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Composable Commerce

How to Future-proof Your Business with Composable Commerce: Lessons Learned from SMA

From a one-shop approach to a headless architecture, employ SMA's winning formula that has helped them future-proof their business online. Plus, a look at seven significant lessons learned from implementation.

Charlie Brook
Senior Content & Campaigns Manager
09. Apr 2024
9 min read
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composable commerce

In today’s world, the companies that are set up to adapt to shifting market dynamics and customer demands—stay on top. But the rate of change in digital commerce is rapidly increasing every year, creating more challenges for those who hope to keep up. For this reason, future-proofing your business is the top priority for companies wishing to lay the groundwork for subsequent success. 

The first step when future-proofing your business is recognizing your current limitations and deciding to make a change. To avoid haphazard shifts in strategies that lead to more chaos later down the line, we suggest following a formulaic approach that’s helped other companies build a legacy of success. 

Leading global specialist in photovoltaic system technology, SMA, understands the importance of staying ahead of the curve thanks to their history of innovation in the energy market. As they expanded their portfolio beyond inverters to include solutions like storage, software products, and service contracts, they saw limitations within their existing commerce setup that would hinder future growth. 

In search of a solution that could accommodate their diverse offerings, SMA uncovered a winning formula for future-proofing their online business based on these key components:

  • A one-shop approach,
  • Composable Commerce,
  • API-driven integrations,
  • Headless architecture,
  • And iterative rollouts using MVPs.


Frank Knobloch, Head of eCommerce & Platform Development, presented SMA’s findings at the 2023 Spryker EXCITE commerce conference. By sharing their experience, he inspires other companies to build for the future, demonstrating how a composable commerce approach fosters long-term resilience and, ultimately, success. 

What Led SMA to Composable Commerce

Over five years ago, SMA had several online shops up and running, including an employee shop, an online order center, and region-specific shops, which they believed covered all of their digital commerce bases. However, they started identifying challenges within their existing commerce setup, characterized by siloed systems limited by their proprietary processes. 

With four different silos, each with its own data and built so the customer could buy independently, the SMA team was faced with a system that left them with:

  1. A lot of manual work from the lack of integrations with their internal systems—in this case, SAP, Salesforce, and MuleSoft, 
  2. Poor mechanisms for scaling,
  3. High maintenance costs,
  4. And prolonged back-end processes.

In essence, when looking at their portfolio as a whole, there was no comprehensive strategic fit—this would impede their ability to provide a cohesive customer experience in years to come. 

In the end, from a customer's point of view, they don't care about several shops. They want to buy inverters, spare parts, and service, contracting everything in one place, checking out easily, and that's it.

Frank Knobloch Head of eCommerce & Platform Development at SMA

SMA’s Composable Commerce Formula

At this point, the team understood that to future-proof their business and provide a unified customer experience, they would need to integrate their commerce systems into a single platform. In other words, adopt a one-shop approach that would be flexible, scalable, and capable of accommodating their diverse product offerings and business processes—one that would be built for the future. 

However, they still had numerous domain-specific components that needed integration. For this reason, they decided to explore a composable commerce approach, enabling them to build a modular architecture where different elements are developed and integrated independently. According to experts, composable commerce must be adopted for the future of applications that rely on a complex tech stack. 

To overcome the overload of manual work that comes with these integrations, they leveraged APIs to integrate their commerce platform with SAP, Salesforce, and MuleSoft. This API-driven approach facilitated seamless communication between different systems, enabling reliable data exchange and process automation. Plus, by investing in a cloud-native solution with robust security measures and optimized performance, they can deliver a dedicated and responsive customer experience that prioritizes protection and performance.

To combat slow back-end processes, they also bet on a headless architecture, which would decouple their front-end presentation layer from the back-end commerce functionality. This would make it easier for their developers to create personalized experiences without altering the back-end system. 

Finally, SMA adopted an iterative rollout approach to maintain agility and scalability, focusing on rapid deployment, gathering feedback, and iteratively improving the platform based on user input and market insights.

With this formula, they built up an entirely new ecosystem based on their old styles and structures—with the total portfolio support they were looking for. 

We finally have a single source of truth for the products, the prices, and the customer groups.

Frank Knobloch Head of eCommerce & Platform Development at SMA

Knobloch adds, “When the Product Manager says, ‘What do I have to do if my product should be available in the store?’ We tell them, ‘Just go to the product information and say it should be enabled.’ That’s it. Because we already have the pricing information in SAP and the definitions in Salesforce, so their job is just to decide whether or not it should be in the shop.” 

Lessons Learned from SMA’s Approach to Future-Proofed Business

Despite a favorable outcome, the journey to composable commerce brought along its fair share of challenges and, more importantly, learnings that can be leveraged by other companies hoping to make a similar change. From communication style to more technical approaches, Knobloch shares seven lessons SMA learned during the implementation process. 

  1. Complexity Management

Due to complexities that may not be apparent to internal users, Knobloch emphasizes the need for strong program management to effectively navigate the intricacies of a multi-project, multi-technology environment. SMA found that a detailed level of planning was essential, as was clarifying priorities to ensure developers understood the significance of their changes. Rather than a vertical implementation on the agile approach, SMA followed a program called Digital Core, allowing developers to see the changes based on demand across various aspects, including e-commerce, supply chain, and procurement—so that they can prioritize changes accordingly. 

This work fosters better team communication and collaboration, reducing the risk of misunderstandings or misaligned efforts. By proactively addressing complexities, companies can streamline processes, enhance agility, and ultimately deliver customers a coherent digital commerce experience.

2. Cross-Functional Teams

On a similar note, Knobloch highlights that structuring cross-functional teams for regional rollouts helps to address internal acceptance challenges, mind the gaps upfront, and speed up rollouts afterward. To facilitate this, Knobloch advises employing a very lean but defined collaboration platform for reducing workload and alignment efforts while de-stressing micro-management. 

This approach helps to foster diverse perspectives and skill sets, enabling comprehensive problem-solving throughout the implementation process. By leveraging the collaboration platform to break down silos, companies can maximize the collective expertise of their teams in one space. 

3. Managing Standardization

Knobloch advocates for having an owner of the rollout operation who can ask important questions about the standard process before it’s too late. This will allow for necessary deviations, like regional discrepancies or business process gaps, without bloating the workload and slowing down rollout. Moreover, rather than building conflict, different development models can, in fact, complement each other effectively.

I know there are lots of conflicts, for example, Mac versus Apple. Linux versus Windows. The same goes for the Waterfall model and Scrum. But instead of fighting against each other, they can work together—and we saw that it this really works.

Frank Knobloch Head of eCommerce & Platform Development at SMA

4. Interface-Driven Design As a Key Concept

In a headless architecture context, Knobloch stresses the significance of interface-driven design, especially when working with separate partners. At SMA, they found that specifying and mocking interfaces allowed for independent implementation and reduced dependencies between parties. 

This model promotes scalability and flexibility, enabling seamless integration with new technologies and third-party systems as the landscape evolves. By adopting this approach, companies add an extra layer of resilience and adaptability to their strategy. 

5. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) Processes for Operational Changes

Knobloch recognizes the need for a shift in UAT practices when implementing a new e-commerce platform. During this process, SMA found that traditional testing methods, which may have been sufficient for internal changes, were inadequate for testing the entire digital commerce platform. In fact, they confronted many challenges in identifying and fixing issues while the entire shop was operational due to the complexity of their solution. 

This is when they learned that testing in a live, realistic environment is crucial when adapting to the sophistication of the implementation, particularly when identifying and addressing issues effectively in end-to-end scenarios. 

6. Bypassing Weak Spots

He also warns against bypassing business process weak spots, as it may lead to increased costs and slower progress in the long run. He states, “In the beginning, it may look like you’ll become faster—but in the end, it’ll be much slower and more expensive.” 

Addressing weak spots allows companies to build a solid foundation for the future, preventing potential bottlenecks. Bypassing a weak spot might initially help the company experience short-term gains. Still, in the long run, they’ll likely face higher costs and slower progress as they’re forced to address the underlying process issues eventually. 

7. The Babylonian Confusion of Tongues

Finally, he highlights the importance of effective communication and understanding between the systems you use, which all maintain different domain languages. This makes managing it very complicated because you have to understand all of your systems’ differing terminology. Knobloch advises teams not to turn to anger or dislike when challenges arise—but rather embrace a shared desire to resolve the problem.

In the end, we have a very technical scenario but the people behind each system and the communication between them is one of the most important things. We have to try and understand their pain points and how they work. Because when you want to resolve a problem together, you have to communicate.

Frank Knobloch Head of eCommerce & Platform Development at SMA

The Future of E-Commerce at SMA 

While the complexity of the project presented new challenges, SMA embraced this innovative solution and is looking forward to widening its portfolio with the promise of exciting features to come. Looking ahead, the company plans to expand its commerce platform to support subscription models, software upgrades, and new regions. They also aim to leverage features like smart buying and intelligent e-commerce to enhance the customer experience further.

All of this, they hope to do even faster—with the goal of enabling new regions within three months. With the help of their agile composable commerce approach, one that promotes scalability and long-term success, their objectives are well within reach.

As the world continues to change, arming your business for the future will become the most essential practice for digital commerce. If you’re interested in implementing a similar formula for success, learn more about why companies are turning to composable commerce with our expert voices guide. Hear from ten experts about why composable commerce has become a best practice and the benefits of embracing this change.

  • API
  • Headless Commerce
  • MVP
  • Unified Commerce
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