Composable Commerce: What Is It and Do You Need It for Your Store?
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Whether it’s removing the anchovies (and adding extra pepperoni) or choosing a modular, IKEA-style corner sofa, we all love customizable, flexible approaches in life.
So why not do the same in business – for your ecommerce store?
Composable commerce lets you do just that. With it, you can provide tailored customer journeys, drive down customer acquisition costs, and scale faster – all while gaining an edge on your competitors.
Below, we’ll answer that burning question – what is composable commerce, exactly? – and explore how it differs from traditional commerce. We’ll also take a look at composable commerce’s pros and cons, and how to implement it yourself.
So, compose yourself – let’s get started!
What Is Composable Commerce?
Composable commerce – a term first used by Gartner – is a modular approach to digital commerce. It lets your team choose and put together best-of-breed solutions to create a highly customized tech stack.
Rather than having to rely on a single software vendor, composable commerce allows you to take advantage of multiple vendors. It rejects the notion that one size fits all, and embraces a modern approach instead.
Composable commerce has four key principles:
- Modular: With composable commerce, each feature or component of your software – be it your shopping cart, your CMS (content management system), or conversational commerce tools like live chat – can be deployed independently. Changing one won’t tank the whole system!
- Flexible: Composable commerce’s approach lets you create tailored customer journeys – and therefore more unique shopping experiences.
- Open: Because you’re not locked in to working with a single vendor, you can easily integrate separate apps with each other.
- Business-centric: Composable commerce is designed with business success at its heart. With its open, elastic, and entirely modular approach, it enables your business to react faster to changing commercial circumstances, innovate, and provide more engaging customer experiences.
Differences Between Composable Commerce and Traditional Commerce
To understand the differences between traditional and composable commerce, we first need to look at how the digital architecture of each differs.
Traditional commerce platforms run on what’s known as “monolithic architecture.” They’re all-in-one solutions, so – while they offer everything you need to run an online store – they don’t offer much flexibility.
Be it Shopify, or BigCommerce, whichever ecommerce platform you’re using will provide all the functionality (think shopping cart, payment system, CRM and such) your online store needs. Trouble is, these features are wrapped up in this one bundle alone, and often don’t play well or integrate with other, similar systems.
Composable commerce systems run on a microservice architecture. Unlike its monolithic counterpart, each of these services can be provided by a separate vendor – allowing flexibility and innovation to thrive.
With composable commerce, however, you can put together your own application – using only the modules your business wants and needs. These modules work together via API (Application Programming Interface) integrations, and you can interchange and add to them as you please.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Composable Commerce
Composable commerce does represent a fresh, exciting, and more modern approach to doing business online. But it won’t be right for all ecommerce stores – so let’s take a look at composable commerce’s key pros and cons.
✔️ Customized customer journeys: In 2023, customers are finding – and engaging with – your brand in more ways than ever. Composable commerce allows you to make their journeys unique.
✔️ Lower customer acquisition costs: By improving the digital experience you’re offering with a more modular tech stack, you can reduce your reliance on paid ads – and cut down costs accordingly.
✔️ A competitive edge: Relying on a single vendor – often the same one as many of your rivals – means your site can struggle to stand out from the competition.
✔️ More scalable: With composable commerce, you can add and interchange elements of your ecommerce setup as your business grows and evolves.
❌ Managing multiple vendors: Depending on how many vendors you rely on for your ecommerce site’s features and functionality, keeping track of them all can be time-consuming at best – a downright hassle at worst!
❌ Requires resources and digital maturity: Composable commerce is still emerging – so you’ll require high levels of tech-savviness in your team.
❌ Expensive: To get it right, composable commerce needs resources – a super knowledgeable tech team, for example – and all that costs money.
Implementing Composable Commerce
Ready to embrace the now, look to the future, and harness all the benefits a composable commerce strategy can have for your business?
Here’s how to get started.
#1: Recruit, Equip, and Prepare Your Tech Team
As we mentioned earlier, composable commerce requires high levels of digital maturity. It won’t be suited to smaller businesses, or ones without a collaborative, cohesive, and well-equipped tech team. (If that’s you, we recommend a website builder instead. To find out why you should use a website builder, explore our guide to just that!)
If your operation is big enough to sustain a stab at composable commerce, you’ll need to prepare your tech team for the change. This could mean recruiting experienced software engineers, or upskilling your existing ones. Either way, they’ll need to be adept at adopting an API-first approach to integrating backend components.
They’ll also need knowledge of development technologies – React, Next.js, and Jamstack all work. And demonstrable experience in creating a consistent, customized, and uniform UX (User Experience) – across multiple vendors.
#2: Understand Your Goals and Success Metrics
Next, you’ll need to ensure you’re clear about why you want to implement a composable commerce strategy.
Is there a specific feature or type of functionality you’re keen to add to your online store? A concrete target, such as slashing your customer acquisition costs by 20%? Or a wider goal, such as having a more flexible site, or scaling faster?
Whatever it is, draw up a list of your top priorities and the composable commerce functionalities that’ll help you achieve them. Be sure, too, to jot down some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) objectives, and some KPI (Key Performance Indicators) – so you know exactly what success looks like.
This, in turn, will help you…
#3: Select a Composable Commerce Platform
First things first, you don’t have to choose a composable commerce platform. (In fact, composable commerce’s whole ethos is that you aren’t stuck with a single vendor, or wedded to a specific solution – so it’d be counterintuitive!) However, it can help.
Some of the composable commerce platforms we recommend include:
- Elastic Path
Before opting for a provider, be sure to compare and contrast. Look for cost, levels of customer support, and how easy they are to set up and use. Make sure you’re also clued up as to each platform’s limitations – composable commerce’s whole idea is that you’re as free and flexible as possible, so keep an eye out for any small print!
So – now you know what composable commerce is, why you need it, and how to get started implementing it in your online store. Now, it’s time to take action.
But don’t feel like you have to move the composable commerce speed dial from 0 to 100 just yet. In fact, it’s easy (and wise) to take it slow, and make incremental shifts away from a monolithic architecture, and towards a flexible, open, and modular microservices one.
This way, you can start the transition – even while you continue to build and bolster your ecommerce site’s new platform. Good luck!
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