Composable commerce: why is it a must for companies to prepare their e-commerce ecosystems to move to cloud?

In a constantly changing tech landscape, the transition from traditional monolithic on-premise platforms (i.e. self-hosted platforms) to modern SaaS and then full-API solutions, with composable commerce, represents a paradigm shift in e-commerce website deployment. In order to meet the requirements of a dynamic market environment, companies have transformed the way they conceptualise, develop and deploy software solutions. Discover the reasons behind the move to cloud, its impacts and how to prepare for it!

Before composable commerce, how did the first e-commerce platforms enable the deployment of bespoke websites?

Traditionally, on-premise platforms dominated the software architecture landscape. These monolithic systems featured tightly integrated components, with all functions grouped together in a single coherent unit. All e-commerce-related needs were serviced by these platforms: catalogue management, search engine, editorial content management, purchase funnel and order management. While these platforms served their purpose for a time, simplifying e-commerce deployment, they eventually raised significant challenges as companies matured, and their technology and business needs evolved.

Monolithic on-premise platforms stood out for their high level of upgradability, enabling new functions to be added and existing functions to be modified through specific developments. In the early stages, when experiences were not yet standardised, the first e-commerce websites offered a fantastic testing ground to learn and develop the e-commerce business.

This upgradability came with a cost however. In-depth rewriting, bypassing of native code and system-level updates led to lengthy development cycles and an increased risk of errors. Recognition of the need for agility, an increasingly long time-to-market and declining ROI due to the growing maintenance costs of these monolithic platforms highlighted the obvious: the model was running out of steam.


How the rise of SaaS solutions pushed traditional platforms towards the PaaS approach

The arrival of SaaS (Software as a Service) revolutionised the way software was developed, delivered and consumed. Building on the upgradability and elasticity of cloud infrastructure, SaaS suppliers provided on-demand access to software applications. In doing so, they removed the need for complex installations and equipment investments.

The SaaS model opened up access to technology by making sophisticated software solutions (with features such as automatic adaptation to resource demand spikes, cloud services and artificial intelligence) accessible to companies of all sizes.

In addition, SaaS introduced a subscription-based pricing model. Because companies only pay for services that they use, they can reduce initial costs and improve their financial predictability.

The rapid adoption of SaaS has marked a sea change in the way companies approach software purchasing, putting the focus on agility, profitability and user experience.

No more hosting to manage, pricing based on services actually consumed... On paper, the benefits are clear! E-merchants can at last focus on their core business by removing a layer of IT complexity. Not to mention the fact that massifying their deployment in the cloud brings them economies of scale.

To support these changes, traditional platform publishers have transformed their offering in three main areas, by adopting PaaS approaches:

  • Transition to Cloud: Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions in the cloud are supplanting on-premise systems. This change of direction can be seen among publishers: SAP Commerce has become SAP Commerce Cloud; Magento has become Adobe Commerce Cloud; Shopware is developing PaaS and now SaaS solutions; OroCommerce has arrived directly with a PaaS approach; and the list goes on.
  • Use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to display all data inputs/outputs, in order to bring a real-time dimension to data exchanges, which supplements traditional file-exchange interfaces (for example instant updating of prices and stocks).
  • Development of synergies with their other solutions, such as with Adobe. This publisher has developed a value chain around Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Express, Illustrator, Acrobat, etc.) for the production of assets, and Adobe Experience Cloud (GenStudio, Experience Manager, Real-Time Customer Data Platform, Marketo, Workfront, Commerce, etc.) for their use within experiences, in the area of commerce and beyond.

Changes in e-commerce publishers’ offerings from 1995 to the present day: On-premise vs. Cloud

From SaaS to composable commerce

While SaaS has resolved many of the shortcomings of monolithic on-premise platforms, it has also introduced its own set of challenges.

A notable issue is the lack of personalisation and control. SaaS solutions often provide only limited flexibility to adapt functions to a company’s specific needs. This means adapting to the solutions, rather than trying to adapt them to your working environment. The challenge is shifting from an issue of technical tool flexibility to preserve the time-to-market and ROI approach, to an issue of organisational flexibility and change management.

In addition, protection of customers and their personal data is becoming more stringent. Concerns about data compliance and security are therefore emerging as companies entrust their sensitive information to third-party cloud suppliers.

Recognising the need for a more flexible and modular approach, the concept of MACH architecture (Microservices, API-first, Cloud natives, Headless) appeared in response to the shortcomings of monolithic on-premise platforms and traditional SaaS solutions. The composable commerce concept was born!

MACH architecture places emphasis on modularity, interoperability and flexibility by making use of microservices, APIs, native cloud infrastructure and headless architecture:

  • The microservices architecture breaks down monolithic applications into smaller services that can be independently deployed. Teams can therefore develop, deploy and upgrade functions autonomously. This modular approach offers greater agility, as updates and modifications can be performed on individual services without affecting the system as a whole. What’s more, microservices enable a smoother transition to DevOps practices, which promotes collaboration between development and operations teams, and reduces the time-to-market.
  • The principles of API-first design enable transparent integration and interoperability between disparate systems. Companies can then benefit from the best solutions and create personalised software ecosystems in phase with their specific needs.
  • Cloud native infrastructure offers the upgradability, resilience and efficiency needed to handle modern applications in dynamic environments.
  • Headless architecture separates the front-end presentation layer from the back-end logic. It brings greater flexibility and agility in the delivery of omnichannel experiences.

Reconnaissant la nécessité d'une approche plus flexible et modulaire, le concept d'architecture MACH (Microservices, API-first, Cloud natives, Headless) apparaît comme une réponse aux lacunes des plateformes monolithiques « on premise » et des solutions SaaS traditionnelles. Le concept de Composable Commerce était né ! 

L'architecture MACH met l'accent sur la modularité, l'interopérabilité et la flexibilité en tirant parti des microservices, des API, de l'infrastructure cloud native et de l'architecture headless : 

  • L'architecture des microservices décompose les applications monolithiques en services plus petits et déployables de manière indépendante. Ainsi, les équipes développent, déploient et font évoluer les fonctionnalités de manière autonome. Cette approche modulaire améliore l'agilité, car des mises à jour et des modifications peuvent être apportées à des services individuels sans affecter l'ensemble du système. De plus, les microservices facilitent l’évolution vers des pratiques DevOps, ce qui favorise la collaboration entre les équipes de développement et d’exploitation, et la réduction des délais de mise sur le marché. 

  • Les principes de conception API-first permettent une intégration et une interopérabilité transparentes entre des systèmes disparates. Les entreprises de tirent parti des meilleures solutions et créent dès lors des écosystèmes logiciels personnalisés adaptés à leurs besoins spécifiques.  

  • L'infrastructure cloud native offre l'évolutivité, la résilience et l'efficacité nécessaires pour prendre en charge les applications modernes dans des environnements dynamiques. 

  • L’architecture headless dissocie la couche de présentation frontale de la logique backend. Elle apporte une plus grande flexibilité et agilité dans la fourniture d'expériences omnicanal. 


The importance of understanding the impacts of the obligatory move to cloud

In the current market environment, companies’ future e-commerce platforms – whether PaaS, SaaS or MACH – will inevitably be in the cloud. What are the consequences of this move to cloud for companies?  Two types of situation may be encountered:

  • Move to PaaS: if you don’t switch to a different publisher, there is a good chance that the PaaS version will have quite a lot in common with the latest on-premise version. Portability will therefore be fairly simple from a technical point of view. Limiting the scope of the project to migration alone, however, without making the most of services linked to the PaaS version (such as the searchandizing engine and AI-assisted recommendation engine, now native to the publisher), would bring no added business value to the budget allocated to migration. It is an opportunity to rethink certain areas (technical or functional debt), or add some new functions along the way.
  • Move to SaaS / MACH: the move to SaaS or MACH is more complex. It will probably involve switching publisher, or even specific development work that companies can no longer carry out in the e-commerce solutions concerned (except for the purely headless front-end to deploy the e-merchant’s UX). Full-API solutions require a layer of middleware to orchestrate flows, as the traditional point-to-point connections triggered by tasks planned directly on the hosting servers are no longer possible, and the UX/UI will probably need to be rebuilt in headless mode.

Moving e-commerce ecosystems to the cloud is becoming unavoidable for companies. This move concerns not only e-commerce platforms that have not yet been migrated, but also Product Information Management, Digital Asset Management, Content Management, Searchandizing and Order Management solutions.

How will information systems be transformed by the move to cloud and composable commerce? How to prepare for the changes? Learn about the key success factors and possible approaches in our next article: From monolith to composable: how to navigate the move to cloud for e-commerce ecosystems?

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