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Composable Commerce

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on composable commerce.

How Composable Commerce Gives Teams the Time and Tools to Innovate and Optimize

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Authors: Paul Lynch, LiveArea and Nina Jonker-Völker, Frontastic

September 2, 2021

As shoppers become more digitally savvy, and businesses lean more into technology to differentiate themselves, eCommerce teams are often tasked with both creating fresh brand experiences and refining the ones already in place to keep up with high demands of omnichannel shoppers.

We previously took a look at the distinction between innovation and optimization in eCommerce and how the two strategies are often different paths to a shared goal. For instance, if creating a visitor experience was like cooking for a dinner party, two chefs might take different approaches to cooking the meal:

  • Think: The optimized chef takes stock of all the ingredients on hand to create a recipe they know their guest will love. The innovative chef throws a new ingredient into the pot to see what happens.
  • Make: The optimized chef creates a single dish that simmers all day and knows just when to add each ingredient and turn up the heat. The innovative chef has a dozen pots going at once to try out all different flavor combinations.
  • Test: The optimized chef tastes along the way and adds a bit here and there to create a complex flavor. The innovative chef throws out the attempts that taste bad and starts again.

Both approaches delight guests, one by perfecting a meal they already love, the other by surprising them with new tastes. The challenge often comes from trying to do both within the same kitchen.

Composable commerce creates a versatile eCommerce kitchen

Monolithic software is like a prefab kitchen that’s specifically designed to make sandwiches. It has every appliance you need to make truly amazing sandwiches, including drawers of niche tools you’ve never touched, and really served you well when your customers only ate sandwiches. But now your customers want sushi, and you’re realizing it’s really hard to cook rice in a kitchen designed for sandwiches.

Composable software is designed to integrate, so companies can easily plug in new capabilities and remove outdated ones. Teams can now build a custom eCommerce kitchen where they can perfect tried and true dishes and experiment with new dishes — without rewiring the whole kitchen to plug in a new appliance. Ultimately, creating a space where optimization and innovation can happen side by side.

Think: The time to be curious

For many eCommerce teams, limited time is the biggest roadblock. If your day is made up of tedious maintenance and fighting fires, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to think about new strategies. Composable commerce helps streamline and simplify tasks, so teams can free up their time to tackle more exciting initiatives.

Optimization: Make data accessible

A quarter of marketers say their top challenge is leveraging integrated customer data, according to a 2021 Gartner survey. For many teams, using “connected data” requires developers to create a spaghetti network of rules between legacy tools and marketing teams, to switch from one UI to the next to manage it.

The API first nature of composable tools means they were designed from the ground up to share their data and capabilities with other solutions. For developers, this means easily popping new services in and out of the stack without having to untangle code.

For business users, composable becomes especially powerful when a frontend platform, like Frontastic, pulls all of the data and capabilities into one UI. This creates a digital workbench where eCommerce teams can use all their tools together, making it easier to see the big picture and freeing up time to strategize an even bigger one.

Innovation: Think outside the channel

Composable tools are typically headless, meaning the same content and data can be presented (the head) in many different ways. Instead of building a specific mobile experience or designing campaigns for specific marketplaces, headless lets you pull your efforts across channels.

Not only does this save teams from time-consuming repetitive tasks, it also opens the door for all new types of experience that previously seemed too complex to even try. Flip product information into voice search, turn care instructions into a personalized AR experience, or enrich a new social selling channel with the wealth of content you already have. Composable commerce helps turn brainstorming sessions from “that would be nice” to “let’s give it a try.”

Make: The tools to be creative

It’s hard to try out new ideas if you’re worried that changing a button on a webpage is going to mysteriously break your pricing system. The layers of complexity added over time to legacy tools has led to change feeling too risky or too expensive.

Composable commerce untangles your stack, letting you experiment without risking critical systems. As LiveArea explained in a recent blog about composable agile delivery:

“Enter composable commerce. This microservices and modularized architecture enables agility through faster, API-driven integrations, with minimal disruption to the operational engine in the back end. This allows development teams to focus upon speed and innovation, without being hamstrung by concerns around operational stability. Likewise, operations can ensure back-end updates, compliance releases and testing can be rolled out without slowing down front-end efforts.”

Optimization: Evolution can start small

The days of big bang replatforming are over. You can add a composable tool to your stack in weeks (in some cases, days), plug in data you already have, and immediately see results. Over time, you can chip away at your monolith and compose a stack of modern capabilities so change happens without major disruption.

This means marketing teams can get started on new initiatives right away, like personalization or loyalty programs, without spending months first mapping out development. You can use the content and data you already have to spin up a pilot program in one market or region, test and iterate, then roll it out to your wider audience.

Innovation: Don’t hold off on good ideas

For a long time, innovation only seemed practical for companies with a sizable staff or deep pockets, but lightweight modern technologies are quickly democratizing innovation. Instead of being locked into a suite of tools from a single vendor, companies can click together capabilities from different vendors that best fit their use case. So teams can pull in cutting-edge tools and spin up quick proof of concepts with minimal effort, and wait until after it’s proven a return on investment (ROI) to worry about business processes and scale. Allowing ideas to go live, and gain momentum, while they’re still relevant.  

Test: The culture of change

Technology is, of course, only a piece of the puzzle. In the next article in this series, we’ll look at how eCommerce teams are shifting their ways of working to scale up optimization, and building a culture of experimentation to fuel innovation.

 

Check out the first post in this series: Optimization Versus Innovation in Digital Commerce

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