Implementing an open commerce architecture has a profound impact on every function within a business. Unless these impacts are considered on a cross-functional level, key benefits afforded by the approach are almost guaranteed to be missed and an overall competitive advantage can be foregone.
For example, the marketing department does not realize they can now embed a personalized checkout directly into their content pages in a couple of hours using solutions like Moltin together with Contentful, instead of being blocked because their current eCommerce platform doesn’t interact well with the content system they’re also using.
The commerce operations team does not realize they can now pick and choose the tools they want to use together without going through lengthy RFP processes and implementation cycles, which on the extreme end can take up to half a year to get approved. Tools in an open commerce architecture recognizes the need for product-led growth, and therefore, offer great pay-as-you-go pricing together with standard SLAs and support - everything you need to get going without being gated by antiquated processes.
The support team does not realize that the development team can make tweaks to the site from how orders flow to fulfillment, to how returns are handled, to how order confirmation emails/texts are generated in a fraction of the time they could before. It’s those tweaks which could save them a significant amount of time and delight customers. Now, the support team can meet your developers over coffee, and push impactful changes to production before going home that day!
The growth team does not realize that adding a new channel of commerce, adding a new payment gateway, adding new functionality is not just feasible, but so fast that it goes from being a large business commitment to a low risk experiment - we all know how rapid low risk experiments can launch a business into new realms of growth!
In this three-part series, we will take a few key functions and look at how their thinking must change with this new technological paradigm. The final post will give you a framework for creating cross-functional collaboration when implementing OCA in order to maximize your success. In this first post though, we should look at a brief summary of the term itself, and give ourselves a common grounding.
The principle of open commerce architecture
The core principle of open commerce architecture is unbundling - think of it as the era of specialization in software. The benefits are enormous, as profound as they were in the era of human and industrial revolutions. Best-in-class tools emerge to do one thing extremely well, laser-focused on improving and innovating in one specific area. Among these benefits are speed and control achieved by a newfound ability in the following:
- Ease of making changes
- Speed of making changes
- Speed of vendor improvements
- Choice of vendors and no lock-in
- Saying yes to new feature requests
- Saying yes to new revenue streams
In summary, it can be described as building your business in the way you want to while your technology adapts to it, versus compromising your business strategy into the limitations of one fixed technology platform.
As a company in a competitive landscape, having this advantage on their side is huge - you are not reliant on one service to improve and release, but instead, you get a constant stream of improvements from best-in-class services alongside each other, all of which can be switched out if need be. The services are tied together in a layer owned by you, meaning you can make changes without any external delays. Furthermore, since this layer is code, it is completely and continuously configurable exactly to your own changing requirements. The result is no vendor lock-in and complete control, unparalleled speed of execution, and freedom to try new ideas in a low risk environment.
If like me, you are excited by the prospect of these benefits but wondering, “at what cost?”, you’re on the right line of thinking. The unbundling itself does not magically happen, nor can it be instantly adopted by a business - it takes effort, alignment at a strategic level and most of all, collaboration. In order for it to work, every part of the software stack needs to start decoupling, and the business needs to commit to this new way of thinking as a route to competitive advantage. Moltin will be producing plenty of content to help with this from TCO analysis to cost benefit analysis, so don’t worry. The last post in this series will also give you a neat framework to use for collaboration.
Is the open commerce architecture not just the same as headless commerce?
By the way, a quick note if you’re thinking microservices or “headless” at this point. Whilst open commerce architecture is not necessarily a headless approach to eCommerce, headless is certainly necessary for open commerce architecture to work well - it is just another kind of decoupling.
This decoupling principle applies all the way down to the functionality found on an eCommerce website, from search to fraud prevention, to promotions, etc., and is therefore, indeed similar to microservices. The difference is that open commerce architecture incorporates all that, while also extending the concept to a software vendor level (call them micro-vendors if you want!). It comes with a transition of those vendors to product-led growth models meaning that it’s now incredibly easy to manage, use, and replace multiple vendors as a company.
Although open commerce architecture makes it simple to switch out individual pieces, we should not think that we have simplified the stack by separating it into specific constituent parts. No, as with any decoupling, the complexity have moved onto the communication layer between these parts. This is the same trade-off which burdons the microservices and headless movement in general! This trade-off however, is where Moltin shines through - we build tools to simplify this communication layer and keep all the benefits.
Moltin recognises its existence in an environment of high specialization, and therefore, complex communication. We have built features specialized for this environment to help you get the most out of an OCA approach by simplifying the communication of data. Flows (custom data structures and events) helps you effortlessly adapt to changing schemas in other services and helps you tell other services exactly what they need to know in real time. This means Moltin can provide an adaptive and reactive hub for your commerce data, all the while providing best-in-class REST endpoints for carts, orders, catalog management, and so much more.
With that said, you know you’re ready to move on to the next post in this series if the following are clear:
- What open commerce architecture is as a term, i.e. the great unbundling at a vendor level.
- What strategic advantage open commerce architecture creates, i.e. the best architecture wins.
- Why open commerce architecture is a paradigm shift in thinking about commerce technology.
- Why your entire company must consider and commit to this movement.
- Why Moltin is a driving part of the open commerce architecture movement.
Keep an eye out for it being released.
Open commerce architecture is our favourite thing. If you would like us to provide a consultation on how it will impact your business, or if you would like support in communicating this shift to your colleagues, we are on hand to help.
Just contact us to learn more.