Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The complexities of Composable commerce

by Al Ward, Head of Delivery and Operations, Brave Bison Commerce

According to Gartner, organisations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace their competitors by 80% in terms of speedy implementation of new features. In other words, composable commerce is not just an emerging trend but a strategic necessity for businesses hoping to stay ahead. 

This is because it promises flexibility and customisation – the modular concept allows businesses to select and assemble the ecommerce components that best suit their unique requirements. It’s a shift from the one-size-fits-all model to a more agile, tailored approach, enabling businesses to respond swiftly to market changes and customer demands. 

The capability is leaving some businesses a little green-eyed. A survey found that over a third of respondents feel jealous of competitors’ commerce offerings. Among those who feel jealous, a huge 61% say it’s because of how quickly their competitors can introduce new offerings. 

However, knowing that composability is the future doesn’t mean businesses know how or when to leap. The challenges towards composable commerce can be significant, and cutting through the ‘clutter’ of what is needed is, perhaps, nearly as tricky as embarking on the journey itself. While each business’s experience will depend on its specific starting point, requirements and size, some considerations are universal. 

All aboard on people, processes and data 

Along with technology, people, processes, and data must be integrated into the strategy. Change management becomes more critical as companies become more digitally oriented and implement more technology. IT and data leaders must listen to their employees before the shift to composable, prepare them for it, and, importantly, listen to feedback throughout the process to ensure the transition runs smoothly. 

When it comes to processes, a clear structure of standard operating procedures becomes critical, mainly as more and more technologies are adopted. Streamlining APIs to have a logical flow of data between different systems in the composable set-up ensures that the organisation has strong governance and improved agility over time.

Finally, data is up there as one of the most important foundational elements as composable commerce increases the number of technology solutions consuming it. In addition, master data management solutions that store the data must be able to evolve as the business changes and connect to a variety of applications. If data isn’t governed properly, it is possible for errors or omissions of critical product data information to quickly reach multiple data services, causing confusion or frustration for customers. Therefore, a clear strategy for business and customer data flow is necessary. 

Best-of-breed vendors specific to business needs

Selecting vendors is a crucial aspect of transition, as the right selection will empower a business with flexibility and efficiency. On the other hand, a misstep could lead to integration headaches and limited functionality. This means research—and lots of it. Begin by identifying the tools essential to specific business operations, then compile a list of potential vendors that offer these solutions. This will ensure that vendor solutions align completely with business objectives. Ask: what do innovation and flexibility look like to you? Do you have the right developers and tech experts on board? 

With complete business objectives and vendor selection, it’s a good idea to map out a vendor roadmap. Understanding the sequence of vendor integration allows you to decide which tools are foundational to your architecture and should be introduced first. Typically, this starts with selecting the right storefront technology and a robust commerce platform. Subsequently, you can explore PIM and CMS solutions. Again, this roadmap should align with the business strategy and desired timeline for digital transformation. 

Secure investment with robust security 

Businesses, particularly those operating in sectors with sensitive data, face high-security requirements. These requirements encompass stringent data protection protocols, secure transaction processes, and comprehensive measures to safeguard against breaches. Bespoke security setups may be necessary for some businesses, especially those needing more control over their data and operations.

Fortunately, most composable services are provided as hosted SaaS solutions, which come equipped with industry-standard security measures. However, the interconnected nature of composable commerce means that the security of APIs and the interactions between different services are critical considerations. Ensuring that APIs are secure and that data transmission between services is protected is essential.

Plan to leverage existing technology assets

It’s probably clear that there is much to consider when transitioning to composable commerce. In fact, at the risk of throwing a spanner in the works, it’s worth noting that composability might not even be right for certain businesses. 

For example, best-of-suite solutions might appeal to smaller firms looking for simplicity and prioritising budget control and ease of management. Or those looking to quickly demonstrate a proof of concept or develop a minimum viable product that can be expanded upon later, as this approach allows for a faster market entry with a lower initial investment. However, monolith solutions present challenges as a business grows or moves into the enterprise space and require greater complexity, such as expanding into new regions or selling through several marketplaces and social channels. 

Ultimately, it’s our advice that all businesses should be 100% considering long-term digital strategy and the potential need for more flexible, composable solutions as they scale and evolve. This might sound scary, but it’s important to remember that transitioning to composable doesn’t need to be a major re-platforming project. Organisations that embrace the building blocks and principles of composable business can successfully leverage existing digital investments. It’s about modernising their legacy platforms with several small steps to improve specific interaction points and services. Moreover, additions to an existing platform at a component level ensure there is no sudden panic to completely transform once an existing platform is outgrown, unsupported, or even breaks. 

If you’re beginning this journey, understanding your technical and business needs, evaluating current digital infrastructure, and considering the existing skills and resources is essential. And let’s face it: with the landscape moving as it is, charting a clear path towards transformation certainly isn’t going to hurt your business, is it? 

If you’re not already considering composable, it’s time to start.