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Aug 25, 2023 | 8 minute read

8 Signs That Your Commerce Solution Isn’t Composable

written by Seamus Roddy

Since 2020, the term composable commerce has spread across the online commerce world. And as awareness of composable commerce has grown, so has its status as the future of digital commerce: 95% of merchandisers familiar with composable commerce believe that it’s the approach businesses that sell online should take.

The buzz about composable commerce is exciting for brands and businesses that care about delivering top-tier, differentiated experiences to their customers. But buzz carries downsides, and chief among them is the possibility of a commerce provider falsely labeling their solution as composable.

Could you be using a commerce solution that was sold to you as “composable” but doesn’t meet the standard tenets, expectations, and benefits of composable commerce? Or are you just unsure about whether your commerce solution qualifies as composable? Learn about eight signs that indicate you are using a commerce solution that doesn’t qualify as composable commerce.

1. You didn’t select individual commerce components or solutions

It’s the most important and foundational element of a composable commerce approach: You select individual, best-of-breed components for different elements of your commerce experience. If your organization didn’t take this step, your commerce solution simply isn’t composable.

Non-composable approaches to commerce feature out-of-the-box, rigid capabilities that cannot be easily swapped in and out. These platforms are often mediocre because they don’t reflect your complex business requirements, your unique commerce vision, or the specific experiences that your customers desire.

You’re not getting composable commerce if you’re not getting the ability to build a multi-vendor commerce solution that fits your needs. Cart, checkout, account management, search, CRM, CMS – for each of these categories and many more, you choose independently-deployed capabilities that fit your business. Composable commerce means that you choose what components add up to a high-functioning commerce solution. If you’re not selecting components, your commerce solution isn’t composable.

2. Your commerce solution isn’t API-first

Having the ability to select and swap specific, independent commerce components is a major draw for brands who want to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Making that happen requires an API-first, componentized solution – a lack of APIs is a giveaway that your commerce solution isn’t composable.

Not sure if your commerce solution uses APIs? Ask if it includes modular components packaged business capabilities (PBCs).

Example microservices aggregation into pbc building blocks

PBCs are modular software components representing a well-defined business capability. One PBC can support a broad digital commerce capability, such as cart and checkout.

APIs are application planning interfaces. Essentially, APIs provide communication between the different services and components that make up a composable commerce solution. APIs are how your modular components and PBCs talk to each other and make it possible to create a cohesive omnichannel experience for your customers.

Just because your commerce solution involves APIs doesn’t mean that you’re unlocking the full potential of composable commerce. That requires being API-first. API-first means that your API specification is designed and built without a required user interface (UI). Being API-first provides the flexibility to create any type of customer experience imaginable, as your API is your UI. By contrast, if your APIs were tacked on to a specific UI, you may be left with limitations. For example, an API built for a required UI may not be able to communicate with services that power one-click checkout, and your customers may instead have to take three or four or five steps to checkout.

Together, PBCs and APIs contribute to modularity, a core tenet of composable commerce. Modularity means that your commerce solution is made up of independent capabilities that can be deployed and improved independently. If your commerce solution doesn’t have APIs, it’s not composable. And if your commerce solution is one in which APIs were added post-build or only cover certain elements of your architecture, you also aren’t using composable commerce.

3. You never hear about various technology vendors

Your commerce solution isn’t composable if you never hear about technology vendors.

After all, the point of composable commerce is to assemble best-of-breed capabilities and compose them into a unified commerce solution that works for your brand. Whether it’s payment or fulfillment or content management, composable commerce means integrating various leading technology vendors into your digital commerce solution.

If your vendor claims that they can and should provide every part of your commerce solution, they simply aren’t advocating for a composable approach. If your vendor tells you that you’ll never have to buy software from anyone else, they’re not composable, and your commerce solution won’t be, either. And if your vendor presents a full commerce demo that’s built entirely on their system with their technology, your solution will not be composable.

4. You employ a single commerce product that spans multiple capabilities

If your commerce solution involves a single commerce product that spans multiple commerce capabilities, then your solution isn’t truly composable.

A vendor may try to pitch you on a single commerce product that can handle both search and content management, or product information management (PIM) and order management system (OMS). This isn’t how composable commerce works.

Remember, composable commerce is about independently deploying specific, individual capabilities for specific, individual components of your commerce solution. The same vendor might offer multiple products that you include in your commerce solution, but if the product they’re offering doesn’t correspond to a specific capability, then it’s not appropriate for a composable approach.

5. You can’t get your hands on developer documentation

If you haven’t been provided developer documentation, your commerce solution isn’t composable.

Composable commerce architecture is flexible and modular, which means that you design custom business logic to fit your business’s specific commerce needs. In order to learn and use modular architecture, your team should be provided documentation, education, and dashboards. Composable commerce is about putting commerce decisions in the hands of your team. So, if the company powering your commerce solution is evasive about providing documentation explaining how to use it, your commerce solution isn’t composable.

6. Your provider talks about plugins and extensions – and never about integrations and data movement

When you hear about plugins and extensions but never about integrations and data movement, you’re not working with a composable commerce solution.

Plugins, sometimes called extensions, are software additions that provide customization of programs, apps, and the content offered on your website. Integrations, on the other hand, use APIs to link two or more pieces of software together. They don’t require a software installation.

Integrations are foundational to a composable commerce approach; plugins are not. Plugins inject code written by other developers directly into your digital commerce platform. Plugins are known to:

  • Slow down performance and site optimization
  • Create instability
  • Complicate debugging

With integrations, on the other hand, you link software through APIs, which is faster and doesn’t clutter your commerce architecture. For integrations to work, your commerce architecture should include webhooks, which send automated messages when certain events, such as clicking on a CTA, occur.

A composable commerce provider will talk about and offer integrations. If you only ever hear about plugins, you’re not working with a composable solution.

7. Your commerce experience is built-in, your frontend is hard to change, and customization is difficult

The point of composable commerce is to deliver exceptional commerce experiences. Customers engage with commerce experiences through digital storefronts and shoppable landing pages. If your customer experience is built-in, and your frontend is hard for technical and business users to change and compose, then you aren’t using a composable commerce solution.

Composable commerce is a form of headless architecture. Headless means that the frontend and backend is decoupled. Making changes to your frontend – your customer-facing interface – doesn’t require backend development. Making changes to your backend – your site’s structure, systems, data, and logic – won’t affect the frontend interface that your customers use.

If your solution involves a tightly coupled frontend and backend, you can’t easily make changes to your customer experience, and you aren’t using composable commerce. If your user interface is built-in and rigid, you won’t be able to select and compose chosen frontend elements to deliver your preferred user experience. In this case, your commerce solution isn’t composable, because composable means that you choose and design your customers' commerce experiences.

8. You’ve never seen an architecture diagram demonstrating the many components of your commerce solution

If you’ve never seen or can’t request an architecture diagram of your commerce solution, your solution isn’t composable.

Just consider: composable commerce is a unified collection of different commerce capabilities. Your cart, checkout, payments, inventory, pricing, analytics, search, content management – all are independent technologies. If your solution is composable, the company powering your commerce solution should have a diagram that demonstrates how your components fit together in one solution.

If this diagram doesn’t exist, it’s possible that you were instead given a single piece of software to install and then have your in-house tech team manage. In this case, you’re working with a monolith and you aren’t practicing composable commerce.

It turns out that my commerce solution isn’t composable – now what?

If you identify with one or more of the signs that your commerce solution isn’t composable, you’ll want to take action.

Whether it’s clarifying with the company currently powering your commerce solution or evaluating whether you need to make a change, having the best possible digital commerce experience is vital to business success. To that end, we’re happy to serve as a resource for any brand that is looking for a commerce solution that provides strong customer experience and boosts revenue.

Talk to one of our experts today to learn whether your current commerce solution is composable, whether it should be composable, and how to get started on the path to composability.

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