• April 19, 2023
  • By Brian Wolfe, vice president of commerce, digital customer experience, Capgemini North America

Composable Commerce: A Practical Option for CX Enrichment and Future-Proofing

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E-commerce is more competitive than ever, and more than three quarters of retailers plan to invest in technology in 2023 to improve their end-to-end customer experience. Composable commerce is poised to be a leading approach in retailers’ digital strategy for delivering the personalized experiences customers want across the channels they prefer, now and as customer preferences and technology evolve.

A fully customizable commerce stack that delivers precisely tailored experiences and supports innovation has always been the ultimate goal of composable commerce strategy. The ability to add or replace elements of a commerce platform with third-party components allows companies to create bespoke commerce experiences without the time and risk of building the platform in-house.

It’s an exciting idea, and one that seems easily attainable with cloud-based tools and API integration capabilities. However, it’s taken some time for composable commerce to mature into a solution that’s ready to deploy. That’s because the typical commerce stack is complex, with elements ranging from search and content management to payments and subscriptions. And for every commerce element, there are multiple software companies to choose among, which makes it time-consuming to test them all in various combinations.

Now, though, players in the space have created solutions that work well together to construct a better commerce experience. Retailers seem increasingly ready to adopt a composable approach, too: 35 percent “want to find commerce software adapted for them” this year.

Composing a Fully Customized Customer Experience

One of the main advantages of composable architecture over monolithic architecture is the ability to fine-tune the end-to-end customer experience, using as many third-party tools as needed. For example, a company could start with a commerce platform but replace its search, subscription, and payment tools with ones better suited to meet its customers’ preferences and expectations for ease of use.

The most important composable commerce benefit may be better customization capabilities enabled through the ability to connect a third-party content management system (CMS). Better customization means better support for the company’s personalization goals. While most commerce platforms include some form of content management, that’s not their area of focus. There are plenty of well-established CMS solutions on the market that are easier to work with and that content teams already know how to use.

With a CMS integrated into the commerce platform, retailers can better manage their content-creation workflows, accelerate the creation production process by empowering the marketing team and reducing the need for IT involvement, and use the CMS’s robust segmentation tools to deliver highly personalized content based on customer personas. The result, when the right CMS is integrated properly, is more effective content, delivered faster, so companies can improve content personalization capabilities, deliver more appealing offers in real time, strengthen customer relationships, and launch campaigns more quickly.

Reducing Costs with Composable Commerce

A well-designed composable approach can also help companies reduce operating costs, not only in content production but also during the process of creating and improving the commerce stack. These cost savings are realized when the optimal combination of solutions has been pre-identified and tested, typically by a digital transformation partner or by an experienced in-house enterprise development team.

This composable ecosystem can help accelerate companies’ time to launch. Because the bulk of the systems integration, testing, gap analysis, and updates have already been completed, it can take as little as eight to 10 weeks to adapt the stack to a company’s brand style, search tools, and content before launching it.

By contrast, building a composable platform from scratch can require up to three months for an experienced team. An in-house team working on its first composable experience can easily need much more time, especially if they’re tasked with selecting components from the dozens on the market. The difference in time to market is similar to the experience of buying a car. A fully customized vehicle from the manufacturer will take time to build. But a car on the dealer lot with the features you need is ready to go much sooner, even if you want to add on a cargo rack or replace the wheels with upgraded, after-market options.

Future-Proofing with Composable Commerce

Adopting a composable commerce strategy can also reduce costs in the long run by enabling innovation as technology evolves. As Forrester notes, compared to legacy monolithic commerce technology, “modern commerce tech is more adaptive and provides resilience for the digital businesses that use it.”

Because it’s so easy to swap out elements of a composable stack when you need new capabilities, it’s theoretically possible to never need to do a full re-platform ever again. That can save a company tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also reduces the risk of being forced to make a costly change if the current commerce platform provider exits the market or ends support.

Finally, the composable model can reduce risk by allowing an incremental approach to launch—sometimes referred to as an MVP approach (minimum viable product). By starting with a handful of composable elements for a given site or channel, companies can start improving their CX sooner without having to stake the launch of their new experience on a major transformation. This approach also lets the company fine-tune its initial composable deployments before scaling them up.

Getting Started with Composable Commerce

A composable commerce strategy offers compelling benefits for companies who have a clear vision of what they want their customer experience to be. Before choosing solutions and tools, it’s critical to define the ideal experience, not only on the commerce site but across all touchpoints and from end to end, including sales and customer service. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What do we need to make our brand experience consistent across all touchpoints?
  • What kind of experience do our competitors offer, and how can we exceed it?
  • How can we unify our in-store and online experiences, so our customers feel known no matter where they shop? For example, can online purchases be returned in-store, and vice versa?

It’s important to answer these questions and build a clear CX road map before integrating the composable technology to support it. Bringing a detailed plan to your digital transformation partner or team will give them the insights they need to create an experience that improves the customer experience, reduces operating costs, generates new channel revenue, mitigates technology risks, and provides the foundation for future innovation.

Brian Wolfe is vice president of commerce, digital customer experience at Capgemini North America. He has over 20 years of experience working with technology and consulting organizations. Wolfe has been a frequent speaker at technology industry events and has been a member of numerous partner advisory boards. Wolfe earned a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, an MS in Computer Science from DePaul University, and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is based in Chicago.

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