Why is composability essential for a modern tech stack? And what are the key steps to successfully transition from a legacy (or monolithic) system to a composable (and microservices-based) model? Learn key best practices and the 7 migration steps to modernize your commerce tech stack to create unique customer experiences, reduce costs and accelerate time-to-value.
Today’s B2C brands face ever-evolving consumer expectations due to market conditions changing all the time. This means the pressure to provide best-in-class and omnichannel experiences is here to stay. However, many brands and retailers still rely on outdated monolithic systems for eCommerce, which are difficult to customize and update, as well as costly and inefficient. If your current tech ecosystem is unable to support your business objectives of today and tomorrow, it’s time to consider migrating to composable commerce.
As a flexible, scalable and agile architecture, combined with a best-of-breed approach, composable commerce allows companies to choose the components they need to build and run outstanding shopping experiences. While commercetools Composable Commerce for B2C provides brands and retailers with customizable commerce components like cart, order, product catalog and promotions, you can further tailor your tech stack with best-of-breed vendors for CMS systems, search, shipping services and more.
How to migrate to composable commerce
A great aspect of migrating to a composable commerce platform is that you can do it at your own pace. Because a composable architecture is microservice-based, you have the option to break the monolith into smaller functions (like checkout or shopping cart) and incrementally replace those with single components. This phased migration approach, also known as the strangler pattern, enables you to experiment with components and switch them in and out step by step, as well as minimizing disruptions and mitigating risks.
Here’s another perk: You can avoid disrupting your business with a “big bang” approach. No longer must you work for months and switch to a new platform overnight. The benefits? You avoid causing tons of stress for your team and potentially running into downtime or a complete crash. Plus, you don’t have to wait for a “switch day” to reap the benefits as, with a phased approach, you can accelerate time-to-value.
However, while we usually recommend the strangler pattern when replatforming to a composable architecture, the big bang approach may be beneficial when migrating from notoriously difficult systems to break down into smaller pieces. If your company falls into this case, we recommend building everything from scratch and then proceeding with the switchover.
So, what’s the best approach for your business? It’s entirely up to you. Consider how easily your current system can be broken down into smaller components, how experienced your team is with microservices and whether it makes sense to create a proof-of-concept (POC) and pilot it with a subset of your buying journey. Answering these questions will help you define what’s the migration process that fits the needs of your business.
7 migration steps to composable commerce
While there is no set-in-stone process across all existing applications — third-party or homegrown — to commercetools, we provide a guideline to help you organize and streamline the cadence of your project. Now, let’s explore how to plan a migration from a monolithic platform to commercetools Composable Commerce for B2C.
First, take stock of what your current solution offers, the functionalities it enables, the user stories it supports and the processes running behind the scenes. Then, set priorities and edge cases, and decide what can be migrated immediately and what can wait — or be dropped altogether. After this initial discovery analysis, we recommend the following:
Define your vision: Review your priority list and add your vision. Where does it fall short? How could it better support the needs of your business or your customers?
Audit and eliminate feature bloat. Create a list of all processes, features and use cases, and find out what features are unused (or underused) that can be cut from the solution altogether.
Gap assessment. Determine gaps and determine what is 100% critical and/or urgent.
Prioritize. Set priorities and edge cases, and decide what can be migrated immediately and what can wait — or dropped.
Compare features. Hold your prioritized list against the features provided by commercetools. Identify the items where you can achieve your “ideal” state with the components we offer as standard. What’s left are your “gaps,” so you’ll need to decide how to address each individually. For some, buying the functionality from a third party is the best approach, while others must be custom-built in-house or outsourced.
After completing the discovery phase and envisioning the desired state of your business, the next crucial step is to craft a comprehensive plan and roadmap to bring this vision to life. For this, we recommend applying an incremental innovation strategy: A gradual and iterative improvement or advancement of existing products to enhance efficiency and functionality and/or address business issues. These are the three top areas as a baseline for your roadmap (not necessarily in this order):
Data migration and modeling: Reassess and redesign your business setup, discarding what doesn't add value and creating a flexible environment that supports your goals now and in the future. Start planning the migration of your critical data from other systems to the commercetools platform.
Best-of-breed ecosystem: Include all the custom extensions which need to be built or integrated via third-party services.
UI/UX: Because commercetools Composable Commerce is a headless backend solution, you can connect the frontend(s) of your choice and build customized customer experiences.
Regardless of whether your migration starts with your product catalog/PIM, checkout or an alternative route, migrating your data comes first. Follow three steps:
Identify the data you intend to migrate. Primary data types include product order and customer data. It may also encompass category taxonomy, graphical and multimedia, as well as marketing content that flesh out the customer experience.
Clean up your data prior to loading it into a new system. Make sure that the data you don’t need is discarded.
Export/import. Export product data from your monolithic platform and import it into commercetools leveraging an out-of-the-box framework, such as import-API and java-sync, or build a custom migration process.
commercetools is based on a schemaless database logic, allowing for real-time updates to its structure, so you can change the data model in real-time using the Merchant Center or directly on the API level. When beginning a project, consider which aspects of your products will map to Product Types, Products, Product Attributes and Product Variants.
With the API-based solution by commercetools, you can extend your APIs to behave according to your specifications. Consider these two main approaches:
API extensions: Inject additional logic into the server-side processing. Let’s say you need to validate the maximum quantity of an item a customer can purchase or inventory in an OMS (order management system). This needs to be validated before an order is placed. Both of these cases are handled with API extensions.
Microservices: Write a microservice wrapper on top of your APIs. If you want to provide an API response in a specific format, expose new endpoints with a wrapper, which makes a single call to commercetools or multiple calls if complex datasets are needed. You can also combine the response of commercetools with another system.
While our composable commerce offers a robust selection of tools, it’s likely you may want to extend and/or customize some of its functionality. With the Merchant Center, marketers and business users can alter workflows, modify editors, embed integrations/customizations and more to run commerce experiences smoothly.
After migrating the data and your first applications to a composable architecture, you can start completing your best-of-breed ecosystem. Since you have defined and prioritized all custom extensions to create a cohesive commerce infrastructure, you may include an ERP system, order management, personalization engine, CMS and so on.
Since commercetools Composable Commerce is a microservices-based and API-first platform, you can integrate the components you need, whether they’re built in-house, sourced from best-of-breed vendors or a mix of both.
It’s time to integrate the user experience layer (frontend) into your composable architecture. A composable frontend, or a frontend-as-a-service, gives brands the ability and flexibility to develop individualized frontends from scratch without running into time-intensive projects.
The main advantage when using the native headless commercetools Frontend is the seamless integration and communication between frontend and backend. With commercetools Composable Commerce and Frontend, you can sync and orchestrate the data exchange between multiple frontends and backends without missing a beat.
Nonetheless, with commercetools, you have the ultimate freedom and flexibility to choose one or a combination of the frontend approaches. For an up-to-date list of frontend and CMS vendors with productized integrations to commercetools, explore our Integration Marketplace.
To avoid system crashes or data loss, prevent errors or corruption of data, and refine overall system performance and reduce downtime, ensure that testing is part of your migration process. Develop a testing plan and use tools such as load testing software, performance monitoring, etc., to make sure everything works without issues.
Once each component is deployed, keep track of performance metrics such as page load time, server response time and transaction processing time, so you can identify areas that could be optimized. Real-time monitoring tools will help you identify issues like system crashes or slow page load times. In addition, analyze data like customer behavior, product performance and sales data to identify trends and patterns that could be used to optimize performance.
It’s time to migrate to commercetools
The migration process with a composable stack opens up multiple opportunities to consolidate and streamline your commerce operations with a solution that is future-proof, flexible and scalable. Along with the freedom to experiment, you have the foundation to innovate continually and grow your business, such as:
Electronics manufacturer Bang & Olufsen increased the D2C conversion rate by 60%.
Fashion brand Express handled 3x the traffic on Black Friday without a hitch and added five significant capabilities to their digital experience in three months.
Automaker Audi implemented in-car commerce across 1 million vehicles in 30 markets.
Denmark’s largest retailer, Sailing Group, reduced operating costs by 75%.
If migrating to composable commerce with commercetools is the right approach for your business, you’re on the right track to future-proof your commerce architecture — and never have to replatform again!