Accelerating B2B eCommerce with Composable Architecture
A Changing B2B Landscape
As a result of the pandemic, customer demands on B2B businesses have grown rapidly. The pandemic accelerated the shift toward digital channels for B2B businesses, building on an ever-increasing desire from customers to be able to buy everything, all at once and at any time, just as they’re now able to do in a B2C context.
Additionally, rapid adoption of technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud, are also driving demand and change in the B2B landscape even further. For example, the exponential growth in AI is transforming customer expectations and opening the door to business opportunities, as there are now AI-based services that enable customers to search and communicate more efficiently as well as algorithms that can process big data and deliver advanced insights in an instant.
Moreover, cloud-based infrastructure is providing CapEx and OpEx savings when businesses use it to host eCommerce projects, and it’s also offering organizations more adaptability so they can quickly support the new business models and sales channels customers now expect.
Nimble, digitally native companies are capitalizing on the changing B2B landscape and can adapt to it quickly without legacy inertia and with different cost models. But adjusting and adapting is not as simple for most organizations, especially those with legacy platforms and practices in place.
To try and keep up, 70% of small to medium businesses say they’re making greater investments in digital technologies.1 Larger enterprises are investing in mergers and acquisitions (M&As), which force them to continually assimilate new platforms and operating models and seek solutions that are future-ready. Scattered data across these organizations from mergers and a lack of data products limit their ability to understand customers, tailor offerings to them and make fact-based decisions.
Other businesses are seeking new channels for their products and are integrating into marketplaces, such as Amazon, or are hosting their own. B2B businesses are also increasingly moving to offer self service, with buyers preferring to have personalized prices, specifications, availability, ratings and product reviews available 24/7 to make informed choices and buying decisions on their own.
However, to actually meet customer demands, B2B businesses need to be able to adapt seamlessly, deploy quickly and scale effortlessly. They need to be able to launch eCommerce solutions or enhance eCommerce capabilities faster than ever to reach the market before, not only their established competitors, but new entrants. They need to provide easier access to their services, faster service and more tailored products and services. They need to offer a more compelling B2C-like experience to meet the increase in customer expectations that have been set by B2C players, like Amazon, Netflix and Google. And they can start doing this now by moving away from their legacy systems, leveraging composable technology and working with the right partners.
A Legacy of Inertia & Big Rocks
For those B2B businesses already offering some form of eCommerce, their platforms are typically legacy monoliths, poorly suited to meet new customer demands for the following reasons:
- Search capabilities within them often barely scratch the surface of the product content customers are looking for
- Batch and manual processes prevent a real-time view of pricing and availability to customers
- Systems fail to support global adaptations, such as fulfillment, and are hard to swap out
- Slow performance impacts customer experience and conversion, as the platform struggles to cope with increasing demand
- A tightly coupled front and back end make changes a time-consuming and risky proposition
For greenfield businesses who are looking to add eCommerce capabilities to their offerings, other challenges exist, from knowing where to start, figuring out how to create internal teams and define roles, identifying which solutions will meet their specific needs and getting to market fast.
The Benefit of Going Composable
A monolithic application is a single codebase, built as a single unit, where all functionality is implemented and delivered as one. This makes it much harder for organizations to implement rapid or large-scale changes.
In a composable architecture, functionality is implemented and delivered through independent components, which have single-purpose capabilities and features. In this way, components are pluggable and replaceable — able to be swapped in and out to meet evolving business requirements — and can be scaled far more effectively. The modular nature of a composable architecture delivers speed and agility to organizations, enabling faster deployments and increased innovation, improving channel performance and unlocking growth across markets and audiences. With composable, each capability is delivered by the right solution to meet the specific business needs, creating a complete, efficient and impactful platform that will generate significant business value.
For all the advantages and value that a composable approach brings, it also introduces an increased element of complexity from:
- More choices that require more vendors to manage
- Microservices that require more teams to monitor and manage
- More flexibility that leads to more change management
All these factors can be understood and accounted for in time, but they can be daunting for first-time movers to composable. For B2B businesses with a legacy brownfield estate, change can introduce risk and requires a comprehensive understanding of the dependencies to chart the right course for migration. For some greenfield businesses, the choice and agility offered by composable can make it hard to know where to begin, or how long it will take to bring these pieces together in a way that is ready to go to market.
Accelerators are one of the key mechanisms to ease this complexity.
Accelerators Streamline the Move to Composable
Accelerators are predeveloped software components that can be used to create solutions quickly and efficiently. Software vendors and system integrators (SIs) build accelerators to jumpstart implementations and make it easier to construct and maintain feature-rich solutions. Accelerators enable businesses to gain access to new capabilities, such as eCommerce, faster than ever before.
In the composable space, accelerators have been, and are continuing to be, developed to help organizations embrace composable architecture and get to market quickly, whether migrating from legacy or introducing eCommerce from scratch.
The best composable accelerators for B2B eCommerce can:
- Deliver an end-to-end B2B eCommerce experience at pace, helping businesses create new value and capitalize on the opportunity without delay
- Enable businesses to compose an eCommerce stack tailored to their business needs, with the flexibility to choose and interoperate with any existing storefront solution or cloud platform
- Provide enhanced B2B features and functionality, including advanced roles and permissions, approval flows, customer-specific product catalogs and the ability to impersonate a customer’s exact experience
- Future-proof businesses by increasing their ability to respond quickly to future changes in customer demands and market conditions
However, accelerators don’t solve every challenge. Businesses will still need to create or evolve internal teams to manage new eCommerce capabilities, and they’ll still need to carefully consider distribution and fulfillment. But accelerators do make it faster than ever before for businesses to unlock the full potential of B2B eCommerce and move to composable to help them meet the increasing needs of their audiences and reap the benefits.