Dries Buytaert

Dries Buytaert is the Founder, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, and Board Member of Acquia, a venture-backed software company offering products and services for Drupal, an open-source website-building platform he founded and leads. Honored as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, he has also been recognized as CTO of the Year by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and a Young Innovator by MIT Technology Review, among other recognitions. Before Acquia and Drupal, Dries was the CEO and Founder of Mollom, which Acquia acquired.


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In this episode…

With digital transformation becoming increasingly prevalent, composable architecture has gained traction in the eCommerce landscape. Yet there’s uncertainty surrounding this concept as organizations struggle to transition from monolithic systems to more flexible software. So what does composability entail, and how can you pivot and adapt to this solution to prepare for the digitally native future?

For Dries Buytaert, composable commerce is a philosophy involving an organization’s ability to acclimate to evolving business needs by incorporating various tech stack components into a comprehensive application. This requires evaluating multiple modules from assorted vendors, testing their synergy, and exchanging them to ensure your system remains agile. But composability extends beyond mere architecture to include no and low-code approaches, which entails unifying content, data, and team participation to create ubiquitous customer and business experiences. 

Aaron Conant sits down with Acquia’s Founder, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, and Board Member, Dries Buytaert, in this episode of The Digital Deep Dive to talk about composable commerce approaches. Dries explains how MACH (microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and headless) differs from composability, content management strategies for composable architecture, and how to adapt to composable commerce solutions. 

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With rapid advancements in consumer demands and eCommerce trends, businesses need to develop innovative and adaptable approaches to identify and solve use cases.

One effective solution companies can leverage to deploy digital transformation initiatives is composable commerce. This strategy enables organizations to select and integrate industry-leading technology into a custom application designed to optimize digital experiences.

So, what do you need to know about composable commerce, and how can you devise and implement a composable system to remain agile in today’s volatile digital landscape?

Technology Considerations for Composable Commerce

When selecting technology and software components to build composable architecture, it’s essential to outline your organization’s digital transformation journey. This requires formulating key business criteria to establish initial needs, deliver value, maximize ROI, and achieve your end goals.

Once you’ve determined a framework for your company’s transformational efforts, you can execute a phased integration approach that involves testing various components in increments to assess potential value, attain short-term ROI goals, and obtain crucial feedback, allowing you to refine and hone your strategy. As Michael Scholz says, by “starting with a holistic and comprehensive approach,” you can “start small and grow into a new platform.”

According to Jozef Stawarz, International Engineering Head at Alcon, companies must consider the constraints around platform integration. Composable commerce solutions involve multiple components, platforms, and technologies, so Jozef maintains that, unlike traditional systems where “you build an eCommerce system, pick a platform, and build within it,” companies need to “build around” their chosen platform to accommodate a multi-phased approach and complex systems.

Leveraging MACH to Enhance Composable Commerce Solutions

Integrating designated technology and software into a comprehensive architecture requires modern approaches to enhance performance.

According to Brian Gilmore, Director of Digital Engagement at EPAM, MACH (microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) enables businesses “to create a modern distributed architecture in the cloud that’s best-of-breed.” The infrastructure incorporates platforms and consolidates organizational capabilities seamlessly, allowing you to customize solutions to solve company requirements and individual use cases.

Additionally, each MACH platform is programmed to manage specific operational features, including product pricing and categories, order placement, user login and profile creation, and shopping cart optimization. MACH’s flexibility gives you the opportunity to exchange components, maximizing business adaptability and time-to-market.

Optimizing Composable Architecture To Improve the User Experience

A necessary requirement of composable commerce is enhancing customers’ shopping and purchase experiences. When optimizing composable systems for the consumer, Jake Athey, VP of Marketing and Sales at Acquia, notes that “ the eCommerce experience needs to be richer, more complete with that balance of objective and subjective information, and come across as a seamless, simple, and fast experience on any device.”

To accomplish this, Jake recommends adopting digital or hybrid shopping experiences and amplifying design and performance on digital platforms. When focusing on website design, it’s important to utilize clear visuals and comparison tools to emphasize product attributes. By combining design features with optimized performance, you can create a streamlined front-end user shopping experience.

There are many factors to consider when partnering with a new client or brand. Is the partnership aligned with your organization's best interests? How can you evaluate the best partnership? In what ways can you demonstrate your expertise using tangible data?

Can You Structure a New Partnership?

Like all things, a partnership between a client and a brand can wax and wane. Partnerships can have a time limit, but this is not necessarily a failure for a brand. Relationships change, the client needs change, or sometimes the client just wants a fresh look — but what spurs the desire for a client to establish a new partnership?

Brian Browning, the Vice President of Technology at Kin + Carta, notes that clients just want to be more hands-on.

He’s seen a trend forming with clients who want to take more control: they want to understand the technology and components that go into their product, rather than sign a contract and disappear.

According to Brian, “[Clients are saying], ‘teach me service design thinking. Show me how to do a development build of products in a way that leverages experimentation to better understand the customer.’” Ultimately, people are wanting to learn a better way to provide a better customer experience for the long haul.

What Can a Case Study do for You?

How can you showcase your organization’s knowledge to potential partners? In a study on what resonates most with new partners, results found that a case study is preferred by 90% of brands. Telling stories is an excellent way to translate your brand’s experience and knowledge in a way that powerfully connects with others. Plus, it’s a useful tool that organizations can leverage to showcase their knowledge with facts, not hearsay.

Justin Emond of Third and Grove prefers to see a case study when choosing a partner and presenting his organization to potential clients. Why?

“[It] shows me that you've done or you've solved a similar problem — and I have a greater level of confidence because I feel like this is now a lower risk situation,” says Justin.

How To Circumvent Partnership Roadblocks

When onboarding a new client, how can you avoid the common hazards of broken trust and communication? There are strategies brands can follow to avoid unnecessary conflicts, beginning by validating the partnership.

One way to do this when you’re starting a partnership is to create a team during the onboarding experience that will, as Piyush Poddar of Axelerant says, “add to the value” of your client experience. A new relationship can give your brand the opportunity to demonstrate what works, how the market responds, and show a tangible value of your products or services.

Establishing a partnership requires a considerable amount of time and attention, but being transparent and authentic can strengthen the relationship. Lynne Boudreau of Acquia works closely with clients and builds a solid base for their partnership doing exactly this.

“Communication, or the breakdown of communication, is always one of the biggest roadblocks that partnerships have,” Lynne clarifies. Maintaining transparency can help quickly resolve any issues that arise and maintain a strong relationship with your client.

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