How Composable Commerce helps you innovate in a tough economy

Linda Bustos

August 20th, 2020

The global impact of the coronavirus pandemic has forced many organizations to rapidly adjust work life, operations and strategies -- including managing increased digital demand and shifting customer needs across channels amid what has been called the “COVID-19 recession.”

Unlike previous recessions, COVID-19 has impacted consumers and businesses across the globe simultaneously and disrupted supply chains, consumer behavior, selling channels and operations (including employee furloughs and customer service call center shutdowns). Never before has industry had to so quickly adapt to safety protocols and adopt services such as curbside pickup, self-checkout and remote sales calls.

For many organizations, budgets for technology investment are squeezed in 2020 -- a condition that’s likely to continue through 2021. But cutting or pushing out digital initiatives during a slowdown also means falling further behind competitors once the global economy begins its rebound.

In the face of uncertainty, digital leaders facing budget cuts, resource reductions and revenue pressures need to “do more with less” -- but this doesn’t have to mean do nothing.

The good news is, companies don’t have to slam the brakes on digital investment. Rather, smarter investment in capabilities that enable the business to do more with less and close experience gaps faster can set an organization up for success through the recession and beyond.

How Composable Commerce keeps you innovating through a recession

The following are three ways embracing Composable Commerce can help you stay progressive in a tough economy.

Quickly close experience gaps for “contactless commerce”

Consumer-brand interactions and transactions will be impacted by health and safety directives, which may change depending on the course of the virus and seasonality. Demand for safe and convenient ways to experience and acquire products is pushing brands and retailers to provide more “try before you buy” digital experiences (AR/VR, virtual try on, video, 360-degree imagery and more) and richer content. For safe physical shopping, supporting mobile pre-shopping, click and collect, mobile self-checkout and curbside pickup solutions are critical.

Because most of these features don’t come out of the box with traditional ecommerce platforms, brands and retailers turn to point solutions and microservices to integrate these features into progressive web applications, native apps, voice and chatbot experiences and backoffice solutions.

For example, Elastic Path technology partner Object Edge rolled out its Curbspot solution which integrates with any ecommerce platform and provides customers and in-store staff with enhanced curbside pickup experience, where staffers can better manage curbside orders and even meet customers in their cars using GPS and SMS messaging.

Do more with a smaller team

Large digital teams are a luxury that many brands and retailers can’t afford. Layoffs, furloughs and hiring freezes can impact your ability to execute -- unless you have agile technology that makes it quick and easy to configure business logic and make changes with smaller teams. For this reason, API-driven microservices and packaged business capabilities are gaining traction. For example, reMarkable migrated from a pre-order platform to Elastic Path in under eight weeks with only one frontend developer, and tailored a React.js PWA on top of Elastic Path APIs to integrate it with their fulfillment engine.

Modernize your technology stack without a massive replatform

One advantage of microservices and packaged business capabilities (the building blocks of Composable Commerce) is they can be used alongside any headless commerce platform, providing the immediate benefits of speed and agility without a full rip and replace replatforming. When budgets are constrained and resources are tight, consider composable solutions that can replace aging components of your monolith incrementally.

For example, a Catalog microservice may be added to your environment first to solve right-now pain around serving different catalogs to different customers and channel partners, or to take advantage of more flexible data schema for new product types and attributes. Or, a combination of microservices can be composed into a new “greenfield” project that supports a new line of business, market channel or experience touchpoint without requiring a separate platform.

While an API-driven environment enables you to build microservices to spec in-house (and this was the route of ecommerce microservices’ earliest adopters), COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) options like Elastic Path exist today to help you hit the ground running faster and at a much lower cost. SaaS solutions give you access to a full suite of microservices that you can add at any time as you need.

How quickly can you adapt to the “new normal”?

While microservices support endless use cases for innovation and updated customer experiences, there are some common applications that can help you close experience gaps and support contactless shopping during COVID-19, including:

Contactless curbside pickup through IoT devices like pickup towers and lockers accessed through mobile apps and QR codes

Mobile self-checkout to reduce physical contact and checkout line wait time

Native chatbots to provide instant customer care during office and call center closures

Intelligent vending for a D2C presence without the risk of physical retail leases and operations

Virtual shopping AR and VR integrated with your digital channel to bring the in-person experience online

Voice commerce to support frictionless shopping at home

B2B applications to digitally enable sales reps and support customer onboarding

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Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.