Last updated: How monolithic and composable commerce platforms can coexist

How monolithic and composable commerce platforms can coexist

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The evolution of legacy, on-prem e-commerce platforms to the cloud is still in part hampered by monolithic architectures. While valuable for many modern companies, monolithic systems are losing favor for more flexible composable commerce platforms.

Composable technologies mark a significant shift in how businesses approach and strategize their digital commerce investments. However, both modernized monolithic and composable commerce platforms have their places in the digital ecosystem, each catering to different business needs of a company’s strategic vision.

This coexistence isn’t only possible, but likely essential. The concept extends monolithic systems using the innovations of composable components, and applies to both B2B and B2C scenarios.

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Monolithic vs. composable commerce platforms

Monolithic commerce platforms have been around since the very beginning of the digital age. They’re inherently all-in-one solutions with a tightly coupled frontend and backend.

They originally offered simplicity and coherence, making them suitable for businesses with straightforward processes that don’t require frequent updates or customizations. However, over time these platforms grew in scale and complexity mainly because business requirements evolved, and the solutions continued to add functionality to meet business needs.

On the other hand, composable commerce components are based on a modular approach, allowing businesses to select and integrate best-of-breed solutions for various functionalities needed for modern e-commerce.

4 elements of a composable commerce environment

Composable commerce platforms enable modularity in several ways:

  1. Microservices: Independent services that communicate over a network to perform different business functions. These are purposeful by design and have specific roles to play.
  2. APIs: Application programming interfaces aren’t new to the development community, far from it. But in the modern world of composable, they’re critical for the integration of different software components, providing for communication and interaction of the components’ roles.
  3. Headless architecture: Headless is another concept that’s been around for awhile, and many of commerce core engines support headless ability out of the box. In a composable solution, separating the front-end presentation layer from the backend logic offers flexibility in how content is delivered across various channels.
  4. Cloud infrastructure: Hyperscalers have revolutionized the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) model by offering reduced cost, on-demand environments, scalability, resilience, and opex over capex while supporting the dynamic addition and removal of services as needed.

The benefits of coexistence

Together, monolithic and composable commerce platforms can drive and improve the diversity and modernization of businesses.

Newer, more agile businesses might adopt a composable approach out of the gate in order to quickly adapt to market changes and integrate innovative technologies. Established businesses with significant investments in monolithic platforms may prefer to maintain their systems and extend their capabilities through the introduction of composable components.

General B2B and B2C scenarios highlight the benefits: 

  • B2B scenarios often involve complex pricing models, large catalogs, and long-term customer relationships. Composable commerce can offer the flexibility needed to cater to these complexities by allowing businesses to integrate specialized components that handle these unique requirements efficiently.
  • B2C scenarios, on the other hand, typically focus on customer experience, speed, and personalization. While monolithic platforms can effectively serve B2C businesses, the adaptability of composable commerce can provide a competitive edge by enabling rapid deployment of new features and personalized shopping experiences based on consumer behavior data. 

How to get the best of both worlds 

Extending a monolithic platform with composable add-ons can be a strategic way to leverage the benefits of both architectures. This approach allows businesses to maintain their existing investments while incrementally adopting new technologies and practices.

For example, a business could integrate a modern payment processing microservice into its monolithic e-commerce platform to support additional payment methods or currencies without redesigning the entire system.

To successfully extend a monolithic platform with composable components, businesses should:

  • Identify key areas where flexibility or innovation is needed. These are generally feature-function enhancements needed to support changes in business processes.
  • Choose composable solutions that integrate well with the existing platform, preferably through well-documented APIs.
  • Adopt a gradual integration approach to minimize disruption. By including composable add-ons, you avoid the need to customize the core platform and introducing, cost, risk, and resource dependencies.

The coexistence of monolithic and composable commerce components represents a unique opportunity for businesses to accelerate innovation while reducing technical debt and future-proofing their investments. Pivoting from continued investment in the core system by customization will soon be replaced with composable components.

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