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COMMENT: The time to modernise is now: why enterprise retailers need to embrace composable commerce

By Mark Adams, SVP & GM EMEA, BigCommerce

Over the last few years, ecommerce has become an indispensable part of modern retail. And while the pandemic sparked explosive growth in online retail, retailers are now having to deal with the changes in consumer behaviour and expectations. As they continue to grapple with rising inflation and the cost of living, it’s no surprise consumer spending has started to slow, with many continuing to hold back on non-essential spending

With the IMF predicting global economic growth to fall to 2.9 percent in 2023, modern ecommerce requires the ability to quickly adapt to ever-changing consumer behaviour in the face of a challenging global economic landscape. To be future ready, enterprise retailers need to resist the urge to pull back on digital investments, and instead innovate whilst prioritising investment towards high ROI initiatives. 

This approach will enable them to build resilience, remain agile and future-proof their digital channels  for a generation of consumers who are making more conscious purchasing decisions and who expect more from their purchasing experiences. Flexibility is essential for enterprises looking to grow during an economic downturn because it provides them with the agility to respond to fast-changing customer demands and consistently deliver cutting-edge shopping experiences across channels and regions.

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Why monolith technology holds back enterprises

For many years, the go-to structure for many ecommerce businesses has been an all-in-one monolithic structure. With this structure, the front-end — the digital storefront — and the back-end — the commerce engine – of a website are tied together. Although a monolith may work for businesses with limited requirements, this kind of technology can present challenges for enterprise-level businesses with greater complexity — such as expanding into new regions or selling through several marketplaces and social channels. 

Furthermore legacy technologies and monolith ecommerce platforms not only hinder the ability to deliver cutting-edge shopping experiences, but also limit what teams can accomplish. Enterprises with legacy technology often struggle to integrate multiple technology systems, manage inventory and in some cases sell across different channels and regions.

With research from Forrester revealing that companies with a future-fit technology strategy grew revenue nearly twice as fast as their peers, modern enterprises need to invest in technology that provides the flexibility to respond to unexpected changes today and adapt to customer and business needs of the future, which will allow them to gain a competitive advantage. 

Build for the future with composable commerce

Composable commerce is the solution for forward-thinking B2C and B2B enterprise retailers, looking to grow in 2023. Based on a modular approach, composable commerce allows merchants to customise their tech stacks by choosing interchangeable solutions to suit their unique business requirements.

By combining best-in-breed tech vendors to create a customised and robust stack, retailers can respond to unexpected change. Composable commerce is achieved by assembling and combining Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) – software components that meet specific business needs, such as a virtual shopping cart, order management or account management. 

Think of PBCs as LEGO pieces, just like you can join and detach LEGO pieces together to form various shapes, composable commerce allows you to assemble the building blocks of your tech stack to meet the specific needs of your business, using APIs to connect the systems to each other. A composable model also offers enterprise retailers the flexibility to change or replace other ecommerce components further down the line, allowing businesses to build for the future without the need to rip and replace the whole tech stack. 

Omnichannel expectations and the need for flexible ecommerce technology

In a highly competitive retail landscape, it is critical for brands to stand out. Omnichannel commerce has never been more of an imperative. Over the last few years, the most successful channels that have driven ecommerce growth for brands have all been geared toward reducing friction — mobile commerce, digital wallets, direct-to-consumer (DTC) and click-and-collect.

Still, many businesses struggle to deliver these omnichannel experiences that shoppers expect — in large part due to legacy technology.  Enterprises are struggling to integrate their many technology systems and without a flexible ecommerce solution that can adapt, it’s next to impossible for enterprises to grow across channels, regions and segments. Composable commerce allows businesses to have the flexibility to customise their tech stacks and replace components as needs evolve.

For example, Italian lingerie brand, La Perla, took a composable approach to deliver a localised, mobile-first and user-focused omnichannel commerce strategy across Europe, the Middle East, the US and Asia. 

In the UK, MKM Building Supplies, the nation’s  largest independent builder, recognised that the building supplies industry was changing, with an increased demand for a B2C experience on B2B platforms and that within the next five to seven years, 45% of its current customer base would be retiring. In response, it modernised its online store using composable commerce  to deliver a first-class digital purchasing experience which could cater to a new audience of millennials and Gen Z, who have greater expectations around purchase decisions.

Now is the time for change 

The one-size-fits-all approach provided by monolith technology used to be sufficient, but it is now antiquated and won’t sustain enterprise businesses looking to innovate and achieve longevity. Composable commerce provides enterprise retailers with the flexibility to cope with near-term challenges and a strong competitive advantage when the economy rebounds.

Gartner predicted that organisations that have adopted a composable approach would outpace their competition by 80% in  speed of new feature implementation. For enterprise retailers looking to succeed in the current landscape and deliver seamless shopping experiences, the moment for change is now.

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