Expert Guide

An Expert’s Guide to Composable Commerce - What, How and Why

Getting stuck on a monolithic approach is old school. Composable Commerce is a modular approach that allows businesses to select best-of-breed solutions and build a highly customized tech stack. In this page you can find everything you need to know about composability and why it should be part of your strategy.

Table of Contents

  • Overview
  • Types of Commerce
  • Evolution of eCommerce
  • FAQ
  • Monoliths, Microservices & PBCs
  • Composability Pros & Cons
  • Composable Platforms
  • Replatforming

What is Composable Commerce?

In the contemporary market, speed, flexibility and scalability are the main features businesses are seeking in the implementation of e-commerce solutions. The shopping experience flows through different channels and the customer journey entails multiple touch points simultaneously. Composable Commerce is the architectural approach with which a company can select the best-of-breed, 3rd-party applications from reliable vendors and integrate them into a tailor-made tech stack that meets specific business needs. Each custom-made component can be plugged and replaced at any time without affecting the other parts of the ecosystem.

App Composition Platform concept key visual

Gartner predicts that by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.

Traditional commerce vs Composable Commerce

Until recently, a monolith architecture was the default mode for building e-commerce platforms. Albeit easy to use, all-in-one platforms are slow if not incapable to respond to changes without impacting the whole system. With a modular approach such as Composable Commerce, agility and scalability allow for highly customized solutions much needed nowadays.

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The evolution of e-commerce

From monolithic rigid systems to flexible modularity and composability – e-commerce has come a long way since its beginnings. Let’s take a ride on the time machine to discover how e-commerce evolved through the years.

Evolution of E-commerce platforms

The era of Composable Commerce Composability is a modular approach that allows businesses to finally choose and combine components LEGO-style. Specific functions and individual requirements can be adopted, and components can be replaced with external, more flexible and powerful offerings – and then brought cohesively together to the front.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is Composable Commerce a better solution than traditional platforms?

    Traditional commerce gives you a ready-made system that is very difficult to upgrade and scale. Traditional commerce platforms are usually heavy and slow to develop and maintain. All the parts composing them are co-dependent, and it is not possible to easily get rid of unneeded features or to quickly implement new and much needed ones. Upgrading one functionality requires the upgrade of the whole system. Composable commerce, on the other hand, allows for customization and flexibility. Functionalities are independent and you can pick and choose whichever one serves your business better. Innovation is easy to speed up, as you can practically switch the components however and whenever you need, making it way easier to adapt to shifting market needs and stay competitive.

  • Why is adopting a composable approach more relevant than ever?

    Businesses can be easily and quite drastically affected by external factors, such as market fluctuations, supply chain issues, or a pandemic. Being able to quickly adapt to changes is nowadays an essential skill to survive in the market. Adopting a composable approach will allow companies to be flexible and agile, while implementing better processes, serving customer expectations, and meeting market demands.

  • Why might a monolithic approach hinder my e-commerce strategy?

    A monolith architecture is made of a rigid and coupled front- and back-end system. An update or, in general, any modification of a feature will require to change other modules and it is highly likely that a redeployment of the entire system will be needed. This could be a slow and difficult process.

  • Who is the composable approach best suited for?

    Composable architecture might indeed not be right for any business. There are certain aspects to take into consideration: 

    • Size of the business: small businesses do not have complex business requirements that necessite a composable solution.
    • Digital maturity: a well-established digital presence and in-house technical expertise are good indicators that a business will benefit from a composable commerce solution. Otherwise, an out-of the-box solution might be a better choice.
    • Complexity: a need for the scalability and functionality of composable commerce might fall through if a business has a simple product catalog, doesn’t plan to expand, or operates solely on D2C or B2C.
  • What is the benefit of having 3rd party integrations?

    It is impossible for any foundational system like ERPs, CRMs, eCommerce Platforms, etc. to fulfill the entire suite of customer needs by themselves. New domains and subdomains are emerging daily and so are the solutions addressing them. 3rd-party integrations provide targeted solutions – broad or niche – that address the needs of a company’s growing business. It wouldn’t make financial or technical sense for businesses to build those themselves and continue maintaining them. Moreover, seamless integrations will bring down the typical implementation time from weeks and months to minutes.

  • What does “best-of-breed” mean in Composable Commerce?

    In the landscape of composable commerce, best-of-breed solutions are commerce solutions fulfilling specific business requirements which can be freely picked from different vendors. In other words, with the best-of-breed approach, e-commerce teams would be pulling external resources (integration partners) together and housing them under one roof (software), with the aim of delivering a system that performs optimally.

  • What is the difference between Headless and Composable Commerce?

    Headless commerce only decouples the front- and back-end – the back-end stays complex while the front-end is flexible to meet changing market demands. Composable commerce goes a step further by bringing together independent components in a highly curated and customizable system. 

  • What are PBCs?

    Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) are bundled features that perform specific business functions. They are defined by Gartner as “software components that represent a clearly defined business capability”. These bundled business functions serve as building blocks of larger app suites, which in turn are all tied together by an API.

  • What is the difference between microservices and PBCs?

    Microservices and PBCs are both examples of composable commerce, but they differ in some key ways. As the name suggests, microservices are small and particular to one service alone, whilst PBCs are a collection of features that target well-defined, specific business capabilities and are built around providing a specific business function. Microservices, such as product labels, product attributes, and product options, are often grouped together into a PBC for Product Information Management (PIM). If your business’s current PIM system is not providing the information customers require, you can find a third-party provider better suited to your needs and can simply swap the PBCs, rapidly updating your business offering. It is this agility and speed which make PBCs and composable commerce key factors in future business resilience.

  • How can PBCs benefit my business?

    If you choose to integrate Packaged Business Capabilities into your business, you will:

    • Keep up with the market and customer expectations by using a best-of-breed approach and choose outstanding solutions on the market
    • Provide scalability and increase time to market 
    • Solve common business problems due to PBCs’ targeting of specific functions. Specific PBCs can also be constructed using a mix-and-match approach.
    • Provide agility, efficiency, and resilience to your business
  • What are the benefits of Composable Commerce for B2B companies?

    • It’s easier and quicker to install new integrations, instead of the usual time-consuming add-ons that necessitate endless building and configuring.
    • Testing is simple and it allows you to experiment new features and see what works best for your needs.
    • The software is quicker to develop and maintain. 
    • Risks and costs for integrations and maintenance are minimized.
    • It’s easier to select the best-of-breed integrations thanks to carefully curated pre-configured apps.
  • What, if any, are the challenges of Composable Commerce?

    Managing multiple vendors and tools can be a downside of the composable commerce approach, as well as building a cohesive user interface to connect microservices of different vendors.

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How does composable commerce work?

With composable commerce, companies select the best-of-breed solutions in order to build a highly customized tech stack – in other words, they can find and integrate the most effective and top-notch 3rd-party solutions and components of the industry. In order to quickly adapt to dynamic market needs, composable commerce leverages modern technologies like microservices, API, Cloud, Headless, and JAMstack. It goes a step further by adopting a modular logic defined as Packaged Business Capabilities, which are distinct functionalities bundled together to serve specific business needs.

Monoliths, Microservices, and PBCs

Imagine yourself as a child who was given a choice between a brick (monoliths), playdough (microservices), and Lego pieces (PBCs). Consider how difficult it would be to reshape the large brick or maintain the form of the playdough after sectioning it, and then consider how simple it would be to put the Lego pieces together. These are essentially the sort of decisions businesses would make about monoliths, microservices, and PBCs; let’s take a closer look at each of them separately.

Graphic displaying Monolith on the left, Packaged Business Capabilities in the middle and Microservices on the right

Monoliths, Microservices, and PBCs

Monoliths

  • Monolithic or legacy architecture is an all-in-one suite that provides businesses with a centralized, on-premise, feature-rich system to meet their needs. The monolithic software is built as a single, unalterable unit and it typically has one codebase that manages and serves all of its functions. It usually includes a client-side user interface, a server-side application, and a database.

  • In a typical monolithic e-commerce store product labels, product attributes, and product options, for example, are all combined into a single program on a single platform. If the code for one service needs to be updated, the code for the entire tech stack will equally need updating.

  • Monolithic applications are the norm, but they are rapidly losing favor due to a variety of factors. Generally, updating, changing, or extending these large, rigid solutions requires a significant amount of time and money.

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Types of Monoliths

Below are a few examples of how Monoliths can affect your business:

Consume Developer Resources

Due to the large, complex codebase, developers are always required to implement system changes, effectively shutting out other company stakeholders and new projects. When changes are made to any part of the code, the entire code is affected and must be considered. Additionally, when making updates, this can add a significant amount of planning and coordination time. Ultimately developers will spend most of their time on integration rather than on innovation.

Reduce Agility to Scale

Due to the complexity of a monolith, scaling is extremely difficult. This frequently requires developers to take a similar approach when creating a new app from scratch. Scalability is hampered for the same reason that introducing new technologies is difficult. Compatibility with the entire technology stack must be taken into account, which adds time and money to any potential developments.

Slow Time to Market

Updates to one section of code frequently result in platform downtime. Despite their rigidity, many well-known and successful companies, including Netflix, Google, and Amazon, began with monolithic codebases. However, this model's popularity has been declining for some time, with the aforementioned companies shifting to faster and more flexible models, such as microservices.

Monoliths, Microservices, and PBCs

Microservices

  • Microservices are a container-based architectural approach to building applications. As the name implies, each application function is made up of small independent components which undertake their specific, individual, and granular process separately. This architecture enables each service to scale or update independently without interfering with other services in the application.

  • Building on the same example of the e-commerce store we used for monoliths, product labels, product attributes, and product options - are all independent but loosely coupled on the same platform. The difference here is that with microservices when only one service requires updating, the update can be performed without affecting the functionality of other services.

  • Microservices are far more adaptable than monoliths because each service can be extended, updated, or modified without affecting the platform's other services. However, they, like monoliths, can necessitate a significant amount of time and effort when it comes to implementing changes.

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Types of Microservices

Below are some characteristics of microservices and how they impact your business:

Microservices are complex

This is a different kind of complexity than monoliths, but it is still complex. A platform can consist of dozens or hundreds of different services that must all communicate securely. Each module and database connection must be carefully selected and established, and these connections must be handled with care.

Have limited scope

Microservices can only achieve specific tasks that are frequently quite limited. Although individual microservices are easier to extend, it may take several to fully implement a new function. While microservices are more adaptable than monoliths, they still require significant time and effort to modify and extend.

Microservices are composable

They fall under the Composable Commerce paradigm due to their independent components. This paradigm encourages the selection of best-of-breed components and their 'composition' into a specific application designed to meet a specific business need.

What are Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs)?

As stated at the beginning of this page, Composable Commerce goes beyond the technical and focuses on the business side of things, which is where Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) come into play. PBCs, as the term suggests, are bundled features that perform specific business functions. They are the building blocks that allow Composable Commerce to transform technical aspects into experiences that are tailored to specific business objectives. Every PBC achieves a specific goal, allowing business and technology users to jointly assess the benefits and use of specific capabilities.

PBCs are a future-proof bridge between monolithic platforms and microservices. Their ability to work independently of other PBCs enables agile updates, changes, and extensions with no impact on the overall tech stack. PBCs enable users to easily switch between capabilities provided by third-party vendors, embracing both composable enterprise and a best-of-breed approach.

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Advantages of PBCs

Exceptional Business Value

Each PBC's goal is to increase the system's business value by clearly explaining the advantages and requirements for both business and IT organizations, fostering collaboration.

Progressive Collaboration

Progress and added value are produced for each stakeholder when business and technological values are understood across departments.

Carefully Curated

Standardized, rigid, and clunky shelfware can be avoided because PBCs, let businesses select what is necessary while giving plenty of room for customization.

Reduce Costs

PBCs reduce complexity and total cost of ownership in comparison to the microservices.

Why consider PBCs for your business?

  • Allow for modular commerce

    Composability is becoming increasingly important for the survival of businesses. PBCs, that adhere to the Composable Commerce paradigm, provide agility, efficiency, resilience, and democratization of business through their simple plug-in functionality.

  • Provide simple solutions to common business problems

    PBCs provide effective solutions to common business problems, with each PBC delivering a unique set of values to business users. They also allow for the incorporation of specific permission-related functions for B2B users.

  • Enable a best-of-breed approach

    PBCs provide unrivaled flexibility and efficiency. Enterprises can use best-of-breed approaches and choose PBCs from third-party providers that best fit their specific use case. This allows businesses to effortlessly keep up with rapidly changing consumer expectations and market trends.

  • Are a solution for the future

    Composable Commerce and PBCs naturally go hand in hand with future-proof business approaches like fusion teams and digital transformation. According to Gartner, 30 percent of digital commerce organizations will use PBCs to build their application experiences by 2024.

Learn More About Packaged Business Capabilities

Read About PBCs

API-Based

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are an e-commerce system that works by passing requests from the front-end to the back-end via API calls. These serve as a middleman for transferring data to various applications. APIs enable a unified commerce strategy and are the next step in a company's headless journey. Suppose an auto spare parts manufacturing supply company receives a large number of order requests from car manufacturers on a daily basis. These orders are routed to the e-commerce system via an API. When a customer places an order through a mobile app, voice assistant, smartwatch, or smart car, the order is automatically routed to their backend via the API. This allows customers to shop from anywhere and makes it nearly impossible to miss a sale!

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Spryker GLUE API

Spryker’s GLUE API is the nimble and effective solution that allows for a headless retail experience. It helps businesses connect with their customers through various touchpoints like smart devices, or to integrate third-party systems like Content Management Systems, to improve on internal or external processes. Suppose an auto spare parts manufacturing supply company receives a large number of order requests from car manufacturers on a daily basis. These orders are routed to the e-commerce system via an API. When a customer places an order through a mobile app, voice assistant, smartwatch, or smart car, the order is automatically routed to their backend via the API. This allows customers to shop from anywhere and makes it nearly impossible to miss a sale!

GLUE API icon

Headless Commerce

Headless commerce is an e-commerce architecture in which the front-end (customer-facing layer) is separated from the back-end infrastructure (where the shopping cart, product catalog, payment gateway and other features ordinarily reside). Simply put, headless commerce distinguishes between the front-end and the back-end.

The fact that headless commerce promotes modularity and allows businesses to integrate multiple touchpoints via APIs is a significant advantage. An API is used to customize the front end presentation layer as well as to send content and product information from the back end to any channel where a user may be found, such as mobile apps, digital kiosks, smartwatches, voice assistants, smart fridges, and a variety of other IoT devices or creative storefronts.

Spryker Cloud Commerce OS is an Enterprise-ready platform that is cloud-native, headless, and API-based. It orchestrates the creation of end-to-end solutions using a wide range of out-of-the-box commerce capabilities and third-party extensions.

With pre-composed packages, businesses can reduce time-to-market and enable rapid and future-proof growth. As a result, e-businesses can optimize their Total Cost of Ownership and Return on Investment while gaining a larger market share.

 

Benefits of Headless Commerce

Cloud-based commerce

Many businesses are under immense pressure to either innovate and meet the demands of modern customers or lose the race to early adopters. Headless, modular B2B commerce, requires sophisticated experiences that are seamless, scalable, and truly flexible. As highlighted in the previous section, Spryker’s leading B2B Cloud-based Commerce platform fulfills every intricate business need–effortlessly. Additionally, it is a PaaS company that enables customers to use best-of-breed components on a single point of contact for the full service, without hassles or complex multi-party agreements.

Composability Cloud-based icon

How can cloud-based commerce benefit your business?

Flexibility

Every enterprise must be adaptable to constant change, whether they are looking to automate processes, improve commerce, or find new revenue streams. Composability means maximum customer flexibility: it enables customers to select the best-of-breed components they require, which will work seamlessly and reliably right away. Long and costly integrations are no longer necessary with a truly modular platforms like Spryker.

 

Scalability

Businesses in cloud commerce, healthcare, retail, or manufacturing cannot afford for their solution to stifle their growth. Because of the increasing sophistication of business cases and the required faster time to market, enterprises must be able to go from planning to testing to launching their services, whether it is a commerce solution, a process automation project, or generating new revenue streams, without requiring any replatforming work.

Spryker Cloud OS – a proven history of e-commerce innovation

What Spryker OS provides for e-commerce and beyond:

Enhanced customer experience

Plan, design, and deliver exceptional digital commerce experiences and create customer-centric use cases that are forward-thinking, in response to increasing device variety and user journey complexity.

Increased return on investment

Rapid development and testing of new customer-centric business models to achieve a shorter time-to-market, higher project quality, and a higher ROI.

Support on a single platform

Spryker can be used as a single comprehensive platform for B2C, B2B, and marketplaces, resulting in increased efficiency and less time spent on maintaining separate infrastructure.

Pros and Cons of Composable Commerce

Without a doubt, the benefits of Composable Commerce outweigh the drawbacks; however, as with any new technology, it is critical to understand the potential challenges, no matter how minor they may appear.
Table showing Pros and Cons of Composable Commerce
Composability Pros and Cons infographic

Here are the advantages of Composable Commerce:

Rapid Integrations

Install new integrations with a single click. There will be no more time-consuming add-ons that necessitate endless building and configuring.

Simple Testing

Maintain your adaptability by connecting, configuring, and testing various integrations. Experiment with new features and keep only the best solution for your needs.

Reduced Software Lifecycles

More rapid development or maintenance. Partners can work on their app extensions quickly and easily.

Lower Investment and Lower Risks

Businesses will benefit from lower risks and increased benefits. Composability simplifies, accelerates, and reduces costly integrations and maintenance.

Curated Selections

A carefully curated list of pre-configured apps assists you in selecting the best integration for your business.

What to look for in a Composable Commerce platform

A truly Composable Commerce platform should cover all the following aspects:

  • Best-of-Breed enabling software
  • Cloud-based commerce solution
  • Easy and quick installation
  • A network of third-party integration
  • Agility and adaptability to market demand
  • Flexibility to add completely customize components

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Replatforming

Simply put, replatforming is the process of transitioning from outdated technology to a faster and more future-proof solution. The demand for improved e-commerce solutions has never been higher. According to Gartner, by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation. This demonstrates the need for businesses to adopt more adaptable and proactive technological solutions. Businesses that want to reduce costly updates while also growing and scaling must replatform as soon as they possibly can.

When should a business consider replatforming?

When you encounter the following symptoms, you know it's time to replatform your e-business:

Long and costly updates to your existing system

This is when users of commerce software are frequently required to perform time-consuming and costly updates.

Long website, app, or other touchpoint loading times

The loading time has a direct impact on customer behavior because it is decisive for the bounce rate. 47 percent of online shoppers expect websites to load in two seconds or less, according to Akamai. The study shows that 79 percent of customers who perceive web shop performance as slow or below average will not return in the future.

Your platform's scalability is limited.

The longer you put off switching to a scalable solution, the more opportunities you will miss. The more diverse the projects you plan, the more critical it is to have the proper technological foundation. Implementing a new system takes time, but it is worthwhile if it allows you to complete larger and potentially more profitable projects.

Your current shop system is incapable of meeting current and future market demands.

Anyone who wants to be a long-term success in B2B and B2C digital commerce must be able to quickly implement digital innovations. This includes new ideas as well as customer needs, such as new touchpoints.

New corporate structures

If your system does not provide you with the absolute flexibility you require today, it will be insufficient for the challenges of tomorrow, and the gap will widen. Solutions that can be implemented quickly and with minimal financial overheads will become critical. Robust capabilities, processes, and production will guide the strategic transition to the next stage of exponential growth. If you can no longer adapt to new challenges with your current solution, it's time to replatform!

The future of digital commerce is Composable

A glimpse into the future shows that composability will drastically transform the fortune of agile digital businesses. As in the past, digital is not just one channel or one aspect that operates independently. You must consider how to digitally support all current and future processes. However, digitizing one's entire business and keeping up with subsequent evolutions is a never-ending journey. So, where does one begin? The best advice is to think big and start small. Find the right foundation that allows you to get up and running quickly with a pre-made solution. That's a modest start. The gold comes when you work with a modular platform that allows you to try new things, plug components in and out, and experiment with new technologies with minimal effort. It will enable you to continuously release exciting updates that add value to your customers. It enables you to incorporate customer feedback in order to exceed customer expectations and thus gain market share.

Soar to new heights! Composable Commerce is the modern architecture you need for building a formidable e-business

Read the Interview
Chris German says "The future of digital commerce is composable and Spryker's App Composition Platform is designed to support that future."

How does Spryker support the future of composability?

A modular platform allows for continuous innovation, evolution, and expansion. You can add as many elements as you want, change your offerings, as your business grows and your needs change. This platform has no boundaries. "Change is a daily occurrence." -Scott Galloway, Professor. Nowadays we are expected to use and master tools that did not even exist a decade ago, let alone last year. Spryker enables businesses to constantly access and implement new tools that keep them ahead of the competition. Spryker's role is to assist you in navigating the evolution caused by emerging technologies, changing markets, customer demand, and business disruptions. The primary goal is to enable sophisticated, transactional business models that go beyond traditional retail, e-commerce, and desktop solutions.

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Full flexibility in a single platform

Spryker not only provides all of the components required to support B2C, B2B, marketplaces, and unified commerce, but it also does so on a single platform. We allow you to select and combine modules to create a solution that is tailored to your specific needs and desires. We also recognize the significance of the ecosystem. Our new app store concept gives our customers the ability to explore hundreds of partners with whom we collaborate to experiment, extend, and enhance their offerings.

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Introducing the Spryker App Composition Platform–more innovation less integration

Spryker’s App Composition Platform enables Spryker Cloud Commerce OS enables businesses to build the platform they want by to connecting, configuring and utilizing a curated selection of third-party services, or apps, on their application at the click of a button.

Boris Lokschin is quoted saying "Allowing for easy trials and one click connections to apps in a curated setting will help our customers grow even faster."