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What is composable commerce and why does it matter?

Michal Wlosik

The competitive frontier in eCommerce is steadily moving towards flexibility and scalability. Modern composable platforms are gaining the lead because they better support the needs of modern, global eCommerce stores. Many of the legacy monolithic systems that once drove the eCommerce revolution no longer cut the mustard – they are often cumbersome, inflexible, and expensive to develop. 

We’ve been witnessing the explosive growth of composable commerce architecture in recent years. However, composable is no longer a fancy trend, but rather a necessity for ambitious brands. 

What is composable, and what made it the leading development paradigm in eCommerce? What are the advantages of building a best-of-breed technology stack? Jump right in to find out.

Section titled The future of eCommerce is composable The future of eCommerce is composable

Composable commerce is booming. Gartner predicts that organizations adopting the composable approach will be able to implement new features 80% faster than their competitors using suites or building their platforms from scratch.

As competition in eCommerce grows fiercer, brands and retailers are on the lookout for new ways to offer a better experience to their users. Modern shoppers want faster sites, custom-designed shopping experiences, and payment and delivery options they know and love. Stores are expected to offer seamless omnichannel shopping journeys that span multiple devices and customer touchpoints.

The growth of omnichannel and very specific needs of international eCommerce stores are encouraging integration and solution partners to push the envelope and innovate. For many of them, composable architecture is just a more efficient way to handle a myriad of integrations. It enables the development of pixel-perfect, on-brand eCommerce stores that sell products to customers globally – across all touchpoints.

Section titled What is composable commerce? What is composable commerce?

In a nutshell, composable architecture means that every component of the stack is easily replaceable. At the same time, each element can be developed without affecting the other parts of the system. The term “composable” is often used alongside or associated with terms such as “API-first” and “headless.” Composable technology is built using microservices and hosted in the cloud.

The idea behind composable commerce is to enable brands (and their developers) to select and assemble a customized solution that best fits their needs. This unlocks the flexibility to adapt to technological and behavioral changes and future-proofs the store.

Section titled Why did composable grow so fast? Why did composable grow so fast?

The API-first approach to eCommerce platform architecture was born of the need to support the fast growth of eCommerce, cater to the expectations of modern shoppers, and power the best-of-breed shopping experiences of today. 

The growth of omnichannel is one of the key drivers for composable. Visitors, clients, customers, and ambassadors expect the same amazing shopping experience everywhere, across many different devices and customer touchpoints. A legacy, monolithic commerce suite can never satisfy this need, but a flexible, best-of-breed eCommerce platform can.

The rise of the direct-to-consumer eCommerce model is another factor impacting the boom for composable. Modern brands are no longer dependent on retailers selling their products. Instead, they use their own digital channels to reach and sell to consumers in all parts of the world. A growing number of eCommerce websites today are selling globally with local currencies, languages, and delivery options streamlined to every customer, wherever they are. There is an urgent need for technologies that support it.

Section titled How does the composable approach work?                                                  How does the composable approach work?                                                 

Online stores often integrate with third-party services to expand their functionalities. Common integrations include checkouts and PSPs (e.g., Adyen, Klarna, PayPal) and headless content management systems (e.g, Storyblok).

Traditional eCommerceHeadless commerce
Front-end processes tied to back-end processesDecoupled back-end processes from predefined front-end processed
Some customization, but only within confines of predefined front-end tools Limitless customizations and personalization
Lower front-end development costHigher front-end development cost
Sometimes offers omnichannel experienceComplete omnichannel experience
Limited flexibilityAdjustable front-end sales tools enable more flexibility

When it comes to composable eCommerce integrations, the sky is the limit. The idea is to build a solution with parts that are best-of-breed in their respective niches, whether it is a CMS, analytics, front-end framework, CRM, or marketing automation. The advantage behind it is that these services do not have to be built specifically for your eCommerce platform – like apps on the Shopify App Store are. Instead, these services expose APIs to which the eCommerce platform connects to string it all neatly together.

Composable commerce gives brands the flexibility to use core eCommerce technology combined with best-of-breed partner integrations to compose and optimize unique commerce solutions. 

Section titled Are Jamstack, composable, API-first and MACH the same thing? Are Jamstack, composable, API-first and MACH the same thing?

Long story short: not really, although these concepts overlap in certain areas, and are occasionally used as synonyms. Thinking about all these TPAs (three-letter acronyms) can make your head spin. For those who need a brush-up, here is the gist:

Composable commerce leverages Jamstack technologies (JavaScript, APIs, and Markup) and MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, headless) architecture to allow online stores to respond to the rapidly changing market and future-proof the technology they use.  

Section titled MACH  MACH 

MACH stands for all the technologies and systems that make composable commerce work under the hood. It’s a portmanteau of Microservices, API-first, cloud-native, and headless, which respectively mean the following:


Microservices address a specific business functionality, making it easy to adapt to different and changing business needs.


API-first systems expose the microservices, managing the underlying data, functionality, and connectivity between the different microservices. In a composable approach, APIs are used to enable internal product and marketing teams to iterate and test new sales strategies and omnichannel eCommerce experiences. By using a headless architecture, companies can customize their tech stack and select the best API components for their unique use cases without compromising on anything due to various dependencies or platform complexity.

Cloud-native SaaS

Cloud-native SaaS is built using microservices hosted in the cloud. 


Headless architecture advocates a separation of the front-end interface from the back-end logic. For example, a headless CMS uses an API to attach to the front end. Various microservices allow engineers to update the UI or microservices without impacting other components of the stack. 

Section titled Jamstack  Jamstack 

Jamstack (JavaScript, APIs, & Markup) is an architectural approach enabling headless architecture in which the web experience layer is decoupled from data and business logic, improving flexibility, scalability, and high performance of stores.

Section titled What are the benefits of composable commerce? What are the benefits of composable commerce?

The headless architecture allows freedom and flexibility by removing the link between the front end and the back end. Content and design can be updated independently of the back end. 

The separation of content and presentation is the core assumption of composable architecture.

Composable architecture explained

The composable approach to building eCommerce systems brings many benefits to the stores that adopt it: 

  • API-first approach allows easy integration with other tools and existing company systems to extend the platform's capabilities and respond to the growing needs of customers and omnichannel trends. 
  • Higher scalability and flexibility to deliver differentiated experiences, allowing brands to sell internationally with localized content, local currencies, and preferred payment options.
  • Better support for omnichannel. Easier implementation of experiences across many different touchpoints.

Today, modern brands need agility and flexibility to build experiences that put the user experience at the forefront. Composable commerce enables it through vastly improved design freedom and adaptability. It also streamlines the development process, enabling a much-needed separation of concerns. Because different teams can work independently – front-end developers can focus on the UX and back-end developers focus on the back end – the teams don’t get in each other’s way. A composable eCommerce platform is just easier to upgrade, and the different parts of the system are easier to scale.

Section titled Composable commerce use cases Composable commerce use cases

If a brand wants to build amazing, on-brand digital experiences, composable architecture is most likely the best way forward.

Using the composable approach, you are never limited by the roadmap of third-party providers. Some packaged business capabilities (PBC) can be purchased as services and integrated within the SaaS platform, while the missing functionalities can still be built from scratch in-house.

The traditional approach to eCommerce platform development assumes a rigid, all-in-one set of functionalities that are cumbersome and expensive to customize to unique business requirements. Composable commerce, on the other hand, empowers brands with the flexibility to integrate whatever microservice they may need and design beautiful on-brand sites that outpace the competition. In summary, composable commerce enables:

  • Brand-centric shopping experiences built according to specific requirements of original brands. No more cookie-cutter templates, and/or generic out-of-the-box functionalities that don’t match the store's design.
  • Faster time-to-market – by not having to worry about maintaining and updating technology, brands launch new features faster and independently of the eCommerce platform’s capabilities. As a result, they can focus on their core business, expanding to new markets and streamlining their operations.
  • Best-of-breed approach allows brands to build eCommerce stores using technologies that best suit their needs.
  • Future-proofing of the technology stack – with a composable commerce setup, you can freely replace integrations when needed to better adapt to current trends and requirements. No more hacky integrations and excessive development to make the store work as expected.

Section titled What are the key components of composable commerce? What are the key components of composable commerce?

The defining goal of the composable approach to eCommerce architecture is to connect, or compose, the tech stack using only best-of-breed components. It’s a bit like using the best parts to assemble a robot that serves a very specific purpose. Buying a big, expensive, and clunky machine that does everything would cost you an arm and a leg, and may still not even get the job done well. But stripping down the functionalities to just those you need will save you a lot of money and effort, and possibly better serve the purpose.

In eCommerce terms, the components of a composable stack are known as PBCs (Packaged Business Capabilities). Composable commerce uses PBCs built with technologies that allow flexibility and connectivity to serve specific business capabilities such as checkout or search. 

PBCs can be partner/vendor-built, custom-built, or native to the eCommerce platform. We’re currently seeing a growing number of PBC vendors on the market. Different specialized vendors offer capabilities for functions like:

Core eCommerce capabilitiesAdditional capabilities
Product catalogLoyalty programs
Shopping cartID management
TranslationsReviews and ratings
Tax handlingSearch and browse capabilities: advanced search, refinement, personalized results, voice search, geosearch, recommendations, and search merchandising capabilities
CheckoutProduct recommendation engines

The list of available services and vendors offering them keeps growing, fueled by the popularity of composable commerce. 

Some platforms, like Commerce Tools, are completely headless/composable. This enables flexibility, scalability, and fast development. It’s good for very complex IT projects that have unique requirements. On the flip side, you'll have to invest a lot of development hours for the initial build of the site.

Other composable platforms have taken a niche approach. For example, Centra's composable eCommerce platform is geared specifically towards mid-enterprise fashion and lifestyle brands. Compared to traditional platforms, it gives fashion brands all the native functionalities they need. Without having to develop features from scratch, pay for third-party plugins, or re-invent the functionalities the store needs. This approach allows for a faster time to market and a more efficient and less expensive build of the site – if you are a brand within their niche. 

Section titled Possible integrations Possible integrations

To use an analogy, a commerce platform sits at the core of the composable SaaS architecture just like the engine sits under the hood of a car. It is responsible for integrating, customizing, and orchestrating all the services. 

In a traditional monolithic eCommerce architecture, scalability and complexity are the biggest limitations. As a platform grows, it becomes more difficult for the engineering team to fully understand the various dependencies, which impacts their ability to move fast. Maintaining apps or add-ons and making sure they work to your specific needs ultimately leads to a less efficient workflow, inability to iterate fast, and the need to constantly redeploy the entire application after each update.

Ecommerce front end: Vue Storefront

Frameworks: Vue.js, React, Gatsby

Headless eCommerce engine: Adobe, Commerce (formerly Magento Commerce), Shopify Plus, BigCommerce Enterprise, CommerceTools, Elastic Path, Salesforce, Commerce Cloud, SAP, Centra

CMS: Storyblok, ButterCMS, Ghost

Search and recommendation services: Algolia, Syte,, Findify

Payment services: Klarna, Checkout Payone

Shipping services: Shipstation, Shipper.HQ, Ingrid

Promotions and loyalty services: Voyado, Yotpo

Order management systems: Fluentcommerce

Helpdesk: Zendesk

Reviews: Yotpo

PIM: Spryker, Binder

Tax management services: Avalara, Vertex

Marketplaces: Channable

Transactional emails: Sendgrid, Klaviyo

Inventory management systems: ShipBob, ShipHero, Shopventory, Stocky, Katana, Orderhive, NetSuiteERP

Returns: ReBOUND, nShift

Section titled Composable commerce examples Composable commerce examples

The choice of the eCommerce platform may be instrumental in building an amazing composable eCommerce tech stack. Let’s look at two examples of composable commerce stacks from Björn Borg and Stronger

Section titled Björn Borg Björn Borg

Björn Borg is an underwear, sports apparel, bags, footwear and eyewear brand selling their products in 120+ countries, 8 languages, and 7 currencies. 

Personalized emailsVoyado
ERPMicrosoft Business Central
Björn Borg home page

Section titled Headless eCommerce platform Headless eCommerce platform

At the heart of Björn Borg’s store sits Centra, a headless eCommerce platform, with all its native core capabilities like order management, fashion-centric PIM (Product Information Management), payments, WMS and promotions.

Section titled CMS CMS

With Storyblok as the headless CMS, Björn Borg’s marketing team can conveniently manage their content – campaigns and landing and product pages in different languages. Storyblok makes internationalization and localization much easier, allowing Björn Borg to manage the content from one place and distribute it quickly across different channels and countries.

Section titled Other integrations Other integrations

Through a number of third-party integrations, Björn Borg’s composable commerce setup allows them to freely customize their customer’s experience.

With Voyado, Björn Borg can create personalized emails and other content, and distribute it automatically, creating personalized journeys that their customers love. Because Voyado allows the store to collect and keep all customer data in a single platform – allowing the brand to communicate in a better, more personal, and more relevant way.

Returnado is an innovative approach to handling discontent online. The integration with Returnado allows Björn Borg to save money, reduce handling time, and create better returns experiences for their customers. It halves the administration while reducing costs associated with returns.

Microsoft Business Central
Björn Borg uses Business Central as the ERP system. Business Central and the web store share full customer information, including billing and shipping addresses, company contacts, and account updates.

Yotpo is an eCommerce marketing platform that helps Björn Borg deploy and manage their loyalty customer programs. This integration allows them to win returning customers through reviews, SMS marketing, loyalty and referrals, subscriptions, and visual UGC.

Section titled Stronger Stronger

Stronger is a women’s lifestyle brand operating globally in over 120 countries. In addition to Storyblok as their CMS, Stronger uses a range of integrations to provide their customers with a great digital shopping experience. 

Stronger's eCommerce web tech stack

Section titled CMS CMS

With Storyblok as the headless CMS, Stronger can easily implement their omnichannel strategy, and capture new markets quickly. Stronger can do localization and translations once, and apply the changes everywhere – without the manual labor of making changes to each localized storefront manually. 

Decoupling the front and back end allows the creation of a shopping experience localized to each country, currency, or language. This is an essential capability for brands wanting to grow overseas. Stronger can target certain pages or campaigns to specific markets or countries. 

Section titled Headless eCommerce platform Headless eCommerce platform

Stronger’s eCommerce is powered by Centra, which gives it all the native core capabilities like Order Management System, PIM (Product Information Management), Payment, WMS and Promotions.

Stronger uses Centra mainly for its B2C commerce capabilities. The platform manages areas such as cataloging, inventory, returns, and shipments. Centra enriches the product data and pushes it to the front end via Storyblok’s CMS. Centra’s approach allowed Stronger the flexibility they need to grow and scale globally. 

Section titled Other integrations Other integrations

With third-party integrations, Stronger’s composable commerce setup allows them to freely customize their customer’s experience:

As a personalization AI software, Findify could run through different products within a brand’s catalog, pulling it from Stronger’s eCommerce engine to Storyblok.

Based on Stronger customers’ interests and preferences and integration with Findify, Klaviyo can identify certain keywords or campaigns to redirect search queries to personalize the newsletter to each customer’s specific needs.

Flowbox is a direct Instagram component that compiles images from Instagram through a hashtag and presents personalized content according to the product fold. 

Ingrid provides end-to-end solutions which Stronger uses to offer their customers the best delivery experience possible – wherever they are.

Stronger uses ReBOUND as their returns management solution.

Yotpo is an eCommerce marketing platform that helps Stronger win customers with reviews, SMS marketing, loyalty and referrals, subscriptions, and visual UGC. 

Ecommerce platformCentra
Emails & newsletterKlaviyo
On-site Instagram displayFlowbox
End-to-end delivery solutionIngrid
Returns managementReBOUND

For more information about Stronger’s transition to composable commerce stack, read the whole case study here.

Section titled Why composable may not always be the best way forward Why composable may not always be the best way forward

Choosing the frameworks and composable components and deploying an eCommerce store is a nuanced process. However, with all the benefits of composable commerce, it may not always be the best fit for every retailer. Small-scale retailers don’t really need a composable eCommerce setup. Sometimes a monolithic SaaS eCommerce platform, with all its easy-to-use integrations and themes, might just be enough to serve their needs. It would be overkill to launch on a headless, composable platform to sell just a few products locally and run a simple blog.

Composable commerce entails working with integrations coming from multiple solution partners. You still need an agency or an in-house team to deploy and orchestrate all the integrations. This is a cost that not every small business can afford.

Section titled Key takeaways Key takeaways

Composable commerce drives the acceleration of digital eCommerce sites that people visit every day. The trend is growing as it allows stores to deliver the resilience and agility that today’s eCommerce demands. It enables architecting your technology for better adaptability, and makes it future-proof.

Composable commerce enables business and tech teams to bring brands’ unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences and combining best-of-breed services into a complete, business-ready solution.