Striking the right chord: how to succeed with composable commerce

Barlow: composable commerce enables brands and retailers to implement new features across every channel in an agile fashion

Replatforming to a composable commerce architecture can be a daunting task, but a good Product Information Management (PIM) solution can help you manage, clean, and scale your product data across every existing and new channel, says James Barlow, regional director UK, Ireland, AKeneo at Akeneo

Brands and retailers that quickly and effectively optimised their online presence in the last two years captured the largest share of a market that has shifted online dramatically. However, there is still lots of work to do; in trying to keep up with a growing number of digitally-led sales channels, dealing with supply chain disruptions and changes in working culture, there is a greater risk of miscommunication and misinformation.

In response, many organisations are transitioning to a new commerce technology architecture that provides the flexibility, agility and omnichannel activation that they’re looking for. This is known as Composable Commerce (or Headless), a modular, best-of-breed approach to commerce technology that enables teams to effectively communicate across every aspect of the business.

By using individual applications to handle each specific aspect of the overall shopping experience, the team can ensure that every channel is optimised. Without having to upgrade the entire back-end infrastructure with every new update, composable commerce enables brands and retailers to implement new features across every single channel in an agile fashion, unlocking brand new shopping experiences for the consumer and better placing them to adapt to new and evolving opportunities in the market more quickly.

Despite the benefits of composable commerce architecture, replatforming can be a daunting task and success depends on having clean data and product information that flows through every single one of those modular applications. Product data must be well-structured, consistent, complete, accurate (and of course, compelling) to be handled reliably across those applications according to the channel or front-end experience.

A PIM solution helps deliver the best consumer experience

The first step in replatforming to a headless architecture is to implement a Product Information Management (PIM) solution, which provides a central repository of product information to simplify communication across any channel, regardless of who owns it. It is the single best way to ensure that product data is as accurate and up-to-date as possible, and enables the team to create the best product experience for consumers.

However, not all PIM solutions are created equally, and there are a few key factors to consider when selecting a solution to de-risk an ecommerce replatforming project. Firstly, the team should be looking for a cloud-native SaaS application that is dependable, secure, and scalable. This is a key tenet of a composable commerce architecture: PIM applications that are merely on-premise software hosted with a cloud infrastructure provider may not provide the required scale and reliability.

Secondly, composable commerce architectures are built around Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), so a PIM solution simply has to be API-first with services that are available in a number of different ways and can scale as needed. A PIM solution that is integrated with a composable commerce platform needs to be able to handle massive amounts of API calls and all the SKUs in both current and future catalogues. This should mean confidently handling tens of thousands of API calls per hour and millions of SKUs.

Lastly, the PIM solution needs to be able to support all the new channels that a composable commerce architecture will open up. As the business grows on new and future channels, the team will want to avoid wasting time recreating product information and content just for those new channels that have their own specific requirements.

Some ecommerce platforms have a built-in tool for managing products in the catalogue, but they are typically limited in scope and intended for managing the catalogue sold on the owned ecommerce site. This won’t be enough to manage expansion into other owned and unowned channels. A modern PIM supports true omnichannel shopping, providing capabilities to enrich information and product across all channels (and locales) efficiently, without having to recreate attributes and content for each one, both today and in the future.

So, in order to truly support a composable commerce architecture, the team needs a PIM solution that is well-structured and scalable, while ensuring the product experiences that customers have are consistent, complete, and compelling. A good PIM solution will make it easier to gather your data into one single source of truth, enrich product information, and put it in the proper context for both new and existing channels.

It should also act as a tool to help create and manage high-quality digital assets such as photos, videos, and anything else needed to win over ecommerce shoppers. Once product experience and information management up to par, replatforming to a headless architecture becomes significantly less risky, and gives the team more chances to convert customers by accelerating time-to-market and boosting enrichment efficiency.

By centralising and cleaning up all product data into a single source of truth, a good PIM solution unlocks unprecedented growth opportunities by getting products to market more quickly, providing an unparalleled product experience to consumers, and helping to raise ecommerce revenue. Retailers and brands can also be more flexible, adaptable, and responsive to changes in the supply chain or sudden shifts in market trends. Migrating to a composable commerce architecture is the best way to avoid getting left behind in this ever-evolving, digital-first market, and just like a house, that replatforming project needs to start with a solid foundation; clean product data inside a sturdy PIM solution ready to scale.

Akeneo will be showcasing its PIM solution at the MACH One Conference, which is hosted by the MACH Alliance in London on the 28 & 29 June.  Launched in 2020, the MACH Alliance champions open, best-of-breed technology ecosystems and its mission is to future-proof and propel current and future digital experiences with open and connected enterprise technology. Akeneo became a certified member of the MACH Alliance in March 2022, based on its best-in-class ecosystem that provide flexibility and openness as a key differentiator and driver of competitive advantage.