The holiday shopping season brings an annual gift to retailers – a surge in retail sales. On average, holiday sales represent 20% of annual sales across most industries, according to the National Retail Federation. In some industries, this figure rises to 30% or more.
During this period, retailers see their web traffic surge and planning for such spikes requires heavy planning code freezes, for example, adding hardware and 24/7 coverage, among other methods. However, many retailers have been adopting Composable Commerce instead to counter the surge in website traffic, increase inventory visibility and build a more resilient e-commerce system.
What is Composable Commerce?
Composable Commerce is about selecting and assembling best-of-breed solutions to satisfy a customer's distinct needs. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all legacy approach, composable commerce leverages technologies like the ones in the MACH Alliance to adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics of today and tomorrow. MACH stands for:
Microservices: Individual pieces of business functionality that are independently developed, deployed, and managed.
API-first: All functionality is exposed through an API.
Cloud-native SaaS: This leverages the cloud beyond storage and hosting, including elastic scaling and automatic updating.
Headless: Front-end presentation is decoupled from back-end logic and channel, programming language, and is framework agnostic.
What are the key benefits of composable commerce over traditional e-commerce approaches?
Many of the benefits of composable commerce are closely aligned to the technical benefits we'd see more broadly of a modular architecture, in particular, the flexibility to adapt quickly. Not all parts of a solution will need to evolve at the same rate, as retailers will not necessarily be innovating in all areas at once. Composable commerce enables this flexibility while ensuring faster development and deployment.
This agility is a huge advantage in the modern marketplace, where businesses need to be able to adapt to emerging trends fast. Making modifications to a traditional commerce platform can take weeks if not months and can incur a huge IT bill, especially if development responsibilities are outsourced. A headless commerce platform allows businesses to oversee change implementation in-house, and changes are far quicker to implement. Enabling retailers to evolve gracefully as customer needs change, composable commerce moves away from a build-everything-yourself model, favouring leveraging and reusing existing solutions to maximise economies of scale.
How does composable commerce make peaks in trading easier and more reliable?
Composable commerce allows for a tailored solution to be optimised for customers' specific requirements. Like any successful integration, this solution can be more than the sum of its parts and avoids the inherent trade-offs of a unified platform.
Components or services in the solution can be scaled independently, which is a factor in achieving greater overall resilience. Composable commerce solutions tend to exhibit better evolutionary characteristics as components and services can be added, replaced or updated as needed without requiring significant modifications to the back-end architecture.
How to get started
The first step for organisations looking to get started with Composable Commerce is to establish their 'why?'. Consider: What business factors are driving your change in technology strategy? What Customer Experience outcomes are you looking for? Having a clear understanding of incentives and goals will make it easier to select the right solution for you.
One huge difference between a unified platform and a composable platform is that integration plays a key role. I would advise looking at the quality or the likely indicators of quality integration. Reviewing the API documentation, SDKs, and overall developer experience that the composable product has will be a leading indicator of how much pain or lack of you will see when the integration starts.
Composable Commerce is often talked about in technical terms, but as an effective technology strategy, it doesn't live in a vacuum. Rather, it's meant to amplify the business strategy. Understanding these goals will make it easier to guide decision-making and convince non-technical stakeholders of the benefits, especially if you have a clear idea of how these technical changes will map to company KPIs.