What is composable commerce?

By Max Ikaheimo

August 17th, 2023

Composable commerce is a modern approach to building modern eCommerce systems that follow the principles of composable architecture. 

Like composable architecture in general web development, composable commerce emphasizes a modular approach and greater flexibility of components within an eCommerce ecosystem.

    Table of contents

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Composability 101

Composable architecture is an approach that encourages the design of systems by assembling smaller, modular components, and packaged business capabilities can be mixed and matched to create shopping experiences. 

Applied to eCommerce, composable architecture breaks down the traditional monolithic structure into discrete components, each responsible for specific functionalities. 

These components, often referred to as microservices, interact with each other through well-defined APIs, creating a more flexible and modern eCommerce ecosystem.

Read more: What is composable architecture?

Composable commerce under the hood

  • Front-end: The front-end is the user interface that customers see when interacting with your commerce solution. It can be built using various technologies like React, Next.js, or Vue.js.

  • Back-end: The back-end is the system that powers your commerce solution. It handles tasks such as order processing, inventory management, and payment processing. It can be built using various technologies like Java, Python, or Node.js.

  • Headless commerce platform: Basically any digital commerce solution that builds and delivers content without a frontend layer (or “head”). Think of Shopify Plus, commercetools, or Vue Storefront.

  • APIs: APIs are the interfaces that allow different components of a composable commerce solution to communicate with each other. They are essential for making adding new features and functionality to your commerce solution easy.

  • Data layer: Data is the lifeblood of any commerce solution. It is vital to have a good data architecture to ensure your data is accurate, secure, and accessible.

FYI: Some vendors also call this approach “MACH architecture”

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Breaking down the composable technology stack

In a composable commerce approach, the intricate web of functionalities comes together through modular components that can come from different vendors. 

These components, often represented as microservices, collaboratively build a comprehensive and dynamic eCommerce storefront. 

Let's delve into the key components that make up a composable commerce architecture:

Product Catalog Management

The product catalog module is the foundation of any eCommerce platform. It houses detailed product information, including descriptions, images, prices, and stock availability. This module provides an interface for merchants to add, update, and manage their product offerings. 

Business benefit: Efficient search, categorization, and integration with external inventory systems.

Checkout and Cart Functionality:

The checkout and cart module handles the process of customers selecting products, adding them to their cart, and completing the purchase. It includes cart management, order calculation, shipping options, and payment. 

Business benefit: Tailor the checkout process to their branding and customer preferences while ensuring a seamless and intuitive experience.

Inventory and Order Management

This module is responsible for tracking and managing the availability of products in real time. It enables merchants to manage inventory levels, restock, and prevent overselling. Order management also includes processing orders, generating invoices, shipping, and handling returns. 

Business benefit: Integration with external logistics partners and third-party inventory management systems.

Payment Gateways and Fulfillment

The payment gateway component facilitates secure and smooth payment processing. It supports various payment methods and ensures customer transactions are encrypted and protected. Fulfillment, on the other hand, orchestrates the process of packing, shipping, and delivering orders to customers. 

Business benefit: Integrate different payment gateways and choose fulfillment partners that align with their operational needs.

Customer Profiles and Personalization

The customer profiles module stores and manages customer information, preferences, purchase history, and loyalty program details. Personalization takes this data and tailors the shopping experience to each customer's preferences. 

Business benefit: Offer personalized recommendations, targeted promotions, and a more engaging shopping journey.

Recommendation Engines and Analytics

Recommendation engines leverage customer data to suggest relevant products, boosting cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Analytics modules gather and analyze data from various interactions within the platform, offering insights into customer behavior, sales trends, and operational performance. 

Business benefit: Integrate advanced analytics tools and harness data-driven insights for continuous improvement.

Advantages of composable commerce

  • Customization and tailored solutions: Businesses can select and integrate specific microservices for a unique, brand-aligned digital commerce experience.

  • Rapid innovation and adaptation: Independent updates to microservices enable quick introduction of new features and responses to market changes.

  • Scalability and efficient resource allocation: Precise resource allocation to high-demand microservices ensures optimal performance during varying traffic levels.

  • Third-party integration possibilities: Seamless integration with third-party tools like analytics, payment gateways, and marketing platforms enhances functionality.

  • Enhanced user experience with headless architecture: Decoupling front-end and back-end allows for tailored user experiences across diverse devices and platforms.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Complexity in component selection: Choosing the right components can be intricate; align them with business needs and scalability.

  • API management and versioning: Maintaining consistent, well-documented APIs while managing versions is vital for integration success.

  • Maintaining consistency across components: Coordinating updates and ensuring a seamless user experience amidst different components can be complex.

  • Ensuring security and data privacy: Each microservice introduces potential security risks; compliance with data privacy regulations is crucial.

  • Applicability and technological maturity:  A composable solution may not be suitable for businesses lacking technical maturity or still at a smaller scale.

Implementing composable commerce

Identify your requirements:

  • Understand your business needs and objectives. 

  • Identify the specific functionalities, scalability, and customization requirements.

  • Determine the target audience and the platforms where your eCommerce presence will be most impactful.

Select and integrate components

  • Choose the appropriate microservices or components.

  • Evaluate available options and third-party services that align with your business goals.

  • Integrate selected components into your architecture, ensuring smooth communication through APIs.

  • Choose an agency partner to help you implement your digital commerce platform

API design and integration

  • Prioritize API consistency and versioning to support future updates and integrations.

  • Test API interactions to guarantee seamless data flow and functionality. Your agency partner can help you with this.

Front-end design and headless architecture

  • Design the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) to align with your brand identity

  • Implement a headless architecture by separating front-end presentation from back-end functionality.

  • Use API calls to dynamically retrieve and display data, enabling flexible and engaging user experiences.

Monitoring and Optimization:

  • Implement monitoring tools to track the performance of individual components and the overall system.

  • Analyze data, user behavior, and sales trends to identify optimization opportunities.

  • Optimize components, APIs, and user experiences to enhance performance, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction.

Our services:  Headless commerce development

Choosing the best composable commerce platform

Selecting the best composable platform is a pivotal decision to make or break your business's digital transformation. 

From compatibility with your specific requirements to the range of available microservices and components, each facet is vital in determining the platform's suitability.

Consider the platform's flexibility in integrating APIs, which form the backbone of composable commerce architecture. 

The ease and adaptability of these integrations influence the agility of your e-commerce ecosystem. Also, evaluate how scalable your platform is to ensure the it can grow with your brand.

Finally, delve into the depth of support, resources, and community engagement that the platform offers. This ecosystem can significantly impact your ability to navigate challenges and tap into new opportunities. 

Here’s our top pick of headless commerce platforms:

  • Commerce Layer

  • Vue Storefront

  • Elastic Path

  • Cristallize

  • Medusa

Read more: 11 best headless commerce platforms

Our eCommerce experience


Our dedicated development team worked with UJET, the world’s most advanced cloud contact center, to migrate their old WordPress website to Next.js and Agility CMS. By migrating to the Jamstack architecture and Headless solutions, we optimized the site for 4x the performance compared to their old WordPress website.

UJET: Website development for the world’s most advanced cloud contact center

Varcroft and Bianco

Our team worked with Varcroft and Bianco, a Canadian carpentry and interior design firm, to build a configure, price, and quote (CPQ) commerce experience that allows visitors to build drawers, add inserts, and change colors as they see fit to create the furniture they need. Implementing a Shopify Plus checkout allows them to receive orders on the fly without needing sales reps.

Varcroft and Bianco: 3D React app and headless Shopify implementation

Closing thoughts

By embracing modularity, agility, and customer-centricity, businesses can leverage the power of microservices and APIs to craft engaging customer experiences and stay ahead in the ever-evolving digital landscape. 

From understanding the core principles of composable architecture to choosing the right platform and implementing a strategy, the path to composable commerce success requires thoughtful planning, adaptability, and a touch of innovation. 

Consider partnering with Ikius to make the most of the composable approach. Our expertise can guide you through the intricate process, ensuring you navigate challenges and confidently seize opportunities.

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