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Nov. 23, 2022 7 min read

Composable Commerce: What, Why, and How?

Composable Commerce: What, Why, and How?

Is composable commerce a buzzword or an e-commerce revolution? As usual in the world of technology, it is something in between. Today, we’ll briefly look into composable commerce, bringing the term closer to you and describing what it is all about.

Alternatively, if you prefer to listen to audio content, you can listen to a special episode of Nethone’s The Exchange podcast where I give my opinion on composable commerce.

What is composable commerce?

Composable commerce is a buzz phrase that we can see or hear more and more often in various kinds of media outlets. The goal of this concept is to make sure that online shopping platforms are built flexibly enough to be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of end-customers.

Experts see it as what the future is all about – a modular approach to e-commerce and a way of building the omnichannel experience everybody is after nowadays.

It consists of developing and operating e-commerce experiences based on the composition of independent, modular components. This contrasts with the traditional, monolithic approach in which an e-commerce store is developed as a single, integrated system.

Composable commerce was developed in response to the increasing complexity of e-commerce stores. As they have grown in size and functionality, the monolithic approach has become increasingly impractical.

Shopping platforms need to be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of both customers and developers. And as an industry, we’ve accelerated movement towards headless and microservices, with composable commerce now giving us a pragmatic and effective in-depth view into our business operations.

Composable commerce from a technical perspective

From a technical point of view, composable commerce allows for constant development and expansion.

This concept of total responsiveness to market needs is something that most businesses have been embracing, especially digital ones - and composable is how this approach is applied to e-commerce. Designing systems in a modular way allows for building and running an efficient IT infrastructure that is extremely responsive to whatever customers or the market currently shows.

Technically, composable commerce is about utilizing headless backend architecture to enable extreme flexibility on the frontend. For businesses, this translates into an ability to innovate and test new ideas or existing trends in a fast and cost-effective manner. All towards easier deployment, quicker delivery, and improved customer experience.

Composable commerce is an approach, not a solution

Composable commerce is not so much a particular solution to certain difficulties that you might experience, but rather a broader approach to understanding where your business is heading.

It derives from an ever-existing need to be able to quickly adapt to the changes in the business environment, which becomes much harder if your monolithic e-commerce store requires an enormous amount of expert work to introduce even a small change.

Composable commerce comes with numerous benefits that should not be overlooked. Not only does it allow for greater flexibility and scalability, but also a faster pace of development and a possibility to test out new feature at a much lower cost in both money and time.

Who composable commerce is for

Because composable is a mindset, rather than a specific solution, this way of thinking is for anybody who understands that whatever proves effective for their business today could well be totally irrelevant tomorrow.

Consider the example of music: if you wanted to sell music a couple of hundred years ago, you had to perform for money. Then came notations, so you could sell your music for others to perform. After that, we had recordings of music sold directly – vinyls, cassettes, and CDs. Nowadays, streaming services sell digitized recordings.

Music, as a product, has stayed the same – but the means of sales and distribution are different beyond imagination. This is at the essence of composable thinking, and forms the basis of composable commerce

Taking a composable approach to your company operations could mean outsourcing some activities that organizations might not be able to afford or have the time or specific resources for. That doesn’t necessarily mean outsourcing the software development of your core product.

It could be about knowledge, experience, technological research, and the methodologies for having discussions about making strategic business decisions. In other words, outsourcing a composable part of the decision-making process.

It is the strategy that runs the business, not the technology that you own - adopting a composable approach allows you to equip your company with the best solutions available for specific problems without giving in to the limitations of your internal resources.

The benefits of composable commerce

The main point is that the composable approach allows you to focus on building your advantage, vision, and mission in terms of business ideas and objectives rather than your available IT resources, specialization, specific technologies, or whatever else the organizational and operational limitations might be.

For example, using the recommendations of digital advisors and the methodology of tech verification and vendor selection, it is possible to deploy new functionalities in an app in just one month. In fact, the implementation itself can take mere days – most of that month will be spent on business negotiations.

Compare this with how much time and effort would be required to develop such functionality in-house or to get the e-commerce platform provider to develop it instead.

The differences between traditional and composable processes

In terms of the time, cost, and necessary steps in the development of an e-commerce store, traditional and composable processes don't differ much more than any other two approaches in business might.

Composable commerce is just a conveyor belt – it is a tool for your business, and the right tools and approaches should be chosen according to your strategy rather than just because something is composable or not.

The composable approach might indeed heavily influence the pace of your work, but again this is a factor that is defined by your strategy. Not everything that is composable is applicable to all businesses, so strategy first and buzzwords next.

The impact of composable commerce on future growth and scalability

This is the area where the differences are significant. Let’s return to the case of developing a new functionality for an app to highlight them.

Imagine you hire three people for the development but the idea turns out to be unsuccessful for some reason – customers hate it or it became untrendy in the meantime. What does the business then do with the three people who were hired? And how can the wasted efforts on the failed development be justified to the board?

If instead you choose to employ a SaaS solution that is maintained and developed by an external, extremely motivated team that takes care of everything from competitive analysis to research, even a failure has different consequences. You can just flip the switch and test a different idea instead, say augmented reality or whatever your nose tells you is going to work.

That’s why, in terms of scalability and flexibility of adaptation, composable is arguably an incomparably better approach than any other existing method.

Why build a swimming pool every time you want to swim?

How to start tackling the challenges of composable commerce

The core of business is delivering something to somebody that needs it, and only then can we start thinking about all the frills.

For example, every car will bring us from point A to point B provided it is working properly, but on the other hand different cars can make that journey differently in terms of safety, speed, comfort, additional services, and entertainment.

For anyone about to embark on a journey of moving from one infrastructure or one solution to another, it can be a very exciting but also quite risky path. This is something where composable as a way of thinking, but also as a way of building products, really comes in handy. We’ll cover that in detail in our next article.

Composable commerce is the way forward

Since being flexible can be applied to everything as a mindset, one may consider human nature as being composable on the implementation level. As such, there’s not really any area in which composable as a way of thinking about building things is not really applicable.

Composable commerce may be a bit of a buzzword now, but it’s more about the mindset of total responsiveness to market needs. It’s the concept of running extremely responsive IT infrastructure and combining effective operations.

It is about changing the optics a little but it doesn't really change what’s at the core. As an organization it is a means of managing the business, but the rest of the components are what bring your business to life.

It's difficult to deliver anything without a proper mix of in-house teams and external solutions, so it's rather about balancing the components that you use for your business rather than always taking a particular approach in certain cases.

While composable commerce is not the only possible solution – due to technical or business strategy limitations, it might not necessarily be the best option in some cases – it is a very valuable approach to projects. There's a lot to be excited about in the future with this methodology and other emerging solutions.

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