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You Can't Teach Old Commerce Platforms New Tricks

The decline of the all-in-one commerce platform.

The Malady of the Monolith

The rise of the metaverse and NFTs was a system shock for retailers around the world. With the potential for these technologies to affect so many aspects of our lives, from socializing and gaming to shopping and working, brands dashed to figure out how it would affect retail commerce at large.

Retail brands have had to ride the waves of digital disruption before, from the rise of online shopping to the shift to mobile technology. But this time is a little different. Brands have outgrown their old all-in-one (or monolith) platforms, and the simplicity and convenience they offered come at the expense of the customizability and scalability these new experiences require.

Customer experiences are increasingly splintered across touchpoints—websites, smartphones, wearables, in-store kiosks, and more—leading to the rise of omnichannel retail, or omniretail. And while a monolith can help brands get a website up and running quickly, they often lack the nuance and capabilities needed to provide a seamless experience across all touchpoints.

“Once a monolithic system is in place, it can be difficult to update such systems without breaking existing integrations,” notes Elastic Path. Custom integrations and solutions offer a possible route to solving those challenges, but they can be costly in terms of human and financial resources, not to mention difficult and risky.

Because brands are at the mercy of a monolith's plugin library or technical limitations, there’s little opportunity for them to innovate or scale on their own terms. And if you perform your own research on the shortcomings of these traditional platforms, you’ll likely encounter similar messages about their lack of customizability and agility, and even threats to business continuity.

So what’s the solution? If you've heard of terms like headless, microservices, or MACH, you've probably already been exposed to a more modern commerce paradigm: composable commerce. Composable commerce is the alternative to the all-in-one platform.

Embracing Modularity

The idea behind composable commerce is that businesses can curate their own commerce platforms by connecting different microservices, technologies that address a specific business need. Rather than using Oscar's One-Stop Commerce Shop for your entire commerce platform, for example, you might build your own platform by selecting Paulina's POS, Samina's Shopping Cart, Chan's CDP—you get the idea.

Monolithic e-commerce

Headless e-commerce

Composable e-commerce

This ability to assemble your own suite of best-for-me technologies can make your brand much more agile and responsive to the realities and pain points of omniretail—which encompass a wide range of domains including:

  • Loyalty
  • Marketing
  • Merchandising
  • Operations teams
  • In-store teams
  • Multis

Multis describes the increased complexity that omniretail brands face operating in multiple countries—managing multi-catalogs, multi-currencies, multi-region-specific-SKUs, multi-fulfillment centers, etc.—or operating under different banners.

Oscar’s One-Stop Commerce Shop might lack the flexibility to handle this complexity, but the “choose your own adventure” model of composable commerce allows you to designate and swap microservices for different business needs, orchestrate more meaningful customer journeys, and experience faster time-to-value.

Embracing Future Security

Jason Cottrell, CEO of Myplanet, often says that migrating to composable commerce is the last replatform a brand will ever have to do. While this might seem like a bold claim, the proof is in the pudding—or in this case, the paradigm.

Numerous tech companies have risen to fame, only to disappear into obscurity years later. Just like trading on the stock market, it's always a gamble to put all of your trust in one company. But with composable commerce, your commerce platform's longevity doesn’t have to be dictated by one tech vendor's continued survival.

The vendor-agnostic nature of composable commerce makes it future-proof—provided there are vendors to offer microservices—so brands will always be able to use modern, best-in-class technologies to meet both their unique business needs and the ever-changing demands of their customers.

Despite the numerous advantages, technological investments warrant thoughtful consideration. The reality is that composable isn’t meant to be a quick-fix for every brand to adopt. There are ideal use cases, and perhaps your tech stack already meets all of your needs. If you’re not sure if composable is right for you, or if you’d like to learn more, check out this article.

Profile photograph of Jennifer Hileman

Jennifer Hileman

Senior Channel Manager, Retail Data Platforms, Myplanet

Jennifer leads the Retail Data Platform Engineering practice at Myplanet, helping retailers future-proof their omnichannel retail operations. Her expertise in commerce modernization approaches helps brands unlock the agility and flexibility required by the increasingly complex retail data environment. Jennifer collaborates with best-in-class technology partners in areas such as OMS, POS, clienteling, payment, and cloud services.

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