Headless commerce: how microservices architecture unites content and ecommerce - Digital Platforms and MACH Architecture with Andrew Kumar

Customers expect fresh, unique and entertaining digital experiences now more than ever before. They’re looking for interesting ways of engaging with brands, such as subscription services, monthly boxes, contextual and relevant product offers and flexible payment terms. These evolving demands require ecommerce brands to increase their digital capabilities.

Many digital teams lack the flexibility and agility needed to deliver these experiences to customers, because they rely on legacy systems that are bound to old ways of doing commerce. These monolithic systems are often rebranded as “hybrid solutions” — without addressing the underlying challenges of operating like a digital titanic.

That’s why a growing number of companies are adopting a composable approach to ecommerce. Implementing a microservices architecture enables teams to build digital products, applications and experiences faster by offering flexible, modular capabilities — such as offers, cart, products, checkout and account — that can be assembled, to meet the needs of a particular commerce experience, whether on a website, web application, mobile application, in-store kiosk or MR/XR/AR/VR.

Partnering to simplify and accelerate ecommerce innovation

Today, Elastic Path, a leading provider of ecommerce software for brands using a composable approach to commerce, announced a new strategic partnership with Contentful and the availability of a pre-built integration that accelerates ecommerce innovation. With this integration, ecommerce brands can easily iterate on experiences, functionalities and campaigns that drive cart starts, conversion rate, basket size and, ultimately, sales. 

One of the most important benefits of a composable architecture is the ability to use Contentful to deliver content into these flexible and omnichannel ecommerce experiences. Many of the factors influencing ecommerce key performance indicators are content-heavy, such as:

  • Brand information

  • Lifestyle images and rich media

  • Product description including benefits

  • FAQs and support

  • Product specifications and price

Using a MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless) approach enables a richer composition of content and product information that maximizes customer outcomes — such as finding, selecting and purchasing in a fast and seamless manner — while adding value to brands with increased sales as well as lower support and case-management costs.

Illustration of people working surrounded by text "Deploying an architecture of microservices allows digital builders to create applications that will propel the future of digital commerce" on the left and "Connect industry-leading tools using Contentful to stabilize and integrate to build flexible ecommerce experineces" on the right.

API-first tools can ensure capabilities ready for the future

Ecommerce brands employ multiple tools and technologies on a daily basis to produce digital experiences. From content creation and management to sales and analytics, APIs are vital — they make it possible for applications and services to seamlessly interact and integrate without having to tightly couple this information with the front-end presentation. That saves on operational overhead and maintenance. 

Digital builders can use APIs and API-first tools to have ultimate flexibility, curating their own modern tech stack of integrated solutions to create highly customizable content experiences for their customers. In order for a brand to achieve digital maturity, there must be an understanding that a good commerce solution for content doesn’t stand alone and is only made possible by open APIs. Gartner Research has been taking this concept to the next level with Packaged Business Capabilities. Here is our take on the concept.

Graphic by Gratner, describing packaged business capabilities

Ultimately, using APIs and API-first tools ensures that investments in ecommerce capabilities today can propel current and emerging customer-experience touchpoints like MR/XR/AR/VR.

A shift from technical operations to innovation and disruption

These businesses don’t have time to worry about managed services, on-premise infrastructure, servers, elastic scaling, updates, patches, security notices and rapid remediation at scale. Enter the C in MACH: cloud. Using SaaS providers removes all of these foundational, non-value-add headaches, enabling builder teams to focus their time and energy on initiatives that add value to customers and the business.

The MACH Alliance offers great examples. We see commerce brands implementing and succeeding with this approach on a daily basis. For example, during the MACHathon we sponsored in January, one of the many successful projects we saw was the GraphCatalog, which combines commerce and content with GraphQL. 

By combining the GraphQL gateway API with a basic web client, a MACHathon team was able to easily produce a product catalog that had multiple services on the backend and could deliver content to multiple clients on the front end. With this tool, the images for the catalog were sourced from a headless CMS for flexibility, and the product and pricing data was sourced from Ordercloud. This entire solution was pieced together in days — not years, as is so typical with the traditional monolithic/hybrid solutioning world.  

To remain competitive and thrive in this new digital-first world, businesses need teams of builders to have a practice of innovation. But innovation, adaptability, agility and success are benefits that cannot be bought. That’s why a MACH approach is so important, versus simply buying a solution or product: It’s simply the best way for commerce brands to innovate and ensure a builder culture in their organizations.

Learn more about how Contentful supports microservices architecture.

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