December 6, 2022 | Samuel Chapman
Organizations once relied on large, out-of-the-box digital commerce solutions to deliver positive customer experiences. Now, they’re taking control of their user experience through their tech stack using composable content architecture (CCA). Instead of using one platform with many features, you essentially build your ideal platform from distinct microservices or applications. This allows you to have the best of all worlds when conducting content operations.
The SaaS market has risen to this demand, offering thousands of services that customize every aspect of ecommerce experiences. To remain competitive, businesses are adding more customizable capabilities to their offerings every day. By 2023, Gartner predicts that organizations adopting a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
How do modern organizations accomplish this granular control of the stack, and how does the microservice architecture run under the hood? And how can you use this methodology to provide the best marketing experiences for ecommerce customers?
Composable commerce is a modular way to build your technical stack that takes advantage of the best microservices for your business.
As opposed to “monolithic” architectures that bundle one vendor’s services into a single application, composable architecture allows you to integrate multiple apps and features into a cluster. Then, you leverage them as a single tool through integration.
For example, say you run an online store. You need to attract customers to the site, display information and images on your products, track and display inventory levels, provide an online shopping experience and checkout cart, get buyers through the payment process, and invite them to leave a review.
These actions are all part of the customer journey, so optimizing the functions for these steps improves those front-end experiences and results in better outcomes.
With a monolithic system, those functions would happen under a single program or platform. This would be an easy way to get the job done but may not provide the best or fastest experience.
For instance, if you don’t like how the shopping cart function handles order management or abandoned carts, you can’t swap it out for a better option. Vendor lock-in makes ecommerce difficult to optimize and reduces the scalability of your systems.
With a composable commerce architecture, you may package several microservices together to create your unique business stack.
You can choose the best hosting provider for your site, and cluster together best-in-class features for your image hosting, shopping cart, payment processing, and review aggregation. Together, these services provide the best customer experiences for both your internal team and your external users.
Composable commerce relies on clustering individual features and services called packaged business capabilities (PBCs). This class of microservices covers every function and business vertical:
Using a three-tier architecture, these microservices are bundled together for use. They communicate with both the data in your organization (called the business layer) and the front end or UI of your business (called the presentation layer) through the AP (called the application layer).
The services and API are built to allow many apps to work together as one (think of a LEGO structure: it’s composed of individual blocks. Each has an individual purpose that assists in creating the whole).
This is called a MACH architecture:
Microservices: Individual business functions that work independently. They are individually deployed and administered but communicate through an Application Programming Interface (API).
API-first: Building products use an API architecture to make it easy for developers to integrate different microservices. The API is like an adapter connecting back-end data to front-end UI. Through the API, data can pass back and forth, and the app can carry out its individual function. It also allows information to pass between integrated apps seamlessly.
Cloud-native: The services are all housed in the cloud (through cloud-hosting services such as AWS or Azure). Microservices are most often built on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription model.
Headless: In headless commerce, the presentation layer or UI is decoupled (separated) from the business layer. Decoupling means that you can build a UI or use a UI microservice that works with your apps and back-end data. This also allows you to use apps and data for multiple UI formats (for instance, if you want a website version of your store and a mobile app).
Content operations are all about delivering the best possible customer experience. When a customer visits an ecommerce site, an immediate positive impression and a smooth, branded experience are vital to conversion and sales.
Composable commerce creates a flexible way to build your tech stack and deliver excellent experiences to your customers and users. It allows organizations to build exactly the functionality they want, house data in the way that makes the most sense for their needs, and deliver it to a fully customized UI.
Using a composable approach also allows adaptability over time. As business needs change, there’s no need to go back to the drawing board in selecting a “close enough” monolithic system. You can swap out features and components on a best-fit basis.
This becomes vitally important when selecting features and microservices that drive content operations. Customer behaviors are most directly influenced by the messaging, brand continuity, and experiences they find on your site.
Clusters of microservices offer many advantages over their single-service counterparts. The flexibility of composable commerce enables better, faster, safer, and cheaper services that live up to modern customer and user expectations:
Saves money: Traditional commerce systems require businesses to take an all-or-nothing approach to buying software. This results in potential overpayment for services or features the organization doesn’t want or can’t use. With composable commerce, the company has granular control over its systems and spending to save money.
Offers best-in-class functionality: The flexibility of composable commerce allows the business to decide the best solution for every feature it needs. It allows organizations to add functionality to their larger tech stack. All services are designed for optimal performance as a unit. This eliminates friction or incompatibility between needed services.
High-quality user experience: Using only the best-fit tools improves the end user experience. Customers or external users gain easy access to the services they need to buy from the organization. It’s streamlined with an easy-to-follow process that starts from awareness and consideration, continues through order processing, and finishes with payment and post-purchase actions.
Speedy performance: Composable commerce apps are built with performance in mind. They also meet Google’s performance benchmarks for processing speed, and this increases the site authority of the web-based UI layer.
Reduces failure risks: Monolithic architecture results in single-point failures. In other words, if one part of the system goes down, the rest goes with it (a bit like strings of holiday lights—“one goes out, and they all go out”). Because composable commerce is designed via clusters of microservices, a failure in one component will not take down the whole system. For instance, if your payments processor has an outage, your inventory and image components will remain functional for customers to view. This graceful degradation of services eliminates larger business disruptions by limiting the issue to just one function at a time.
Depending on the complexity of your business requirements and your organization’s specific business goals, moving to a modular architecture may present some barriers. Upgrading your technology stack requires time and monetary investment.
The benefits and ability to future-proof your business far outweigh the challenges. Still, companies moving to modern technologies using PBCs and a modular architecture should keep an eye out for three common business problems during implementation:
Selecting and negotiating with vendors: With a monolithic platform, the only choice is between one vendor and another. With a composable commerce approach, organizations must choose vendors for each aspect of the tech stack. While this world of choice is desirable, it creates the need to source, negotiate with, and implement a list of vendors. A clear plan with carefully outlined goals and expectations makes the selection process easier.
Service-level considerations: Service-level agreements (SLAs) are the operational minimums a vendor promises to uphold when delivering their service. With compostable commerce, organizations may encounter a range of SLA minimums and specifics. Legal must review SLAs carefully to ensure similar functionality and uptime guarantees across vendors. SLAs may be included as part of the negotiation process with new vendors.
Integrations: The function of composable commerce only works if all vendor services interact as intended. In a perfect world, integrated services would work together in a frictionless environment, but this isn’t always the case. Different software may require API adjustments or customization to enable full communication between apps and architecture layers. Due diligence to look at the off-the-shelf integration capabilities of your chosen vendors reduces the need for fixes or custom code.
Content operations are at the heart of customer connection, communication, and brand experience. In order to deliver an ecommerce experience that converts, you must incorporate the most flexible and powerful tools available to deliver an on-Cobrand, consistent experience in your ecommerce environment.
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