commerce, conversational buying, and omnichannel capabilities.
- Content: A composable experience management and CMS solution gives your marketing teams the flexibility to manage their needs directly. With reduced dependence on technical teams, you can create a more agile, flexible marketing approach, enhancing your ability to appeal to customers and respond to their needs in real-time.
- Front-end: Myplanet’s accelerator Composable is a great example of how you can unlock your digital potential faster using a Composable Commerce framework. Build a front-end that makes sense for your brand, and get your omnichannel commerce experience to market faster than ever while incorporating best practices around SEO, accessibility, integrations and data flows back into your existing systems.
- Marketing and attribution: Empower every team with good data. With Composable Commerce you can create a single view of the customer, across all channels, to help your teams understand what’s performing well and what isn’t, with tracking attribution right back from your first ad click. Composable Commerce equips you with what you need to make meaningful, data-driven choices for improving your CX.
- Search and personalization: Commerce is all about the product, and composable architectures let you create a personalized ecommerce site experience with search and discovery solutions that shoppers love. With a dynamic search and personalization experience, your metrics can see huge benefits.
4 - How do I pick where to start with a Composable Commerce build?
Once you’ve determined Composable Commerce is the right solution for you, the next step is getting started. For most businesses, I recommend starting with the least critical piece of your most critical feature. Here are some examples:
- If your brand leads with content, consider a composable CMS on your blog, home page, or landing pages
- If your brand leads with novel experiences, consider composable marketing, data optimization and a single view of the customer to identify new experiences like AR, VR, or conversational commerce
- If your brand leads with personalization, consider a composable search and discovery experience to provide ultra-custom results that populate based on how a customer arrived at your site in the first place
In each case, think about how your brand plans to excel in the market. By choosing a low-risk part of a high-impact area of your business to get started, your up-front investment will set you up for success later while giving you the opportunity to explore the benefits of Composable Commerce and begin optimizing its use with the increased control it offers.
5 - Should every brand build a Composable Commerce experience?
Composable Commerce is, in my mind, far and away the best solution for retailers looking to make a smart, CX-oriented, future-ready investment, but the short answer is still no, there is no single solution that makes sense for every business out there. It’s a bit more nuanced than that. To help determine if Composable Commerce is right for you, these are the four key qualifiers I focus on when assessing fit for a client:
- Price: Composable Commerce isn’t as extensive (and therefore not as expensive) as a full re-platforming, but it’s a significant project all the same. It’s important to take into account the level of effort required and what your business can afford to invest. The right eCommerce partner will help you minimize these costs, so I also recommend speaking to an expert advisor on how to select the approach and partners that will work best for your business from both a cost and functionality perspective.
- Migration strategy/timing complexity: When it comes to implementing a new architecture, timing and approach is key. Picking the right strategy can be the difference between an endless cycle or rework and optimizing your increased capabilities from day 1, so it’s important to have a clear vision of how to execute before you decide to take the leap. Again, expert advice from experienced agencies can help set your business up for success.
- Digital maturity: Any significant change to your digital operations is not to be taken lightly, and even though Composable Commerce offers a lot of flexibility and room to grow, it’s important to be sure your organization is ready to own that flexibility. Carefully consider your team's current capabilities and plans for future team enhancements, and don’t be afraid to use an agency to support the move.
- Omnichannel / multichannel selling: Composable Commerce is the most impactful for brands that sell in multiple different channels (think: in-store, online, through chat, via social media, upselling from the customer support team, and more). If your brand has no plans to sell through multiple channels, then composable may not be necessary. But if it’s in your near to mid-term plans, it’s definitely worth considering.
6 - How can brands manage all the different vendors? Isn’t it easier to just pick one and stick with it?
Big, all-in-one platforms do have one major convenience over composable: you only have to deal with one dashboard and one vendor. However, that convenience comes at a cost and in my opinion, composable still comes out ahead. Any solution will have its challenges, but Composable Commerce is a challenge to be managed, not avoided.
Think in terms of the business user experience— things like how each department or functional role needs to interact with technology. A monolith may appear to offer convenience for your technical team, but it’s likely setting up roadblocks and headaches that you won’t realize until you try to make a quick change to keep up with customer needs, add or remove a channel, or outpace competitors by spinning up new experience. One vendor isn’t easier if your departments can’t work with it easily.
The key to success in a multi-vendor composable scenario is working with an eCommerce agency who understands what you need. Partnering with the right agency means you’ll get someone who can build the exact solution you need, who can customize dashboards in a way that works for your business, and who can set you up for success from the start based on how your business users will actually use the platform.
7 - Can I start small or do I have to rebuild everything at once?
You can start at any scale, and for many of my clients, I recommend starting small as you build up your capabilities in supporting a composable framework. In any composable build, there are three ways to scope a project:
Tech-by-tech: In this approach, you replace individual pieces (like a CMS or a search and discovery experience, or even a section of the commerce system) one at a time. This can be a great way to solve for high-trouble areas and reduce overall risk in your implementation.
Regional or vertical-specific: This approach is great for testing new features in smaller or test markets before launching across your whole organization. Because of Composable Commerce’s flexibility, we see people using a mix of new and old technologies with this approach.
Rip-and-replace: This is a classic overhaul, where an old monolithic platform is entirely replaced by composable elements. While doable, this is not usually a recommended path unless you truly need it. These kinds of projects are large, require bigger resource investments, and do take a bit longer to see the results, so they should be entered into with those constraints in mind.
8 - Do I have to use all categories of composable in order for it to work?
Composable Commerce works whether it’s just one piece of the puzzle or the whole business ecosystem. While each composable element can make a difference to the efficiency of the entire system, you can start anywhere and have an immediate impact on just one part of it.
Some vendors have created a unique Packaged Business Capability (PBC) in the market by blending multiple functionalities together to form another core pillar of a Composable Commerce architecture. Elastic Path, in particular, is a great example of a solution with numerous core commerce capabilities working together (as seen in the earlier diagram).
Alongside our Composable accelerator, Myplanet has built out capabilities to take advantage of the opportunities PBCs present. For example, Myplanet has created connectors for two of the leading CMS providers — Amplience and Contentful — to help brands with a seamless and integrated Composable Commerce experience. This creates a better time to value for your migrations and delivers a better day to day experience for your operations teams.
9 - How do I get all my customer data in one place if I’m using multiple vendors?
The best solution for this challenge is a Customer Data Platform (CDP). When you build a composable system, each element is capable of communicating with one another via an API. A CDP lets you bring all that data together into a central source of truth that your teams can easily access to get the information and data insights they need for their work.
A CDP links all the data together from every platform you use — composable or not — and connects the dots to give you a customer-centric view of the business. Myplanet’s Composable accelerator comes CDP-ready to make sure your data is optimized and you have a full view of your customer from start to finish.
10 - How do I calculate the ROI from Composable Commerce?
To calculate ROI for a composable architecture, I recommend drawing from a few different areas: costs of ownership, revenue, and maintenance needs.
Total cost of ownership
Monolithic solutions charge for the full package—even if you don’t use every feature—often resulting in wasted spend. With composable systems, you only pay for the products that you use (both individual platforms and pay-per-use pricing). With this structure, you have a leaner commerce experience and you can substantially reduce your annual costs.
Having an improved time to market through faster integrations and full flexibility on the experience layer, the business can take advantage of changing customer demands based on events, trends or new business models. This can lead to:
- Increased gross market value (GMV)
- Higher conversion rates on ecommerce metrics
- New customers, markets and channels (e.g. marketplace, subscriptions, global sales)
Reduced maintenance costs
Running on a Composable Commerce architecture results in a more tightly integrated system, which allows you to spend less time maintaining break fixes in deployments while increasing development efficiency. The integration approach to composable also allows you to find the root cause of problems more quickly and test in isolation— for example, testing why your search personalization is not working optimally. Instead of testing the entire end-to-end solution, you can test the search feature in isolation and follow the trail more clearly (of course there is still a need for good documentation here).
Your ROI metrics will always need to be contextualized for your business. However, each starts with ensuring the system is capable of doing what you need it to— only then can you start to track the dollars and cents.
Composable means choice, but the strategy is everything
At the end of the day, Composable Commerce is about choice and flexibility. There are a lot of reasons why brands might want this flexibility — from building ultra-custom experiences to simply keeping up with changing consumer demands — but it is an investment. If you’re not sure about whether you need a full composable build, speak to a trusted expert that works in this area all the time. A software studio-like Myplanet can help you understand how to approach the transition and what the best strategy for your business is.
Want to learn more about Composable Commerce and Myplanet? Check out how we integrate with Elastic Path.