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Composable Commerce Checklist – how to make modern technology work for your sales goals, not against them

September 29, 2023 / 11 min read

A banner picturing a composable commerce checklist – geometric shapes and such names as ERP, SSO, PIM, etc.

Commerce has undergone significant evolution. With the rise in digital transformation and the demand for personalisation, the concept of 'composable commerce' has surfaced as a modern business approach. Let's see how you can benefit from this concept and improve your online business.

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In simpler words, composable commerce is about piecing together various commerce applications to create a tailored experience. Sounds fun, right? However, it's essential to tick off some critical boxes to ensure success. Let's dive deep into our "Composable Commerce Checklist" to help you navigate this journey!

Know your starting point

Before embarking on your composable commerce journey, it's pivotal to critically evaluate your current technological environment. Let's delve into what this examination involves. Before we do, though, we encourage you to look at this article: Evolving e-commerce: from traditional systems to Composable Commerce. It explains when you should consider composable commerce.

Tech stack examination

Your tech stack encompasses all your software and tools, from your server software and databases to your CMS and CRM tools. When examining your tech stack:

  • Databases: Are you using SQL, NoSQL, or a combination? Are your databases robust and scalable to handle the expected data flow?
  • Back-end systems: Are you using popular frameworks like Node.js, Django, or Ruby on Rails? Or is it a custom-built back-end? How adaptable is it to newer technologies?
  • Front-end frameworks and libraries: Tools like React, Angular, and Vue.js have different capabilities. Knowing which one you're using helps determine how interactive and dynamic your site can be.
  • E-commerce platforms: Whether it's Shopify, BigCommerce, Adobe, or a custom solution, this determines your commerce capabilities like the number of variants, order management or potential to go headless.
  • CMS: Content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, Sanity, or Contentful play a pivotal role in how you manage and display content. Do you need to add a PIM component to manage your product data better? Do you need to be able to schedule content delivery?
  • CRM tools: Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho, or other CRMs can influence your customer management and marketing strategies, such as how you use your customer data in marketing automation.

Assessing legacy systems

Legacy systems are older methods, technologies, or applications that your company might still use. Important note: these systems can be hardware or software. The challenge with legacy systems is that, over time, they might become incompatible with newer technologies. Think about the following:

  • Integration Capabilities: Can your old point-of-sale system integrate with the latest e-commerce platforms?
  • Updates and patches: Legacy systems still need updating and pose security risks. How often is your system patched?
  • Performance issues: Older systems might be slower or crash under heavy loads. For instance, an old inventory management system might struggle during peak sales.
  • Documentation: Legacy systems often need updated documentation, making it easier for new team members to understand or for consultants to upgrade.

Identifying the gaps

Once you've examined the tech stack and assessed legacy systems, you'll start to see areas that need attention:

  • Integration incompatibility: Your CRM might not talk seamlessly with your e-commerce platform, causing delays in customer communication.
  • Outdated Systems: That old email marketing tool might not support the latest personalisation features, affecting your marketing strategies.
  • Lack of Mobile Optimisation: Maybe your current tech stack doesn't support a mobile-optimised experience, alienating many users.
  • Performance Bottlenecks: Your site might load slowly because of an outdated server or inefficient code from legacy systems.
  • Security Vulnerabilities: Legacy systems, or even some current platforms, might be vulnerable to cyber-attacks if not regularly updated.

By understanding these gaps, you can prioritise what needs immediate attention and what you can plan for a later stage. This comprehensive analysis provides clarity, helping craft a roadmap that aligns with your composable commerce objectives.

Always start experience-first

Remember that at the heart of composable commerce is the user experience. Better UX = lower bounce rate, lower CAC and higher conversion rate, leading to better ROI! So, instead of getting lost in the technicalities, always prioritise the smooth, positively surprising, delightful, frictionless experience you want to deliver.

What does your user expect?

What kind of journey do you want to design for them?

Google Analytics or other analytical systems like Hotjar or Crazyegg can provide many clues. They may uncover the potential reasons behind high bounce rates from specific channels or unusually frequent cart abandonment rates from certain locations, leading you to adjust your shipping rates and providers or deliver a landing page offer that is more consistent with your communication promises.

Once you're clear on that, you can decide on the components you need.

List - and cover! - the needs of customers, back-office users, sales, marketing, and development team

You might be tempted to think only from a user-centric viewpoint, but that's just a part of the story. You must also address the requirements of your customer service and back-office admins (for seamless transaction processes) and your development team (for ease of integration and flexibility). By ensuring all parties are satisfied, you're setting your composable commerce project up for success.

Composable commerce article - graphic 1

The specific needs of these different teams can be examined in an example of adding a new collection to your store. Imagine you run a fashion brand selling online in a D2C model. To ensure smooth operations and maintain a healthy retention rate:

  • The customer must be able to reach your offer easily and find what they are after (or get inspired and receive relevant guidance if necessary), then purchase a swift, frictionless way. To ensure this, the development team must receive clear instructions and good-quality data to improve the customer experience.
  • The customer service team needs to have relevant information at hand to be able to respond to te customers quickly and efficiently.
  • The back-office staff and marketers must have a way to easily and quickly create or upload relevant content, tweak the design of certain landing pages in a no-code manner, and create, edit and adjust various marketing activities around the website or app.

Many mistakes can be avoided by pre-implementation analysis and mapping out specific roles and dependencies within the organisation and the sales process.

Avoid glue code

This might sound technical, but in essence, 'glue code' refers to those bits of code written to integrate disparate systems. In the simplest terms, glue code is like the duct tape of the software world. The code has been written to connect different software components that were not originally designed to work together.

Imagine attaching LEGO (your modern software) to wooden building blocks (a legacy system, like an e-commerce engine monolith, e.g. Adobe Commerce) – glue code is that sticky substance making them stick, albeit messily. Other examples of glue code implementation in technology include CMS and Analytics, OMS with ERP, ERP and POS and many, many more.

composable commerce article - graphic 2 Glue code monster from Uniform

The use of it is likely to cause hassle around maintenance - the more custom patches you have, the harder it becomes to update individual systems. For instance, if Salesforce releases an update, the custom code connecting it to Magento might break, requiring urgent fixes. You are also likely to depend on original developers as the intricacies of glue code are best understood by the developers who wrote it. If they leave the company or are unavailable, making changes becomes cumbersome.

Let us imagine the following scenario to understand the pitfalls of glue code better. Take, for instance, a multinational retail corporation (let us call it XY Corp) that employs a legacy Inventory Management System (IMS) designed in the early 2000s. As e-commerce boomed, XY Corp incorporated Shopify as their online sales platform. An extensive amount of glue code was written to make the old IMS talk to Shopify. This setup worked initially, but with every minor update from Shopify or any changes in the IMS, the whole integration process became a house of cards. In another instance, a publishing house had its CMS, say WordPress, glued to a custom-built analytics tool. The glue code bridged the gap between the two, but when WordPress introduced a significant update, the analytics tool couldn't pull data correctly, leading to considerable discrepancies in reports.

Get composable oversight in-house

Every organisation has a unique vision – a north star guiding its decisions, strategies, and initiatives. However, this vision can often get diluted or misinterpreted when conveyed to external teams or consultants only. Having someone in-house ensures that there's always a custodian of this vision. This individual knows the company's history, successes and failures, and the nuances that make it unique. They can ensure that every technological piece, every integration, and every strategy aligns perfectly with the business's goals and objectives.

An external agency or consultant might bring expertise, but they also come with their timelines, processes, and other clients to manage. When the overseer is within your organisation, there's an added control layer. Decisions can be made faster, without long email chains or waiting for scheduled meetings. Someone overseeing the composition within the organisation won't just rely on past knowledge. They are immersed in the company culture and its operations; they will understand the past technological choices, the reasons behind them, and how they've panned out.

This historical knowledge combined with real-time learning ensures more informed decisions, minimising risks and capitalising on opportunities.

This is not to imply that consultants or partners are detrimental - quite the contrary. However, the most astute approach to integrating them into your project or organisation is to view them as "additional brains" - individuals who can provide guidance and challenge internal perspectives. They shouldn't be the primary decision-makers, as they won't possess the same intrinsic understanding of your "north star" as someone from within.

Assess launch workflows and optimize

After setting up, take your time to hit the 'launch' button.

Take time to evaluate all the workflows.

Review the user journey, inspect the merchant experience, and check the back-end operations.

This phase helps identify bottlenecks or glitches that might disrupt the user experience.

Every system, website or app is crafted with a specific user journey. This journey determines whether your user has a delightful or frustrating experience. Take the time and walk through this journey from start to finish as if you were the user. There is a lot to gain. You might discover that a certain page takes too long to load or that a specific call-to-action isn't as intuitive as you thought. These aspects might have been overlooked in the design or development phase but can greatly impact user satisfaction.

Equally vital is the experience of the merchandiser. If you're deploying an e-commerce platform or any system involving monetary transactions, your journey needs to be impeccable. Any hiccups in the payment gateway, discrepancies in inventory management, or challenges in order processing can not only lead to financial losses. Still, they can also tarnish the reputation of your brand.

And remember what happens behind the scenes. Back-end operations are the backbone of any e-commerce company. If there's a glitch in the data flow, if servers aren't optimised, or if there's any miscommunication between integrated systems, the entire platform can falter. A meticulous check of these back-end operations ensures that the product runs smoothly on the surface and from the core.

By walking carefully through the series of specific use cases from each perspective, you will be able to identify trouble, optimise the elements so the journeys are easy and frictionless and safeguard the entire ecosystem.

Include site speed - orientation as one of your goals

In the era of instant gratification, speed is of the essence. Consumers have grown accustomed to near-instantaneous experiences, thanks to the proliferation of high-speed internet and efficient user interfaces.

As a result, their tolerance for waiting has drastically decreased. In the age where a video buffering for a few seconds can lead to irritation, imagine the impatience of a consumer trying to purchase on a sluggish e-commerce platform!

A composable system, with its modular nature, is designed to offer flexibility and adaptability. However, the multiple components can contribute to a laggy user experience if not optimised correctly. Even a delay of a few seconds in page load times can cause significant drops in user engagement, cart additions, and, ultimately, conversions. Research has consistently shown that even minor improvements in site speed can lead to substantial increases in sales.

composable commerce article - graphic 3 Quote source: Glassbox

Remember Amazon's "Milisecond Matter"?

Your e-commerce might not be a tech giant quite yet, but if they found that a mere one-second delay in page load could result in a staggering $1.6 billion loss in sales annually, there is something to consider while thinking speed.

More than just the user experience can lead to sales loss.

A slow-performing website may severely increase CAC due to reduced numbers of users finding you in organic search. It has been a while now since Google incorporated site speed as a factor in its ranking algorithm. This decision was rooted in user experience, as faster sites are preferred by users. Businesses with slow-loading online stores can see a dip in organic traffic, which, in the e-commerce realm, often translates to reduced sales opportunities.

Think OPEX rather than CAPEX

Composable e-commerce architecture is going through a paradigm shift in how businesses approach their financial planning and investment in digital infrastructure. Traditionally, companies would pour significant capital (CAPEX) into procuring and setting up rigid systems and infrastructures, essentially "locking" themselves into a particular setup for years. These significant upfront costs were (and continue to be in many cases) viewed as necessary investments, but they often restrict agility and adaptability. Anyone with the unpleasant experience of going through a major system update will understand.

composable commerce article - graphic 4

Conversely, comparable commerce leans toward a pay-as-you-go model, where costs are spread out and categorised under operational expenditures (OPEX). Instead of a massive initial outlay, businesses invest incrementally, often in subscription-based services or modular components. This financial flexibility is pivotal in the digital era, where consumer behaviours, technologies, and market dynamics change rapidly.

By thinking OPEX, companies can swiftly pivot, scaling services up or down based on demand and integrating new technological advancements without the burden of sunk costs from previous investments. In essence, composable e-commerce not only modernises technical architecture but also revolutionises financial strategies in the digital commerce space.

Avoid agency accelerator lock-in

While agencies offer 'accelerators' to fast-track your digital journey, there's a catch. Many solutions can lock you into their ecosystem, hindering your flexibility. Choose solutions that ensure freedom and flexibility in the long run.

Beware of the Unknown Unknowns

Yes, this sounds cryptic. But in the world of composable commerce, it's a reminder that things don't always go as planned. There might be aspects you haven't considered or challenges that pop up unexpectedly. So, always be prepared for surprises. This doesn't mean getting paranoid but having contingency plans and being ready to pivot when needed.

Summary

Embarking on the composable commerce journey is exciting but requires meticulous planning and execution. This checklist serves as a guide to ensure you're on the right track, but remember, every business is unique. Tailor this to suit your needs, and always keep the user experience at the forefront. Here's to crafting the perfect commerce experience! 🎉

People discussing. The photo focuses on the laptops and a cup of coffee.

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Author

e-Commerce Strategist at NoA Ignite

Małgorzata Radkiewicz

e-Commerce Strategist

Małgorzata’s 15 years of experience have seen her delivering effective solutions to ecommerce brands of all shapes and sizes across the EU and UK. Małgorzata is experienced in brand positioning, traffic and ecommerce sales analytics and leading ecommerce teams and projects for B2B and D2C businesses.

+44 7930 140 293

malgorzata.radkiewiczxyz@noaignite.com

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