Composable Commerce: A Simplified Guide For Online Merchants

Sep 14th, 2023 14 min to read

“Customer experience” is the new battleground of this era!

And that’s what brought you here today, isn’t it? 

Every business is unique and its business model makes it different from others. Then how can a standard one-size-fits-all platform help you hold your brand uniqueness? 

This common limitation of the existing eCommerce platforms gives rise to “Composable Commerce”.

In this blog, we will understand this trending concept of digital commerce and learn why some eCommerce brands are crazy about it. 

So, let’s get started!

Understanding Composable Commerce

With the continuously evolving eCommerce industry, merchants are realizing the importance of unique shopping trends and digital experiences, which may include:

  • visual product search
  • voice-activated shopping assistants
  • shoppable video content
  • virtual products try-on
  • biometric payments approvals

and anything that can “wow” the online shoppers! But no matter how badly you want to adapt to these trends, your rigid eCommerce platforms (Legacy Platforms) are holding you back and hindering your growth.

But there’s hope!

Just as a bright morning follows a dark night, “Composable commerce” is here to break down all the barriers and free you to chase your excellence.

Awesome, right??? Read on to know more about it.

What is Composable Commerce?

Composable commerce system - modular approach

Composable commerce is a modern approach where eCommerce brands can pick and assemble the best tools and features (that exactly fit their business needs) to build their online store.

Consider your eCommerce store as a puzzle composed of various elements like:

  • Themes
  • Search and navigation
  • Inventory
  • Shopping cart
  • Checkout
  • Payment
  • User Accounts
  • Product Reviews

… and many more. And you’re currently using a platform where all these elements are locked into a pre-determined set (especially in traditional commerce). And you are bound to use these pre-defined software components or digital services no matter what business models you have.

Now, in the composable commerce approach, you’re free to choose any elements (regardless of platforms or service providers) and integrate them together to build an exceptional shopping experience for your shoppers.

And, this is possible because Composable commerce solutions make use of MACH-based architecture. Now what’s that??

What is MACH Architecture?

MACH Architecture

MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. MACH is a modern design principle where different parts of a system communicate via a well-defined interface using lightweight APIs.

Let’s understand what each term means:

Microservices – Individual pieces or components that are developed, deployed and managed separately.

API-First – All components or features are accessed through APIs, connecting different apps easily.

Cloud-Native – Software is built, deployed, and managed in the cloud for quick changes without affecting service delivery.

Headless architecture – An approach where the frontend presentation layer is separate from the backend logic.

Hope you’re now familiar with the MACH architecture. 

Let me tell you the fact — Composable commerce solution employs the MACH architecture, but instead of “microservices” it consists of Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs).

What are Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs)?

According to Gartner, PBCs are application building blocks that have been purchased or developed. PBC is a combination of “microservices” that are built to work as an independent component (such as a shopping cart, search functionality, checkout, etc.).

Packaged Business Capabilities - PBCs

Each element or component (we have discussed above) will be the PBCs in your eCommerce website. So, your Composable eCommerce store will look like this:

composable architecture - composable tech stack - independent services

To better understand this new concept — “Composable commerce” you need to know how it is different from the existing eCommerce solutions in the industry.

Let’s go ahead…

Traditional vs. Composable Commerce 

Traditional all in one platform vs. Composable Commerce ecosystem

One of the most important differences between Traditional and Composable commerce is:

  • With Traditional commerce, you can have an “ordinary” store.
  • With Composable Commerce, you can have an “extraordinary” store.

Now let’s see what actually makes Composable different from traditional commerce (monolith).

  Traditional Commerce Composable Commerce
Integration  Relies on monolithic architecture where all functions are tightly integrated. Utilizes modular architecture with loosely coupled components.
Dependency Front-end, back-end, and commerce processes are interdependent. Front-end, back-end, and commerce functions are independent and interact through APIs.
Customization Limited customization due to the interconnected nature of the system.Modifications to one aspect may require changes to multiple components. Highly customizable as components can be individually tailored.Customizations can be applied without affecting other parts of the system.
Flexibility Less flexible as changes can lead to unintended disruptions in the entire system.Adapting to new trends or technologies can be challenging. Highly flexible as changes can be made to specific components without disrupting the whole system.Adaptation to new trends or functionalities is easier.
Innovation Slower innovation cycles as changes impact the entire system.Entire system updates are often required for innovation. Faster innovation due to the ability to update individual components independently.New features can be added without system-wide modifications.
Scalability Scaling can be difficult and may require significant time, money, and resources.System-wide scaling is necessary even if only specific areas need expansion. Easier to scale by adding instances of specific components as needed.Scalability can be achieved without affecting the entire system’s performance.

Comparing both the above eCommerce approaches and finding the best one is quite simple. But this won’t be easy with the next two approaches that we are going to check out.

Headless vs. Composable Commerce

Headless commerce approach vs. Composable Commerce technology stack

When evaluating different vendors or just staying up to date on the latest and greatest trends, you’ve probably heard about Headless Commerce!

Composable Commerce extends the headless concept to accomplish a broader strategy. Due to the many similarities between Headless and Composable Commerce, you might be confused between them. 

But here we’ll understand what actually makes Composable different from Headless commerce.

  Headless Commerce Composable Commerce
Architecture Separates frontend presentation from backend logic, allowing independent development. Breaks down the entire commerce stack into individual, specialized components that can be assembled like building blocks. 
Customization Easier customization of the frontend without affecting the commerce logic. Offers customization not only in frontend but also in different commerce capabilities (backend).
Flexibility Offers flexibility in tailoring the customer-facing aspects of the platform. Provides flexibility in composing the specialized components from different vendors.
Integration API-driven approach enables smoother connections between various systems. Involves not only front-end and back-end decoupling but also modular backend components.
Innovation Facilitates innovation in user experience without affecting backend processes. Enables innovation not only in user experience but also in business processes.
Time to Market Allows for quick updates to the frontend design and interactions. Facilitates swift changes in both frontend and backend components for agility.

Yes, I know there’s a little difference between both approaches, but believe me, the outcomes will surprise you. Well, Headless commerce is more widely by Aureate Labs known since it was established in 2011.

As I stated earlier, Composable Commerce uses PBCs (a combination of various microservices) within the MACH architecture. So, let’s learn what difference between both concepts.

Composable Commerce vs. Microservices

Both, Microservices and Composable Commerce are architectural approaches that aim to create flexible and scalable systems, particularly in the context of software development and e-commerce platforms. 

Here are the key differences between them:

  Microservices Composable Commerce
Architecture Decomposes applications into small, independently deployable services. Breaks down into individual, specialized components known as PBC (a combination of microservices).
Complexity Microservices solutions that are too granular, that can lead to complexity. Composable commerce suggests a balanced level of granularity to deliver desired commerce functionalities with less complexity.
Time and Cost The increased complexity can lead to longer development times and higher costs for implementing and maintaining the solution. This approach enables faster development while maintaining the ability to optimize specific business capabilities independently.
Extensibility Offers extensibility through the creation of new microservices. Developers can add functionality by building additional services. Offers a solid extensibility framework, allowing developers to quickly add capabilities both on the front end and the back end.

As “microservice” is an integral part Composable commerce approach, you won’t find many differences between them. 

Now, after learning about “Composable commerce” and comparison with other methods, you might be able to find its worth for your eCommerce business.  

In case you still need more reasons to accept it as a potential commerce solution, let’s move ahead and learn more about its remarkable benefits.

Benefits of Composable Commerce to Online Retailers

You may look at “Composable commerce” as too much advancement to add to your eCommerce business all of a sudden. But, let’s look at the bright side. 

Let’s check out what benefits you will get with Composable Commerce:

1. Fosters Unique Customer Experience

“Customer Experience” — this is why a few brands win and most of the brands fail the eCommerce battle! 

Imagine if we still had to depend on mail to hear from a loved one, or if we had to rely on horses for getting around. 

We have continuously chosen advanced tools for the times that we live in. And the same must go for your digital commerce business. However, many of our brands still are stuck with all-in-one platforms that were not built for the ever-evolving world that we live in today.

Don’t get me wrong. Traditional eCommerce had its time to shine, allowing us to offer in-home shopping experiences. However, times have changed. We no longer control customer expectations from online shopping. 

Composable commerce helps you build innovative experiences for your shoppers. You can change how it looks with Composable storefronts, add fun features, and even create new ways to pay or get your stuff. 

Imagine if your favorite video game always had new levels to explore. That’s how your online store can feel with Composable Commerce. You can keep adding fresh, exciting stuff to surprise your shoppers and keep them coming back.

2. Supports your Boundless Imagination

To evaluate the demand for a Composable commerce platform you need to identify the challenges you had with traditional eCommerce platforms (monolith). 

Recall all the custom functionalities or innovations you dreamt of but couldn’t achieve with your monolith platform like:

  • Augmented reality
  • Personalized recommendations based on weather or location
  • Voice search and commands
  • Interactive product visualization
  • 3D product scanning and modeling
  • One-click reordering

… you must have a longer list for sure!

It may feel a little bit challenging with traditional eCommerce platforms to keep up with the ever-changing eCommerce trends. They simply won’t allow you to adopt and continuously optimize your digital commerce strategy. 

So, it’s time for a new approach that will allow you to adapt to these changing times now, but also into the future. 

Composable commerce allows you to build fast, continuously optimize at speed, and create differentiated commerce experiences that leave long-lasting impressions on your customers.

3. Saves Your Hard-earned Money

Composable architecture Saves Your Hard-earned Money

Now, as you learn more about Composable Commerce, the next thought is usually that it’s going to be too expensive!

But in reality, adopting a composable approach will actually reduce your overall total costs.

We know that each business is going to be different. Each business’s commerce strategy is unique, that will have a range of complex customizations, and will have different revenue margins. Thus, cost is going to vary from one use case to another. 

But at the end of the day, it all comes down to the five key costs that will affect the total cost of your eCommerce solution. 

The five key costs for developing an eCommerce website are:

  1. core commerce platform costs, 
  2. third-party software costs, 
  3. cost of hosting (frontend and backend — hybrid or separately), 
  4. cost to implement the core business functionalities, and 
  5. ongoing maintenance and enhancement costs. 

Traditional monolithic platforms may seem much more attractive because they have a lower year-one cost. But when you look at the cost of changes year over year, it begins to add up and you end up paying a lot more. 

On the other hand, it may seem a little bit overwhelming to build your commerce strategy from scratch with a composable commerce approach. But the benefits outweigh the costs and you end up paying a lot less in the long run.

4. Lessens your Time to Market

A top digital strategy to win the eCommerce game is iterative and focused on continuously optimizing customer experiences. 

But the reality is change does not come cheap or easily with monolithic platforms. Due to their rigid structure, the changes that are going to be executed by your developer are very difficult to achieve and it’s going to drive up costs.

They’ll also have to do full system regressions and quality assurances every time there’s a change. This not only increases your development time but also slows your time to market. 

We’ve seen how businesses have needed to adapt and have not been able to do so quickly. Adding a new user experience like store pickup or personalized bundle to a monolithic platform could take weeks, even months. 

On the other hand, composable solutions handle all of your upgrades and updates. And unlike monolithic platforms, it has a modular architecture that allows you to try new things quickly. That means no downtime and you can design and deploy very quickly.

A Gartner survey report says that by 2023, eCommerce brands using a composable solution will outpace their competitors by adding new features 80% faster.

Just like how you can quickly change your character’s outfit in a game, Composable Commerce lets you make changes to your online store really fast. You can fix things that aren’t working or add new features without a big hassle.

Now this not only reduces your development time but also reduces the risk of putting in months and investments into something only to realize that it doesn’t work. 

5. Let Your Business Scale or Grow Limitless

Growth isn’t a one-time deal; it’s an ongoing adventure. 

And almost all the monolith platforms promise scalability and flexibility for your business growth in the long run. But is it actually possible with those rigid platforms??

Traditional platforms have a tendency to impose a rigid architecture that resists change. Everything is fixed starting from frontend themes to backend customization, even the plugins you add to the online store.

Then how can they keep up with your future advancements? 

Whereas Composable system comes with an open architecture that offers huge flexibility! With the help of easily attachable and detachable PBCs, innovations and advancements become super effortless. 

As a result, you not only meet our short-term e-commerce needs with a Composable approach but also set the stage for long-term growth and success.

6. Comforts Your Development Team

content management system

Let’s talk about a fantastic benefit of Composable Commerce that’s going to make your development team happy.

With Composable Commerce, you get to assemble the perfect mix of solutions that fit your exact business needs. It’s like building your online store with building blocks. 

Unlike other eCommerce store development methods, your tech teams do not have to build everything from scratch when there is a need for custom functionality. They can choose the best-of-breed solutions that perfectly match your business requirements and connect with your existing eCommerce solution using APIs.

As a result, they can deploy a new release faster than your competitors.

Again, your developers can focus on what they do best – crafting exceptional user experiences and innovative features – instead of struggling with rigid monolithic platforms.

Final Thoughts on Composable Commerce!

I understand how overwhelming it is to learn about every new term or concept. But I’m sure you’ll succeed it. And hope that this blog has played a significant role in making things clear in your mind.

Lastly, I want to say: Composable Commerce isn’t just an upgrade; it’s a whole new level. It’s like giving your eCommerce store a turbo boost for extraordinary customer experiences.

It provides an open ecosystem comprised of enablers and expert support teams to help you minimize the learning curve. It also has open standards to make integrations easier and prevent vendor lock-ins. And also has a solid extensibility framework so that your developers can quickly add capabilities on both the front end and the back end. 

Now, your next question will be, how can we help your eCommerce business with Composable commerce? Well, we can create exceptional storefronts for your composable eCommerce store:

Our next blog is about “Best Composable Commerce Platforms for your eCommerce Business”. Stay tuned for the upcoming composable resource!

Sagarika Das
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