How retailers can create better digital experiences with composable technology
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Learn how retailers can meet customers' demands for a fast, modern, secure and engaging online experience with composable technology.
- The problems that retailers are trying to solve
- What a composable commerce architecture looks like and how it differs from a monolithic solution
- Where customers are when it comes to figuring out what will work best for them
- The role of content in a composable commerce architecture
- How a manual experience is becoming more automated
- A sketch of the journey from starting the path to composable to measurable benefits
- Things to consider to be able to scale and grow
- What guidance does Contentstack provide retailers in terms of security?
The problems that retailers are trying to solve
The scalability required to handle large product catalogs, and an increased volume of customers plagues retailers.
There's a trend that started a few years ago. Obviously, post-pandemic, it was more critical than ever because people got out of the stores and started buying online. The issues that already existed but were not so visible became much more preeminent. Businesses were not preparing for the scale that they needed. So systems, for example, monolith systems managed by small teams, could not withstand the huge product catalogs or huge demands in order fulfillment. Those are some of the issues that we see.
Order and checkout, for example, there were major issues. I remember one of our customers when they came to us; their systems could not handle the holiday traffic, for example. So that was critical to them. Every time there was an influx of more users to their systems, everything would go down. And we were talking about a massive customer with thousands of requests per minute. So the scale was the most important thing here.
What a composable commerce architecture looks like and how it differs from a monolithic solution
Choose a composable solution to meet your needs today and in the future.
There are, of course, two options, right? You go for one solution that includes everything, or you go composable. What we have seen from the past is that for platforms with all the pieces, it's difficult for them to fulfill your requirements to the fullest with what's outside of the box. Of course, it is very tempting to get just one solution with everything included. But what happens is you end up with many features or modules on the shelf that will never be used. Even the ones you will be using typically have to be customized. The difference between the customization [of a monolithic platform] or the implementation of a best-of-breed [composable system] is where things start to make more sense. Do you choose a composable solution, or do you go with one with everything included, but then you have to tweak or customize it?
Typically, customization involves a bigger effort. And you will also be relying on or at least exposing yourself to costly upgrades with a monolith all-included solution. When you customize whatever module you are using, it works, but then the next year, you need to upgrade your CMS, so you have to upgrade the customization. That's not a good deal.
On the composability side of things, it's so much easier because you have already chosen a solution that fits your current needs. That's the most important thing because your needs today might not be your needs a year or even six months from now. This is an important detail. You'll be much close to your desired result. You will be able to own your business logic. You'll not be customizing a solution; you will implement your business logic on top of a solution that is already providing you with the tools needed to achieve your goals.
Where customers are when it comes to figuring out what will work best for them
Many customers want a composable solution, but others are still learning.
Some customers already understand which path they will take. They know they want a composable solution. They know their business will change and want to test things out. They come to us saying they want a MACH CMS and will choose a commerce platform, then this and then that. They have identified the pieces they want to replace one by one in the market.
Other customers are still learning about the advantages of going composable or MACH. This happens less and less, but we still have the opportunity to teach about headless CMS. It still happens.
The role of content in a composable commerce architecture
Content is the central orchestrator in the commerce experience.
I've been working in content for almost 20 years now. I'm passionate about this field and thoroughly enjoy it. Admittedly, I may be biased, but I view content as the central orchestrator in the commerce experience. Various components play significant roles, which is why I joined Contentstack; we aim to place content at the core. It must integrate with numerous other platforms. Yet, where users, or editors, in this case, will spend most of their time is in the CMS. Naturally, there will be merchandisers who invest time in search or merchandising rules or even commerce. However, it's about enriching the experience, connecting the dots - that's CMS. CMS will be at the center and probably one of the most important tools in the toolbox.
How a manual experience is becoming more automated
Our CMS tool uniquely automates processes across systems for efficient, coordinated business operations.
One of the most important things for scaling a business is to have all tools working together, automating processes to minimize reliance on the human factor. This extends to routine tasks such as product publishing or modifications, often involving several systems. For instance, a product may start on the commerce platform with stock and product information, undergo content enrichment on the CMS, get updated in the search tool, and be curated with relevant search terms in the merchandising system. Further, there may be digital asset management where product-related assets are stored. Coordinating all these systems is complex but crucial, especially when launching a new product, as we must ensure everything goes live simultaneously without missing any details. This is where automation plays an important role.
Our uniqueness lies in providing a CMS tool that facilitates low-code or no-code automation across all systems. Automation is essentially a workflow creation process. For example, when launching a new product or campaign, our Automation Hub can cascade or ripple changes through all systems with a single click, triggering publishing, unpublishing, or other processes, all reflecting at once. So, when you click 'publish' on the CMS or your PIM, your assets update, your search updates, and everything goes online simultaneously; even scheduling can be handled. It's about orchestrating and coordinating all tools in a single platform without additional costs or maintenance worries. Aspects like password storage or authentication, those low-level things businesses shouldn't have to worry about, we take care of them, encapsulating them into one single tool.
A sketch of the journey from starting the path to composable to measurable benefits
Most companies use a phased approach and cut their time-to-benefits in half.
Typically, projects progress in phases; it's uncommon to completely replace everything at once, especially when dealing with a company's main revenue stream. Companies usually start small, replacing one page at a time, perhaps starting with a homepage or something less visible to test it out and learn. In such a phased rollout, it's possible to see pages going live within weeks. We've seen full end-to-end e-commerce websites go live in as quickly as three months. It's a fast and integrated process.
Compared to previous approaches, the initial effort required is at least double what we see now. But beyond the initial phase, we also need to consider the resources necessary for maintenance. Headless isn't as relevant a term as it once was; even monoliths can be headless. Customers often struggle with their 'headless monoliths' because they're still focusing on the wrong things. Our approach's efficiency and immediate benefits stem from the minimal learning curve. Users can start with our CMS and have a well-constructed page within a week, with minimal training. This is due to our system's intuitive and clear design, allowing users to figure things out quickly. It's one of our platform's most advanced features.
Things to consider to be able to scale and grow
Being ready to change, embracing automation, and seeking expert advice are hallmarks of successful growth.
When preparing for scale, readiness for change is crucial. What works for your business today might not be suitable a year from now. As you grow, be prepared to replace components. Automating processes is another vital aspect. As you aim to increase content delivery or order numbers, automating processes and curating tools to reduce human intervention is essential. Our company is prepared for scale, with numerous customers who have successfully scaled for years. Essentially, let experts be experts. Focus on your business and allow us to provide the software that facilitates your growth and scale.
What guidance does Contentstack provide retailers in terms of security?
Composable solutions are inherently more secure, and Contentstack offers years of having our controls tested and analyzed.
When considering security for your digital assets, think about how many doors you want between your assets and potential threats. A monolithic solution presents only one barrier; if breached, access is granted to everything. With a composable architecture, however, there are multiple barriers. If one barrier is compromised, several more must be navigated. This approach is generally more secure because each system has its own built-in security mechanisms. It is not just one point of failure; it's multiple points of failure.
Security by obscurity is not a robust solution. Many security breaches occur in systems maintained internally by companies and are often unknown until it's too late. In contrast, our systems are constantly tested and verified, with robust controls in place to ensure security. If you're aiming for the most secure system, on-premise solutions may not be the best choice, as they typically cannot match our speed and efficiency in response to threats.