5 Considerations for Retailers Developing a Composable Approach
As front-end applications improve, retailers face challenges with outdated backend systems hindering progress. Some retailers rely on content and commerce platforms, but their performance relies on data quality. This has led to IT and product teams developing their own solutions. Retail teams are still in the early stages of understanding connected channels and customer experiences. In 2024, they will need to drive profitability and growth amidst emerging threats and increasing complexity with composable architecture. There are certain factors that should be considered by retailers developing a composable approach.
What Does it Mean to be Composable?
Composability empowers businesses to craft one-of-a-kind customer experiences by seamlessly integrating top-notch elements such as cart, checkout, AI, search, and payments into their technological framework. By breaking down the entire platform into individual components that are independently pluggable, customizable, and even replaceable, businesses can effectively tailor their technology stack and, in turn, enhance the overall customer experience.
Composability is one of the four pillars of MACH architecture. MACH stands for Microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. MACH technologies support composable infrastructure, allowing each digital component of the enterprise to be scaled, improved, and replaced as needed. Unlike traditional legacy enterprise suites, which are monolithic and resistant to digital growth, a composable approach provides the flexibility required in the current digital climate. It eliminates the limitations of a single software base that has additional features added on top, making it difficult to change when necessary.
Retailers' Top Challenge in 2024
Before we can dive into key considerations for retailers developing a composable approach, we must first identify the challenge they are faced with. For many retailers, their front-end applications continue to evolve and provide better experiences for customers. However, the systems managing the data behind these applications are outdated and impeding progress and innovation.
While some retailers rely on comprehensive, or all-in-one, content and eCommerce platforms that excel in certain areas, their performance ultimately depends on the quality of the underlying data. Consequently, IT and product teams have taken matters into their own hands by developing customized solutions to address these issues.
5 Key Considerations for Retailers Developing a Composable Approach
By embracing a modular approach that is at the core of a composable architecture, retailers can seamlessly interchange components and streamline the creation of exceptional customer experiences. A well-crafted composable architecture excels in scalability, flexibility, integration, interoperability, customer-centricity, and personalization, paving the way for digital transformation (DX) while minimizing risks. Composability simplifies the process of adapting to evolving business and customer expectations, enabling faster, safer, and more cost-effective solutions. Here are 5 considerations for retailers developing a composable approach:
Assessing Organizational Readiness
Before embarking on a composable approach, it is crucial for enterprise teams to evaluate their cultural readiness. They must embrace the idea that everything should be modular and adaptable, recognizing the significance of change and its role in the retail industry. In fact, the inability to adapt should be seen as a potential business risk or technical obstacle that hampers an organization's ability to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
Whether viewed as a proactive defense against disruption or a strategy to minimize risks and seize untapped opportunities, a culture that embraces change is essential for achieving business objectives and ensuring success.
Technology Stack Evaluation & Selection (Define YOUR Ecosystem)
Understanding your current technology stack is key to your composable strategy. Is your enterprise architecture a hierarchical model that uses a centralized data center to control assets distributed across several sites? Are you using the cloud for a more decentralized IT approach but still relying on legacy systems and software for processing needs? If you're unsure of how your technology stack, well, stacks up (pun intended), then it may be time to consider a technology evaluation from a trusted partner.
Scalability & Flexibility
Ensuring efficient handling of transactions across all shopping channels, especially during peak traffic periods, is crucial for scalability. However, this poses a challenge for monolithic architectures with a single extensive application compared to architectures with multiple smaller applications and their own infrastructure capabilities.
Composable applications, on the other hand, offer a solution by utilizing cloud-native microservices (a component of MACH architecture) that operate independently in a feature-as-a-service model. This allows for automatic reuse of these microservices across multiple applications. In addition to scalability, the cloud-native structure of composable applications also offers inherent flexibility and adjustability for optimization and deployment as business demands shift.
Migration & Integration Strategies (Headless)
If your current tech stack is closed and monolithic, there are inherent risks involved in planning and executing projects. Replacing all elements with a composable infrastructure can often take years to accomplish. However, there is a solution: the Headless architecture approach. By decoupling the front-end customer experience layer from the monolithic platform, you can reuse legacy assets and integrate key components, making it a valuable stepping stone towards a fully composable solution.
To achieve the utmost composability, it is essential to break down the monolith into smaller pieces and meticulously evaluate each element based on its business value. This approach not only minimizes risks but also allows for a gradual digital transformation, enabling you to strategically invest in areas with the highest potential for returns.
Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The potential for AI in the retail industry is immense. However, many retailers are held back by the lack of compatibility and integration among their data sources and formats, preventing them from fully realizing the benefits of AI. Whether it's enhancing customer loyalty through innovative shopping experiences or optimizing operational efficiency through analytics, incorporating AI into retail operations is a priority for organizations of all sizes.
The Retailers' Guide to Building the Composable Roadmap
For retailers navigating digital transformation in 2024, embracing a composable approach becomes imperative. The challenges posed by outdated backend systems and evolving front-end applications necessitate a shift towards the four pillars of MACH architecture—Microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless. By thinking through the aforementioned considerations, retailers can not only overcome existing hurdles but also position themselves for sustained growth and success. In a world marked by emerging threats and increasing complexity, the adaptability and innovation inherent in a composable
In The Retailers' Guide to Building the Composable Roadmap, created by RDA and the Agile Brand, we outline the strategy, implementation, and outcomes-focused delivery for leading retail brands in a composable environment.
Learn the foundational strategy, how to conduct a technology stack deep dive, and what outcome-driven delivery means in order to begin developing a composable approach. Our guide also offers a retail-specific sample composable roadmap to get you started. Download the guide here.