What is Composable Commerce?

Thought Leadership

By Felipe Silberstein | October 01, 2021
Woman stacks blocks

Composable commerce is an approach to digital asset design that puts customers at the center of the experience. So it's no surprise that some of the most innovative eCommerce sites use composable commerce as their guide.

Coined by the Gartner research group in a 2020 report, composable commerce focuses on building digital commerce platforms based on a modular approach of assembling components.

Using this approach, your team can thoughtfully select or 'compose' the eCommerce components your site needs (your shopping cart, CRM, etc.), along with the tech infrastructure that powers it all. This modular approach makes it easy to create unique eCommerce experiences for customers that are tailored to their needs.

eCommerce stores built with this approach can include integrations that streamline everything needed to drive successful purchases. These integrations operate as self-contained software clusters, connected to their own cloud-based servers that communicate via APIs.

Each integration functions as a modular piece that attaches to the site, allowing you to shape your platform and experiences to suit your business. Using a composable platform goes beyond another development approach, since it also transforms how the site strategy is mapped at the organizational level. Gartner highlighted this transformative potential in its 2020 report, stating, "the future of business is composable."

From microservices to Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs)

Many people confuse microservices with packaged business capabilities, feeling unsure of what makes them different and which is the better option. While similar, there are some nuances to be aware of when choosing your site building blocks. 

Before getting into PBCs, it's helpful to understand how microservices operate. 

When building commerce applications, microservices enable you to build software applications that perform specific jobs, and can then be clustered together to work as a whole. Each microservice functions as a different program that communicates with other programs through APIs. The challenge with microservices, is that since you end up with a bunch of separate applications, managing and maintaining them can become complicated and clunky. 

PBCs, on the other hand, bring applications closer together in clusters. Gartner defines PBCs as a "bounded collection, comprising a data schema and a set of services, APIs, and event channels." Essentially, PBCs aggregate a collection of microservices that operate with some level of consistency in the functional business problems they tackle, and are often underpinned by common data characteristics (CRM, or order management). 

To take it a step further, you could say that microservices can be contained in PBCs, but not the other way around. 

PBCs are the basic unit of composable architecture, and each cluster behaves as an individual building block or module. Each feature contained within integrates autonomously, safeguarding the integrity of the platform's back-end so that modifications or adjustments in each block do not affect the operations of other components and systems.

This condition is perhaps the most significant differentiating factor: all features that are included within the PBC enable the block to operate as one entire unit, communicating through an API. This eliminates the risk associated with critical dependencies that exist between disaggregated components.

How PBCs fit into composable commerce architecture

According to Gartner, the qualities defining PBCs make them elements that are fully autonomous. Since they are fully integrated and consumed by the end-user, they operate as part of the front-end of your site. Microservices can also behave like a large application included in your back-end for greater site efficiency, but they don't necessarily support stand-alone business features like the PBC building blocks.

Like microservices, PBCs communicate using APIs and events to create intuitive application experiences that are tailored to individual customer needs, while maximizing site speed and security.

The basic components of composable commerce allow for rapid testing and deployment, providing highly adaptable and resilient platform architecture in the face of real-time uncertainty. Each piece can be integrated, scaled, and replaced without affecting other parts that make up the application.

How Jamstack supports a composable implementation

There are many reasons why Jamstack is part of the new standard in web platform development. Jamstack's headless approach is a key element that decouples the front-end from the business logic, enabling you to adjust preferences and features for its various channels or digital points of contact.

PBCs are not bound to any specific technology, are self-contained, and offer the essential aspects needed to solve a particular business problem. They reduce the complexity of building eCommerce experiences by grouping all microservices into easier deployments. This also allows non-technical users to be part of the UX creation, by offering feature-recognizable building blocks like a shopping cart or search engine.

As business needs and consumer behavior rapidly evolve, so must the pace at which teams evolve their development practices. By using a headless approach, teams are no longer constrained to all-in-one solutions. This gives us the freedom to swap out components that meet specific needs. 

At Apply Digital, we work with leading technology partners to produce world-class results. Our methods and team are capable of transforming your platform or site into a fast, secure, and simple experience, with an agile tech stack that leverages the power of PBCs. Want to learn more about how we can help? Reach out to someone on our team today.