Composable commerce” is a nicely alliterative term which, in a nutshell, simply refers to the adoption of a modular software stack to build out your ecommerce operation. That is to say: as an ecommerce organisation, composable commerce means you can combine many different pieces of software, from many different vendors, into a unique solution that provides exactly the cohesive, compelling and engaging experience that your customers are looking for. Each software component may perform only a very specific, specialised function, so composable commerce describes how you can build an overall solution out of a multitude of ‘best-of-breed’ elements.

Reasons to consider a composable commerce approach

First and foremost: because every organisation is different. Your organisation does things differently from every other, and has its own unique challenges and processes. Your customers’ expectations are slightly (or significantly) different from the expectations of every other organisation’s customers.
Once you accept this, it becomes very obvious that any monolithic solution – a one-size-fits-all, single-vendor solution – is unlikely to be an optimal choice for you. To use a monolithic solution will inevitably require you to compromise to fit the capabilities of the solution, rather than the solution adapting to meet your unique needs.
With an architecture built on composable commerce principles, should any of your challenges, needs or processes change, you can simply swap out any element that no longer performs as you need it to, and replace it with one or more elements that does, without disrupting the rest of the system. Again: this is not something easily achieved by organisations using monolithic solutions; nor are you tied to the release cycle associated with traditional solutions providers.

Build a composable commerce architecture

MACH is the increasingly well-known acronym for the four principles associated with building modern, open, high-performing, enterprise technology ecosystem solutions – composable commerce solutions – this way. MACH stands for:
  • Microservices-based
  • API-first
  • Cloud-native Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Headless
Microservices are simply elements of functionality that are independently developed and may be independently deployed and managed. From the perspective of an ecommerce organisation, adopting a microservices architecture means being able to take advantage of continuous improvements to those individual pieces of functionality, eliminating any need to rebuild or redeploy an entire application should a component change.
MACH-compliance also requires that all functionality is available via API (in fact, only through an API). APIs must be REST (that is to say, conforming with the design principle of the representational state transfer (REST) architectural style) and/or GraphQL (a query language for APIs). It is the use of APIs that enables many modular component to ‘speak’ to each other, eliminating any need for a component to ‘understand’ how the next service will do whatever it does with the data passed to it.
MACH-compliant technology is more than just ‘cloud-hosted’ or ‘cloud computing’, in which a centrally hosted service is simply provided on a subscription basis. MACH-compliant, cloud-native SaaS technology typically comprises multiple, independent – often ‘on demand’ – services. The reason for this requirement is that each service:
  • must be able to scale independently of other services
  • should be automated for continuous integration and deployment through agile DevOps within a cloud infrastructure
  • must be capable of being subjected to comprehensive testing in order to guarantee disruption-free deployment
Headless means decoupling presentation from processing - i.e., ensuring that what a customer sees is totally independent of back-end logic, channel, programming language, framework, even data store. As previously clarified, communication between front-end and back-end technologies must be via API. Headless technology is already popular with e-commerce companies, because it enables them easily to experiment with new customer experiences (CX) with no impact on back-end services or technologies.
Expressed simplistically, building your solution based on a composable commerce architecture is a matter of identifying the elements and components you need, identifying the vendors that can provide exactly the services you need and which, themselves, adhere to the principles of MACH, and then bolting them together to build the solution that does exactly what you need it to do, how you need it to, without compromise.
So that’s what it is; what benefits does composable commerce – MACH – bring? Make sure you read our next post, in which we’ll talk about these.