The number of B2B companies offering eCommerce capabilities shot up from 53% to 65% over the course of 2021, according to surveys from McKinsey & Company, and eCommerce now accounts for the same slice of B2B revenue (18%) as in-person sales. The pressure to go digital is causing growing pains for many B2B businesses, often because of commerce platforms reaching the end of life or reaching the point where it’s too expensive to scale due to years of customization. Companies are now looking for a commerce solution that can support them beyond the next step and help them continue to expand into new markets, regions, and business models.
Technology alone is not the answer
Technology marketing works. People believe in the promise that a technical solution will fix their business problem, which is rarely the case (but is often the trigger for a re-platform). Technology is just a means to an end; if there is no business strategy behind a new tool, it will likely never live up to the marketing promise.
For example, it’s becoming more common to see large producers launch a wholesale-style platform to sell directly to end-users. In some cases, this works, and the company can verticalize and capture a larger share of the wallet. In other cases, the company doesn’t have enough knowledge of the market or wholesale logistics to serve customers directly. It takes a different business model and business logic to sell 6 or 6000 screws, and plugging in a new commerce platform won’t automatically solve that.
However, for companies that focus on business strategy when making technology decisions, the rapid rise in B2B eCommerce mixed with a market full of modern commerce solutions creates a tremendous accelerant.
Composable Commerce Opens the Door to New Business Models
Instead of relying on one large platform for all your commerce needs, you can build a modular platform out of reusable components with a composable commerce approach.
A component could be anything from a single API to a complete frontend; it just needs to be self-contained and be able to plug in and out of your platform as required. Components can be rearranged and replaced as business needs change, which provides a flexible, scalable solution, and can handle the complexity of multiple business models.
Best-fit capabilities with no vendor lock-in
Repeatable models for fast roll out and expansion
Headless tech adapts to any brand, frontend, model
Traditional commerce platforms have out-of-the-box features baked in, which is great when the “prebuilt” features are a 10/10 fit for your business but frustrating when you’re also locked into out-of-the-box features that are a 3/10 fit and will require significant customization.
With a composable approach, components are independent and communicate via standard APIs and microservices. This means individual “packaged business capabilities” can be swapped in and out without re-platforming or rewiring the whole system.
This modular architecture requires “platform thinking.” It lets companies prioritize and invest in standalone “packaged business capabilities” (PBCs), like complex product search or regulatory components that aren’t found in the standard commerce “box” but are crucial to their specific business requirements and model. It also allows different business units to swap individual components as needed, such as using unique pricing logic for different customer groups or region-specific distribution services.
Flexibility also comes from the growing number of mature, composable SaaS solutions available in the market. Especially the rise of MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, headless) SaaS solutions that are designed to integrate nicely with other (composable) solutions.
The MACH approach does not only help to be more flexible and enables companies to deliver faster but – in many cases – is also more cost-efficient than either “custom building your solution” or “customizing and rolling out many monoliths to different markets / Business units”.
Why? Because companies do not need to rebuild ‘standard’ features and can focus on building differentiating capabilities.
In a typical scenario, packaged business capabilities provided by MACH-based Saas solutions leverage the domain expertise of different market-leading vendors and combine them with custom-built PBCs, that in-house teams build on their own. A tailored patchwork of services is being created and integrated into one flexible digital platform to have the best of different worlds.
By sharing the majority of components across business units, it’s easier to scale and maintain composable commerce. Whereas in the past, each business unit would require a new instance of the commerce platform, a composable approach makes it possible to reuse components like infrastructure, security, data models, and core functionality across different regions, product groups, and channels.
Components can be grouped into a few repeatable models that many (sometimes >100) different business units can use. Maintenance of these shared components is handled centrally, making rollouts fast and freeing up business unit teams to focus on aspects like custom logic and unique frontend features.
Composable commerce also makes it much easier to take advantage of cloud scalability. With an API-first approach, where all functionality is accessible via APIs, companies can combine custom-built and MACH-vendor components with leading services from hyperscalers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google GCP.
Handling complexity is where composable commerce shines. Projects that could take months of custom work with traditional platforms, like spinning up a new country site, a business unit-specific customer portal, or adding customer-specific pricing to a specific site, can be “piloted” in just a few weeks by combining the right packaged business capabilities.
Additionally, the front-end and backend are decoupled due to the headless nature of MACH-based solutions. Data is stored in a ‘neutral’ back-end format and thereby can power nearly unlimited touchpoints and front-end experiences. This makes it possible to manage multiple brands, and multiple business models, out of the same composable commerce stack and rapidly apply changes.
For instance, let’s say a kitchen supply store runs a wholesale model for large hospitality customers and a marketplace model for smaller catering companies. A composable approach allows the models to share core infrastructure and commerce functionality, just as they share inventory and warehouse space. While the frontend experience, branding, pricing models, payment options, delivery logistics, and other components can be unique to each business model.
While composable commerce can’t magically simplify complex models, it can help teams launch and manage these models very efficiently.
If you want to build your own custom PBCs, you create a different layer of microservices that is sometimes called “Enterprise Modern Architecture Layer” or “Business Object Layer Model” (BOL). It is a concept that allows for application development, decoupled from API changes in the underlying interfaces.
Mindcurv’s B2B Accelerator+ follows this thinking and is a set of “packaged business capabilities” that amplifies the B2B capabilities of commercetools enables fast POCs and helps to speed up the development and delivery of composable commerce solutions based on commercetools.
Developed from Mindcurv’s years of experience helping companies modernize their digital business, B2B Accelerator+ provides features that cover up to 90% of typical B2B uses and can be used to build modern B2B Shopping experiences and Customer Portals.
B2B Accelerator+ components that are pre-built and microservice-based. Providing out-of-the-box capabilities that companies can add, swap, and remove as needed – giving companies the convenience of traditional commerce platforms with all the speed, flexibility, and power of composable commerce.
Executive Vice President