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Composable vs. monolithic: Which is right for you?

The Contentstack TeamJan 05, 2023

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Businesses are trying to create better customer experiences, so composable digital experience platforms (DXPs) are becoming more popular. But what are they? How do they compare to monolithic platforms? And how do you choose the right one for your business? In this blog post, we will answer these questions and more.

What is a digital experience platform (DXP)?

Digital experience platforms (DXP) are purpose-built technology solutions for creating, managing, delivering and optimizing consistent digital experiences across different customer touchpoints. These tools offer businesses a valuable way to communicate with their users through content and obtain customer feedback through data collection.

Companies can utilize DXPs to create content tailored to websites, email campaigns, mobile apps, social media channels, e-commerce sites, IoT devices, digital signage systems and more. Beyond simply broadcasting content on each platform, DXPs also allow marketers to automate marketing activities and develop a unified digital experience that can take users toward their desired goals or objectives.

DXPs help companies understand what customers want and need. They can do this by looking at how customers act online on websites, social media, and other online places. Businesses can then use this information to reach out in new ways or to improve their relationships with existing customers. Ultimately, using a DXP helps organizations make more sales or conversions by providing a better user experience across multiple channels.

What is composable architecture?

Composable architecture is an innovative way of organizing and managing software development that separates front-end and back-end code. This technique enables teams to create, modify and launch content without relying on developers for coding. This method of organization helps speed up development and make it more efficient. 

Composable architecture makes developing software easier while encouraging teamwork between different departments. For example, if you use a composable content management system, the marketing team can make changes and publish their work without waiting for developers to finish coding. This way, teams can post new content more quickly. Additionally, developers can focus on creating unique experiences and features instead of being bogged down with marketing tasks or fixes.

What is a monolithic DXP?

A monolithic DXP solution is an all-in-one platform that provides a suite of tools for managing content. These platforms are designed to enable users to store, manage and publish content quickly and easily. They typically offer features such as content editing options, user permissions and roles and media asset management.

Monolithic content management solution platforms can be rigid in terms of how they operate and may not be able to keep up with the ever-changing needs of a business. Additionally, they tend to take longer to customize than composable DXP systems.

What is a composable DXP?

The composable DXP concept is still relatively new and has become increasingly popular recently. A composable DXP is a platform that allows digital teams to assemble individual services or microservices into an experience that meets their specific needs. This innovative type of DXP is essentially an assembly of best-of-breed solutions to deliver content and digital experiences to customers in a much more agile, flexible and efficient way than a single monolithic platform.

As opposed to the traditional monolithic approach taken with DXPs, this microservices approach enables companies to cost-effectively customize their DXP according to their business needs. Furthermore, allowing for a greater level of scalability and interoperability allows faster time-to-market for new features or services, as well as improved customer satisfaction.

The composable approach gives organizations better control over their digital experiences and helps them stay ahead of their competition by enabling them to focus on innovation instead of maintenance. A composable solution makes it easier for businesses to move quickly while keeping up with the ever-changing technology landscape.

What to consider when comparing a composable and monolithic DXPs

Can the platform integrate with solutions your team currently uses?

Monolithic suites are large programs often made up of products obtained through acquisitions and then given a makeover in terms of branding and user experience to fit into the overarching process. Such products lack the open-source code needed to integrate them seamlessly with other solutions, which can limit their utility as part of a more comprehensive DXP solution. This technique makes it simple for internal integration, but external integration can be difficult or even impossible.

On the other hand, with a composable DXP, external integration is better facilitated due to its ability to connect with existing best-of-breed solutions more readily. As such, organizations have more control over how their digital experiences are created and tailored for their specific audiences. Furthermore, each individual component can be monitored separately from the rest of the system, allowing for greater visibility into performance and ease of scalability when needed. Ultimately, a composable DXP offers organizations greater flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms by providing enhanced external integrations and visibility into performance metrics on an individual basis.

How much time will it take to deploy the platform?

Deploying a new monolithic suite can require significant time and effort — sometimes months — and demands constant monitoring for unexpected changes or challenges during set-up.

Moreover, it's necessary to ensure that all employees acquire the required skills to work effectively in this new environment. Besides the technical implications of such large-scale transition projects, there are also social and psychological implications that business leaders should take into consideration. Companies must be aware that transition periods affect team dynamics and thus must create an atmosphere of collaboration that encourages employee engagement and satisfaction throughout the process.

On the other hand, a composable DXP approach allows companies to start quickly, taking advantage of the existing knowledge their staff already has. This strategy eliminates the need for extensive training since they can be up and running with a condensed feature set using workflows they're already familiar with.

How will we keep the platform up-to-date?

Companies can easily keep their composable DXPs up-to-date as the various vendors focus solely on perfecting their solutions. Additionally, organizations can frequently enhance open-source products with improved customizations and updates that won't depend on the vendor.

For monolithic suites, a single vendor provides updates and new features; however, some of these “nice-to-have” additions may take an extended amount of time to be implemented to the platform  — if at all. Even minor bugs can be left without resolution until suite-wide updates are rolled out. Companies should be aware that they may not always get timely fixes for any issues they encounter while using DXPs with a single-source provider.

How secure are these platforms?

A composable architecture allows security updates and patching solutions to be implemented quickly for each component without hindering other systems. This expedited process allows for swift response times in case a breach or vulnerability is discovered. 

However, if a security flaw is found in one component of an entire suite, it can likely extend to the whole system, thereby rendering the entire suite susceptible to exploitation. Consequently, organizations must take extra care when monitoring their suites for security flaws to ensure that all corners of their system are protected from malicious actors.

On the other hand, monolithic solutions can be patched as a single software package. Still, patches may need to happen when the system is not being used, causing extended exposure to vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

Composable DXPs offer more flexibility and agility compared to monolithic platforms. This means they can scale better, have new features and services faster and improve customer satisfaction. They also provide shorter deployment times, easier updates and enable responsive security updates. However, while they may be more flexible than a single-vendor platform, companies must still carefully monitor their systems for any potential security flaws or vulnerabilities that could put their entire suite at risk. Ultimately, businesses can make informed decisions about which type of system best meets their needs by understanding the differences between these two approaches to digital experience delivery and the pros and cons of each.

Learn more

Learn more about composable architecture in our guide, “The ultimate marketer’s guide to composable DXPs.”

Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack’s composable DXP can help your organization deliver the digital experiences your customers crave.

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Sep 20, 2023 | 3 min. read

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Additionally, it became imperative that the website was mobile-first since that would be users’ primary mode of interaction.The art of prompt engineeringTo ensure an exceptional user experience, the team developed a system of prompt engineering that stores specific prompts as metadata entries in the Contentstack stack.Each character choice corresponds to a prompt designed to elicit attributes and traits that align with that particular character type. Simultaneously, these prompts provide ChatGPT with the user's input and the selected character type, allowing for seamless integration of personalized elements into the hero's story.Solving the name puzzleAnother crucial aspect the team had to address was the generation of a Composable Hero name. While they could ask ChatGPT to include a name in the story, extracting and identifying the hero's name from the text posed a challenge. One approach was to instruct ChatGPT to add a special character next to the name in the story, which worked effectively when using ChatGPT in the browser. However, this method proved less practical when using the API.As a result, the team devised an alternative solution: after generating the story, they fed it back into the service to obtain a hero name based on the story. Additionally, they requested the service to provide us with the hero's powers. This refined approach allowed them to create a more precise flow diagram, outlining the interactions between various services and Automation Hub.The revised flow diagram served as the blueprint, guiding the interactions between the different components to deliver an exceptional result.Automation Hub: Streamlining the experienceAt the core of the unified experience lies Automation Hub, a vital component that optimizes various tasks, including API interactions, content publishing and email notifications. The main automation includes a Lambda function that plays a pivotal role in orchestrating the entire workflow.Here's a concise breakdown of its key steps: Creation of hero imageThe Lambda function sends a customized prompt to generative AI services in order to create a hero image specific to the user.Image handlingOnce the image is ready, the image is retrieved and securely stored in an S3 bucket.Text content processingThe automation sends the text content to ChatGPT.The hero's story is retrieved, incorporating personalized elements based on user input.Card creationThe generated image and story are seamlessly integrated into a visually appealing trading card using Placid.Storage and managementThe final card is securely stored in Aprimo.The card's URL is stored within the initial Contentstack entry.Real-time displayTo enhance the user experience, the team leveraged Pusher to display the generated images in real-time on the front end.The magic of Composable Heroes with MACH and generative AIWith the individual experience in place, the team aimed to make the event interactive and enjoyable. They set up a dedicated photo station equipped with a blank canvas and professional lighting to achieve this. Users had the option to have their photos taken (with their own phone) on the spot or upload their own pictures, including images of themselves or their pets.The live event proved to be a resounding success, showcasing the immense potential that can be achieved by adopting a MACH approach to generative AI. Central to this success was Automation Hub, which played a pivotal role in executing complex tasks, such as interacting with APIs, publishing content, and sending emails. With a sophisticated automation workflow in place, triggered by user actions, the team was able to harness the capabilities of generative AI to deliver personalized hero images and stories.To learn more, click here to book a demo and learn how EPAM, Aprimo and Contentstack:Maximized the potential of Contentstack’s Automation HubHarnessed the power of new technologies, such as AI-generated contentCreated a unique and immersive omnichannel experienceAs well as create your own personal Composable Hero trading card!

Jun 15, 2023 | 5 min. read

Headless commerce vs. composable: What you need to know

The online world is constantly evolving, so companies must change how they work and develop new ideas to meet customers' changing needs. The e-commerce sector has witnessed the rise of two unique models: headless commerce and composable commerce. While they might appear similar at the outset, a deeper examination reveals critical distinctions.In this article, we'll demystify the two approaches, spotlight their respective pros and cons. And provide insights for organizations pondering a transition to a composable architecture.How headless commerce beganIn the early days of online shopping, businesses had two ways to sell their products: physical stores and online platforms. But as technology advanced, many companies didn't keep up with the changes. This made it hard for them to stay up with what customers wanted and take advantage of new trends. The problem was that their technology wasn't flexible enough to adapt to new ideas.To serve customers better, stores began separating their online behind-the-scenes system from what the public sees on their websites. They did this by using APIs to access the back end, which made their operations more flexible.Headless commerce is a way for brands to keep their complicated commerce systems while making the front end more flexible to changes in the market.Composable architecture means that each part of the system works independently and can be customized to fit a brand's specific needs. This gives businesses the power to choose which parts of their digital services to use to meet their unique business requirements best.Examining headless commerce architectureHeadless is a new way of handling e-commerce that separates the parts that users see (the interface) from the parts that do the work behind the scenes (data, operations, applications). Most e-commerce systems combine these two parts, making it hard to keep up with the constantly changing digital market. Headless, by contrast, allows the front- and back-end systems to function independently. Benefits of headless architectureAdopting a headless system introduces several advantages:It delivers a flexible and customizable front end. With the visual layer decoupled, developers are no longer tied to the constraints of the back end, allowing for the creation of custom user experiences. It enables seamless integration with other systems. The back end operates independently, communicating simultaneously with multiple front ends. This allows businesses to provide a consistent omnichannel experience across various platforms like websites, mobile apps, smartwatches, and IoT devices. For instance, should a brand face difficulties in producing content for new products due to the constraints of its content model, the headless commerce system allows the integration of a different content management system with adjustable content models. This flexibility ensures a smoother operation by effectively mitigating the identified issue.It accelerates the speed of innovation. Changes to the front end won't impact the back end, and vice versa. This promotes quicker updates, experiments and iterations, all critical components in today's fast-paced digital landscape.Drawbacks of headless architectureWhile headless offers clear benefits, it also carries some drawbacks:This way of setting up a system can be challenging to handle. It needs someone with technical knowledge to take care of the different parts and keep them working.While the freedom to customize front-end interfaces is a benefit, it also means that businesses are responsible for designing and developing these interfaces, which can be time-consuming and costly.Depending on the chosen system, limited support or functionalities may be available.Understanding composable architectureComposable is an approach to building digital services that allows each component to exist independently. This includes things like managing product information, content and customer relationships. Businesses can choose which parts they need to create a custom digital platform.Advantages of composable architectureComposable e-commerce offers significant advantages.It provides extreme flexibility. Since all components are separate, they can be independently updated, replaced or reconfigured, enabling a truly agile e-commerce platform. This architecture allows for continuous optimization without fear of disrupting the entire system.Composable future-proofs your DXP stack by implementing task-oriented packaged business capabilities (PBCs), which are essential for faster time to market and better adoption of a digital experience. With the ability to add or replace components as needed, businesses can keep pace with technological advancements, customer demands or changes in business strategy.It promotes the best-of-breed approach. Businesses are no longer confined to the capabilities of a single vendor. They can select the best software for each component, maximizing functionality, efficiency and performance.Pivoting toward composable architecture: Points to ponderEmbracing composable commerce vs. headless architecture is a significant decision you should not take lightly. Businesses should thoroughly analyze their current and future needs, evaluating whether the flexibility and adaptability of composable commerce align with their strategic goals.The appeal of composable architecture lies in its flexibility and potential for success. However, it's important to remember that just because something is possible doesn't mean it's a good idea. Composable architecture can be compared to Lego blocks, as it allows for the creation of many different structures. But the challenge lies in deciding what to build and how to make it happen.The challenge is twofold. First, there's the job of putting together all the components. Second, it's essential to ensure that each element chosen is not just a fun extra but helps create the desired digital experience is essential. It's crucial to tell the difference between the "must-have" and "nice-to-have" features. Focusing too much on the latter can take away your IT team's attention and resources from the essential functions.It's important to think about how much technical knowledge is needed. Composable gives you a lot of choices for customization. Still, it takes a skilled technical team to handle everything and ensure it works well. If you're thinking about using composable, you should ensure you have the right resources or get help from experts to make it easier.Additionally, companies must evaluate their current system's limitations. Are you finding it challenging to innovate due to a rigid, tightly coupled e-commerce platform? Does your business plan to expand into new channels or markets that your current platform cannot support? These pivotal questions can help determine if the transition to composable is warranted.When picking technology partners, it's crucial for organizations to choose carefully. The best partners will offer a variety of components that can be easily swapped out and will provide support and updates over time. The goal is to create an e-commerce platform that can grow and change as the business and customers do.Learn moreLearn more about transitioning to composable in this episode of "Contentstack LIVE!" featuring Contentstack Vice President of Technical Services Pete Larsen.Schedule a free demo to see how Contentstack's composable digital experience platform can help your organization achieve its e-commerce goals.