Why the 3 mythical benefits of the homegrown approach don’t stack up against the magical value composable commerce delivers

Why the 3 mythical benefits of homegrown can’t compare to the magical value of composable commerce

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools
Published 03 March 2023
Estimated reading time minutes

Most explanations business leaders give for deciding to take a homegrown approach to build their commerce tech stack are, at best, dismissible. While there may have, at one time, been a grain of truth to some of them  — now that the composable commerce approach has emerged to provide a better alternative, no gray area exists anymore.

All you have to do is talk to your peers, seek out guidance from industry thought leaders or consult analyst reports to gain insights that easily refute any misconceptions you might have. So, that’s exactly what we did. Here are three of the most common misconceptions brands have about the homegrown approach along with the true story of why composable commerce is driving the future of commerce. We even offer up “reasons to believe” from brands that have been there.

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Why the 3 mythical benefits of the homegrown approach don’t stack up against the magical value composable commerce delivers

The #1 myth about homegrown replatforms “If we want to truly control our commerce experience, we have to build it in-house.”

When a merchant makes the strategic decision to go homegrown, it’s typically fueled by a desire to have total control. Many leaders believe that building their tech stack from the ground up based on their knowledge of their brand and their strategic vision is the only way to gain full control over the customer experience and, thus, the destiny of their business. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. What actually happens is once they boldly embark on their homegrown replatforming, they become the only ones guiding that destiny. And the thing is — it’s a long, difficult, expensive journey. They won’t discover just how many developers it requires, how much testing is necessary or how much ongoing maintenance will be required until they’re knee-deep in it. 

Here’s the deal: Say you hire all these folks — developers, architects, engineers — and go to the board and say, Give me 100 million USD and I will build everything from scratch and make us the next Amazon.” Once it’s built (if it actually gets built) and goes live, those people who were supporting it disappear. Maintaining the system, day after day, year after year, becomes somebody else's problem  — most probably yours — to deal with for the next 10 or 20 years.

In the end, while you may gain control, having a homegrown tech stack doesn’t really deliver any additional benefits at all. In fact, it handicaps your business.

Myth #2 “There’s no vendor out there that can provide the best-in-class commoditized commerce components we need at scale.”

While this may have been true for a long time, it’s not anymore. The introduction of MACH™ architecture and SaaS-based business models gave rise to the birth of composable commerce. At the core of this new approach to building a tech stack are startup companies that focus on delivering one commerce capability — search, cart, payments, etc. —and doing it extremely well. All you have to do is explore the Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Digital Commerce or the Forrester Wave™ for confirmation there are now many best-in-class vendors out there providing the solutions merchants need today. 

The concept behind composable commerce is that by “buying” existing best-in-class core components from this new breed of vendors enables you to get your modern commerce solution up and running faster, so you can start recognizing ROI more quickly. This frees up your time and resources to focus on “building” features that can heighten the customer experience and differentiate you from the competition.

#3 “The only way to be the next Amazon is to act like Amazon.”

If you do the same things Amazon or Walmart does, then your business will suddenly, magically, be able to compete on the same scale. Nope, not going to happen. There are many, many companies that have gone down that path and failed. Plus, you have to consider the fact that today even Amazon is struggling to keep up with the continual evolution of commerce. 

Doug Stephens, the futurist and bestselling author ofResurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World” recently told Retail Dive, “Not only has the retail world closed the gap with Amazon, but the very nature of eCommerce has also fundamentally changed. Increasingly, retail is not something that resides on static, boring, search-driven websites (like Amazon.com). It now lives inside interesting, entertaining and engaging content and communities of interest. All things Amazon has never been very good at developing.”

The truth: Composable commerce can (and will) exceed your expectations

In a world powered by MACH architecture, there’s no reason you can’t have total control while side-stepping the fundamental build process. Buying your core components doesn’t hinder your ability to control your commerce experience. On the contrary, it gives you more freedom. 

Here are 5 real benefits of composable commerce. (There are more but these are key):

  1. You don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. Each API-first component fits into the others seamlessly like LEGO® blocks, giving you the ability to "compose" a solution that fits your exact vision.

  2. You don’t actually have to "buy" anything. With SaaS solutions, it’s more like renting — and if you’re not happy with the product or service, you can swap it out and replace it at any time. 

  3. You only pay for the services you actually use. No longer are you stuck with paying for a giant monolithic platform that provides everything you need plus a bunch of things you don’t.

  4. You never have to stress out over server capacity again. Instead, your cloud-native stack delivers auto-scaling capabilities that adapt to seasonal spikes and strategic growth initiatives. Plus, updates magically happen automatically!

  5. You get an agnostic environment that allows you to make modifications and updates and experiment with custom features at any time with minimal risk. Even non-technical teams can launch initiatives without involving IT.

Brands praise the business benefits composable commerce delivers.

I come from an older world —the monolithic eCommerce platform world — where essentially most of the decisions are made for you. In a composable world, you have a ton of autonomy at a very granular level. And, that can be exciting, but it's also challenging because you can make a lot of right decisions and you can make a lot of wrong decisions. So, with great power comes great responsibility — this is a perfect example. You have a lot of control, but if you try and that works, great. And, if it doesn’t, you learn some from your mistakes.
Alex Schiferman

Chief Technology Officer, nuts.com

The ability to not just slightly adjust the direction but completely change the direction…is a critical part of our business. That’s why we embraced the approach of composable architecture — one day we don’t know we want a referral program, [and] the next day our marketing team wants it. If we can just plug it in easily, obviously that’s a big win. That was and still is the philosophy behind the business.
Andrei Rebrov

Chief Technology Officer, Scentbird

As we dove deep into what the business benefits would be if we went the route of composable commerce, we knew we would be able to deliver a much more differentiated commerce experience that really stood out. We didn't want to just be the next Shopify store or the next Commerce Cloud store. We really wanted to be able to offer a unique brand experience, not only with M&Ms but across the Mars umbrella.
Kyle Barz

Global Direct to Consumer Product Owner, Mars Wrigley

Ready to get started with homegrown migration? Check out our guide and learn the steps to a successful strangler approach. Make the move today and start your own journey. Looking for help along the way? Get in touch with us, we'd love to hear from you.

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools

Anita J. Temple is the Corporate Journalist at commercetools. She was a fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and W Magazine before launching a career as a freelance writer and creative producer. She has written content and worked on a wide range of marketing projects for companies including Dreamworks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Adidas.

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