What is the difference between headless commerce, composable commerce, and modular commerce?

What is the difference between headless commerce, composable commerce, and modular commerce?

What is the difference between headless commerce, composable commerce, and modular commerce?

If you’re bewildered by the buzzwords around headless commerce, then it might leave you feeling like it’s not the technology for you. But headless offers huge benefits to eCommerce businesses in terms of speed, control, and quality of customer experience.

Modular and composable commerce are both examples of headless technology. Which one you opt for depends on how developed your eCommerce setup is and what your business needs are.

It’s useful to think of it as a progression or evolution:

Headless commerce was the foundational technology that introduced the separation of front and backend services. Modular commerce has taken that innovation a step further by separating backend services from each other, allowing them to be offered individually. Finally, composable commerce offers eCommerce online retailers the chance to gain complete, end-to-end control over their customer experience, choosing and implementing exactly the services they need, as and when they need them.

Important Definitions: Headless Commerce

Headless – this is the term that most people have heard of. Headless commerce is the practice of separating the frontend delivery part of your eCommerce setup (the part that your customers experience) and the backend service provision (checkout, catalog, etc).

This separation allows them to operate independently of each other, meaning that the backend is not reliant on a frontend built in the same language or framework in order to deliver services. Instead, API calls facilitate communication and send instructions between the two ends.

Modular –  This is the next stage along the journey. In a modular solution, APIs don’t just facilitate communication between the backend and the frontend, they also act as the messengers between different backend services. This allows eCommerce services to be separated out from each other and to be offered discreetly, or as modules.

You can think of modular commerce as offering groups of microservices, which are eCommerce services that are broken down into smaller components. This modular approach makes for greatly increased flexibility. You can take a whole service, such as checkout, without being obliged to take other services that you don’t need. But you can also break down this service into its constituent parts, or microservices (e.g., taking only the add-to-cart microservice).

ComposableThis term, first coined by Gartner, is so-named because it allows you to assemble, arrange, or compose your own bespoke solution end-to-end.

Composable commerce is ideal for businesses that have a well-developed and robust tech stack but need more control over the customer experience across multiple touchpoints.

From the eCommerce services you deploy behind the scenes to how your customers experience your brand, composable commerce puts your in-house teams in the driving seat, orchestrating the customer experience end-to-end, rather than being overly reliant on your commerce platform vendor to manage backend services for you.

So what’s the difference?

These terms are often used interchangeably, or to refer to headless commerce in general. But headless, modular, and composable commerce each refer to specific technologies, and it’s important to understand how they relate to each other. It’s useful to think of these three terms as designating different stages in your headless commerce journey.

First, you’ll need a good general understanding of headless commerce. Hopefully, the definitions here have given you a greater understanding and insight into headless commerce overall. If you still have questions, then our free eBook, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Headless Commerce,” is packed full of definitions and insight into evaluating and implementing a headless solution.

Once you’re got your head around headless, try to see composable commerce and modular commerce as ways to use headless.

Benefits of modular and composable commerce

There are various benefits associated with modular and composable commerce that you need to consider.

Complete control – Being able to pick, swap, or drop services as you need to gives you much greater control over your tech stack. This is a huge advantage over traditional, monolithic commerce platforms and non-modular headless platforms.

Ability to work on modules separately – If your developers are used to having to unpick reams of code when trying to make changes to your backend, then a modular solution will come as a welcome change. As the services are offered on an individual basis, you can make changes to one part of your eCommerce system without affecting any other part. So if an area of your site isn’t quite working, you can isolate the problem and make the necessary changes while causing minimal disruption to the rest of your eCommerce operations.

Easier to experiment – The discrete nature of modular commerce also makes experimentation with different configurations less involved. Instead of having to disentangle huge swaths of services, you can work on just the specific area that you need to. It will make your teams less risk-averse and reduce time to value in creating a fast, efficient, and satisfying digital experience.

Reduced cost – The flexibility of a modular approach that allows you to compose your own bespoke solution means that you can pick and choose only the services you really need. You don’t have to deploy a whole backend platform when migrating to a composable headless solution. You can take – and pay for – only the eCommerce services you need.

Opens up third-party applications – Another potential cost-saving advantage of composing your own solution is the ability to pick from a huge range of third-party services. If your eCommerce platform provider doesn’t offer the service you want or doesn’t offer it in the form that is right for your business, you can choose the right option from a third-party provider and add it to your tech stack.

As long as it’s capable of being exposed to the headless platform’s APIs then you can make it work.

Future-proof – Because you’re working with separate modules, you can swap services in or out with the changing demands of the eCommerce marketplace. Obviously, you’ll want your set-up to be as up-to-date as possible at the outset, but technology changes fast, and what worked two years ago might be out of date today. With a modular headless setup, you can upgrade the service that you need without impacting your other services and without the need for a wholesale replatforming.

Take the next step on your journey to modular, composable commerce

Replatforming and moving from a traditional commerce solution to a headless one (of any description) isn’t necessarily as daunting of a prospect as you might think. If you’re migrating your services in a step-by-step, modular fashion, you can minimize disruption and keep your eCommerce store’s lights on while you make the switch.

Kibo’s Unified Commerce Platform is a headless, microservices-based solution that allows you to take as much or as little from the platform as you need, depending on where in the headless journey you are.

If you’re looking for extensive support in going headless,  Kibo can host and manage your backend for you, while putting your business and marketing teams in control of the frontend experience. It means you don’t have to deal with a lot of developer headaches, taking the coding and backend management hassles out of migrating to a headless platform.

If you have a mature tech stack and an experienced team of developers but need to add specific services, you can take a modular approach to implementation. The microservices at the heart of Kibo’s platform mean services can be offered individually, without the need for everything to be deployed.

Kibo’s Unified Commerce Platform is also fully composable, with your teams being able to orchestrate delivery of services in a way that meets your exact customer experience requirements.

But achieving a bespoke solution with complete control and minimal disruption does take forethought, careful planning, and deliberate execution. If you want help moving forward with headless, our free guide to headless commerce gives detailed definitions, answers to common questions, and tools for evaluating platforms.

Download it today and take the next step towards a headless, modular, and composable future.

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