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Abhijit KilledarFeb 14, 2023 4:30:00 PM16 min read

What is Composable Commerce & Is It Right for Your Enterprise Architecture


If you’re a CTO of a retail enterprise, you know that the customer experience is everything.

It’s your job to ensure that customers are happy and satisfied and have all of the information they need to get what they want—and fast.

This means providing customers with an easy, accessible shopping experience that allows them to browse and engage in-store and find precisely what they need in seconds. To do this, you must communicate with them effectively and quickly and understand what your customers want. Composable Commerce allows you to do just that.

According to Gartner, for organizations to have the ability to adapt or pivot in a dynamic business or IT environment, their IT infrastructure must be composable with modular, adjustable, autonomous components. The essence of Composable Commerce combines existing technology assets, critical new technologies, and the paradigm that enables “composing” brand-specific experiences by your technical and business teams. 

Composable Commerce – also seen as the next step in unified commerce – is where greater agility and speed-to-market come into the picture. These elements are critical as you inject digital engagement into your store experiences empowering associates to better serve while customers gain increased personalization and brand affinity.

What Is Composable Commerce? 

Composable Commerce is the idea that you can easily combine different products, services, and experiences to create highly relevant, engaging interactions. 

Based on the concept of “composition,” this means that rather than being locked into monolithic vendor-controlled solutions, retailers can align best-of-breed products, cloud services and vendors to create solutions uniquely tailored to their specific needs.

Point of Sale is a compelling use case for Composable Commerce as retailers look to modernize this critical system while also removing the high degree of vendor-dependency created in traditional system architecture. As the need to rapidly evolve and deliver new store experiences continues to increase, composability empowers retailers with the control and agility to recognize a need and rapidly deliver targeted business solutions. 

Composable commerce is a new approach to IT strategy that allows you to build experiences for your customers in modular, reusable components. This means that instead of developing a completely new experience for every business initiative, you are able to continuously build off of your already created and deployed components. This not only increases the speed of development, but also reduces testing.  

Leveraging composability in point of sale, for example, you’re creating many opportunities for agility. Your teams can rapidly test new ideas and make changes based on real-time feedback without dependency on the POS vendor or the effort of customizing a legacy solution. .

The headless infrastructure powering Composable Commerce decouples the front- and back-end microservices to break down silos, allowing retailers to gain control to integrate critical services into new digitally rich front end experiences. 

But what does this mean?

Enterprises need to rethink how they approach their customers and their business models. They need to consider their relationship with the customer through every step of their buying journey and respond with meaningful engagement.

What is Composable Architecture?

Composable architecture is an approach to software architecture that allows for creating composite applications by combining existing, highly independent components into a larger whole. The main objective is to make it easier to develop and maintain large systems by breaking them down into smaller parts that can be assembled in different ways based on business needs.


What are the fundamental principles of Composable Architecture?

The key principles of a composable architecture are modularity, reusability, testability, and ease of maintenance.

Modularity: Modularity is the ability to break down large systems into smaller parts that can be assembled to form a more extensive system. This allows you to build up your solution in layers. The advantage of this approach is that you have more flexibility when changing or updating parts of your system as they are more loosely coupled than if they were tightly coupled (i.e., you only have to update one component rather than several).

Testability: When you’re building a new application, it’s essential to know how it works and what it looks like, but even more important is knowing that the way you’ve built your application is sound and will continue to work as expected.

Testability is one of the crucial characteristics of any architecture. It allows developers to understand the code they’re working with and to be confident in their ability to evolve it as needed. Without testability, there’s no way to know whether or not your application will continue behaving as expected once you’ve made changes.

Reusability: Reusable components are reused in multiple contexts without requiring any changes because they have been developed according to industry standards or best practices and use existing frameworks, libraries, or patterns, which makes them easy for developers who already know how these things work (and therefore don’t need any training).

Ease of maintenance: Composability means that your application can be broken down into smaller components, each of which can be edited and maintained independently of the whole system. If there’s a problem with one component, you can fix it without impacting anything else. Additionally, you can swap out one component for another without impacting the rest of the system. If you need to replace an external API or load balancer with something new? You can do that without requiring a regression test of the entire application as each component is a fully cloud-native microservice that stands on its own without impact to surrounding components. 

What are the benefits of Composable Architecture?

Composable Architecture is a way of thinking about system design that allows you to build new and extend existing systems and platforms. It’s an approach to design based on agility and speed, but anchored in system stability. Your teams can move quickly and easily to deliver new experiences, without impact to existing processes. 

Since components can be added or removed without affecting other parts of the system, you can quickly take learnings from the field and make adjustments that allow you to respond directly to customer preferences, behavior shifts or business objectives. And components are fully reusable making development much faster, more efficient, and cost-effective.

Overview of Composable Commerce 

For stores, Composable Commerce is a transaction engine-driven architecture that allows a retailer  to react to changes in its environment by adding or removing system components without having to rebuild or redeploy entire systems. It’s a fast-evolving concept that has gained momentum over the past few years, but is still early in the adoption for many enterprises.

Let’s also understand how composable architecture differs from microservices (we’ll talk more about “microservices” later). While both concepts aim for agility and flexibility in their applications, they differ in several ways, including:

  • Composability makes individual code units reusable, while microservices focus on breaking them down into smaller parts to be used individually.
  • Composability works well with monolithic and modernized code bases. In contrast, microservices require you to create new ones entirely before starting work on them—which could cost valuable time and resources if done incorrectly.


How The Preferred Enterprise Architecture Has Evolved Over Time

Initially, Enterprise Architecture was a hierarchical model that used a centralized data center. This meant the company distributed its assets across several sites, but all those sites were controlled by a central location. 

As cloud became an underpinning of architecture, the models then evolved to a more decentralized approach but still relied on legacy systems and software for their processing needs. This monolithic, “black box” nature of legacy retail systems made it difficult, if not impossible, for companies to be nimble and respond quickly to market changes.

Today, an even more advanced version of enterprise architecture is quickly becoming the standard of industry leaders. This version combines a distributed cloud architecture with multi-region failover and modern cloud-native software technologies that ensure maximum up-time and rapid development capabilities

What is monolithic architecture?

Monolithic architecture is a single, integrated application. It typically has a proprietary codebase, and it’s all stored in one database. The user interface is tightly coupled in that codebase with little to no way to modify it without customization by the software provider. 

Monolithic applications are challenging to manage as retail teams have little to no access to the proprietary codebase. Additionally, any changes to that single codebase can directly impact the entire system leading to unexpected breaks and significant regression testing requirements. Typical feature enhancements can take months to years to develop and deploy at which point the business requirement has long since shifted. 

What are the pain points of monoliths?

Some of the pain points of monoliths include:

  • Maintenance: A single code base is significantly more challenging than a set of smaller, autonomous microservices.
  • Scalability: An architecture that has only one extensive application is difficult to scale than one that has multiple, smaller applications with their own infrastructure capabilities.
  • Testing and deployment: Monoliths have large testing dependencies between components and thus require system-side integration and regression tests for any feature change, which is both costly and time-consuming. They’re also difficult to deploy as any feature change requires redeployment of the entire application. 
  • Updates/upgrades: Updating a monolithic app is complex and rarely can be done independently by the retailer. This creates a vicious cycle of customization that makes upgrades nearly impossible. Complexity of development and deployment is not ideal for a fast-paced business environment.
  • Limited Visibility: The retail landscape is growing more complex every day, with new ways to shop and new ways for retailers to interact with their customers. Enterprise retailers are dealing with this complexity by providing a range of experiences in-store, from promotions and pickup services to personalized shopping experiences. However, the limitations of monolithic systems mean retailers working with legacy POS and store systems are often slow to launch these new experiences and face issues for resilient scaling across the store estate.

What are Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs)?

Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs) are all the capabilities of a business that are needed to sell a product or service. PBCs are bundled together; each bundle is called a “product.” The product is then sold as a unit to customers. 

In the store environment, a typical example would be the point of sale system that contains components including traditional in-store checkout, promotions, inventory, store orders and now often mobile checkout, pickups, delivery and other customer engagement functions. 

Packaged Business Capabilities enable retailers to offer products/services that efficiently meet customer requirements through standardization and reuse of assets across multiple projects and experience.

What are microservices?

A microservice is a discrete unit of code. It’s typically a single function, such as an API endpoint or an algorithm that runs locally on the client. A microservice can also be a group of functions that gets bundled for ease of deployment and management.

In contrast to monolithic applications, where all the code for that application is contained in one large file, microservices are inherently independent of each other allowing changes to be made without affecting other parts of the system. In the point of sale example above, if you want to make improvements or add features to in-store checkout or pickups, you can do so without impacting the other business critical functions such as inventory, mobility or the other components. This ability dramatically shortens time-to-market, reduces risk of new feature releases and speeds response to new business opportunities. 

What is the Difference Between Composable Commerce and MACH architecture?

Composable Commerce is a way of thinking about business, technology architecture, and commerce. It allows retail enterprises to build digital engagement faster and cost-effectively by leveraging a layered approach to designing, developing, and delivering products and services across every customer touchpoint.

Composable Commerce achieves this by leveraging the principles of microservices architecture to create an optimal composition of capabilities needed at each step in the buying journey.

MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-Native, and Headless) is an architectural standard for retail enterprise architecture that was initially developed by e-commerce providers. While this modular architecture can enable some levels of composability, as we expand into the store realm it is important to go beyond MACH to include fully native support for offline mode in stores. As anyone who is responsible for store operations knows, the ability to fundamentally support offline transactions is a key differentiator in the complexities of in-store commerce. 

Headless commerce is a robust technology that allows retailers to create personalized shopping experiences as it decouples the front end “experience” from the backend processing of commerce transactions. Until recently, headless was primarily a deliverable of e-commerce providers. Next-generation point of sale providers, like OneView, have taken headless commerce technology in-store providing retailers full control to build unique in-store engagement as they tailor experiences for what is most often their most active and lucrative sales channel (globally approximately 75% of retail stores still take place in-store.)  

Headless for store gives retailers the ability to transform POS by:

1. Injecting more agile technologies into their existing in-store tech stack that enables them to add new features while leveraging legacy assets. 

2. Enabling retailers to use data and insights from all channels instantly across engagement points.

3. Providing retailers with full control of in-store experiences without vendor dependency.


Why Composable Commerce?

Composable Commerce is the powerful, next-generation evolution of in-store engagement. With this architecture, retailers can rapidly build and extend their in-store engagement while continuing to leverage high-value functions of legacy systems. This enables rapid delivery of business functions, ability to quickly react to market feedback and efficient management of complex retail interactions. 

Benefits of Composable Commerce, include: 

1) Speed to Market: Adhering to the standards of composability, retailers can leverage the power of truly cloud-native functions where every feature is a service and, therefore, can be used, modified, extended and deployed individually within a single or across multiple interaction points.

2) Operational Efficiency: With zero non-cloud native functions, scalability, optimization and deployment operations are inherently more flexible and adjust automatically as business demand shifts.

3) Increased flexibility: Your business is positioned to respond to today’s business demands, but empowered to rapidly adjust as new opportunities or new customer preferences emerge without reliance on the point of sale software vendor. 

What are some examples of Composable Commerce in-store?

Some of the largest retailers have been embracing the concept of Composable Commerce: 

  • Kroger: After targeted programs to “test and learn” for grocery pickup, Kroger has transformed how they execute this powerful new modality leveraging the composable unified commerce platform from OneView Commerce. They now have full control to build, extend and deploy new experiences and have leveraged this single composable code base to reimagine pickups, mobile checkout and delivery. 
  • Walmart and Target: These retailers have used Composable Commerce to create new business models that rapidly respond to competitive threats from online pure plays like Amazon by responding to rapid shifts in customer preferences in-store. 

How OneView Helps Enterprises Transition to Composable Commerce 

OneView Commerce specializes in transitioning enterprises to meet their needs for agile development, rapid testing, and quick turnarounds on business initiatives.

In a world where there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all, businesses need to be able to quickly adapt to changing consumer demands, market conditions and other factors while they maximize the value of their in-store network.

OneView empowers retailers to go from a traditional enterprise architecture model to one that is fully cloud-native, inherently flexible and positioned to adapt to change.

OneView’s unified commerce platform transforms point of sale and store engagement using our powerful transaction engine to abstract basket creation, calculation and checkout functions from siloed, disparate store and commerce systems. Providing the tools enterprises need to develop, test and deploy new services quickly, OneView enables retailers to take control of in-store operations, streamline deployment of new experiences and reduce overhead and maintenance of critical touchpoints. 

In the world of enterprise retail, it’s important to be able to test new ideas quickly and with agility. The ability to iterate on a product is essential for companies that are looking to stay ahead of the competition or just stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace.

Composable Commerce is a flexible, future-proof way to build your business. OneView provides the pathway for businesses to leverage existing legacy assets, build new experiences, and benefit from ready-to-use engagement points as needed. Increase the speed of store innovation with OneView’s composable, cloud-native retail transaction engine that injects agility and control into your existing tech stack.

Key Takeaways 

Composable Commerce is a new way to think about building a digitally relevant physical store strategy.  With a composable architecture, organizations can more easily adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands to create new value for customers without facing a “rip and replace” of the existing in-store systems. 

This approach also makes it easier for retail stakeholders to understand the value and quickly see the impact a modern technology footprint has on the organization. At OneView, we believe the shift to composable commerce will transform the in-store retail landscape by empowering retailers to unlock the in-store black box, eliminate vendor dependency and make it easier to build, test and learn as you rapidly deliver transformative retail engagement.

Embracing Composability

The OneView platform has been architected from the ground up on the concept of Composable Commerce. OneView feels strongly that bringing the concepts of control and agility into the store technology landscape is critical to empower retailers to fully leverage the value of their physical store interactions. 

Legacy POS system architecture is monolithic meaning the functionality, features and extensibility are locked down and require significant vendor dependency to add, modify or extend experiences as business demands change and customer preferences evolve. Today, the fast pace of market shifts, dramatic shifts and customer loyalty plus the impact of global environmental factors leads to legacy “black box” technology limitations determining success or failure of a retail enterprise.

OneView enables retailers to increase the speed of store innovation with our composable, cloud-native retail transaction engine that injects agility and control into their existing store tech stack. OneView provides a ready-to-use SaaS store suite or the power to build to suit using a headless point of sale experience framework.

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What is Gartner’s definition of Composable Commerce?

Gartner defines Composable Commerce as “the ability to create new business models by combining existing capabilities, services and assets in new ways.”

What does composable business mean?

Composable business  that seamlessly combines digital and physical commerce. Composable businesses can create transcendent experiences that are engaging and interactive for the customer. They can access data from across their channels in a single platform to provide relevant content, offers, and engagement to their customers.

What are composable applications?

Composable applications are assembled from cloud-native microservices. These microservices operate independently in a feature-as-a-service model enabling them to be re-used across multiple applications, making it easier to respond to market demands without duplication or dependency on the software vendor. 

What is a composable API?

A composable API is an application programming interface (API) that allows you to combine multiple APIs in a single feature or application. This streamlines the process of managing data sources to reduce complexity and create cohesion across experiences. 

What is a composable stack?

A composable stack is a term that refers to the combination of multiple technologies, services, and frameworks that you can use to build your unique engagement experiences. It is an extension of a traditional software stack, with the critical additional element that all components are cloud-native services that can operate without dependency to streamline build, test and deploy cycles. 

What is a composable UX?

A composable UX is a user experience that allows for a flexible and modular approach to building in-store interactions. Rather than vendor-defined experiences, retailers have control to build and tailor experiences to meet the unique needs of their associates, customers and business model to create unique brand differentiation


Abhijit Killedar

As OneView's CTO, Abhijit owns the technology roadmap including validation of the trends, architecture, products and integration partnerships that ensure OneView remains at the forefront for thought and industry leadership.