How Manufacturers Can Differentiate and Compete with a Future-Foward, Business-Centric Approach to Commerce

With the impacts of the pandemic still lingering, manufacturers are continuing to migrate the core business functions to digital. A study by Sapio Research found that 51% of manufacturers have already invested in eCommerce capabilities.

B2B buyers are transitioning to web-based research, quoting, and commerce. Forrester finds that there’s a strong reason to: increasing revenue, reducing cost, and meeting customer needs and expectations:

“Coca-Cola reported that it reduced its average cost-per-interaction by 85% by moving offline B2B customers online. Also, US Foods said that customers who buy online spend 5% more than those who only buy offline, and Levi Strauss reported that shifting its B2B customers to a self-serve portal increased its revenue by 10%.” — Forrester

‍Creating digital channels that provide an intuitive user experiences is now a top priority for most manufacturers. As manufacturers move in this direction, how do they implement a multitouch online platform that has an effortless, seamless experience?

Introducing Composable Commerce

“By 2023, organizations that have adopted a Composable Commerce approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.” — Gartner

Composable Commerce is a new approach that enables marketing, merchandizing, and sales teams to bring their brand's unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences that leverage multiple best-of-breed vendors composed together into a complete, business-ready solution.

Composable Commerce embraces modern architectural approaches like MACH (an acronym for Microservices, APIs, Cloud, and Headless) and JAMstack (a word for the tech stack based on JavaScript, APIs, and Markup) which allow for quick and nimble adaptation to a rapidly changing business landscape. Core to Composable Commerce is the concept of “modularity” - the ability to take a building block approach to development. With a structure built from independent applications that can be individually updated, deployed, removed, and/or scaled independently, businesses can try, learn, optimize, and scale quickly.

“Composable business means creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks. The modular setup enables a business to rearrange and reorient as needed depending on external (or internal) factors like a shift in customer values or sudden change in supply chain or materials.” — Gartner

For complex businesses like enterprise manufacturers, a Composable Commerce solution can be a strong fit for your business’ unique needs. Whether it’s configuring a solution to your business rules and complexities, or building a unique experience, or simply enabling your business to pick and choose best-in-class technologies, more and more businesses are looking to build flexibility and scalability into their technology stack.

Since a monolithic, full-stack application — whether you’ve built it in-house or licensed from a vendor — rarely satisfies all business and technology needs, a Composable Commerce approach creates a solution that is built for now, and to change and grow with your business. 

Business Benefits to Composable Commerce

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Customized Commerce Experience

For manufacturers, your commerce experience may be created for your B2B partners, your distributors, and your direct customers. Composable Commerce is built upon the idea of creating a highly customized, user-based experience. With this approach, you can better segment and personalize the digital commerce experience by implementing dynamic components like on-site promotions, product recommendations, and informational assistance.
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Complex Customer Journeys

Through integrated APIs, Composable Commerce allows you to craft a seamless customer journey with integrated on-platform touchpoints, including chatbots, reporting dashboards, recommendations, reviews, and self-services tools. Monolithic systems lack the back-end and front-end flexibility required to easily create, launch, and enhance these touchpoints.
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Create Competitive Advantages

For manufacturers looking to differentiate and compete, Composable Commerce allows you to adopt and iterate with speed. Gartner predicts that by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in how cast they can implement new features.

Technical Benefits to Composable Commerce

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Prevent Vendor Lock-In

Composable Commerce allows your business to avoid vendor lock-in, in which companies are “stuck” with a single vendor due to the substantially high cost of switching to a new solution. The open, headless architecture of Composable Commerce ensures that feature components can be quickly updated, added or removed to meet evolving business requirements, allowing you the flexibility to find the best-fit solutions.
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Meet Evolving Business Requirements

Technologists know that the constant desire to meet customer needs means changing user experiences and changing business requirements. A flexible commerce platform gives developers the ability to quickly pivot and build new functionalities. With Composable Commerce’s approach of working in modules, new features and functions can be added as-needed basis without interrupting the existing experience.
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Increased Efficiencies and Reduced Costs

Many manufacturers have invested in large, comprehensive, expensive solutions, in which many functionalities are either unneeded or unconfigured for their specific business requirements. Composable Commerce moves away from this model, and enables your business to plan strategically and purchase standalone features that satisfy a specific business need. In addition, unlike monolithic platforms, Composable Commerce allows you to scale on demand - when needed and necessary - reducing your overall cost of business.

Why is Now the Time to Transition from Monolithic Technologies

A typical monolithic platform consists of a large database, client-facing interface, and server-side interface. As a result, monolithic applications tend to come with excessively large code bases. Due to their connective nature, making a small change to a single function may require testing of the entire platform to ensure no other feature has been impacted.

In addition, monolithic applications often require an excessively large team of developers to operate, without any single individual fully understanding the application in its entirety. This monolithic approach is not only quickly becoming outdated, but it is extremely costly, time-consuming, and inefficient.

The Market for Developers

The unprecedented events of 2020 became the catalyst for a global shift in the job market. With the demand for digital services rapidly increasing, web developers are in high demand, with offshore salaries increasing dramatically, and onshore talent very hard to find.

“Employment of web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. About 17,900 openings for web developers and digital designers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.” — 2021 Report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Businesses with monolithic solutions also  struggle to find talent trained and excited to work on older platforms. Top talent is often looking for experience in modern architectures, languages, and solutions. Composable Commerce gives developers work that is compelling, future-thinking, and career-building.

A Strategic Roadmap for Composable Commerce

While Composable Commerce has clear benefits for complex businesses, manufacturers looking to make the move will have to be ready to rethink how they select, implement, and manage their digital experiences. Because Composable Commerce is made up of a network of best in class technologies, rather than all-in-one solutions, your approach will need to be different.

Checklist for Moving Towards Composable Commerce:

Define the why: what are the business objectives, KPIs, and long-term benefits of moving towards Composable Commerce. How does this help your business differentiate and compete?
Define where your business will begin with Composable Commerce. For manufacturers, it may be a complete eCommerce replatform and launch for your business globally. Or you can de-risk and test Composable Commerce by selecting a pilot project. For example, Composable Commerce can be the right fit for a new product, new product line, new acquisition, new channel (for example direct to consumer), or new market.
Define what you need. This is where you’ll need to build a comprehensive list of business requirements that will be shared with all solution partners. Because Composable Commerce allows you to pick and choose the best solution for your business, recognize that you’ll be looking for commerce and CMS solutions, as well as other best practices features and functions, including product data, search, payments, subscription, personalization, etc.
Define the how: select the technology stack that best serves your business goals.
Define who is involved today: who makes up your internal team to own this project. If these technologies are new to your business, what other agencies, consultancies, and analysts do you need to bring into the fold to bring experience and expertise?
Define who is involved tomorrow: As your technology stack changes, your technology team will need to evolve as well. If your team is well-versed in a monolithic platform, or a homegrown solution, you will need to plan and invest in upskilling to new technologies. While a challenge, it can also change how you resource projects. With a competitive market, companies are finding it easier to staff technology roles with new technologies, rather than with older solutions.

Find Your Guides

A digital consultancy like Object Edge can help with defining these business requirements, guide the technology selection process, as well as manage the implementation through launch and support. The Composable Commerce Hub from Elastic Path is a curated collection of Composable Commerce-ready solutions.

Reach out when you are ready to start on your path to Composable Commerce.

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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