What is Composable Commerce and why does it matter?

Adam Sturrock
September 24, 2020
5 mins

Composable Commerce is, for the most part, largely interchangeable with MACH architecture (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless), but also covers some additional broader concepts. Composable Commerce takes this approach a step further by focusing on packaging microservices together to solve business problems through Packaged Business Capabilities or PBCs for short, more on these later.

Understanding the Broader Technology Landscape

It’s 2020 and eCommerce platforms are experiencing modularization and fragmentation in a cloud-native, experience-centric world. Industry leading retailers and brands now have the ability to select and deploy multiple best-of-breed services together to create customer experiences and orchestrate business processes to fit their exact requirements. In many ways Composable Commerce mirrors the wider Martech Landscape growth over the last decade. SaaS growth has been driven by the rise of the cloud (AWS, Google Cloud etc..), this has rapidly reduced the barrier to entry for new players in the market to provide niche products and services for specific verticals and use cases.

Packaged Business Capabilities

Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) can be categorized into verticals. Below you will find a small fraction of the hundreds of Composable Commerce components that you can pick up off the shelf and implement into your own business’ architecture and customer experiences.

Packaged Business Capabilities & the Goldilocks Myth

Package Business Capabilities share many characteristics with microservices but do not have an explicit size, instead varying in size from micro to macro capabilities. The aim of a PBC is to focus on solving specific business problems whilst at the same time making them easy to consume, integrate and use. This approach reduces complexity and rigidity compared to the extremes of a purely rigid monolith or complex microservice architecture. PBCs can also be combined and integrated into modern technology stacks to solve larger business problems and strategies. In other words, Packaged Business Capabilities personify the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, they are just the right size, neither too rigid nor too complex.

Composable Commerce and Content

As we’ve just explored, there are several well understood categories and many new categories. Amplience has created a unique Packaged Business Capability in the market by blending CMS, DAM functionality together with a robust CDN and experience management layer to form another core pillar of a Composable Commerce architecture. One that is responsible for driving and delivering content to orchestrate and control customer-centric experiences.

Why Composable Commerce?

Gartner recently stated that retailers and brands “should prepare for a “composable” approach using packaged business capabilities to move toward future-proof digital commerce experiences.”

Below we’ve outlined the benefits that Composable Commerce brings to the table.

Unlimited flexibility

With the ability to assemble your own commerce stack, retailers and brands have the flexibility and freedom to define exactly how their frontend experiences look and how their business operates on the backend.

Out-of-the-box agility

Composable Commerce provides out-of-the-box components and business capabilities, enabling these to be integrated and deployed into the market quickly.

Innovation by design

By separating business initiatives against PBCs, the freedom to iterate and innovate is given room to thrive with the ability to compose unique solutions and enable new business models.

Unparalleled scalability

Each component can be scaled independently and complimented or extended with additional best-in-class services and custom logic as required.

No vendor lock-in

Each component and feature in a composable architecture becomes a commodity, allowing businesses to swap components in and out as required. This should also include proprietary orchestration layers that themselves would lead to vendor lock-in.

Business and technology harmony

Composable Commerce brings business leaders and stakeholders together in harmony with developers as they align around PBCs and business initiatives. With technology driving innovation based on business requirements, the need for high quality documentation, out-of-the-box integrations and example frontends are paramount to driving business value. In other words, Composable Commerce vendors must provide a world-class developer experience through well documented APIs and tools to deliver business value.

The right level of abstraction

Rather than taking a fanatical view to monoliths or microservices, Packaged Business Capabilities reframe the focus towards business objectives, freeing technical teams from highly complex and granular microservices or rigid monoliths.

Rapid Integration

Composable Commerce comprises of many Packaged Business Capabilities, by leveraging out of the box ecosystem integrations multiple PBCs can be orchestrated together to solve more complex business challenges.

The bottom line

Ultimately, Composable Commerce is about giving brands and retailers the tools to totally control their destiny by allowing them to make rapid changes to their technology stack, business operations and growth, now and in the future.

Executing a Composable Commerce Strategy & Architecture

So now you understand what Composable Commerce is, the benefits, and how Amplience can play a critical role within your composable architecture. Below we’ve highlighted four items that you can begin working on today to set your business up for success on a composable technology stack.

  1. Reject monolithic solutions. Plan out and start to decompose your monoliths by identifying key issues and selecting best-of-breed vendors to solve those issues through dehydration (sometimes known as strangler) patterns.

  2. Align your organisation structure into multi-disciplinary cross-functional teams of business and technical stakeholders. These should map business initiatives, PBCs and teams together.

  3. Adopt and implement Agile best practices to align your business strategy with a fast move and highly iterative implementation.

  4. Update your vendor selection criteria. Monolithic suites and RFPs are a relic of the past, these must be updated to focus on modular interoperable architecture and place PBCs at the core.

Are you ready for Composable Commerce?

At this point you might be wondering whether your organization is ready to adopt a Composable Commerce strategy. If you are already adopting and implementing headless and MACH technologies in production the good news is you are already on the path to Composable Commerce.

For a deep dive exploration into whether your organization is ready to execute a Composable Commerce strategy or not, we highly recommend our Headless CMS Buyers Guide which walks through the technical maturity scale, architecture patterns, how to map your business requirements and commercial pricing models. All of these chapters directly map to Composable Commerce and Packaged Business Capabilities.

The Future Beyond Composable Commerce

With a focus on MACH and PBCs today, retailers and brands are equipped to implement and integrate these services through the use of development resources. Whilst this gives businesses an unparalleled level of control today the software vendor landscape will continue to mature towards low-code orchestration environments. This will further accelerate the implementation speed of Composable Commerce architectures, increasing the velocity of business innovation. This in turn will reduce the burden placed on development teams, reduce implementation costs and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The enterprise software ecosystem is by no means standing still and the team here at Amplience is excited to help build and usher in this new age of innovation!

Further Reading

Gartner published a Composable Commerce report on the 18th of June 2020 to inform business leaders of this new paradigm shift in software architecture which we highly recommended checking out - download the Gartner Composable Commerce report here.

Composable Commerce - The New Tech Stack

Eager to learn more about Composable Commerce directly from industry-leading experts? We recently held our virtual event “Composable Commerce: If you’re not composable you’re disposable“ event alongside our partners commercetools and Algolia.

Now you know everything there is to know about Composable Commerce, all there is to do is go forth and compose your customer experiences and business processes with best-of-breed components like Amplience. If you’re looking to add composable content to your Composable Commerce architecture speak to an expert here at Amplience.