Composable Commerce Architecture Guide
By 2023, Gartner predicts that organizations who have adopted a Composable Commerce approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
Composable Commerce refers to a modular digital commerce approach utilizing composable architecture. This approach powers best-in-breed solutions to achieve unique business needs in a customized tech stack.
Digital commerce footprints no longer fit the one-size-fits-all model from one vendor. Back in the first wave of the eCommerce revolution businesses ventured online with standardized platforms and minimal control over outcomes.
The eCommerce landscape of today is far more demanding. With far more touchpoints, a saturated market, and consumer expectation for modern digital experiences, businesses can no longer rely on outdated legacy platforms that can’t keep up. Out of this demand for innovation in the eCommerce space comes the Composable Commerce movement.
What we’ll cover in this eBook is a snapshot of Composable Commerce in approach and architecture, including a high-level view of the movement with specific callouts to what it looks like in a real-world eCommerce go-to-market strategy, and how to take the first steps towards adoption and implementation.
1. Composable Commerce Approach
Composable Commerce is an approach that enables marketing, merchandising, and sales teams to bring their brand's unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences that leverage multiple best-of-breed vendors composed together into a complete, business-ready solution.
While a traditional legacy solution can provide functionality out-of-the-box, the front and back end tied so closely together slows the customization of features you may need, as well as being stuck with features you don’t. An additional pain point within a more traditional legacy platform is when your business has more complex requirements. You’ll need developer expertise to create a custom, costlier, and slower to market solution since the front and back end are so tightly coupled.
How is MACH related to Composable Commerce?
A common question is the difference between MACH and Composable Commerce. MACH is a marketing acronym for the following technology: Microservices, API, Cloud-Native, and Headless. One of the key tenets of Composable Commerce is Modular Architecture, this is where MACH comes into play as the underlying back-end technology of a Composable Commerce approach.
Microservice vs. Packaged Business Capability
Two other terms relevant to Composable Commerce architecture but often confused are Microservices and Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs). Microservices are small applications built around specific business functionality decoupled from other pieces of your commerce platform. Their independence and dedicated APIs allow them to integrate with various touchpoints and be scaled, updated, and removed without impacting site performance, the database, or code of your platform. PBCs are components representing a defined business capability. An example of a PBC is a virtual shopping cart.
PBC = Virtual shopping cart
Microservice = The means of connecting services to each other is needed. Microservices, aka microservice architecture, structures an application as a collection of independent services around a business domain.
The key to establishing a relationship between microservices and PBCs is to understand that microservices are an architecture that defines how you break down the application into services. Packaged business solutions are the building blocks for applications or suites. The business capabilities model informs the composition of the microservices, which in turn breaks down the application into manageable chunks. Microservices and PBCs are key in the execution of a composable commerce solution. Microservices are required in the design and construction of the application you’re creating to carry out the greater task of the PBC.
Microservices provide faster go to market solutions. With the flexibility to develop independently of the front and back ends there is less risk and quicker implementation. Future upgrades become a la carte, so you iterate faster.
Instead of implementing a feature-rich platform that won’t fully be utilized, microservices architecture offers the flexibility to purchase, implement, and use the functionalities and features you need right now.
The Benefits of the Composable Commerce Approach
Control - Launch unique, brand-centric experiences according to your specific requirements. No more one-size-fits-all, out-of-the-box functionality. There isn’t a need for costly solutions requiring specialized skillsets and long timelines. You have more freedom and control to make changes as your business scales.
Simplicity – Dump the albatross of stalled projects. De-risk your commerce vision and get to market in weeks versus months. The Composable Commerce approach allows you to launch specific functionality like cart, subscriptions, catalogs, or unique content based on your requirements with easy vendor integrations for functions like search or tax. Moreover, you aren’t locked into vendors within an open ecosystem.
Confidence – Best-of-breed solutions. No more compromising business continuity and job security for risky, unproven technologies. Unlock the power of headless and microservices-based architectures, which can be far too complex for many organizations to navigate.
2. Composable Commerce Architecture: API-forward
An API-first strategy allows you to build APIs that support all applications; those applications are then developed for use, and reuse, across all platforms and devices. Benefits of an API-first approach include:
- Well-designed APIs mean positive developer experiences; code can be reused and it’s easier to onboard new team members with a shorter learning curve
- Reliable, easy to use APIs reduce the risk of failure, given the significant impact they have on many facets of a business
A Composable Commerce architectural blueprint with Elastic Path Commerce Cloud:
3. Composable Commerce Demo
It takes a village. We’ve assembled the best teams and assets for you to realize and exceed your eCommerce goals. Our Composable Commerce Hub (more on that in the next chapter), is the foundation to launch, optimize, and scale based on your unique needs. Watch our Composable Commerce demo and see how we work with integration partners to create fully customizable eCommerce solutions that grow with you.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this demo (without the pitch):
- Quickly integrate and make changes via your chosen frontend technology, like a Content Management Solution (CMS)
- Easily swap in preferred third-party partners, like search providers
- Rapidly pivot to include or remove your chosen payment provider
4. Open Ecosystem of Integration Partners
A Composable Commerce approach calls for third party vendors who provide connectors to services. With like-minded partners and the power of modular architecture, your eCommerce solutions become reality.
There are complex moving parts to all eCommerce platforms. What’s good for your business may be irrelevant to another; the cadence of your capabilities and launches may differ depending on your digital maturity. The level of business and technical support you have in-house may vary. You know your business the best, and as such we work with your preferred vendors. For some, we have pre-built integrations to make getting started even easier.
Here’s a list of our most common integration partners:
Handshake by Perficient
As your business needs change, so may the partners. You’ll want to continuously evaluate and test to determine who best can help you grow and what services they offer. You aren’t locked into one vendor or a solution. Your vendor selection depends on the services you need. No more, no less, than what you need to launch in weeks versus months.
You’ll find a full lineup of integration partners and resources in the Elastic Path Composable Commerce Hub, an open exchange of business solutions powered by an ecosystem of leading digital commerce providers. This open exchange empowers brands to unlock the full benefits of the Composable Commerce movement by providing everything eCommerce teams need to compose, launch, and continuously optimize unique, revenue-driving digital commerce experiences quickly and easily.
More Speed and Agility with Pre-Built Solutions
Unique to Elastic Path’s offering are Pre-Composed SolutionsTM, business-ready solutions that COMBINE commerce capabilities, (Elastic Path Commerce Cloud), partner integrations, and customizations unique to your business needs. Ease of use, speed to market, and a unique customer experience bundled into one.
In addition to Pre-Composed Solutions™, Elastic Path offers a vast library of Accelerators, which allow for custom composing with reference applications and pre-built extensions. Accelerators can be a partner integration such as content management or chat bots as a stand-alone service independent of a pre-built solution.
Check Out Our Ultra Flexible Product Variations
Product Variations allow eCommerce teams to create up to 10,000 variations in seconds to account for varying product attributes such as size, color, material, fit and more. Compared to traditional platforms that only allow for 200 variations, this is a 50X increase in the industry standard!
5. Implementing a Composable Commerce Solution
Now that we’ve established a snapshot of Composable Commerce and its architecture in action, you may be thinking where or how your business fits into the model. First, you’ll want to look at where you are on the journey based on your digital maturity:
Medium to high digital maturity – by digital maturity, we are referring to the technical capabilities of your team, and/or system integrators or an agency you hire, your internal processes, organizational structure, and level of intention to leverage technology to unlock a competitive advantage in the market. With each level of digital maturity, there will be a different group of eCommerce vendors that will be the right fit to help you achieve your business goals.
A medium level of digital maturity means you have a dedicated in team eCommerce marketers, merchandisers, and tech support either in-house or contracted through an agency. You’re looking for low risk, low barrier level of entry, with the ability to adjust down the road.
A high level of digital maturity translates into a dedicated technical team, likely in-house. You have adopted, or aspire to adopt, a DevOps methodology and agile best practices, where you’re able to continuously implement changes to the underlying business logic and front-end experiences of your commerce technology; and launch new commerce-enabled touch points quickly.
Additional considerations towards implementing a Composable Commerce architecture and approach:
If you have a complex or incredibly unique product, traditional solutions may not offer the flexibility to customize per your unique requirements without workarounds. If this is your case, you will likely need to consider a solution that provides more control to customize product information and checkout.
In addition, if you have plans to expand beyond one single digital channel in the next 1-2 years, you should consider a solution that can more adequately support your growth. An all-in-one platform ecosystem approach provides you with the standard functionality required to run your business bundled in an all-in-one, typically legacy platform architecture, from a single vendor. With this approach, you leverage out-of-the-box functionality and some simple, pre-built integrations to bring your commerce vision to life. Brands who use this approach generally do not integrate a variety of third-party solutions with their commerce technology.
A composable, multi-vendor ecosystem approach allows you to pick-and-choose the commerce functionality from Elastic Path, plus the “best-of-breed” third party technology partners that meet your specific business requirements and compose them together to deliver the overall commerce experience.
Ask the questions, have the conversations, make a plan A traditional RFP is usually in order when evaluating a partner, but we encourage you to look at the process in a new light. A traditional RFP is about checking boxes and may not reflect your unique needs when comparison shopping. When choosing an eCommerce partner, this static approach may not as effective or accurate in evaluating your business needs. We propose an alternate three-step approach for selecting providers, especially as you take the first steps into a Composable Commerce approach.
Implement and iterate with speed and confidence
Once you’ve chosen the right provider, it’s time to implement. Do you need the speed and cost-savings of a pre-composed solution, or would accelerators work better with your existing platform? Here lies the fluidity of composability; once you’ve implemented your initial solution the options are wide open. You may even swap out vendors as your needs change or become more complex, since you aren’t locked into a particular provider. Based on your needs and goals, the tools work with you and for you. You may have specific goals around subscriptions or catalog management you want to accomplish in a tight timeframe – you’re able to solve for those requirements and more in far less time.
6. Supporting a Composable Commerce Architecture
Once you’ve established the eCommerce provider best fit for your needs and engaged with them to accomplish the first iteration of your eCommerce goals, keep in mind the concept of the Open Ecosystem pillar of the Composable Commerce approach: you are free to customize your solution in any way that fits your needs on an accelerated timeline.
Support is critical. Best in class support is the benchmark. When looking at composable solutions a concern may be how to manage complex technologies with multiple players. Composable Commerce XA™ is designed for peace-of-mind as it identifies issues quickly and creates a single point of contact among vendors.
Security. Risk. Integrations. Common pain points when managing commerce platforms. Composable Commerce XA™ is designed to address pain points head on without excuses. The application blueprint review and integration monitoring service provide visibility and insights needed to resolve issues quickly, eliminating the pain point of navigating the moving parts in a multi-vendor solution when something goes wrong.
As Composable Commerce approach and architecture becomes the mode of choice for more businesses to compete in the world of digital experiences, Elastic Path can help you navigate what that may look like for you.