Composable commerce strives to deliver value more quickly

Composable architecture gives brands the power to continuously deliver revenue-building customer experiences and bring their commerce visions to life quickly.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson

As technology in general, and in the digital commerce market specifically, capabilities are becoming increasingly commoditized. Value is created when these capabilities are connected together seamlessly to drive business outcomes. Commerce no longer requires a complete platform lift and shift, a replatform to solve a business problem. Retail Leader talks with Bryan House, Elastic Path’s chief experience officer, about how composable commerce is an enabler to empower merchandisers to solve their problems and puts technology in the position of unlocking new opportunities to grow their businesses.

Retail Leader (RL)What is composable commerce?

Bryan House
Bryan House

Bryan House: Composable commerce enables merchants to assemble a ‘best for me’ digital commerce architecture to meet the unique needs of their business. Composable architecture gives brands the power to continuously deliver revenue-building customer experiences and bring their commerce visions to life quickly.

RL: Why is composable commerce important as U.S. online retail sales reach $1.6 trillion by 2027

House: Historically, e-commerce platforms have been inflexible and slow to modernize, with pre-integrated functionality that was mediocre at best. More often than not, keeping up with customers’ expectations required prohibitively expensive innovation that proved time and resource intensive. Composable commerce solutions are built using API-first technology, enabling teams to focus only on the components that they need in order to deliver against their unique business objectives and implement functionality incrementally, rather than undertaking a complete overhaul.

Composable commerce is a key enabler of this surge in online sales, as it allows teams to continuously deliver on big ideas and focused growth initiatives at a speed that matches, or often precedes, changing consumer behavior and market dynamics. 

RL: How has the digital commerce catalog been fundamentally unchanged for the past 20 years?

House: The digital commerce catalog was created by digitally replicating the printed catalog that served as the mainstay of traditional direct merchandising/marketing, and included product descriptions’ pricing, and instructions for ordering by phone or email. The problem with digitizing an analog approach is that it simply transfers existing issues into a new format. These include difficulties in creating unique merchandising experiences, inability to respond quickly to changing consumer needs/demands, and limitations in testing/measurement, to name a few. To compensate for these issues, brands must create brittle replicas of the paper catalog that require constant synchronization or rely heavily on promotion engines to accomplish simple merchandising tasks.

There are some commerce providers that have broken the mold and started over, using a digital- and merchandiser-first approach. By changing the paradigm of the digital catalog, these providers can offer brands the complete flexibility needed to design and launch differentiated experiences across every route-to-market, without a heavy reliance on IT for custom hacks and expensive workarounds. The end result is the flexibility and freedom that merchandisers want and need to unleash their creativity, “wow” customers, and increase conversion, loyalty and digital revenue.

RL: How does the digital commerce catalog fail to meet the needs of modern, omnichannel commerce experiences?

House: The catalog functionality is the heart of any digital commerce solution, as it helps customers find a brand’s offerings online, and make purchasing decisions based on product descriptions, images and pricing. But many digital commerce catalogs have rigid and inflexible data structures that are linked to product and pricing information, making it nearly impossible for brands to execute on the creative merchandising plans required to meet business objectives. Some examples include limitations in creating experiences like dynamic product bundles, issues with quickly spinning up shoppable landing pages, and an overall inability to respond quickly to market opportunities that inspire conversions and loyalty. A flexible product catalog management experience is needed to execute unique merchandising opportunities without custom development work or replatforming.

online shopping

RL: What are the challenges of composable commerce? What are the greatest barriers to composable commerce adoption?

House: Integrations prove the greatest barrier to composable commerce adoption. Integrations, which can range from pre-packaged business capabilities and microservices to custom solutions, are the building blocks of composable commerce. By selecting solutions from a variety of vendors, a brand can build a best-of-breed tech stack that suits its specific business and customer experience needs. This, however, requires the brand to manage vendor relationships on its own or work with a systems integrator that can leverage its own vendors. It also makes it more challenging for brands to diagnose which integration is causing an issue, and resolve that issue without significant expenditure of time and IT resources.

RL: How will these challenges be overcome?

House: The solution to simplifying integrations is to provide a cloud-native integration platform as a core service within the commerce offering. Rather than having to build and manage a curated suite of bespoke integrations, brands can utilize a centralized hub that includes out-of-the-box integrations with best-of-breed vendors for systems such as search, email, loyalty, CRM and many more. Additionally, they can build their own integrations to native systems, monitoring the cloud operations and performance of these connected systems from a single dashboard.

RL: What do you expect for composable commerce moving forward?

House: Going forward, composable commerce will strive to deliver business value more quickly. I believe the balance between flexibility and time to value is critical in all technology markets and should always be grounded in solving a problem for day- to-day users of a given technology. Additionally, the role of first-party data will grow in importance and become a critical element of the composable commerce solution stack. The data available to commerce professionals is incredible and can feed predictive modeling and AI to optimize campaign outcomes.

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