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Jul 20, 2023 | 6 minute read

Three Composable Commerce Myths, Busted!

written by Bryan House

A recent article in Modern Retail deemed composable the “hottest buzzword in commerce.” Overall, the piece hits the mark on most points about composable commerce. It’s more flexible for retailers to adopt the capabilities they want for their commerce sites. It’s less expensive and resource-intensive than building custom features from scratch. And, it helps brands break free of the restrictions imposed by their current platforms.

However, it’s worth clarifying that it’s much easier to get started with composable solutions than the article represents. Composable systems don’t always require a replatform or massive enterprise budget to implement. Let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions around composable commerce, and why it’s much simpler to execute than you might think.

Myth: Composable commerce is difficult to implement

Many brands have PTSD when it comes to any type of technological change. That’s because legacy commerce platforms have locked them into decades of restrictions, which required expensive, custom workarounds from the development team to circumvent. It’s no wonder that the idea of building a composable platform from scratch can sound intimidating. There are limitless components from which to choose. In theory, that idea sounds pretty daunting if you don’t know where to start.

Busted: Composable, API-first commerce companies like Elastic Path provide both SaaS and DIY starter kits that serve as an advanced starting point with composable commerce. From there, companies easily turn on integrations with their preferred vendors via Integrations Hub. These include many of the core capabilities you’d need for a commerce experience — including search, email, OMS, SSO, shipping and fulfillment, OpenAI integrations, and more. DevOps teams can build and monitor components using our commerce intelligent iPaaS, Composer, taking the management and operational risk out of the equation. According to Donna Quinlan, head of product at Vivrelle, an Elastic Path customer, “Composer helps us to power the unique experiences that members all over the United States rely on and gives us the flexibility to easily make changes down the line. If we choose to add or change a third-party technology, it’s not going to break our entire tech stack. It’s a huge unlock for us!”

Myth: You need to replatform to embrace composable

The article references having to build component by component from scratch to achieve a “truly composable experience.” Many vendors will make composable commerce seem quite binary — ditch your existing platform to switch to composable. Either that, or you’re only halfway in the composable club and your commerce experience is doomed to fail. That misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.

Busted: You don’t have to rip and replace your existing commerce system to experience the benefits of composable commerce. Even though commerce is a big ticket, high visibility item, “replatforming” can be handled as more of a measured, pragmatic transition. I’ve seen this done successfully in two ways:

  • Strangler pattern: Choose one piece of the existing software platform and replace it with a composable architecture. Continue to replace pieces of the legacy software platform, component by component.
  • Start small: Select a single brand within a portfolio as a proof of concept (PoC), and test it entirely on a composable architecture. After ironing out the details, continue to replatform each brand using composable commerce technology.

I cover how to execute on each of these approaches in a blog post about breaking up with your commerce monolith.

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Myth: Composable is only for large enterprises

While enterprises are great candidates for composable commerce because of their digital maturity and development resources, you don’t have to be a massive company to reap the benefits of composable. Ultimately, composability is an application development mindset that starts with your team and the belief that a “best for me” approach is how businesses create sustainable competitive advantage. As Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, has said, in today’s business landscape, the old adage of build or buy misses the mark. Instead, it’s build or die. Many digital teams fundamentally believe that open APIs and composable architectures will help their companies achieve business goals related to adaptability, responsiveness, and ultimately the ability to create great customer experiences. And they’re right.

Busted: In addition to enterprises, brands with B2B or channel distribution strategies, umbrella organizations with a portfolio of smaller brands, or simply those who want to experiment with a variety of emerging distribution channels (e.g. social commerce) are all great candidates for composable commerce. We fundamentally believe composable is for everyone — and are in the business of making it accessible to companies at all levels of digital readiness (related to my point about replatforming above).

For example, PARO, a growth platform bringing businesses and expert finance and accounting professionals together through AI technology, adopted a Composable Commerce approach powered by Elastic Path. PARO was able to design and launch a self-service experience of complex professional services with little overhead, using Integrations to hub to launch integrations with Algolia for search and Stripe for payments.

Another Elastic Path client, Maavee, is a total well-being solution that allows employers to simply gift funds to be spent along each employee's highly personal wellness journey. As a new digital commerce company, Maavee has unique and specific requirements. Elastic Path helped Maavee implement a composable solution more quickly than other vendors, allowing them to trailblaze their own digital commerce journey.

The bottom line is that we’re stoked to see the much-deserved buzz about composable commerce. It’s the best way forward for any brand that wants an unencumbered way to move faster with their technology and focus on the business problems they need to solve. In this economy, it’s critical to have the freedom to experiment with strategies that drive customer loyalty and growth. Why let your tech stack hold you back?