When companies search for a robust e-commerce platform to help them succeed in today’s digital landscape, I have noticed that it has become increasingly popular to initially consider going for pure MACH software and e-commerce tooling solutions like Commercetools. But are these the right, future-proof solutions in this highly competitive digital landscape?
In this blog, my aim is to highlight some of the potential pitfalls and risks associated with using these pure composable e-commerce solutions, while providing valuable insights for businesses considering integrating into their operations.
Some research to show where we are headed
I'd like to start by drawing everyone's attention back to some highly credible research from 2020 that predicts the future of commerce. According to the 2020 Gartner study Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications :
- By 2023, 50% of new commerce capabilities will be incorporated as API-centric SaaS services.
- By 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation.
- By 2023, 30% of commerce organizations will require an API product manager role to modernize digital commerce applications and architecture.
- By 2024, 10% of digital commerce organizations will use packaged business capabilities (PBCs) to construct their application experiences.
When looking at the current offerings in the e-commerce market, what are the challenges, then, when you navigate the e-commerce platform provider landscape to look for a future-proof solution that caters to these predictions that were put out there 3 years ago?
Some things to consider and a few topics to start the discussion
Integrating with systems such as catalog management tools, order management systems (OMS), shopping cart, search, or customer service relations (CSR) etc. can be complex if it’s not built-in and out-of-the-box (OOTB).
Incompatibilities or errors during integration can lead to data inconsistencies and affect customer experience. It is crucial to carefully plan and test integrations thoroughly to mitigate potential issues. The lack of standards in the industry and that each implementation is unique and so prone to error – the “Industry Average is about ≈ 15 – 30 errors per 1000 lines of delivered code.” This means thorough testing of a composed solution tends to be expensive.
One of the primary concerns when utilizing any digital tool is the security of sensitive data. It is crucial to implement robust security measures to protect customer information and prevent breaches. Failure to do so can result in a loss of trust from customers, legal issues, and financial loss.
More integrations mean a higher risk of more potential security breaches. Same for multi-tenant (as the MACH is only multi-tenant) versus the more secure single-tenant option. This is a challenge due to the number of solutions that need to be bought together and that each has its own security model.
Utilizing all MACH architecture effectively requires a certain level of technical expertise. Without proper knowledge and skills, businesses may struggle with configuring the platforms, customizing features, or troubleshooting issues.
Enterprises without an experienced development team may need to invest in training or more likely hire external experts (yes, often more than one business partner, with a risk of "blame game" if something goes wrong), increasing overall costs. Not just in money, but also in time invested. Organizations that are struggling to get their implementations live are facing overtime and budget issues.
Scalability and Performance
As businesses grow, the scalability and performance of the e-commerce platform and all integrated software become crucial. If the systems are not architected and optimized correctly, they may struggle to handle increased traffic, leading to slower loading pages, transaction failures, and diminished customer satisfaction.
Monitoring and actively addressing potential bottlenecks is crucial for maintaining optimum performance. This can be difficult, complex and require consolidation of multiple monitoring tools.
When choosing tools like this, it is essential to evaluate the reliability and reputation of the vendor(s). The success and stability of a business depend on the robustness and continued development of the platform and all API connections. Inadequate vendor support, lack of updates or unexpected shutdowns could lead to significant disruptions, affecting business operations and customer experience.
While this sort of solution offers a range of pricing models to suit different business sizes, initial implementation costs and ongoing maintenance will still be significant. Considering licensing fee(s), customization expenses, integration cost(s), and support fees, it is essential to carefully assess the total cost of ownership before committing to this sort of solution. Perhaps a composable platform is the right answer.
Any solution made up from components with no standards for API and/or scope means that business processes that span multiple components can be troublesome to manage. For example, “order-to-cash" requires the orchestration of multiple components over time. This may also build dependencies between components, creating a monolith of services. And using multiple solutions means the business needs to use multiple business-user tooling to manage, maintain and trade the e-commerce solution.
What's your best alternative to going purely composable?
In my point of view - and based on my 20+ years of experience working in the global e-commerce field - I humbly advise you to be aware of the potential pitfalls and challenges that come from going purely composable and look towards solutions that embrace the best of both worlds. By both worlds, I mean the 'pure composable' and the 'pure monolith'.
Composable, API-driven, cloud native platforms like HCL Commerce Cloud allow you to take advantage of critical elements from both 'religions'. Taking advantage of the modern storefronts, the powerful built-in marketing and promotion tooling driving sales in B2C, B2B, D2C, and all the other built-in composable functions and features, HCL Commerce Cloud has you up and running within weeks without the need to involve and wait for the abundance of external system integrators that follow from a purely composable approach. All in one installation, all on one license, but without the lack of flexibility that many monolith solutions bring you.
Needless to say, our focus on data security with our top-of-the-class advanced security features and protocols is crucial in today's landscape where data breaches and cyberattacks are prevalent.
In conclusion, my point of view is that the critical factors for a successful e-commerce operation, that Gartner pointed out in the 2020 research, are legit.
With HCL Commerce Cloud, the path is already paved with incorporated API SaaS services, a composable approach, and packaged business capabilities.
The question remaining is: Do you have an API product manager ready to modernize digital commerce applications and architecture with your current solution, or should we schedule a meeting today and see how HCL Commerce Cloud can take over that role as well? We are already prepared for the future that Gartner predicted in 2020. Contact us for a personalized demo of HCL Commerce Cloud or if you have any questions.
Don’t miss out on this blog either
Composable solutions need both business and IT to be aligned by vendor/business function to be successful. This needs to be in place before a project like this is undertaken. Please take a few minutes to read the thought leadership piece by our SVP and Global CX leader Gary Schoch to get more insight into the subject.