Opinions & Insights
Why brands should go all-in on composable commerce
The monolithic e-commerce platform is outdated. The rise of composable commerce is giving brands more flexibility and scalability, and shifting to this approach isn't as complex as you might think.
Those were some of the takeaways from an intriguing conversation between Sam Bhagwat, Gatsby co-founder and principal engineer at Netlify, and Filippo Conforti, co-founder and CEO of Commerce Layer, a leading composable commerce platform.
The surge of brands using headless commerce is encouraging news for anyone in the space. According to MACH Alliance, 79% of surveyed tech leaders are looking to increase composable elements in their architecture in the next 12 months. Also, according to industry surveys, 95% of those aware of composable commerce believe it's the future, and 71% agree that the approach is beneficial to both technology and business teams.
Below are some more insights Conforti shared with Bhagwat during a discussion that delves deeper into the value composable commerce offers to brands.
The start of my composable commerce journey
SB: How did you get into the composable commerce industry?
FC: The idea of Commerce Layer was born from my experience at Gucci [as an applications architect] where I saw first-hand how this brand worked with a legacy e-commerce platform. Like with many brands, I saw how there was a problem based on two different sides in conflict with each other: the marketing and creative team focused on creating unique websites to offer beautiful shopping experiences for consumers, and the engineering team was responsible for security and performance. They had to work on one major legacy platform together that wasn't decoupled at all. That got me thinking of how there could be a different way, of how there could be separation between these two different sides.
How composable commerce bridges the divide
SB: We engineers are used to customizing and having software in line with that approach, but there can be a gap in how the business wants to buy things for the brand, such as legacy e-commerce platforms. How can folks bridge that gap?
FP: What I did was make an API layer on top of the legacy platform we had at Gucci. We created APIs inside the SAP Hybris instance, and we kept building features using the mocked API response. That got me thinking of why couldn't we build a commerce API platform, instead of turning to a monolithic system to hack it with some APIs? Why not decouple the frontend from the backend? I thought about building something real soon after, and then left Gucci to start Commerce Layer.
A successful composable commerce example
SB: Can you share an example of a client you've worked with that has seen success with composable commerce?
FP: Let's talk about Chilly's, which creates reusable bottles. They built a stack within their CMS that had five Shopify instances. That means they operated five separate checkout flows. They wanted to take the next step. They began to use our multi-market, multi-currency headless commerce platform and a headless CMS, Dato, which allowed them to sell products in various local currencies and languages, scale up in terms of volumes and markets, going from five markets to 30. They also saw an increase in their conversion rate thanks to our headless checkout component.
Advice for early-stage adopters of headless commerce
SB: What guidance would you give to those in the early stage of the headless commerce process when they may be unsure of how to go forward?
FP: I hear concerns that composable is complex and everyone understands the benefits and flexibility and scalability, but that headless is complicated. But it's not actually. If developers are comfortable in working with APIs and modern frameworks, they would feel at home with composable. It's a process. For merchants migrating from monolithic systems to composable, it may be a progressive decoupling journey and it's step by step, not one big change.
For example, if a brand is using a legacy system, they can identify one domain of the business they would like to decouple and then choose a less risky market and begin showing that region of the site to, say, guest customers. They can A/B test, iterate and A/B test again, and keep reiterating. If they just add in piece by piece, they'll never have to do another replatforming again.
If you're starting, Conforti emphasizes, "Just build something small. And learn." Netlify will be there with you for the journey.