Composable trade solutions, unlike a single-core, full-stack trade platforms, include a portfolio of smaller applications which might come from several vendors, but play well together through APIs along with the orchestration layer that supports them.
While all portions of a composable platform are necessary to the customer travel, individually they may be swapped in or out at any time, preventing vendor lock-in for any specific capability. This ensures the”platform” is future-proof, that only parts that will need to be ripped and replaced are upgraded, and the system never needs a costly, time-consuming and insecure full-stack update or replatform ever again.
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Is headless commerce enough?
For many ecommerce applications, “going headless” is the first baby step towards a flexible architecture. Decoupling front from the backend frees the company in the constraints of an ecommerce platform‘s limited front-end capabilities, and ensures front end developers can operate independently from back end groups without cross-functional coordination and introducing danger to an already delicate and bloated monolith.
Headless trade also enables best of breed leading end adventures, whether delivered via enterprise-grade content management systems and electronic experience platforms (DXPs), or via mobile-first frameworks such as React, Angular, Vue and Ember to electricity lightning-fast single page applications (SPAs) and innovative web apps (PWAs).
However,”Headless 1.0″ can only offer slicker desktop and mobile commerce experiences. It lacks both the freedom and flexibility to expand to”trade anywhere” touchpoints like mobile apps, connected devices, chatbots, voice supporters, social networks or Web of Things without rock solid APIs (and not all trade APIs are created equal).
And while APIs can technically connect commerce applications to new touchpoints, if the underlying platform remains a full-stack engine,”API-driven trade” remains restricted by the company logic and capacities trapped inside the monolith.
From full-stack to full-MACH
The next step past headless trade towards supreme flexibility involves adopting technology that embraces not one or two, but all MACH principles. MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless.
As mentioned in our section on Modular tenet of Composable Commerce, microservices and are discrete”building blocks” of backend applications built around particular functions or business capacities (Gartner refers to these microservices as packed business capacities” or PBCs).
Microservices are inherently composable as a result of their individual deployability and interoperability through well-defined APIs. This allows IT leaders to pick the best”tool for the job” at any time, and add, remove or update individual components as required without compromising the complete system.
API-first means an application’s business logic is configured via APIs rather than built into the support code. This eliminates technical debt within the trade platform, and supports unified logic across multiple”heads” beyond the online storefront, such as virtual catalogs/lookbooks, mobile apps, voice commerce, IoT, chatbots and back office dashboards.
API-first design isn’t only flexible, but more efficient. New touchpoints can be inserted or removed at any time without undermining code or requiring complete system downtime. Eliminating channel silos and replicated development efforts accelerates time-to-market and ROI.
However, API-first isn’t to be confused with updated commerce platforms — monoliths which have an API layer added to the application. Although this is a start towards flexibility, these APIs are often not granular enough to encourage the amount of company specificity and extensibility that really modern, technically older organizations need. Commerce APIs may also be poorly designed, lack maturity or lack API coverage. Or, they are too granular and complicated and include a steep learning curve, which may slow down development and installation. The more numerous, the more complex to stitch together (and also the more”chatty” API traffic will be over the application).
The sweet spot is the combination of clean, simple API design that supports all business requirements.
There is a difference between an application hosted in a public cloud and one assembled cloud-native from the beginning. Even though a SaaS vendor’s monolith might be able to scale with demand on AWS and get seamless updates, it has to scale as a whole (including the database). What is more, full-stack platform vendors can not take advantage of agile code delivery such as microservices-based trade service vendors can, meaning”seamless updates” are fewer and further between.
By comparison, microservices and PBCs are constantly developed cloud-first, whether developed in-house or delivered as-a-service from a vendor. Not only do cloud-native composable elements enjoy limitless scalability and durability (failures can be transferred around the cloud as workloads change) they are also more secure. Since microservices can be independently deployed into a private network inside a public cloud, attackers can not easily compromise the whole system if they get access to a single component.
An extra advantage to cloud-native SaaS applications is on-demand consumption. You don’t have to set up your solution, you can subscribe or unsubscribe to modular abilities as you desire.
Like cloud-native applications, to qualify as truly headless an application has to be designed as such from day one, as opposed to decoupling the mind and slapping an API on the side. This supports interoperability between components and compatibility with any front-end or touchpoint.
Microservices and PBCs are by character. But when composing an end-to-end commerce solution comprised of multiple applications from several vendors such as content management, search, payments and PIM (for instance ), picking headless applications like Contentful, Acquia and Stripe amplifies your technical flexibility.
Jamming on the JAMstack
And like the notion of headless commerce which divides the front end from the backend, JAMstack divides the front end presentation layer once again, this time from dynamic functionality within the”mind” application. This supports lightning-fast functionality and optimal customer experience.
Markup refers to some static HTML documents (typically your templates). In a headless environment, these files may come from the static website generator such as Gatsby, React, Vue or Angular, or innovative CMS / DXP. As these files are inactive, they may be pre-rendered from a CDN cache so users view content whenever possible.
Headless trade and JAMstack in clinic
By way of example, you might use a powerful CMS such as Adobe Experience Supervisor to function product pages, but rely on your backend commerce service for pricing. Because price is dynamic (because of promotions or personalization) and has to be loaded each time a user requests a page, the CMS server generally needs to render and serve the whole page as opposed to leverage caching, leading to slower page load performance.
You will notice, JAMstack shares some properties with MACH — decoupling of dynamic and static content, reusable APIs as opposed to app-specific databases, and cloud-hosted documents throughout the content delivery system. Every time the front end is upgraded, files are added to the cloud-native CDN automatically, without needing to write to a database. This supports front-end development agility.
Are MACH and JAMstack sufficient for Composable Commerce?
Within this Composable Commerce series, we have researched modularity, openness and versatility through MACH and JAMstack, but that only gets your company thus far. To succeed, IT and Business teams require the capacity to cooperate on large jobs and digital transformation, and also leverage composable technology to support business users’ daily activities (business-centricity).
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