Opinions & Insights
Getting started with composable commerce: a conversation with Kelly Goetsch of commercetools
Providing digital commerce to hundreds of the world's most notable brands, commercetools recognize the importance of microservices benefiting organizations that want more flexibility for their e-commerce. The company's chief strategy officer, Kelly Goetsch, explains more in his conversation with Sam Bhagwat, Gatsby co-founder and principal engineer at Netlify.
When Kelly Goetsch began working in the headless commerce space in 2016, he noticed how many brands were hesitant to move away from their legacy platforms. "Executives were saying how they wanted everything within their four walls, how they didn't really know what microservices were," says Goetsch, now the chief strategy officer at commercetools, a leading digital commerce platform with more than 500 enterprise customers.
All signs point to composable
Today Goetsch has seen how the headless commerce space has matured as more brands, especially D2C retailers, are clamoring for an e-commerce approach that pulls them away from sluggish monolithic platforms and moves them towards multi-vendor headless commerce builds that gives them added flexibility and less expensive overhead.
Goetsch has been spotting a trend that is only growing faster across the e-commerce space, thanks to the many benefits offered by composable commerce approaches. According to Salesforce's State of Commerce report, 77% of organizations who use a headless architecture said that it gives them greater agility, allowing them to make changes to their storefront more quickly.
To offer us a deeper view into why more brands are powering their e-commerce stores with headless components, Goetsch spoke to Sam Bhagwat, co-founder of Gatsby and principal engineer at Netlify, and below are the key quotes from their conversation.
Challenges addressed by composable commerce
Sam Bhagwat: Who have you seen move towards a headless commerce approach, and what are the pain points they are trying to solve?
Kelly Goetsch: Approaching headless are many brands, often D2C, that are doing a lot of revenue through e-commerce, such as retailers and telcos, and many digitally native brands. When brands have a direct revenue component tied to their e-commerce platform, where they can quantify that X percentage of checkouts failed due to sloppy code, say, that's who often turns towards headless.
As for pain points, from a technical perspective, those developers may be spending too much time on outdated technology like JBoss, and let's be honest, today no dev wants to troubleshoot a failed JBoss deployment. They don't want to deal with any old, complicated tech. On the business side of things, a major challenge is to iterate with functionality. Some folks are deploying at a rate of once per month but the Amazons of the world are putting out production multiple times per day. When you can't iterate, you can't innovate because you need a few releases to perfect a feature and generate revenue from it.
What's important is that the brand finds unique pieces of functionality that need updating and fixed. For example, maybe whoever is responsible for promotions needs a stronger engine for that functionality and they may not be CEO or CTO but a mid-level executive who can make a decision to buy or maybe build something, and they can gather a groundswell of support for this new approach.
SB: Many who work for larger organizations realize that change can be hard so they could be unsure where to start, and what progress looks like.
KG: Look at something like point-of-sale (POS) or shopping cart, which are granular chunks of functionality that can be bought off the shelf and the cost of moving to this approach isn't terribly high.
This decision may happen because the organization doesn't want to sign a three-year $50 million contract renewal with a legacy platform, and the CIO or someone similar wants to find a better way to tackle their e-commerce strategy.
SB: Do you have any success stories in headless commerce to share?
KG: Many retailers with brands in Canada or Mexico are experimenting with finding something small enough in their tech stack to take some risks with, as opposed to doing something on their flagship dot-com store. They might chip away at pricing one week, promotions the next week.
We've seen performance gains when brands go headless. Old legacy models are slow and sometimes can take three seconds to load and we're closer to 200 milliseconds. Then there's availability. When an Express promotion unexpectedly went viral, resulting in 3x the traffic of the retailer's largest Black Friday, auto-scaling enabled no slowdowns or outages. There are some real benefits in not failing in performance and availability.
The costs are lowered dramatically when brands buy multi-tenant SaaS APIs from us. It allows their developers to focus on cool features rather than focusing on keeping the lights on.
Turning to composable and Netlify
In the e-commerce world, Goetsch concluded, he's seeing buyers turn more and more to composable solutions.
"By and large, if someone has technical competency and common sense, they're buying MACH-based. A ton of GraphQL, a ton of Jamstack, and I'm seeing Netlify everywhere."
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