Adobe’s Scott Rigby looks at whether composable commerce, which decouples the various services in a traditional commerce solution and selects those that deliver the required experience, is right for your business.
As businesses emerge from the pandemic and build back better, we are seeing composable commerce emerge as an innovative branch of commerce.
There is an often-quoted stat by Gartner, which predicts that by 2023, organisations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
Firstly, this statistic doesn’t single out commerce – a “composable approach” can be used in your experience delivery amongst other arenas. Secondly, almost always, it ignores that for most businesses, composable simply isn’t achievable or the right business fit. Before we can weigh the considerations, we need to understand what exactly is composable commerce and discern its suitability for your business.
While the uptake in Asia Pacific has been lagging compared to other regions, it is an emerging trend on the horizon as businesses actively seek ways to boost customer experience as a means of differentiating themselves in an increasingly saturated market.
What is composable commerce?
Composable commerce is the latest industry buzzword. Although many use the term, there is much confusion about what it means and how it can be defined. Initially created as a marketing term, it was launched to describe a series of elements that have existed for some time.
Composable commerce is a development approach of decoupling the various services you’d typically see in a traditional commerce solution to individual micro-services, eg catalogue, product recommendations, merchandising, etc, and then selecting the best service appropriate to the experience you are looking to deliver. Essentially, it is selecting best-of-breed commerce elements and combining or “composing” them into a custom application built for specific business needs. It is also sometimes referred to as modular commerce, while previous commerce technologies are referred to as traditional commerce, classic commerce or monolith.
The key is they all refer to the same process – a technology stack from a vendor or vendors that provides end-to-end commerce. There is no right or wrong approach, it’s about selecting what is best for your business at the right time.
Best-of-breed/decoupled software is not new
Gartner believes that composable is riding the early part of the wave, while API-based digital commerce is right at the peak of inflated expectations. It may still be early days but business users may not be entirely aware of what composable is. Added to this is that the ecosystem is still maturing and there isn’t a lot of experience available to leverage to ensure a successful delivery.
The idea of selecting individual applications from a multitude of vendors versus a single integrated top-to-bottom platform isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s been around for more than two decades. This region shift from best-of-breed to best-of-suite has never fully materialised as it was hard work to get up to speed.
While composable commerce does work for some setups, it does not mean it is right for you. Traditional commerce should absolutely be considered, based on your business needs and maturity.
We need to advocate the best approach, not a technology, to ensure business success.
Is composable right for your business?
A wrong assumption to make regarding digitally mature regions is that they are best equipped for digital acceleration. Poor integration between technology systems is considered a more significant barrier to marketing and customer experience success. And something to keep in mind as you move to decoupling services is that the complexity and number of integrations increase. The process of switching platforms is lengthy and expensive, making it difficult to maintain business as usual – added to the multitude of new logins your team now has to manage as additional best-of-breed systems are integrated.
The majority of businesses are in the process of rationalising their technology stacks by pruning systems, modernising applications and bringing technology together under a unifying platform to enhance the customer experience, rather than adding to them with a multitude of new vendors. It can also reduce costs, streamline marketing workflows, minimise code maintenance, end data silos and compete with companies unburdened by legacy technology.
For example, Asics New Zealand integrated Adobe Commerce with Accredo POS via a custom-built application and saw a 52% increase in revenue. Using a headless, composable approach, the team discovered that the key to a successful implementation over time requires testing, proofing and proper integration.
Key considerations for businesses
Beyond the change in internal systems, there needs to be a holistic consideration of the impacts these changes will have on the myriad of touchpoints along the journey. Although they seem like challenges, they can be easily turned into opportunities with the right approach.
- Merchant maturity – Merchants need to be digitally mature and have either a deep bench of technical resources or a significant budget and access to ongoing developer resources.
- Restricted customization – While API-based access to the platform is robust, the underlying codebase is closed and cannot be customised.
- With disparate data across each of the new decoupled modules, consolidating customer behaviour reporting, maintaining customer data governance and supercharged AI insights become infinitely harder.
- No one size fits all – Newer, “modern”, flexible development approach does not mean it can address complex business needs.
- Rigid options – Out-of-the-box feature sets tend to be lightweight and require a lot of further development to deliver on even basic enterprise use cases.
- Internal adaptations needed – With no content or experience management capabilities, it requires custom development or integrations for a storefront to go live.
- Be aware of your total TCO – While you may see an initial drop in licence fees, implementation, maintenance and upgrade services could skyrocket.
- Customer maturity – Ranges dependent on business (they may want to set up a storefront quickly) will PWA suffice.
Additionally, businesses need to consider that a composable commerce implementation requires substantially more effort for both the initial implementation of a full e-commerce and content site rollout, as well as during the ongoing support and extension across new sites and functionalities.
This relates to a complex technical environment which requires a good development and testing methodology, as well as the need to foster front-end development technical expertise.
Adobe Commerce can be consumed in a composable format
Adobe’s Next Gen Native Cloud Platform has helped companies answer many of these challenges with a fully holistic offering, no matter your maturity, your use case or your size.
Businesses are reluctant to have to constantly update their tech setups, particularly with legacy systems woven deep in their business fabric. But many businesses are keen to create a flexible, extensible architecture that moves beyond composable and into modular commerce.
The modular approach has a positive impact on total cost of ownership as it means that different modules can be replaced should a better one be available. Ultimately, this will allow companies to be more flexible, with a faster time to market for the right customers, with the right degree of maturity and the right business case.
By selecting and designing better architecture, organisations will thrive in this digitally accelerated world.