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May 2, 2024 | 5 minute read

User-Friendly Composable Commerce — Does it Exist?

written by Bryan House

Words like “composable” and “API first” mean a lot to the developers that build and maintain a commerce system. These very words help developers create a “best for me” system, made up of applications that address a company’s most important business problems to be solved. At the same time, teams need to look out for the business users who want to act fast on merchandising and marketing opportunities. These users need to work quickly to test campaigns and optimize them for conversion — without extensive developer involvement.

Composable is sold to the business as a best-of-breed approach. But, why even have a composable commerce system if it’s inaccessible to business users like merchandisers and marketers? How do you empower business users to achieve their goals vs. stitching together and potentially “dumbing down” applications? Vendor selection matters most when you’re looking for user-friendliness. Many vendors create systems that are cumbersome to use, even though they seem simple enough on the surface.

Let’s look at what makes composable commerce most challenging for business users, and how to find a system that works for everyone.

The biggest composable commerce usability red flag

The biggest usability trap composable commerce vendors fall into is trying to create a master UX for all of the application components in a system. The intuition seems right. A single interface should, feasibly, make a system easier to use. In reality, there are many different personas that interact with different applications in a composable commerce system, and each of them deserve a tool that works for their jobs.

For example, marketers are most likely to create frontend landing pages, while merchandisers are more concerned with the ins and outs of a product catalog. A master UX might present an iFrame or slimmed-down version of the original application. This makes it harder for business users to dive deeper into specific tasks, or take advantage of the full functionality of the original application.

These two business user personas present possibly the biggest opportunity for composable commerce to break convention when it comes to usability. The goal is to enable these personas to think outside the expected formula of a legacy commerce system, which probably wasn’t working for them to begin with.

There’s a reason why commerce is so formulaic - it's about removing friction and aligning with consumer expectations for “shopping.” Think about your experience going to a mall or a brick-and-mortar retail store. For the most part, you know what to expect, but certain brands introduce creative design, promotions, or events within that “box” to get your attention, to add an experiential dimension to your visit. Digital commerce is no different.

Users bring expectations with them to your digital commerce storefront - how the search and filtering experience, product landing pages, product detail pages, and checkout experience should behave. For the merchant, the idea is to make it as easy as possible to convert based on these expectations. Within these constraints, composable commerce creates the opportunity to challenge convention and enable the type of rapid-cycle marketing and merchandising that will set a brand apart from the competition.

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Focusing on the merchandiser and marketer UX

Ultimately, business users are accustomed to toggling between dozens (okay, maybe hundreds, gulp…) of browser tabs and applications in their average workweek. Why should a composable commerce system try to change that ingrained behavior? When you’re shopping for a composable commerce system, focus less on a vendor that creates a master UX, and more on the UX for each composed application. The application should be focused on a job to be done, rather than a “one screen to rule all” approach.

Going back to the brick-and-mortar example above, people like to shop in stores because it’s an enjoyable experience. There’s no reason the frontend of a digital commerce site should be any different. That’s where merchandisers and marketers can truly color outside the lines. The composable commerce user experience for these personas should empower them to create exciting, branded landing pages and product detail pages that are optimized for conversions — instead of being stuck with a generic template that requires developer involvement to change.

They need the freedom to move fast and test multiple iterations of copy, design elements, and more. The more user-friendly this specific application is, the more likely these teams can innovate and scale to use emerging technology like generative AI and social commerce to their advantage. And, as a result, they’ll be more likely to attract and convert customers.

If more composable commerce vendors focused on delighting the business user persona for digital commerce applications, teams would be able to do more, faster. Commerce should be about the business activities enabled by technology, rather than limitations imposed by technology. It’s all about empowering business users to achieve their goals with less friction (and freeing up time developers focus more on composable commerce’s innovation than iterative front-end changes).

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