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How to launch an online store in under 90 days

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Sep 22, 2022 | The Contentstack Team

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There are two absolutes in a digital economy: impatient, demanding customers and the need for an e-commerce presence. If you don’t have an e-commerce presence or the one you do have fails to meet customer expectations, you’re likely considering how to solve your problem.

What’s been your experience with a software development effort? If you’re like many, it conjures images of:

  • Rounding up the best qualified (and already overworked) team members

  • Slogging through endless team meetings on top of your other job duties

  • Working through months of coding, testing, refining and debugging to field a minimum viable product (MVP) e-commerce site

We’ve all been there and have the T-shirts to prove it. But how would you react if we said it is possible to launch an e-commerce venture in under 90 days? Not a work-in-progress, bare-bones MVP placeholder, but a fully functional, customer-centric, remarkably agile e-commerce site built by a team of six people using four independent technologies in less than three months.

Why build a working example?

How do you address the incredulous responses to the “up and running in under 90 days” claim? As professional baseball player Dizzy Dean said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” So, we decided to prove the power and ease of using composable commerce tools by building and demonstrating a working e-commerce site at ContentCon 2022, our annual conference.

Why tie the project to the conference? A swag store was the natural choice to launch at a conference as attendees could access the store, select their items, create digital receipts and collect their items at the vendor’s booth.

“We wanted to use this as an example to give you guys an application that you can actually interact with that we’ve built with our four technologies to show it’s really not that difficult,” said Piyush Patel, chief ecosystem officer at Algolia.

The team planned the project as more than just a conference presentation, however.

“This is just the starting point,” said Gary Ballabio, VP of technology partnerships at Cloudinary. While every business will have its own requirements, the team used their four technologies to create a proof of concept “but also [to create a reusable platform] for anybody to use afterward, for everybody to branch off and use really for a starting point themselves.”

How do you launch an e-commerce store in under 90 days?

How did we pull this off in less than 90 days? By partnering with three other industry leaders, BigCommerce, Cloudinary and Algolia. We each contributed part-time team members and our software to the project. Here’s a rundown of the platform software each company contributed:

  • E-commerce enablement by BigCommerce

  • Image and video management by Cloudinary

  • Headless CMS by Contentstack

  • Instant searchability by Algolia

The next step was setting up our goals and success measures with the technologies chosen. The resulting project parameters were simple and to the point:

  • Our working premise was that the four technologies working together would meet all project requirements.

  • The site would include four pillars: content, search, commerce and media.

  • Each technology partner would provide part-time technologists, not full-time developers.

  • In a nod to the reality people face developing and deploying software today, all team members were remote, spanning time zones from India to California.

  • Assess the ability of each technology’s integration framework to facilitate information flow seamlessly between platforms.

  • Deliver a solution other e-commerce ventures could use as a starting point.

We wanted the development effort to reflect the real world, not be an academic exercise. “This really mimicked what many of your organizations have to deal with on a day-to-day basis,” said Nick Barron, senior director of partner enablement at Contentstack. “We’ve got a lot of remote employees; we’ve got a lot of dispersed teams that live in little siloes, specialties and little centers.” So, a 100% remote team was an ideal test environment.

The results? We met all our goals and delivered the e-commerce site in well under 90 days. The team became so enthused and productive that we finally called a hard stop as we had more than enough to prove our concept.

Here are the project’s summary stats:

Graphic showing project statistics

How it works

How do you bridge the integration gap between different technologies to deliver functional e-commerce sites and other applications quickly and easily? The short answer lies in using application protocol interfaces (APIs) to manage communication between technologies. Configuration settings replace software customization, allowing users to compose the processes and actions needed to make the application meaningful to customers and the business.

Here's a high-level look at how the ABC Swag e-commerce site brings a new product to life.

  1. The product manager creates the product in BigCommerce, entering the required information like SKU, product name, product specifications and more.

  2. BigCommerce automatically creates the product detail page (PDP) in Contentstack, notifying the product marketer that it’s available for enrichment.

  3. The product marketer adds enriched content, including images, videos, 3D models and more, to the PDP from Cloudinary.

  4. Contentstack updates Cloudinary assets with metadata describing the location of each asset used in the PDP.

  5. When Contentstack publishes the product, it sends all the details to Algolia to index and prepare for searching.

As the product manager or marketer makes changes based on analytics like sales, clicks and customer questions, the system automatically manages them, eliminating human error and increasing system responsiveness.

Why it works

Of course, technology underpins everything, but people and a cooperative spirit are the two things that make technology valuable and usable. At Contentstack, we call this “Care Without Compromise™.”

Here are some observations from the other team members about why the project worked:

“The ability to reach out to the other vendors with questions made everyone’s job easier,” Patel said. “I think that’s the lesson we learned is, have help.”

Ballabio said the team members were technologists, not full-time developers, working part-time with new tools and working full-time with the tools they were familiar with.

“It is a testament to how well documented and how well set up those other tools are for them to pick it up and to create this proof of concept together,” he said.

The project also illustrates the dedication of the companies leading the Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless (MACH) evolution to solve their customers’ problems. This dedication extends to getting help from other technology partners when necessary.

Powered by composable architecture

What made it possible for our part-time team, working remotely in their area of expertise, to build this e-commerce venture in record time? Composable architecture. Composable architecture takes advantage of APIs and scalable web services to create a digital-first enterprise.

A simplified definition, to be sure, but it’s more important how composable architecture helps enterprises than how you define it. According to Architecture & Governance, Gartner says, “supporting composable architecture means architecting your business for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.” What business cannot benefit from adaptability and resilience?

Acceptance of the MACH/composable architecture approach to e-commerce continues to grow. More organizations are finding they can no longer meet the demands of today’s consumers with traditional monolithic systems and dated development methodologies. To survive and thrive, they are making the move to composable systems. According to a recent Salesforce State of Commerce report, 80% of businesses that don’t currently have headless e-commerce technology up and running plan to implement it in the next two years.

Composable architecture using MACH components enables teams in any size company to develop, deploy and maintain responsive e-commerce ventures in record time. We demonstrated that combining headless CMS, media enrichment, e-commerce enablement and instant search replaces monoliths with superior solutions.

Connect Without Compromise

Contentstack and our partners are taking Care Without Compromise™ to another level with Connect Without Compromise™. We want to assure our mutual customers that our tools will work as described. Should any customer experience issues, we'll work with our partners to find a solution

How does this differ from our Care Without Compromise? Think of it as a combination of technology and best practices.

  • Marketplace: An extensive ecosystem of features, services, apps, integrations and accelerators.

  • Automation Hub: Simple, no-code, cross-stack business logic you can implement immediately.

  • Blueprints: Extremely detailed best practices and implementation guides to get you from zero to operational in the shortest time possible.

For example, if you want to set up a store using the same technologies we used to build our ABC Swag Store demo, we have a blueprint that will give you a jump start on creating a similar application for your business.

The passing of the age of the monoliths

It’s fair to say that the age of the monoliths has passed, replaced by the age of composable architecture. Rather than waiting weeks for developers to create a simple integration in a monolithic system, businesses can model, evaluate and deploy them in minutes. We think that’s worth celebrating. If you agree and want to learn more to move your business forward, we offer these options:

 

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Nov 09, 2022

How to avoid the pitfalls of a composable architecture

Digital content management is in a state of perpetual evolution. Consumers have come to expect robust, seamless digital experiences when interacting with brands, and organizations that fail to meet those expectations can quickly find themselves left behind.It’s tempting to think the solution is to build a digital experience that satisfies the expectations of today’s consumer; unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Every day brings new channels and new competitors, and the digital experiences consumers want today might not look anything like the one they want tomorrow.A composable architecture gives businesses the speed, flexibility and scalability they need to deliver digital experiences that meet the expectations of current and future customers. 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Nov 02, 2022

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Oct 19, 2022

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Oct 18, 2022

How to choose an omnichannel marketing platform

Omnichannel marketing allows businesses to create customer-centric experiences that are personalized and consistent for each consumer across all channels. This modern way of thinking about content management can help your business build stronger relationships with customers and increase sales.Today's marketing professionals need to pursue an omnichannel experience that customers can use whenever, wherever they want. This approach means creating a consistent experience across all devices, whether customers use a desktop computer, a mobile phone, a tablet or a smartwatch. By designing an omnichannel experience, companies can ensure that their customers have a positive and seamless experience no matter how they interact with them. 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