Are Headless and Composable Commerce Solutions Right For Me?

Jan 24, 2023 12:00 PM1:00 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways:

Headless and composable commerce are emerging concepts that have been circulating around the eCommerce landscape in recent years. But what do these solutions entail, and how can you determine if they suit your business goals?

Headless commerce involves separating the customer experience platform from the back-end software and merging them into a composable eCommerce system. In today’s fast-paced digital environment, many trend-driven companies adopt a completely composable approach without considering use cases or assessing business value. But this can lead to inconsistency and confusion, so it’s crucial to evaluate your current application to determine if you can expand services or implement a few headless solutions rather than adopt a completely composable approach. 

Tune in to this virtual event as Aaron Conant invites Jordan Brannon, President of Coalition Technologies, to talk about headless and composable commerce approaches. Jordan addresses key considerations for implementing composable commerce, headless and composable commerce’s roles in organizations, and the benefits of composability in eCommerce. 

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • The difference between headless and composable commerce and how the solutions emerged 
  • Key considerations for implementing composable commerce 
  • Jordan Brannon shares examples of composable and headless tech stacks
  • Headless and composable commerce’s role in organizations and how they impact SEO
  • Who is best suited for headless or composable commerce, and are the solutions right for your business? 
  • Tips for transitioning to composable or headless commerce
  • How headless or composable commerce affects eCommerce platform maintenance
  • The benefits of composability in eCommerce 
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Event Partners

Coalition Technologies

Coalition Technologies is a leading SEO, PPC & web design agency in the United States that does a variety of work across leading eCom platforms including: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Vtex, and others.

Connect with Coalition Technologies

Guest Speaker

Jordan Brannon

Jordan Brannon LinkedIn

President at Coalition Technologies

Jordan Brannon is the President of Coalition Technologies, a company that provides SEO services in digital marketing, design, web development, and PPC advertising. Jordan’s expertise in digital strategies has shaped his career for more than a decade, where he focused on developing solutions that allow for more qualified leads, better traffic conversion, and SEO optimization.

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Event Moderator

Jordan Brannon

Jordan Brannon LinkedIn

President at Coalition Technologies

Jordan Brannon is the President of Coalition Technologies, a company that provides SEO services in digital marketing, design, web development, and PPC advertising. Jordan’s expertise in digital strategies has shaped his career for more than a decade, where he focused on developing solutions that allow for more qualified leads, better traffic conversion, and SEO optimization.

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant 0:18

Happy Tuesday everybody. My name is Aaron Conant. I'm the co founder, chief digital strategist here at BWG Connect. We're a giant networking and knowledge sharing group been around for just shy of six years now, and just fully focused on, you know, education through networking and knowledge sharing. And so thanks, everybody for jumping on today, we want this to be as educational and informational as possible. So if you have any questions along the way, drop into the chat, I see some people dropping some comments in there, drop any questions you have in the chat, we'll answer them real time. You know, we want to get as many of those answered as possible. We're starting a few minutes after the hour, and we're gonna wrap up with a few minutes to go in the hour as well. We always like to end a little bit early and give you time to get on to your next meeting without being late. Other than that, I think maybe those are the only housekeeping items as we kind of kick off some of the first webinars of the year here. We're doing a ton of dinners. If anybody ever, you know, if you're in a tier one city around the US, let us know more than happy to invite you to tier one, one of those dinners, networking and knowledge sharing 2025 people having a great time. So with that, though, I want to tackle today headless, and or composable commerce, I'd love to get the definitions on both of those, are they different or the same that comes up all the time? And it kind of seems like it started off as headless and then moved into composable. But anyways, you know, Jordan, I'll kick it over to you. If you want to do a brief intro on yourself and coalition. That'd be great. Thanks for jumping on today. And yeah, everybody, let's throw some questions at Jordan as we go. Yeah.

Jordan Brannon 1:48

So my name is Jordan Brannon, president and co founder of Coalition Technologies, we're a full service eCommerce focused digital agency that close to 300. Team members. So good size, we support a everything from established small businesses up to the enterprise, and probably one of our fastest growing segments is in that enterprise space. We do everything from site conceptualization, strategy, technology selection, which I think we're gonna talk a little bit more about today, on into marketing, whether that's SEO or paid or social or email, or SMS. And then also, we do a fair bit of maintenance and upkeep for our clients and their eCommerce platforms. So a lot of talent, I represent a very small portion of that I always like to point out, so do send in the questions. And then if I get stumped all ask Aaron for any email or something. So we can follow up with you and put you in touch with someone who knows more than I on on whatever that topic was, if I couldn't answer it well, awesome.

Aaron Conant 2:54

So as you're new to this idea of headless and or composable commerce, you know, it's been coming up a lot. Lately, it really seemed to come up a lot last year, and maybe a little bit started the year before. seems to be some kind of momentum in the space, at least around the talk. I don't know about the execution side. So I don't know, I'd love to hear your kind of perspective on a trendline. Here, do you see? You know, a couple of things, you know, do you see headless slash composable? You know, is there a difference between those two, I guess, would be the first question I have. The other one is, you know, do you see this actually taking market share from the traditional platforms? Or is this just a lot of talk? That's what I'd love to hear?

Jordan Brannon 3:36

Yeah, I mean, it's a kind of a, there's there is a little bit of a difference between the two. And in some ways I would describe headless as sort of a forum or part of composable is maybe a good way to think of them. And definitely, I think we're eCommerce, both have really gained traction over the last several years. I think that growth trajectory is probably fueled by you know, the pandemic demand, which most of us have seen or experienced in eCommerce. I often also call out that maybe a bit of boredom is involved. And then I think finally, you know, finance and money are driving some of what's happening with with headless and composable solutions. You know, pandemic demand, of course, is just that big shift. We saw two eCommerce from retail that occurred in 2020 and 2021. And we maybe saw some settling out in 2022. And again, kind of some carryover into 2023. You know, a lot of brands just didn't have a meaningful integrated eCommerce experience. And suddenly, there's a lot of pressure on that front. And I think it brought about some startling realizations about their tech stacks and the depth of support they could really offer for eCommerce. You know, I think again, maybe related to that pandemic side of things there's a lot of money pouring into eCommerce as an industry so you know, services software solutions, So I think that it's allowed experimental ideas and products and services to have maybe a shot at more of a mainstream play than they would have otherwise had. And so I think that's kind of becoming a factor. And then in the boredom conversation, I think there was a sense of status quo being achieved in eCommerce on both the enterprise and SMB side of things. Ultimately, I think there was a sort of feeling throughout the eCommerce Industry that the experiences weren't really keeping up with consumer demands and opportunities. And as a result, we really need to try something new and different. So the thing that's sort of driving some of that growth,

Aaron Conant 5:39

and when you so if we just pull this right a little bit, when you talk about new index, in different you're talking about the the headless, composable commerce solutions, we'd love to know, like, and they just in their infancy, is this just pop up? Or is there more history there, you know, as a whole, because I think, you know, it went from like, zero to like 160 in the conversation spectrum. And you have all these headless platforms out there. And the composable commerce platforms were like, dominating the, they came out of nowhere, like, I think like shop talk last year, right? Like, they were everywhere in sponsoring, like, flow writer concerts and all this other stuff. So anyways, we'd love to hear, you know, if there's more history here, I guess.

Jordan Brannon 6:28

Yeah, I mean, I think the concepts aren't really new. And maybe the awareness around them, and specifically, these labels are probably the thing that's most evangelize, you know, I think even like the headless label itself is probably a bit older than most people would guess. I've been a pretty prominent negative voice about how frustrating and useless that label is, but I think I'd heard someplace. Actually, I think one of the events, Titan RF, that commerce tool is, or somebody there is claiming the invention of the phrase headless, and are also sort of roundly apologizing for picking a really confusing label. And I think the dates for that are like 2013, and 20 teams, you know, composable commerce is a term is a bit more of an updated effort, I think, to cast a kind of a wider net, for eCommerce as a whole than maybe what headless really was envisioned as being at first. And so I think the marketing on that term, you know, really picked up speed with Gartner, I think, in 2020. And so, you know, I think ultimately, my opinion there is that composable commerce is really just a phrase that's been invented for enterprise brands to understand what's really already pretty well known in the SMB software space, which is really where we came out of that is that software's that are more input are more open to inputs, and more capable of outputs, and in different aspects of what they do tend to perform better and scale more efficiently. You know, the enterprise side of the eCommerce market has always been a bit slower moving somewhat backwards in sort of the mindset about how to approach you know, segmented functionality and responsibility. And composable really simply puts a name and a face on an approach that is pretty well known, I think, elsewhere. You know, the concepts at the enterprise side of things are probably, you know, well into their young adult years. To go back to that analogy. Well, the tech stacks, and I think solutions are probably more in their late teens at this point. So maybe a little less mature than the concept itself.

Aaron Conant 8:34

So just like pulling back the different layers on the proverbial on getting here, is there a differentiation? I know, you covered it just briefly at the beginning, but just you know, between headless and composable? Or are they more or less the same thing? Trying to understand that just a little bit more?

Jordan Brannon 8:55

Yeah, headless is best thought of, again, as an approach to achieving a more composable outcomes. The idea behind you know, headless is that you're taking the presentation layer of your eCommerce experience, you know, what your customer sees and interacts with. And you're just sort of taking some or all parts of managing that away from the backend software, where you really sort of see the management of your eCommerce store experience. And so, you know, in theory, the main drivers for doing this are you're able to create a better customer experience, perhaps a you know, create a better content management or content marketing experience for your team, and then Pair that with sort of a best in class, eCommerce administration experience. And so, you know, I think composable sort of works on a similar thought process and claim. You know, in a nutshell, the idea is that you can take the best in any given software service area and then arrange sort of the interactions and the connectivity between sort of your preferred combination and then ultimately arrive at an end solution that is sort of best in class in all areas for you. You know, composable tends to be a pretty no brainer concepts. And most brands are executing on some level of that today. You know, I saw Gartner had said, you know, made some bold claim, you know, 30% of all digital commerce, you know, ventures are going to be running on composable by the end of this decade or maybe even a little bit sooner. And ultimately, I think it's sort of an easy thing to point to, because a lot of brands are already sort of incrementing, around composability. You know, very few organizations really rely on a single monolithic solution for wide expanses of their business today. Again, that's actually most common probably in the enterprise. But you know, a lot of them are already starting to sort of see the value in composing some of those pieces they like to use for specific instances of their business. And so I think probably the biggest drag, you know, is in the enterprise. You know, I think composable purists maybe, you know, they want all of the software solutions to have a mentality, that any piece of them can be offered independently and with interconnectivity for other third parties, you know, and in that purest definition, any kind of software that doesn't commit to being fully accessible via API and really built on sort of a system of microservices isn't really sort of meeting that definition.

Aaron Conant 11:14

With that, that purest definition, like, how does that work in reality?

Jordan Brannon 11:21

Yeah, the answer probably varies greatly. You know, there's a lot of industry trade groups, you know, that are really pushing a positive narrative narrative around composable commerce, and headless solutioning. And that tends to make, I think, you know, more of the story positive perhaps, than the reality. And I think that's probably a bit of survivorship bias, you know, participants are building and experiencing sort of composable commerce or headless, aren't necessarily going to actively report on the sort of full experience of doing so. And so the loudest stories, and the ones that have money promoting them are usually going to be that positive one. And so, you know, if I was going to hazard a guess I'd say in two to three years times, a lot of the brands that sort of are jumping on composable solutions, in a more purest definition, are likely to walk that back and sort of view it as being a bit of a lackluster outcome. You know, I think over that time period,

Aaron Conant 12:18

really, like, there's a bunch of like, I don't know, pomp and circumstance around it right now, for the people that are jumping on. You think retrospectively, you know, there's a lot of investments going on here right now, you know, and how these brands are approaching it. The interesting anyways, I'd love to know why you say that? Because it seems like sometimes there's those big investments. And at the end, people are like, yes, it's amazing. You don't always get the true story.

Jordan Brannon 12:48

Yeah, I think early, I've always been a little bit of, you know, a devil's advocate eCommerce, that, you know, early on, when SAS was starting to gain traction, I was pretty loud about like, Hey, this is where things are going to go, you know, open source on prem are really kind of dying here. And they need to understand that SAS is the trendline. Yeah, I was been fairly critical for a long time of, you know, sort of the Shopify build, obviously very successful, but more sort of the the actual underlying platform. And again, I think a lot of their evolution, we've seen sort of follow some of those criticisms, and also has created space for for some of what we're seeing with this. So I think I have a bit of a habit of maybe landing on the negative, but specifically for composable, I think it was probably a few things that sort of come to mind. One, I think, again, that popularity and trend driven mindset. You know, a lot of what people are buying into is the marketing. And that's sort of where a lot of that conversation starts. And I think a lot of brands aren't necessarily going to be super happy and will want to maybe a do over based on how it was presented and represented to them. You know, I think there is still a lot of we, we know what we know, but we don't know what we don't know, in this particular space, especially as some of these new technology companies are really coming up. And that creates, I think, gaps and potential liability or risk. So it probably Secondly, I'd say that the more purely composable your approach, the more complicated your approach. You know, choosing the best of everything seems like a really good idea. But that also usually means there's more pieces, which in turn means there's less coherence and consistency. And so, you know, I think for organizations, especially in the enterprise that struggle with staffing and training and onboarding, that lack of consistency can mean increased costs and headaches and maintaining advancing and really utilizing a composable solution. You know, I think a really good test case that we don't necessarily see explored as we don't see departments within sort of these enterprise brands, really having an equal table stake, you know, in terms of the conversation of how this composable solution is put together. And that can create challenges. And so doing some sort of pseudo onboarding, for composable, you know, maybe a really good starting point to sort of evaluate whether you will have some regrets, you know, because other teams are struggling with the put together solution, then ultimately, that's going to probably be a drawback later on. And then I think, again, increasing complexity usually does inherently increase maintenance costs. And so even with the very best of these solutions, I think there's going to be additional time that's needed for upkeep and maintenance and housekeeping. And I think, you know, maybe finally, the decision to go composable, again, should be very multi department driven, and maybe kind of going back to that earlier point. You know, but it's often really siloed to a technical role or departments. And one of the big complaints we saw in sort of that on prem hosted licensed, you know, open source era was that everything was sort of tech driven. And, you know, people who are non technical and involved in eCommerce didn't love that at all. So

Aaron Conant 16:10

yeah, I mean, I guess that's a question that comes up a ton is, who do I need internally? How many developers do I need? What is the integration? What is the workload? And it these are all things? The question comes in remind others, if you have questions in this space, you know, feel free to drop them in the chat, any examples of headless or composable tech stack?

Jordan Brannon 16:29

Yeah, I mean, so again, it can vary quite a bit. But you know, sort of more approachable solutioning that we've done, we may be working with something like a Content Folder, content stack is sort of our front end, that could be tied back to an eCommerce solution, like a big commerce, commerce tool, certainly at the enterprise side of things as a fairly big input and impact, you can break out the actual checkout portion, or portions of your checkout to third parties. So again, if you're doing recurring billing, you know, perhaps you have some subscription model, you may have a separate checkout for that, you know, many of us are sort of familiar with some of the third party checkout solutions that had sort of a similar boom, and some of them have also gone bust over the last couple of years. In sort of that timeframe, you may have additional third party solutions that you're using for a CRM, you may have some that are you're using for ERP components, accounting, things like that. So that's sort of a model. There's a lot of different players, and many are emphasizing particular industries, in terms of who they're making that play for. So there's, there's probably a good range that you could narrow it on a little bit more, just depending on what vertical you're focused on.

Aaron Conant 17:46

Yeah. Awesome. Another one pops in here, which I'm sure you love. What's the effect on SEM?

Jordan Brannon 17:51

Yeah, that is a big one that we love to focus on. Again, we're perhaps most known for some of our eCommerce, SEO work? And the answer is it can be really good, or it can be very problematic. Depending on how that front end especially is built, you can run into a range of benefits or issues. So operationally, we we've had some launches that we've done with a, a front end where there's great site speed, the big emphasis for that front end is on the content experience in the content marketing. And so there's upside benefits. A really low hanging example is we've used WordPress as a front end for eCommerce businesses, and then use a stronger eCommerce back end like a big commerce or Shopify. And WordPress, of course, is well known for being a great content management solution, great for content marketing. And so we've had brands who have come to us who are b2b, and have used sort of a WordPress type experience to promote content to hopefully help drive brand interest to the retailers and through marketplaces. And they didn't want to give up on that, you know, post pandemic or during the pandemic. And so, we were able to use a headless approach, you know, again, something like a composable solution, where they're able to support that new eCommerce edition DTC, but still have all that great content marketing. So in that instance, again, can be really good for SEO, some of the front ends that we see in some of the JavaScript frameworks sort of native front end that are being built, again, solely for speed may not necessarily be as indexable by Google. So there can be problems there. We have one example client with 3 million something pages, and a lot of those pages are dynamically generated. They're having real problems with indexing and getting all of their content surfaced in Google, even though it has a viable reason there. So there can be some certainly some drawbacks, and that's really a big thing to evaluate is how important is SEO. That should have a big driving decision in terms of what you're doing for your site. On.

Aaron Conant 20:01

Awesome, love it and others, if you have questions, drop them in the chat there, we'll get them answered, you can drop into the q&a to will feel them there. I want to jump back to kind of one of the last things that you were pointing out, it was like, Where does it fall within the organization because you're, as you describe it, it's multi departmental, right, the interaction that needs to be there, and how it needs to be driven. But a lot of times, it's often siloed, maybe it's a resident expert, somebody who really understands it wants to champion it, then just thinking back to, you know, kind of a, you know, a post on on LinkedIn, you know, with another person that BWG, you know, connect network, you know, how, you know, sometimes composable seems to be sometimes a power grab within an organization. You know, that kind of fits in with your previous point? Yeah, love to hear some elaboration on that, because I don't think it's wrong, I think you get this champion, and then you can get on board, and you're the one that owns it knows it. And I'd love to hear the comments on it.

Jordan Brannon 21:02

Yeah. And I think it's probably comes a little bit out of my operations. Love, you know, frankly, I, you know, it's one of the things I love about, you know, doing what I do with Coalition is sort of the operations side of things. And it also I think, is very helpful for me in terms of that advisement on on what platforms and how to approach these technology solutions. But I think over the last several years, one of the interesting things that I'd seen happen, which really had not happened before, was that decision making seemed to sort of shift away from a technical role and more towards the marketing department, there's just so much growth happening so much money and opportunity happening. We saw marketers really becoming, you know, maybe not the actual final decision maker, but having a lot more space at the table to guide what's happening in eCommerce at all levels, small business or enterprise. And, you know, I think one of the advantages of someone we see in like, the SAS space, especially the Shopify as the big commerce is those sorts is that they're very marketer friendly, they, the tech stack is really intended to be very approachable. So some marketing folks can jump in and run an eCommerce Store or run most aspects of an eCommerce Store independently. composable commerce in a real big way, sort of validates the need for a CTO or that technical champion. And I think the timing with you know, marketing teams being a little bit of a losing streak with sort of the come down from the pandemic highs, and then iOS 14, and in all these different things that sort of piled on the marketing side, a lot of them are now looking for some new tool sets to hopefully help get them out of the weeds. And marketers are perhaps becoming a little more willing to cede to that technical role again. And I think for some that sort of results in the technical champion, looking for that shiny new object that ultimately validates their budget. And again, that may not always be the best thing, and I don't necessarily it's a reflective of really where eCommerce should be today. Yeah,

Aaron Conant 23:02

alright. Tea. That sounds like, I don't know, if you're skeptical. Is that like, is that accurate view? Is that accurate?

Jordan Brannon 23:13

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I, you know, I think that that sort of purist, composable commerce and headless 10s, solutioning sort of value proposition as the I am, I am skeptical for a lot of brands. And I think skepticism, though, is healthy, you know, you're making a large financial commitment for your company, you know, if you're that champion, who's sort of saying, Well, I'm going to make this push, you know, this could be a big financial commitment, you know, in eCommerce for the next three to five years. And it also, frankly, could be one that's influential and you keeping your job. So a little skepticism isn't necessarily a bad thing. And I certainly believe that composable commerce and headless implementations have a right reason and the right place to exist, where they really are as good as advertised. But I think a lot of times right now, I'm sort of pushing back a little bit against sort of the, this is the future, this is the way it all has to be. And I think ultimately, it's worth noting and thinking about that a lot of the problem solving we see happening from composable propositions is really geared towards addressing gaps in the monolith. And so there's nothing significant and a lot of ways that monoliths you know, have that would be a barrier for them making some improvements incrementally, and they have over time to solve some of these problems. And so again, I I kind of want to make sure that I'm creating a bit more of a balanced perspective, especially given I think some of the challenges that come with proposal.

Aaron Conant 24:41

So a quick question somebody sends in over email is around the fear of missing out FOMO Oh, yeah, it is. Everybody's getting bombarded with you know, wherever you go, any trade show now. If you're not on headless, you're losing out. No, I'm elaborating a little bit and the question this because I think a lot of people get that. No, it? Is it real? Or is it just a fear? Like? Because I mean, you you talk to somebody from, you know, straight headless platform? Yep, you are wrong if you're on a traditional model if you're wrong, and you're missing out in the entire world.

Jordan Brannon 25:21

Yep. Yeah, I think, you know, certainly the biggest thing is to understand what they're saying is their value. You know, for headless a lot of it we talked about is site speed site performance. That's sort of a big topic of conversation, there's the idea that you can create a better content and customer experience with a headless solution. My question is, why haven't you done both of those things with your current monolith? Is it is the reality that your current model is incapable of doing that? Or is it just the fact that you haven't been willing to make the investment on it? And in that instance, if that's your answers, well, yeah, that's we just have not pulled the trigger, we've talked about, you know, working on site speed, we've talked about working on this site experience, we haven't really done our due diligence with our current solution, the chances are, you can really dramatically sort of shrink the value of, of moving to headless where you are today. Now, again, there are very valid use cases where headless can be very powerful, but they're not common, they're more edge use cases, rather than sort of the mainstream bread and butter of, of eCommerce. And so I think that's to me, when you talk about that fear of missing out, what you're really afraid of, is the benefit. And so that's what you don't want to lose out on, you don't want to lose those extra conversion rate improvements, you don't want to lose that extra, you know, repeat order, you don't want to lose the the bigger order value. You know, and so, focus on those things first, with what you're doing today, you can take some of that edge off in terms of of Fear Of Missing Out and likely really sort of diminish, you know, what you would potentially gain by going to a completely new approach with headless or something along those lines.

Aaron Conant 27:06

Awesome. So I do choose to go down the headless path. I'm skeptical right now, if I choose that or not, like what is the breakdown? Between what makes a you know, it go? Well, right, the implementation go really well. And what's the ones that may, you know, you see people stubbed their toe quite a bit on?

Jordan Brannon 27:26

Yeah, I think that the big key is to be thinking about, you know, what aspects of a composable or headless solution really are going to benefit you. Which ones are going to provide value, which ones won't. There's a term in composable commerce, which you'll hear periodically, it's called package business capabilities, or PVCs. You know, one software platform can potentially have multiple PVCs package business capabilities that you can use all or some of. And so for a lot of us there is sort of a way today to kind of begin composing. You know, sometimes you also hear in composable, the phrase microservices, and that can get sort of interchangeably used depending on who you're talking to with PVCs. And I think the key differentiation I would make is sort of how complete the service offering is for businesses. So the micro service can be a PVC, if it's fully complete. PVC can be made of a bunch of microservices or just a single one. But the mock Lyons, which is a trade group, which is promoting sort of true, pure composable, in a sense that the goal of composable enterprise is one in which every component is pluggable, I think scalable, replaceable, and then can be, you know, kind of continually built upon through through agile development, and it got sort of their definition. And I think it's a little too narrow and counterproductive. And I think brands that sort of buy in on that holistically are going to probably be the ones who have a bit more regret. And I think for me, what we've seen as being important is composability really matters most in sort of your hubs, meaning the places in your business where most data flows from and to, if you can pin down where you have the greatest sort of exchanges of information, chances are you You found one of the places where composability would be highly valued. You know, I think ERPs, warehousing, fulfillment, accounting, CRMs, the shopping cart software, you know, those are all sort of kind of good examples of hubs for most of us. I think today, most ERPs are still really paying lip service to composability. That's sort of against their business fundamentally, you know, some other places like warehousing and fulfillment tend to be a little bit backwards as well. But I think if you look at sort of who's winning and composable implementations, it's, you know, in the CRMs, and in the cart software's they have ethos is that align well with sort of this modular solutioning even if maybe they haven't put the label of being composable solution on them. And I think sort of making a composable, or pseudo composable investment in any of those sorts of hub type areas, tends to pay off a lot more than maybe making the investments in an endpoint that they are connecting out to. Again, and it's not right for every business to need to be fully composable in every single area and every single component. Again, you just may see a diminishing return and a lot to have an increased cost if you try to be sort of fully composable. And so I think I'm gonna seek out sort of platforms, especially in those those hub spots, to reference HubSpot. But in those those specific areas where you see, you know, you need to have more in and out input and more interconnectivity, and you'll usually find that that investment really pays off.

Aaron Conant 30:50

So I mean, if I try to simplify a little bit, write these, the commitments to composable provide the biggest ROI on those areas that have the most touchpoints across your organization.

Jordan Brannon 31:06

Yeah, it's a really good way of putting it if a software solution is a one way in, and one way out sort of scenario for you composability isn't necessarily going to be providing as much value. You know, I would note that having a suite of software that in general is more accept as has more access available through API's is generally going to be a good thing. But the value of sort of increasing your commitment to composability diminishes, as you sort of get more out into the fringes of, you know, kind of your eCommerce ecosystem or stack.

Aaron Conant 31:40

So if we, if we pull up the like the ERP piece, you know, if I have an ERP, that's somewhat, and I run into this a lot, like people are on dated systems today. But you know, it's somewhat dated, you know, it's entrenched, rather limited flow of data. Is there still? Because I mean, that's just the hub? Is it still worth pursuing? composability? Or?

Jordan Brannon 32:03

No? Yeah, I mean, absolutely, I think one of the keys is to identifying kind of where you can have an alternative hub, you know, so if you are working with a very dated ERP, and you're sort of in that situation where it really wants to function like that one way in, and one way out, software solution I talked about is really sort of resistance to integration with something more modern, or maybe just your implementation of it is especially problematic. You know, I think, again, looking for that alternative hub, in sort of a composable solution can be a great middle ground. You know, big commerce, which, you know, I'm a fan of, is a member of the MOC Alliance, it's probably one of my favorite eCommerce platforms. And it can make a really solid hub standing, either directly or with some of its solutions partners. And it can leverage their their, they have this this phrasing they use called open SAS. And it sort of is this idea that you can be SAS and still have open source flexibility. And so you can look at using your eCommerce platform to take on some of the responsibility of the hub, a big commerce also bought feed anomic. And there's other sort of feed management tools out there, which can help sort of create that hub, and can be sort of very composable in terms of nature. So again, if you're sort of weighed down by your ERP all is not lost, you know, there's some hope for you. And I think maybe one thing that I would flag that does often trip up brands that are working towards a composable outcome is you introduce too many hubs. And so if you try to build every single bit of your software to grab every bit of data that's available to it, again, that can sometimes backfire. And again, can increase the complexity of a composable implementation. And again, sort of set it up for failure. So really have a good handle on, you know, where you need to be exchanging information and why and prioritize and that can often help you sort of make the right decisions here.

Aaron Conant 34:00

Yeah. Awesome. I have a few more questions that popped up. But I'm gonna save to the end just in brands or brand conglomerates that I'm talking to that keep adding on more brands, different ERP systems, is it a potential workaround there? That makes everything simpler? Anyways, we can say that's the end, because I want to there's a couple of things that popped to mind. I want to come back to that one. Just on the human side of things, right. You mentioned just earlier, you know, that, you know, the brands that have, I don't know, a more of a focus on that piece of it. You know, they're driving, that's been a driving factor behind whether or not they should pursue composability or not, I don't Yeah. I'd love to just draw that throughout. I mean, you kind of mumbled the question because I'm trying to like pull that piece out.

Jordan Brannon 34:49

Maybe if I'm, if I'm getting it, right, like one of the things that I like to come back to, in conversations with, you know, both our clients and our prospective clients is is sort of what you know, is the human side of the business. It's interesting, when you sort of look at how conversations go in eCommerce, we tend to talk about two things, we tend to talk about technology, we tend to talk about customers, and we forget that there is sort of this big middle ground of people sort of in the middle. And those people tend to sort of be really what drives most of the success. And technology is a tool for them that either enables them to be more successful or not, it's a tool that allows them to reach those customers. And so, you know, I would guess that in this call, there are probably a number of people who feel hampered by their tech backs. They may not feel like they're really being enabled that way. And it may not even be that the technology that was chosen is actually subpar or not as advertised, it could be that just organizationally, there's a lack of training, lack of documentation, a lack of expertise across departments, to sort of support, you know, what's necessary to really get the most value out of there. And so I think, to people who are making this consideration around composable, I think there really is a lot of value in assessing your organization and your maybe your team or department, if you're running this, how well you do and retaining talent and developing training and documentation. And then really sort of maintaining all of the above that assessment can go a long ways in helping to determine how far down that composable path you should go. If you're finding your organization is already deficient on all of those fronts, be a little more slow and tactical and how you approach the outcomes are composable, you know, be open to the possibility that the monolith that you currently kind of load could actually be maybe the writer, the writer, the better decision for you, and maybe look at some other again, alternatives to sort of expanding that and increasing the offering that you have there.

Aaron Conant 37:02

Yeah. So we're thinking, do you view then, you know, composable commerce on a spectrum? Not an all or nothing? Is that a is that a good way?

Jordan Brannon 37:14

Yeah, absolutely. I think some, some are sort of pushing for this fully composable commitment, and they sell on the basis of the capability of being fully composable. But that's really not something that, you know, I think a lot of software companies can make in terms of a commitment, I think it's also a place where even fewer businesses maybe should take on that full commitment. And if you get past sort of the marketing narrative, most brands will really find that they're already making some composable commitments in their organization today, and unlocking a few more spots, a few more degrees of value can really help them to carry things further. And so, you know, again, kind of going back to my earlier point, you know, composable, I think can be really value. And you can see big unlocking value in those hubs. And you don't necessarily have to be fully composable across the organization across your eCommerce implementations and Solutioning to really sort of see the value of that composable spectrum of approach.

Aaron Conant 38:15

So then, if we're on the more composable, you know, architectures spectrum here, like, Who is that best suited for?

Jordan Brannon 38:23

A good question. I think strong technology led organizations tend to be a great fit for a more pure or purely composable approach. And if you already have solid engineering in house, and they're capable of sort of crossing out of the technology team and technical sort of mindset, and they engage with marketing, they engage with customer experience, or engaging with merchandising composability can make a lot of sense. You know, some of the best case studies are going to ever see for composable commerce, especially that pure form are going to come out of companies like that. businesses that have a lot of complexity and channels, and how they're selling their product and delivering their product may find composability to be advantageous and their eCommerce suite. And so if you're selling through every major marketplace, you're selling through retailers, your first party and third party, if you're launching your own DTC sites, if you're international, if you have some b2b onboarding, again, composability becomes more and more valuable in that and the monolithic sort of approach becomes more and more problematic. And so again, I think always sort of keep in mind the places where you see the most value and composability and increment off that commitment from there.

Aaron Conant 39:47

You're on mute good sir. So, we had that earlier question come in, around, you know, examples of headless you know, composable tech stack. Another one How does headless or compact was WooCommerce impact the maintenance and management of the eCommerce platform?

Jordan Brannon 40:03

Yeah, that's a really good one. Um, that's really a good one to think about early to, the answer is going to vary a bit depending on the level of commitment that you're making. But But in general, the more composable your stack that you know, or even sort of the bigger headless commitments that you make, you're usually going to find that you're going to have some increased maintenance, and management costs, there's a lot of philosophy that's similar and composable, to what we had with open source. And if someone's been on an open source platform, they sort of know that there is, you know, a bit more of a self led maintenance and management sort of thing that needs to be happening. And so, in composable, we have, you know, the mock lions just sort of trying to help kind of coalesce some of these ideas and create somewhat of an organization for it. But a lot of these companies are software as a service, you know, so they're being paid for their software, specifically, they have some native support to some of the larger whales, you know, some of the larger software solutions that are out there, and they maybe are more robust in their support there, because they kind of have to be economically. But if your solution involves, which most of them will, you know, some smaller player in that space, you may find that your front end isn't as agreeable to, you know, maybe your your marketing solution or your CRM or some other thing that you'd prefer to be integrating to. And so, you know, I think, again, it's, it's one of those areas where you have to sort of plan to be able to kind of manage some of those connections and relationships on your own, and again, maybe be accepting of some limitations that may be happening. So you know, I think, again, kind of maybe summing it all up, you'll probably see some increased costs and management and maintenance, if you sort of move more from a monolithic approach to, you know, a more composable approach. But again, the goal is to have something that's going to pay off elsewhere.

Aaron Conant 41:55

Awesome, love it. Another question comes in without a dedicated team, how complex is it to move from a market tool? like Shopify to a composable? Environment?

Jordan Brannon 42:07

Yeah, and that's a really good, you know, good question. I think the first question would be, do you need to sort of move all the way? Or is it a part and parcel sort of thing? You know, so Shopify is, especially if you're a plus brand larger plus brand now has components. And it's sort of their way of maybe pushing back on on composability? Because they have sort of a business model objection to fully composable. But, you know, I think, depending on what you're looking to achieve, I would say, first, you really need to get rid of Shopify altogether? Or is there sort of a better opportunities at the checkout? That's the challenge is at the front end? That's the challenge. Is it just a specific function of the eCommerce Store? Because again, you can be composable within Shopify? So is it the search tool? Is it you know, the user generated content? You know, is it the customer account and how that's handled that sort of needs more composability? And so I'd begin that conversation there and sort of say, Where do I see you the value, a lot of times, you can avoid that big, I need a big team, or I need to have a third party like coalition, you know, on retainer, to sort of help support that, if you can, again, kind of pick those those pieces that are really built to work with Shopify. If you don't have the team, and you're looking at going to composable, I would really stress simplicity, that the more pieces you start to add on, you know, the more challenges that you'll find you're going to encounter. And that's really hard to do if it's if you don't have that technical support. So I would probably pump brakes pretty significantly in that sort of situation.

Aaron Conant 43:43

Awesome. Others, if you have questions, drop them in the chat or the q&a, we'll get to them. Next one, are there clear benefits on the marketing front for going with a headless or composable? Approach?

Jordan Brannon 43:53

Yeah, I think? I think There absolutely are. And there absolutely can be, you know, I think that the benefits can be a little bit more linear, for headless website implementations. But there's just a lot of value in general and composability. In eCommerce marketing, you know, for headless I think one of the biggest upsides is that most eCommerce platforms today are not great content management solutions. And so if you compare them to, again, even like a bread and butter, one like WordPress, and there's others out there today, you know, that are maybe more performance oriented in your particular category. Your typical eCommerce solution is going to be ho hum. And so giving a marketing team more control and timeliness over content and greater abilities to sort of personalize that content to different audiences, without losing the relationship to the eCommerce back end is really a powerful step forward. And as some of our best deployments in that space, you know, have kind of come through that example I used earlier, where we have some b2b brands it used to selling through marketplaces used to selling through retailers who have really done a good job of promoting them. ran in the product assortment direct to consumers through a content website, and have now sort of added on that eCommerce back end piece to sort of enable. And again, this is a headless or composable type implementation where they're beginning to sort of leverage, hey, we're already really good at content marketing, are gonna be strong here and strong in eCommerce. And so I think that's a really good use case, we've used headless in conjunction or, you know, composable approaches with, you know, sort of a primary eCommerce monolith, to do D to C. And we've done microsites and micro experiences for brands that are selling International, maybe to more diverse customer groups as part of a pay per click campaign, email and SMS initiatives, pop ups, brand partnerships. So that headless approach and compose would be really powerful when you're really looking at sort of a real diverse marketing campaign, and you have the ability to support it.

Aaron Conant 45:56

So another question is, if people are going through, and they need help with this evaluation, right, is do you guys step in and help out with that?

Jordan Brannon 46:05

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think I think one of the things that we do really well, is we really focus on the, again, we're big enough, you know, it's we have some scale. But we also been pretty fiercely agnostic to these approaches over the years. So that's taught us to sort of focus more on the business, rather than the eCommerce platforms we work with. Now, we do pick winners and all of that, you know, we try to make sure we have a, a, you know, we're working with eCommerce, you know, software solutions that are reliable and are going to be around in two years time. But ultimately, that sort of focus on back on a prospective clients business tends to allow us to guide that decision from the get go in the right way. We ask a lot of questions that are open handed and aren't sort of, you know, leading to the decision of composable are leading to the decision of headless and in some ways, again, we we have this culture of skepticism. And we try and make sure that there's enough pushback where necessary, and there's enough context setting where necessary, so So brands can make that decision wisely. Yeah. Awesome.

Aaron Conant 47:18

So in the scope of an eCommerce build, where do you see the most frequent value and composable commitments? Yeah,

Jordan Brannon 47:25

that's a great question. I think some brands are already sort of leveraging some of this. So some of these may not be too much of a surprise, I think, you know, one of the big areas where we're seeing a composable nines that provide a lot of value. And without necessarily having a huge cost would be in places like in the checkout itself, or in the shopping cart itself. You know, one of my philosophies has always been if you've gotten the customer all the way to the cart, or all the way to your checkout page, a little investment there to get them across the finish line is often going to be the most valuable, a lot of us spend a ton of time and money focusing on top of funnel. And we can double our numbers if we improve that cart or checkout experience, or the post purchase checkout experience, a post purchase order experience. And that's a big thing that a lot of people are looking for today. And so I would say focus on The Checkout. Again, some of your big eCommerce platforms today already allow for third party checkouts or allow for the introduction of third party technology into their checkout experience. And that's been really helpful. Shopify, again, one of our great partners, the platform we love has a little bit more of a ethos problem with that, especially for non large enterprise merchants because of shop pay, they really want money to transact through them. And so that there is some hesitancy there, again, outside of if you're, you know, kind of a larger plus merchant, to support some of that. But, you know, again, big commerce, we love it, a lot of merchants, you know, if they really get into this need for a third party checkout solution, for some reason, often that sort of can be a helpful distinction we we lean into, I think maybe outside of checkouts. Maybe that customer count area can be another great area for some composable commitments. Your typical eCommerce platform is sort of natively going to support single layer customer accounts, you know, Aaron has his own account tied to his own email I have my own account is tied to my email, you know, that doesn't necessarily flex, you know, what's happening for a lot of businesses and so, again, layering in some composable technologies or hat working with an eCommerce platform that is composable in that can allow for a lot of extra functionality where, you know, again, we can have relationships between different customer accounts, you know, some b2b accounting, especially where you have, you know, one person can put in a purchase order another person needs to approve it. You know, sales reps maybe need to be involved in some way. Again, composability, there can be really, really beneficial. I touched on this earlier, I think site search and navigation for a lot of eCommerce brands is an area where they could really improve, even Amazon, frankly, I get frustrated sometimes with their search experience. And again, some composability, there can be really helpful to you in terms of giving you some uplift towards a lot better outcome. Content Management, content marketing, again, great value add for a lot of brands, not a huge lift to get that implemented. Certain front ends can also, you know, play to that benefit of faster front ends, and a better site performance. And then again, I think maybe I kind of touched on this already. But you know, looking at how you can more deeply integrate a CRM type experience with your customer count experience can be really powerful in terms of again, increasing that lifetime value of a customer, you know, personalizing their, their marketing and their merchandising experience on their own site to

Aaron Conant 51:00

awesome, love it. And I'm just looking here, I don't have any more questions in the q&a or on the chat. But, again, Jordan, thanks so much. It's been awesome. I always learned so much every time we have you on here. You thanks for being such a great friend partner support of the network. anybody on the line today, if you want to, you know, understand more about the headless, the composable commerce space, if you're looking for anything in the digital space from replatforming, Shopify, big commerce, SEO, any of that the team of coalition is helping a ton of brands out and the network just come highly recommended across the board. You'll probably see him in person at any events at some of the events we're doing over the course of the year. But I'm more than happy to connect you with Jordan, the team over there, they're just fantastic people across the board. Any like, like last, like key things Jordan for? For everybody? I

Jordan Brannon 51:52

yeah, I mean, obviously, we'd love to have that chat and that communication, you know, so if they're just even if you want to kind of kick tires a little bit, I love to talk about this stuff. So, and my team does as well. So we'd love to have those conversations. Again, maybe the big points I would offer is, you know, think about composing your commerce on that spectrum. Don't sort of have to buy into this whole, you know, everything has to be composable. Everything has to be, you know, modular, doesn't necessarily play out for everyone. And again, there's opportunities to increment so if you're you do want to do toe in the water toe in the water is fine. And so we can help kind of explore what that would look like. Yeah, maybe that's it for us. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thanks again, Jordan,

Aaron Conant 52:33

for your time today. Thanks, sir. Everybody who dialed in. Thanks for all the great questions. So with that, we're gonna wrap it up. Take care, stay safe and look forward to having you at a future event. Thanks again, everybody. We'll see it. Thanks, Jordan.

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