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Composable Commerce: How to Get Started

The decisions marketing leaders can make now to accelerate their brand’s transition to future-proof retail commerce experiences.

With consumer expectations rapidly evolving, marketing leaders for growing retail brands need to be more creative and nimble than ever before. But in creating exciting new content for digital storefronts, marketing is often severely constrained or even defined by the technology that powers commerce operations. In a business that moves as quickly as retail, this is a recipe for being overtaken by competitors.

Composable commerce architectures, which leverage headless technologies and modular commerce components, offer a more flexible, adjustable, and inherently future-proof structure for fast-paced, scalable innovation. The challenge is how to begin the transition. Fortunately, you can begin gradually with a series of repeatable decisions to ensure your organization makes steady, incremental progress in the right direction.

Needs Analysis, Not Vendor Analysis

It’s vital to understand—and stay focused on—what your organization requires before spending time evaluating vendors. What you need now will not be what you need a year from now, so expect to repeat this sequence at every step of your journey. Let’s look at the decision path to follow:

Decision 1: Experience or operations?

With a composable commerce system, you can decide what aspects of the customers’ overall experience take priority. This decision comes down to identifying the most important problem you’re trying to solve: how customers shop—think journey orchestration and content automation; or what they experience post-purchase—think omnichannel fulfillment, distributed order management, or multi-channel inventory allocation.

From our perspective, the market first and foremost demands a superior pre-purchase experience. As you return to this decision path over time, operational considerations will rise to the fore, but the initial transition to headless commerce can start with how customers experience your online store.

Understanding how your current customer experience journey serves your business goals (or doesn’t) and designing it to achieve them is fundamental to all your subsequent choices. Traditional interfaces like a web browser and mobile app may be a necessity, but form should not determine function. Thinking broadly about your customer requirements (What do they value most?) and your brand requirements (What do we need in order to better measure and influence engagement?) will open up new avenues for a more complete and adjustable digital experience.

Decision 2: What features do you need?

By framing your business problems in the context of your customers, you can determine which features provide the solutions you need.

In the initial stages of adopting a headless commerce approach, your focus should be on assessing requirements, identifying gaps, and prioritizing the features you need. In the context of digital experience, this could include chatbots, social commerce APIs, or personalization AI, but it can also include digital asset management, search and merchandising, product information management, and much more. One feature that shouldn’t be overlooked is the ability to gather customer experience data, so testing and learning is built in from the start.

case study

120% Conversion Rate

Discover how Harry Rosen grew their conversions through a digital experience that enhances their high-end in-store experience.

Read the case study

Decision 3: What headless technology vendors?

Now the hard work really begins. Identifying vendors in the functional areas most needed now can seem overwhelming. With a composable commerce architecture, you will have a broader spectrum of options that can help you accomplish your goals.

Crucially, you must be able to integrate the components. Although that is now more possible than ever. The microservices afforded by composable commerce offer unique components, purpose-built to work together through APIs—a seamless, stable experience needs to be tested, and some components inevitably work together better than others. Working with a partner who has road-tested various components is key to finding only those that provide the features you need, and know that the integrations will work.

Defining and Refining Your Roadmap

The decision path we’ve laid out above may at first appear straightforward, but as you begin mapping out a transition to composable commerce, it can become far less obvious or linear. The decisions you make about the future of your digital commerce experience in some ways will run parallel to the current business you’re operating. It’s common for the newest crisis to become the highest priority to the detriment of the bigger picture.

Working with partners, whether they are system integrators, consultants, or software studios, will help ensure you define and stick to a roadmap that improves your business. They can also help you evaluate more complex scenarios and experiences. Those that plan, design, and build proof-of-concepts reap the rewards in the long run—and they’re also more likely to have buy-in from their organizations.

The goal of this transition is to ultimately build a commerce platform to deliver amazing experiences to your customers in any channel, which will drive outcomes for your business, whether your focus is on experience or operations. However, it’s important not to confuse composable commerce with headless commerce, which is a key element of composable commerce architectures. Learn more about the other building blocks of composable.

Profile photograph of Everett Zufelt

Everett Zufelt

Vice President, Product & Partnerships, Myplanet

Everett leads go-to-market strategy at Myplanet, supporting the exploration, validation, and promotion of new service and product offerings. Everett works closely with advisors, partners, and customers to help translate market signals into strategies that enable brands to leverage technology to move to the forefront of their market.

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Legacy commerce platforms are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Forrester suggests that modular platforms built gradually with best-of breed technologies are needed for success in the future.

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