Guest Column | November 7, 2022

Crafting The Future Of Retail With Composable Commerce

By Thom Phipps, Kibo

mobile online banking and payment GettyImages-1195693419

Consumer shopping behaviors are shifting at a rapid pace, and many retailers are finding themselves left behind due to clunky, outdated legacy systems. For this reason, leading companies are adopting composability as part of their digital commerce strategy. Composable ecosystems are designed to be both customer-centric and business-centric — allowing you to align IT and business functions by connecting capabilities that matter most to your customers.

Unlike monolithic systems, you can add, remove, and change individual capabilities — cart & checkout, subscriptions, order management, etc. — without overhauling or affecting the rest of the system. As a result, you gain the agility to respond to customer needs in real time and create experiences that drive conversions and loyalty.

If you’re considering composability, here are some specific benefits.

5 Benefits Of Composable Commerce

1. Freedom from the monolith: Gartner predicted that by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace their competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation. Monolithic platforms cannot keep pace with the speed of change and are becoming a liability for companies that want to be agile. Headless also can be limiting if it’s set up as two monoliths — one at the front end and one at the back end.

2. An open ecosystem: In a composable ecosystem, the best solution for your business objectives wins — not the one that’s proprietary to a specific vendor. An open ecosystem means that you’re not locked into a specific vendor, framework, or programming language. This gives your developers and business users more choice and flexibility when it comes to the technologies you use, and often leads to more innovation and better solutions for customers.

3. Lower total cost of ownership (TCO): Composable systems provide a lower TCO because you only pay for the capabilities you need. For example, instead of connecting the entire ERP and CRM to the commerce platform, you can use packaged business capabilities (PBCs) to integrate the pieces of each tool in a way that works for your business.

4. Performance and agility: Composable systems are inherently pluggable and flexible, allowing you to quickly adapt to market changes and customer needs. They’re also highly scalable, so you can start small and build/optimize the system using PBCs tied to business goals.

5. Fosters cross-functional relationships: Composability demands (and fosters) next-level team collaboration— what Gartner calls “fusion teams” to ensure successful development and implementation. Instead of thinking about the technology, fusion teams shift their focus to how larger components work together to drive business initiatives. This can be a challenge, but it’s essential for making the switch from monolith to true composability.

What To Consider Before Going Composable

Now that the benefits are clear, it’s critical to understand if composability is the right move for your business.

A New Mindset: Composability isn’t just about building an eCommerce website. It’s about creating a connected ecosystem of capabilities that work together to orchestrate optimal customer experiences. This means rethinking the role of technology in your organization and how it supports your business goals.

A Different Approach to Development: Composability requires a different approach to development because you’re not starting with a blank slate. You’re working with a microservices environment that requires a team that’s comfortable integrating disparate systems.

The Right Development Tools: Composability also requires the right set of development tools. Your development team will need access to and work with tools like an API management platform, an integration platform, and a low-code/no-code solution for business users. If you don’t have the expertise available in-house to work with and manage the systems, you’ll need to outsource to a partner who does.

Most Importantly, Patience: Composable commerce isn’t a quick fix. It’s a slow journey and requires thoughtful and dedicated planning to properly execute. But when done right, the benefits — for your customers and your business — are well worth the effort.

Preparing Your Business For Composable Commerce

If you’ve decided that composability is the right strategy for your business, there are a few steps to take to prepare your organization for this move.

Get Stakeholder Buy-In

Composability requires support from the entire organization — from the top down. Start by outlining the benefit for each type of user: business & non-technical, technical, and c-suite.

  • Business and non-technical teams typically include daily users from marketing and merchandising. Composability allows them to make changes to the customer experience without IT intervention, saving them a significant amount of time.
  • Technical and IT teams can focus on developing unique features instead of managing an inflexible platform. Since the technical delivery is microservices built, API-first, cloud-native, and fully headless, there is no need for a “templating” solution that would traditionally be used to stitch together a presentation layer.
  • C-Suite will see the financial impact because composability lowers the total cost of ownership and increases speed-to-market.

Understand The Costs

Building a composable ecosystem goes far beyond the licensing fees. You’ll also need to consider costs around support, maintenance, and integrations. If you don’t have existing employees that are comfortable with this approach to development, you’ll need to factor in the cost of finding and training staff and hiring a consultant.

Determine ROI

A standard SWOT analysis can help you understand your return on investment. By factoring in the benefits of composable commerce, you can forecast how it will impact your top and bottom line. Don't forget about up-front costs against the long-term benefits to determine if it’s the right move for your business.

Is Composable Commerce Right for You?

In our current economic environment, composability allows retailers that may have been digital laggards to quickly catch up to their competitors and build revenue-driving customer experiences. This approach isn’t right for every retailer, but if you have the resources to effectively build and manage a composable ecosystem, you’ll see the benefits for years to come.

About The Author

As the Chief Technology Officer at Kibo, Thom Phipps is focused on driving technical excellence and innovation across the platform to enable partners and customers to meet their business goals effectively and efficiently. Previously, he led global development teams and built high-scale content management, search/discover, and analytics capabilities at Dell. Later, he led the creation of Volusion’s medium and large business omnichannel commerce offering, Mozu, which was acquired by Kibo in 2016.