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Your Guide to the Buzzwords in Modern Commerce

The Complete Composable Commerce Glossary

Composable commerce. Headless commerce. Composed commerce. MACH architecture. Microservices. These are just some of the terms that you may have heard mentioned recently when thinking about your commerce solution. You may also be wondering what they actually mean, and the difference between them.

Composable Commerce

What Is Composable Commerce?

Composable commerce is a way to optimize your business by combining different best-of-breed components into a tailor-made modern commerce solution.

Composable commerce allows you to pick and choose which components best fit your business based on the functionality or capability you need. They include your e-commerce platform, but also CMS, payment, search, personalization, marketing automation, checkout, hosting, and more. You may also hear these components referred to as Packaged Business Capabilities (PBC).

The idea of a best-of-breed system isn’t new but composable commerce is a better and simpler way of achieving this. In the past, all these components would have different interfaces and ways of working making it more difficult to combine them. This means it was also harder and more costly to make changes. The alternative to a composable setup is often a monolithic solution where all functionality is included. This, however, usually means that each specific feature is less sophisticated than the best-of-breed version.


What Are the Benefits of Composable Commerce?

There are three key areas where composable commerce can benefit your business:

  • Investment
  • Competition
  • Organization


Composable Commerce Benefit – Investment

While the upfront investment in composable commerce can be higher, from an operational perspective this approach pays dividends.

Composable commerce makes it easier to keep your modern commerce platform operational for longer. It allows you to easily make small changes and adapt to new markets, customer requirements, and business models as they emerge.

Composable commerce also lowers the cost of adding new channels and touchpoints, including those for internal use. This means you can adapt your systems as you scale your business and tailor new functionality to your specific needs.

The components can also come from a wide range of system vendors, so you aren’t tied to a single source.

Composable Commerce Benefit – Competition

In turn, composable commerce drastically increases your chance to outperform your competitors as it allows you to adapt quickly to new developments.

According to Gartner, by 2023 companies with a composable tech solution will be 80% faster than their competitors in implementing new features. And there is no doubt that speed of adaptation is a major business asset in today’s world.

Composable Commerce Benefit – Organization

By picking and choosing the functionality in your solution so that it serves your business and customers better, it can be easier to bring your digital commerce deeper into your overall organization.

This means that more people are working with parts of the system and have more awareness of the touchpoints and channels in your business. As such, employees can be empowered to experiment quickly and at a lower cost, making your business more creative when it comes to serving customers.

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Who Is Composable Commerce For?

Composable commerce is not just for the most tech-savvy companies. We have well-established composable commerce architecture in Avensia Excite that can be used by any type of company from B2C to B2B and from fashion to furniture.

The decision of whether composable commerce is right for your business comes back to your business values.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How much flexibility do you need in the future?
  • What is the anticipated rate of change in customer expectations over the next 5 years?
  • Will your industry undergo big changes in the business model?
  • Will your value proposition change going forward?
  • What is your digital strategy and where do you need more agility?
  • What is your IT roadmap?

It’s also important to bear in mind that you don’t just have to choose between composable commerce or not; you can operate on a scale of composable.

So, now we know what composable commerce is, how does this differ from composed commerce?

Composed Commerce

What Is Composed Commerce?

Composed commerce is a packaged commerce solution of pre-connected modules.

Unlike composable commerce which is built from the ground up to only contain the functionality you want and need, composed commerce is a pre-built package that is the same for everyone. It is, however, possible to add in additional functionality if you require it, such as an external search module.

As such, it can sometimes be difficult to determine where the line between composed and composable commerce. However, unlike composable commerce, composed commerce is not built as headless commerce (more on that in a moment).


What Are the Benefits of Composed Commerce?

The major benefit of composed commerce is that the implementation time is shorter and resource requirements less heavy than for a composable solution. This speeds up your time to market and makes it easier to optimize the use of internal and external resources.

A composed commerce package also substantially reduces the risk and complexity of the project because the modules are pre-connected and ready to go.


Who Is Composed Commerce For?

Again, composed commerce is for any type of B2B or B2C business in any sector. If you don’t have a large team of developers available, the composed option will definitely be a good starting point.

For some businesses, a composed commerce solution will offer all of the functionality that they need. Or they may only need one or two add-ons to the existing package.

As such, they may find that the composed commerce offering makes more sense than a fully customized composable commerce solution.

So that’s the difference between composable commerce and composed commerce. But how does headless commerce fit in?

Headless Commerce

What Is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce separates the frontend (what the customer or user sees) and the backend (operational functionality) of the digital commerce solution.

This means that the frontend experiences such as user interface, social commerce, and digital marketplace are all independently designed outside of the backend. Changes can also be made behind the scenes independent of what the customer sees. Integrations in a headless commerce system are API-driven.

Headless commerce laid the foundation for the development of composable commerce. However, it’s not just e-ecommerce that can be headless. CMS, PIM systems, and more can also be headless.

As with composable commerce, headless commerce is not a new idea, but modern technology has made the implementation and use cases much more compelling. 


What Are the Benefits of Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce solutions are always custom-made, which gives you complete control over all aspects of your digital commerce operation. It also means you have the freedom to build whatever you want.

As such, headless commerce offers agility and flexibility making it easy to add new product lines and brands. You can configure everything behind the scenes and then push it to the frontend when you’re ready. Everything from data to product information to marketing can be customized in the backend before it is delivered to the customer in the frontend.

One major benefit of headless commerce is the ability to design truly user-led experiences in the frontend because backend considerations don’t have to be factored in. This includes omnichannel.

The decoupling of the front and backend makes it possible to deliver content to any channel seamlessly. This includes easy connection with IoT systems in smart devices such as smartwatches and store displays. Headless commerce also makes it easier to experiment with video, voice, and other omnichannel concepts.


Who Is Headless Commerce For?

Headless commerce is fast becoming the standard for e-commerce, which means it is suitable for all retail businesses including B2B, B2C, and D2C.

Headless commerce is a first step on the road to fully composable commerce, which can make it an attractive prospect for businesses looking to move towards a composable model.

Now that we’ve covered headless commerce, let’s move on to MACH architecture.

MACH Architecture

What Is MACH Architecture?

MACH is an acronym that stands for microservices, API first, cloud-native, and headless commerce. These are modern technologies that together create a best-of-breed technology architecture ecosystem.

This may sound complicated, so we’re going to break down each part of the acronym below:


Microservices (M) replace monolithic architecture with independent, connected services.

API-first (A) means an API is used to enable functionality by connecting services or applications.

Cloud-native SaaS (C) means leveraging the cloud, including storing, hosting, scaling, and automatically updating.

Headless commerce (H) means the frontend view and the backend logic are decoupled for design freedom.

As you can see, we have already touched on two of these areas – microservices and headless commerce. This is because MACH architecture underpins composable commerce.


What Are the Benefits of MACH Architecture?

MACH architecture gives you the flexibility to choose the tools and systems that best suit your individual business needs. You can take advantage of the best tech on the market, and easily add, change or replace this as you wish in the future. This means you’re not tied to an architecture that will quickly go out of date.

As such, you remove the need for major upgrade programs because you can incrementally and automatically update your tools over time.

MACH architecture supports faster prototyping so you can bring new features online in response to changing requirements. It’s also easier to customize and innovate the customer experience.

Now we’ve looked at composable commerce, composed commerce, headless commerce, and MACH architecture in turn, which is right for your business?


What Are Microservices?

Microservices are small, independent functions or features.

Each microservice is individually developed, designed, and managed for a specific purpose. They use well-defined APIs to communicate with other microservices to combine their individual features.

You may remember that previously we explained that the different components or modules in a composable commerce solution are often called Packaged Business Capabilities (PBC). Each PBC consists of several microservices grouped to perform a function.


What Are the Benefits of Microservices?

Microservices provide a tangible business capability, bringing value to the business operations. 

Their autonomy means that you can independently operate and deploy them without depending on other solutions within the architecture. This makes it easier and quicker to make changes and add new features.

As such, they play a key part in MACH architecture as you’ll see in the previous section.

Chosing the Right Solution

Which Commerce Solution Is Right for Your Business?

Composable commerce, composed commerce, headless commerce, microservices, and MACH architecture may seem complicated, but actually a lot of these concepts crossover with one another to deliver customized commerce solutions.

Microservices form the PBCs that make up composable commerce. Headless commerce separates the frontend and backend to enable a custom solution to be built.

Both microservices and headless commerce sit within MACH architecture which underpins the composable commerce approach.

Composable and composed commerce is the final customized or pre-packaged commerce solution.

While you hopefully now understand what each of these technologies does and how they fit together, the truth is that you shouldn’t worry too much about a specific concept or using it.

This is because the technology in your commerce solution shouldn’t be your main focus. You should always be centering the conversation on the customer and their experience.

Composable commerce, composed commerce, headless commerce, MACH architecture, and microservices help create more joined-up, personalized customer experiences. They also make it easier to develop new features and innovate.

By understanding where your business is now, your values and how your sector or customer is changing, you can identify the approach that is right for you and your customer.

However, to exploit the full benefits of composable commerce you need a partner with a proven track record and deep technical knowledge.

At Avensia, we have been creating winning commerce solutions for over 20 years. We have developed our own composable commerce platform, Avensia Excite, as well as working with partners on cutting-edge projects.

If you need help determining the best approach for your business and how to get the best ROI, we’re here to help. Get in contact with one of our experts today to find out what your customized commerce solution could look like.

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