Pay heed, B2B: ecommerce trends are shifting. Composable commerce is here, and if an improved user experience is on your radar, get ready to see the light.
In this post, we’ll dive deeper into:
- What is composable commerce?
- What is the difference between Composable Commerce, MACH, and Headless Commerce?
- Why do platforms pose problems?
- What about the platforms adopting composable commerce?
- How does composable commerce boast a new type of agility? And;
- How can B2B organizations benefit from composable commerce?
Composable Commerce: It’s Like B2B Business Lego
Composable commerce is a catch-phrase coined by Gartner, synonymous with modularity. Think deconstructed commerce - but think of it like lego. There are hundreds of different pieces in front of you. You might not need them all. But they all can connect.
Composable commerce is uninterrupted interchangeability. Architecturally, the frontend and backend are decoupled and communicate via APIs. Commercially, B2B organizations can choose individual commerce components to build a world-class commerce stack and deliver an optimized user experience.
The concept is not just drawing attention because of Gartner’s prediction that, by 2023, organizations that have adopted composable commerce practices will outpace the competition by 80% in speed of new feature implementation. Composable commerce is also gaining ground because the approach itself is so flexible, it’s a step-change from every other commerce experience we’ve grown accustomed to.
So, B2B organizations can deliver a unique, custom, and personalized user experience to the market with composable commerce? In short, yes.
And, future-proof? It’s a bold claim by Gartner that composable commerce is the key to future-proof digital commerce experiences. We might not go so far as to tout composable commerce as the forever-solution. But as a right-now-solution, it’s a much needed disruption. And not one to be overlooked by B2B organizations looking to win.
Composable Commerce vs. MACH vs. Headless Commerce
Composable commerce, MACH, headless: these terms have been flying around the industry the last few years. Are they just buzzwords? No. Are they interchangeable terms? Also, no. So, what is the difference between Composable Commerce, MACH, and Headless Commerce?
Let’s start with MACH, which is an acronym representing flexible technology principles. It stands for:
Microservices: Individual business capabilities that can be deployed on their own
APIs: Interface that allows two separate components to interact
Cloud Native: SaaS and always scalable
Headless Commerce: Decoupled frontend and backend
MACH is a way to break down traditional monolithic commerce applications and transition to a modular and independent architecture.
Headless commerce is all about decoupling the frontend and the backend of a commerce system. In a headless scenario, the frontend (user experience, how the customer interacts digitally with the brand) is completely separate from the backend (critical ecommerce functions like inventory and payments).
The benefit of headless is again, flexibility, as it relates to the frontend and presentation layer. With the frontend untethered from the backend, B2B organizations can focus on beautiful and conversion-driven user experiences without limitations.
Composable commerce is the concept of bringing everything together. Business-focused and modular in nature, composable commerce is the layer that wraps up headless and MACH practices and leads with user cases versus prioritizing the developer experience. Composable commerce enables B2B organizations to choose all of the best commerce components and flexibly bring them together to deliver an unmatched user experience.
Commerce Platform-Style: Problematic Pain Points
We’re going to throw out an analogy here, so bear with us. Think about your wardrobe for a moment. What if your navy slacks and white shirt were sewn together? Sure, the outfit works - particularly for that industry conference you’re attending next week. But it doesn’t work as well for casual Friday after-work cocktails. You want to pair that shirt with jeans. And frankly, it doesn’t work at all for a walk around the neighborhood with your family on Saturday afternoon.
This analogy is ridiculous. But that’s exactly what large, one-size-fits-all commerce platforms have offered B2B businesses. Monolithic commerce platforms have been the all-in-one ‘solution’ most large businesses have adopted to serve the market digitally. The problem? Well, they actually aren’t so all-in-one when a B2B business needs a specific feature. Though, they are quite all-in-one when it comes to buying the platform - it’s all the features (including the needless) or none at all. Combine that with a tightly coupled frontend and backend, and a 6-18 month implementation time and - well, we have to wonder why composable wasn’t here sooner.
From a monolithic feature perspective, our clients have suffered the same pain points for years.
- Search engine: Buried search bar, no navigation path, poor typo tolerance, high bounce rates, disconnected discovery. B2B customers have unique search requirements, and these requirements are often unmet with traditional platforms. You can read more in my blog The B2B Commerce Search Needs More Nuance as Compared to Standard B2C Digital Commerce Search.
- Content management: Coded solutions, limited content authoring and management options, relying on development to deliver content, decentralized content assets.
- Product configuration: Difficulty managing complex product information, rigid data warehouses, spreadsheet crutches, disjointed information flows, decentralized product content.
- Integrations: Disconnected systems, platforms, and ERPs.
Why settle when you don’t have to?
Composable Monolith or Lipstick on a Pig?
Even the traditional monolithic platforms are looking to embrace composable practices to stay relevant. But buyers beware: with some digging under the hood, is the architecture truly composable or is it superficial?
When it comes to composable commerce, B2B businesses can only move as fast as the weakest link in the stack. So, when platforms simply create a headless experience without changing the underlying architecture, B2B clients can’t truly recognize the full benefits composable commerce boasts.
- Look to monoliths who are pursuing true composable commerce initiatives like SAP Spartacus, an SAP initiative, and Salesforce B2B Commerce Cloud’s Composable Storefront.
Composable Commerce is Ecommerce 2.0
Composable commerce is a new type of agility, fully capable of optimizing B2B commerce experiences. Encapsulating headless and MACH practices, composable commerce solves problems at the business use case level, by enabling flexibility on the frontend. The result is differentiated and custom experiences and business models.
Composable commerce is mixing-and-matching the best commerce solutions for your business so that it can win in the market. Is something proving to be ineffective, or do you need to implement a new commerce feature? Make the changes you need quickly and without deviating from your established UX.
This freedom means that B2B organizations can explore immersive commerce experiences, like product configuration and visualization - the ultimate sales’ wingperson in selling complex products. Commerce experiences can actually meet and exceed buyer expectations, allowing users to digitally engage with a company like they never have before.
Focused and well-funded composable vendors have emerged; they solve niche but significant problems for B2B businesses. Leaders like Algolia, Contentful, Threekit, and Logik.io are providing next-level search solutions, robust content management, product visualization, and interactive selling experiences.
Let’s Go: Migrating to Composable
Perhaps one of the most compelling things of all is that migrating from a monolithic experience to composable isn’t onerous. Actually, it’s incremental.
No one is asking B2B to abruptly transition off of legacy technology. Instead, to reduce risk and increase speed, commerce features can be introduced in stages, replacing elements of the legacy technology in stages. Each piece of commerce functionality becomes more and more independent until the business is operating completely on a composable model. This is a far cry from former “lift and shift” migrations that were clunky, slow, and riddled with challenges.
In sum, B2B: composable here. Composable will help you win. And becoming composable is the easiest type of commerce migration that exists today - with the right implementation partner.
Curious about composable? Talk to us about how evolving to a composable commerce model will help your B2B organization deliver seamless, custom user experiences.