The rising importance of APIs for Developer Experience — and how it’s shaping composable commerce

The rising importance of APIs for Developer Experience — and how it’s shaping composable commerce

Simone Smyth
Simone Smyth
Head of Product for Experience and Extensibility, commercetools
Anjali Vashisth
Anjali Vashisth
DX Lead and Product Manager, commercetools
Published 05 October 2023
Estimated reading time minutes

Never before has Developer Experience been so critical to business leaders. After all, it’s through a streamlined DevX that a company can innovate at speed, positively impacting the bottom line. And, at the heart of enhancing developer experiences, lies an API-centric approach. In this article, we showcase the connections between making your developers happy and the rise of API-centric architectures. Tech leaders from renowned businesses, including, Zoro and Treedom, illustrate this connection. 

The rising importance of APIs for Developer Experience — and how it’s shaping composable commerce

Among the emerging trends forecasted by Gartner to gain momentum in the coming years is Developer Experience. This spotlight on DevX (or DX) arises as the connection between developers' productivity and business ROI becomes increasingly evident. A recent Gartner survey shed light on this shift, with 58% of software engineering leaders emphasizing how critical developer experience has become for their organization’s C-suite as the way to innovate at scale. 

Developer experience, much like User Experience (UX), is everything related to how tech folks interact and feel while coding, collaborating and innovating within your company. It’s a mix of factors including the ease of use of APIs and SDKs, how efficient development workflows are, the quality of documentation, and the balance between value-adding tasks (aka, innovation) and daily operations (aka, bug fixes and technical debt management). 

What about the role of APIs for developers? As it turns out, APIs hold considerable sway in DevX as organizations continue to pivot to cloud-native, modular and API-centric application architectures. In fact, 2023 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies states that “API-centric SaaS, a cloud application service designed with programmatic request/reply or event-based interfaces (APIs) as the primary methods of access” is one of the critical technologies to boost developer experiences.    

The digital commerce landscape is marching in the same direction, with “composable API-first and API-only” as the mantra for new eCommerce SaaS. Gartner’s 2023 Hype Cycle for Digital Commerce echoes how APIs have become the fabric of modern communication, especially as businesses move away from inflexible monolithic platforms. 

As 70% of developers expect to increase API usage, it’s clear that the API economy will continue booming in 2023 and beyond. And that’s hardly surprising, given the fact that APIs are today’s lifeblood of composable systems and are becoming more pervasive in digital commerce (and many other technologies previously dominated by legacy platforms). Furthermore, the same research revealed a surge in the use of third-party and partner-facing APIs, which signifies a great step toward a composable future.    

How APIs enable a composable architecture

The essence of composable architecture lies in deconstructing intricate business systems into bite-sized, independent components (say, search, product catalog or payments) that can be seamlessly integrated via APIs. Together, multiple APIs can create powerful digital solutions that are easily accessible for developers to plug in and even customize according to their needs. 

That said, APIs are a crucial element of a composable environment: It’s through APIs that it’s possible to easily add or replace components without developers having to worry about breaking the entire system. 

For developers exploring how to implement specific components into their tech stack, they can integrate best-of-breed APIs without having to build that functionality from scratch. Not only does this help developers implement new features faster but also focuses on the core functionality where a unique approach is needed. 

Software vendors like exposing their functionality and data as APIs because it allows outside developers to wire functionality and data into their applications in pieces. Rather than a large one-size-fits-all software package that must be entirely adopted and then customized, an API-based approach allows for developers to consume smaller, more granular pieces of functionality from specialized ‘best-of-breed’ vendors. This strategy is how the public cloud vendors have changed the face of IT.
Kelly Goetsch

Chief Strategy Officer, commercetools

All in all, the trifecta of composable architectures, APIs and developer experiences are deeply intertwined, providing the ideal environment for high developer productivity and satisfaction, innovation at speed, and higher ROI for your business. 

Developer-friendly experiences with commercetools API-based platform

From 500+ commerce-specific APIs to the ability to customize data models, commercetools composable commerce platform provides a developer-friendly environment for tech teams to shine. 

1. Well-designed APIs with comprehensive documentation   

Over 500 predefined APIs with comprehensive documentation are the foundation for an amazing developer experience working with a composable technology stack. Our APIs are well-designed, open and extensible, so developers can tailor functionalities with ease. A wide range of SDKs and tools also accelerate integration and delivery. 

This commitment to a developer-friendly environment translates into innovation and ROI, which is what flaconi, an online beauty retailer, experienced. With commercetools APIs, the company is now able to add new functions and shops, run A/B testing, and try out new models whenever necessary. Developers can tap into well-documented APIs with ease to create and adapt new features. 

What convinced us at commercetools is the fast time-to-market for new features and products that the platform makes possible, the flexible backend, and the scalability. Our developers like to work with it, and its performance and well-developed APIs impress them.
Sven Rosemann

Director Technology, flaconi

2. Extending the behavior of an API with custom business logic

As mentioned a few lines above, extensibility is one of the cornerstones of commercetools Composable Commerce APIs. A great example is, a B2B industrial supplies company, which leveraged Custom Objects to extend commercetools functionality and allow Net 30 customers to look at their invoices and pay them.

Another example is Mission Linen Supply, the leading B2B provider of linen rentals and uniforms. The company underwent a digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic with commercetools for a website that has limitless possibilities for channel expansion, product catalog and engaging customer experiences. These achievements were only possible with the ability to customize commercetools’ APIs to their needs. 

The headless approach — in my opinion — is the only approach companies should be looking at today. We were ahead of the curve in using APIs and headless. commercetools has really helped our development team because they can see how we built our APIs, and can then model their own custom APIs off of what commercetools does.
Dave Pattison

CIO and Vice President Information Technology, Mission Linen Supply

Developers can use Custom Types and Product Types to customize data models. Other options include Subscriptions to execute behavior within a short timeframe or API Extensions to execute behavior before the API call succeeds. 

3. Experimentation, the ability to “fail fast” and innovation 

APIs are the perfect mechanism for experimentation as, essentially, developers can integrate new functionality and measure customer response and success, and without disrupting business operations. 

For instance, the wholesale manufacturer and distributor of baked goods, Dawn Foods, unlocked the flexibility of APIs to try out the feasibility of conversational commerce. Even if the experiment shows that the buyers aren’t interested in conversing on Instagram and other similar platforms, the company was able to make a prototype, bring it to market, test it and, based on concrete data, decide if the approach works for the company and should be continued. 

And there lies the bedrock of innovation: “Failing fast” (constantly experimenting, plugging what works and unplugging what doesn’t) helps fast-growing companies respond faster to market opportunities — all the while giving developers the opportunity to learn and grow. 

To further support experimentation using commercetools Composable Commerce, we have a TypeScript SDK template to test code and features without affecting a production environment, empowering developers to try out new ideas with confidence. 

4. Leveraging GraphQL 

The API-first commercetools platform comes with full GraphQL coverage. Unlike traditional REST APIs, GraphQL enables developers to specify exactly what data they need, reducing the over-fetching and under-fetching of data in your API. A digital commerce platform that provides GraphQL capabilities enhances developer experiences because it’s straightforward to add new types and fields to an API, helping developers design, develop and deploy features quickly.

A multitude of commercetools customers have embraced GraphQL, such as Treedom, a platform that allows anyone to plant trees around the world. The company leveraged commercetools’ flexibility and extensibility to customize the platform to its specific requirements while integrating its existing GraphQL backend and React frontend seamlessly to create a unified and tailored eCommerce experience.

5. Tech-agnostic approach 

The API-based platform commercetools champions wouldn’t be complete without a tech-agnostic approach. Developers aren’t required to code in specific programming languages or be certified in proprietary technologies with commercetools. This freedom of engineering opens the doors for tech teams to pick the tools that best suit their needs and what makes them more productive. The result: Working with modern technologies is a significant factor in hiring and retaining talent. 

Such a flexible and agile environment of composable is a magnet for developers and engineers who want to stay at the forefront of technology and build up their careers. For Alex Shiferman, CTO at, this is a must-have:

If you wanna retain your team and make them happy and make them excited to come to work every day, find a platform that’s developer-friendly. It's not often talked about but I think it's pretty critical.
Alex Shiferman


Making developer experiences even easier

At commercetools, we’re proud to work with developers and engineers to reimagine digital commerce experiences. At the core of the developer experiences is our API-first, composable platform, but there’s a lot more we offer:

commercetools Connect

Developers can harness an arsenal of ready-to-use, low-code connectors to reduce integration efforts by 60% with commercetools Connect. With pre-built integrations with Fluent Commerce, Voucherify, Marketplacer, Talon.One and more, developers can accelerate deployment big time. What’s also a great benefit for tech folks is how this solution adapts to business needs: Developers can opt for pre-built and no-code integrators that can be leveraged instantly to custom integrators that fit unique environments — and still can be deployed in a matter of days/weeks.  

API orchestration layer

An API orchestration layer is a central hub that connects to APIs and backend systems, orchestrating them toward all channels via one unified API. It acts as an intermediary between the different channels, enabling the synchronization of data, content, processes and actions across channels, making the flow of information and interactions seamless. At commercetools, you can achieve this level of orchestration with commercetools Frontend via its API Hub. With such a hub, developers can design the workflows and add the business logic, so the APIs are programmed to communicate with one another according to different scenarios and customer engagement journeys. 

Store Launchpad for B2C

Store Launchpad for B2C is a set of frontend components and integrations built to showcase the features and functionality of commercetools Composable Commerce and commercetools Frontend. The Store Launchpad for B2C provides everything out-of-the-box to help retailers launch a new frontend quickly and acts as an accelerator by providing documentation, tutorials and best practices to reduce development efforts. Developers can even copy Store Launchpad for B2C code to reduce implementation time. 

Free trial 

Signing up for our 60-day free trial gives developers a taste of what they can build with commercetools without risk. Our complete API catalog, as well as business tools, are available free of charge. You can build a fully functional proof of concept and even an MVP (minimum viable product) during this period. The Getting Started Guide is a great resource to tap into.  

After the trial, all your project data is securely stored in the Merchant Center, our business tooling, so you can start with commercetools as soon as you’re ready. 

Leveraging the power of commercetools composable commerce platform is a game-changer for business and technology leaders to achieve great results without the complexity of legacy platforms. We continue to leverage and grow our commitment to the developer community with great APIs, designed to simplify their tasks, enhance their work and infuse it with innovation. 

For developers eager to explore modern tech with commercetools and become part of our growing community, sign up for the 60-day free trial and discover a developer-friendly environment to experiment, innovate and grow. 

Simone Smyth
Simone Smyth
Head of Product for Experience and Extensibility, commercetools

Simone Smyth is the Head of Product for commercetools’ Experience & Extensibility. With nearly twenty years of working in experience and design, her focus is on delivering next-level experiences for developers and users alike.

Anjali Vashisth
Anjali Vashisth
DX Lead and Product Manager, commercetools

Anjali Vashisth is the team lead of Developer Experience in commercetools. With over a decade of experience in software development before moving to Product Development, she brings real value to enhance developer's experience and focuses on handling their pain points.

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