Composable commerce refers to a new type of eCommerce architecture where you’re free to pick and choose each segment, allowing for better performance. And it makes sense, right?
Just when you think you’ve caught up, a new type of digital commerce architecture pops up on the market. Now, what is composable commerce?
You could use your iPhone to take photos, film, record voice, and take pictures, and it would honestly do a good job. On the other hand, get a DSLR or RED camera, a high-quality microphone, and speakers, and you’ll get to another level.
That right there is the premise of composable commerce, and it seems that the world is catching on.
In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2023, organizations that have taken to the composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
With that in mind, let’s go over the basics of composable commerce, what makes it stand out among other architecture types, and what it could do for your business.
What is Composable Commerce?
First introduced by Gartner in the report mentioned above, Composable Commerce is defined as a modular approach to the commerce architecture, where teams can select and combine (compose) commerce services (functions) that best fit specific business needs.
It means you are relying on a modular architecture that allows you to select best-in-breed components around your core commerce service with business-centric logic.
Kind of like headless and MACH and Jamstack, right? Yes, they are very similar and even overlapping at times, but not exactly the same.
Let me explain.
Composable commerce goes beyond headless commerce. While both entail decoupling the front-end and back-end, composable lets you choose each commerce service/feature to fit your business needs.
Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. (MACH) and Jamstack architectures both came as new approaches to building software stacks on headless architecture. And both, in a way, focus on microservices and APIs.
The most significant difference between these and composable commerce is the difference between microservices and composable commerce’s packaged business capabilities (PCB).
While microservices represent the breaking down of an application into small functionalities, PCBs are intentionally grouped sets of functions and features. To some extent, microservices are the basis on which PCBs were developed. In fact, PCB could even be defined as grouped sets of microservices.
Moreover, microservices come with an explicit size, while PCB comes in the size that you need, whether that includes micro or macro capabilities.
Because these PCB sets are grouped around a specific business function (e.g., the payment process), we can say that PCBs solve particular business problems. As Gartner defined them, PCBs are software components that represent a well-defined business capability.
The Differences Between Composable Commerce and Traditional Commerce
Think of traditional commerce as a one-size-fits-all solution and think of composable commerce as a do-it-yourself best-of-breed solution.
Traditional commerce is monolithic, with all functionalities and components combined in a single platform, all interdependent. On the other hand, PCBs in composable commerce are autonomous. They can stand on their own and be combined in any way that suits your business.
While traditional commerce is convenient because you have everything ready from the get-go, it should be noted that this type of architecture typically tends to produce heavier, worse-performing commerce platforms. Because everything is co-dependent, development is slow, and your performance is likely to be weighed down by features you may not even be using. Finally, upgrading or scaling is highly complex because you’d need to upgrade the whole system instead of just one functionality.
Composable commerce solves these issues.
But, not even composable commerce is without its disadvantages.
Crystallize and Composable Commerce Approach
Crystallize was designed from the ground up with the perspective of delivering a service to market and selling your products using rich storytelling. In other words, purpose-built to manage your rich marketing content, product information as well as capture orders.
Targeted for frontend developers with fast and easy-to-use APIs and editorial users with a beautiful and efficient editorial UI to manage your products and marketing content. We were set up to reimagine eCommerce and provide clients with polished compatibility with industry-leading microservices and expert consultation.
To do that successfully we’ve built a fast GraphQL Service API that would act as a middleware service and allow you to connect your microservices easily. To pick and choose (and remove) services depending on your needs. Little did we know that it was a composable way of thinking.
Today you might be using Auth0 for authentication but your future plans involve using Netlify as a hosting platform so opting out to Netlify Identity is only natural. With a composable setup, Crystallize setup, the change is fairly simple.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Composable Commerce
👍 High Customization Flexibility
With composable commerce, you can pick and choose the best solutions available, tailored to your unique business needs. Furthermore, unlike traditional commerce, you have no vendor lock to suffer through. Choose any available solution and implement it, simple as that.
👍 Great User Experience
Because you’re only implementing what you need, in the size that you need it in, your commerce's performance and user experience on all of the endpoints will be stellar, helping you win over customers.
👍 Easily Scalable
Each PCB is independent of the other, which is why it’s straightforward to scale only the one PCB that needs scaling. No more having to upgrade the whole system because of only a few functionalities.
👍 Future-proofing Your Commerce
The modular nature of composable commerce means switching one PCB for another is super practical. This significantly speeds up innovation to make it easier for you to stay competitive in the ever-changing commerce market.
👎 Managing Different Vendors
With traditional commerce, everything is combined in one platform, so you only have to manage one vendor. As the number of PCBs you use grows, management becomes more challenging and time-consuming. This is one of the reasons composable commerce isn’t ideal for small teams.
👎 Not Suited for Beginners
On a similar note, building composable commerce is very complex with many moving pieces, requiring a mature organization with experienced developers.
👎 Reliance on Developers
On a traditional commerce platform, content managers can do plenty independently. However, it’s worth noting that composable commerce will most likely mean a high reliance on developers.
Why Composable Commerce and Why Now?
Main reasons: increasing multi-channel online shopping, both due to Covid and otherwise, increase in competition, and the need to future-proof against the ever-changing trends.
Already on the increase, online shopping has exploded in the last two years due to the pandemic. In fact, online retail sales increased 32.4% year over year in 2020 and are up 39% in Q1 2021. And they’ll only go up from here.
This considerable growth in online sales means, in turn, that brands are coming online and investing in their digital commerce platforms. The market and the competition are growing every day, and to stand out and capitalize in such conditions, you’ll have to provide the best shopping experiences. And offer it on every channel: website, mobile, app, Instagram, WhatsApp, and wherever your customers may be spending their time.
When you implement your omnichannel commerce, it’s highly likely that yet another channel will pop up, that’s just the nature of the industry. I mean, Gartner introduced the term composable commerce around one year ago, and it has already become a massive buzzword in the industry. You’ll have to keep up to stay in business.
To do all that, you’ll need composable commerce. Not to say that it isn’t possible without it, but it’s just much easier and cost-effective. Your business will thank you.
Keeping up with the fast-changing consumer behaviors and expectations and delivering personalized commerce experiences at scale is getting harder each day. It requires a crazy amount of flexibility not easily delivered by traditional platforms.
Composable requires different skills and services overview indeed. But it also provides if not a simpler then more focused and more personalized approach to your eCommerce needs.