Whether you're in B2B or B2C, now is the time to equip yourself for the digital reality if you want to play a part in the market of the future. At a time when customer behaviour is constantly changing, established brands are facing new demands for a digital presence across many channels. Composable commerce is an approach that enables you to meet the dynamic needs of your customers and drive digital growth with unprecedented agility. Here, we review what the concept covers and how it is concretely implemented in the business.
What is composable commerce?
With composable commerce, you choose a "best-of-breed" approach for your IT architecture. The technological components and business logics that make up a monolithic solution are broken down into smaller units called modules. The modules are then combined into a solution tailored to your and your customers' needs. A module thus consists of decoupled packages of functionalities that support specific business processes in the value chain and customer journey.
When those needs change, you can add, remove or replace one or more modules without having to replace or recode the entire solution.
Independence from licences and suppliers
Unlike large enterprise solutions where you are tied to one provider and its licence, composable commerce invests in different systems that can be added, removed or replaced with new or better dedicated best-of-breed systems.
This makes you independent of individual systems' licence prices.
The ability to put together the unique modules that make up the system also gives you the freedom to shape the IT landscape that's most relevant to your business. This means you do not pay for functions and features that aren't relevant – but are often included in a classic monolithic package.
With composable commerce, you put together your e-commerce solution from components sourced from selected suppliers who specialise in developing robust products in their niche.
In other words, several different suppliers who are experts in their respective fields. This is an alternative to a "one-size-fits-all" solution (which includes everything from product catalogue, shopping cart, order management, pricing and more) in one standard product from a single supplier.
By selecting specific functionalities and putting them together as modules, you choose only what makes sense for your business.
The business in packages
But how do the modules work? In short, a module is made up of what is referred to as packaged business capabilities (PBCs).
A PBC is a grouping of micro services (with custom logic) and best-of-breed systems that support specific business processes. In other words, a PBC is an application built around concrete functions that contain business logic.
And now we're dipping our toes into the more technical background of composable commerce in the Vertica realm. So, let's take the plunge and dive into the digital architecture behind composable commerce.
Composable commerce and MACH – two sides of the same coin?
What is MACH architecture?
MACH architecture is the underlying foundation that enables composable commerce.
MACH is an acronym that describes the features of MACH that make it a future-proof and scalable e-commerce architecture. You can read more about it here.
The properties look like this:
M: Micro services. Micro services are small independent pieces of code, each of which performs a task in your solution. After selecting the specific functions that your solution should consist of, micro services are put together to match these. PBCs are then built around the micro services that need to work together.
A: API first. APIs enable your systems to talk to each other. Across backend, frontend and between PBCs. Using APIs ensures that your solution is flexible, and that a small change or bug at one end of the system doesn't affect the rest of the system. For example, if the search function fails, the rest of your solution can continue to run unaffected, as each part works independently. In code-first solutions, as they appear in the monolith, there can be opaque relationships that create unintended changes at one end of the code when something changes at the other.
C: Cloud native. By being hosted in the cloud, you get far more computing power, better security, less hardware maintenance and the ability to scale individual parts of the solution as the need arises. If you have a great Black Friday offer on the front page of your webshop, the shopping cart function might be hit with peak loads while the search function is hardly used. In a monolithic solution, you need to boost all functions for the shopping cart to keep up. With composable commerce and MACH, you can scale each function as needed. That's why cloud hosting is a key part of future e-commerce platforms, as it makes solution operation cheaper and more agile.
H: Headless. When a solution is headless, it means that the frontend and backend are not connected, but work independently. Instead, they talk to each other through APIs in the system. This gives you the freedom to develop on the backend and design the frontend, without it requiring cross-functional involvement. This creates short processes for making changes, tests or adjustments to dynamic consumer needs. In other words, headless gives you an ultra-short time to market for new products, digital initiatives, features and designs.
What are the advantages of MACH and composable commerce?
There are many benefits to be gained from integrating the composable approach into your e-commerce architecture. Both for B2C and B2B companies.
Among the most prominent are:
Shorter time to market
Scalability and future-proofing
Transparency in IT architecture and systems
Independence from large suppliers and their licence prices
Better opportunity for innovation and digital business development
Future-proof solution that can be adopted for new customer-facing channels
Agility and flexibility to compose the solution according to needs and requirements.