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Going Composable with SAP Commerce Cloud with Best-of-Suite

January 2024 - Commerce • Guides

E-commerce platforms are at the front lines of a transformative wave. We are witnessing a shift from traditional commerce operations towards more flexible, adaptive, and efficient models.

Legacy systems, once the dominant force in digital commerce, are increasingly being scrutinised for their rigidity. These single suite applications, built on the principle of uniformity, have served businesses well in a more predictable environment. However, in the ever-evolving world of e-commerce, they now run the risk of becoming obsolete. The lack of flexibility in their design makes it difficult for businesses to adapt to new market trends, customer behaviours, and technological advancements.

But what if there was a way to breathe new life into these systems? What if organisations could leverage their existing infrastructure while adopting innovative functionalities for a more robust and future-ready solution?

The answer lies in a pragmatic approach where the principles of Composable Commerce are employed to enhance and modernise single suite applications. Through this approach, businesses can retain elements of their existing infrastructure while infusing it with the agility, scalability, and innovation of Composable Commerce.

A shift in commerce

The traditional e-commerce platforms, characterised by their single suite structure, are essentially all-in-one solutions. They offer a wide range of built-in functionalities such as customer and order data management, storefronts, search and merchandising, personalisation, product information management (PIM), content management systems (CMS), and complex ERP integrations.

However, these platforms, while powerful, are also rigid in their structure. They operate as a single, indivisible entity, making any form of customisation or flexibility a considerable challenge. The net result of this rigidity is an inability to deliver new business requirements quickly, and an ongoing high cost of maintenance associated with update releases of the suites.

But as e-commerce grows increasingly competitive, businesses are looking for ways to differentiate themselves, necessitating a more adaptable and flexible system. This need for adaptability is where the concept of Composable Commerce comes into play.

Composable Commerce refers to a modular approach where businesses can pick and choose the components they need, building a commerce system that is unique to their requirements. This modular approach means businesses can now enjoy the flexibility to adapt and evolve their systems in line with their needs and market trends, without being tied down to the constraints of a single suite structure. This shift from single suite applications to composable platforms is becoming more prominent in the commerce industry, and large-scale solutions like SAP and Adobe are embracing the change.

The beauty of Composable Commerce lies in its ability to integrate best-in-breed tools and platforms to create a bespoke system. For example, businesses can integrate modern AI-enabled search tools like Bloomreach or Klevu, delivering more efficient and customer-friendly search capabilities. A bespoke product information management (PIM) system, strong on multilingual or multi-market features, can also be selected to meet international commerce needs.

Another example is is provided by Vue Storefront. It offers superior, market-leading performance in the frontend, providing fast page load times, flexibility, and excellent SEO optimisation. By choosing Vue Storefront or other modern 'heads' for SAP's headless commerce offering, businesses can enhance their e-commerce sites while sticking with a proven backend system. At the same time the solution is framework agnostic allowing greater flexibility for development teams and meeting market availability of human resources.

In essence, the benefits of Composable Commerce are manifold. It allows for more flexibility, the ability to integrate best-in-class tools, and customisation according to a business's unique needs.

The transition isn't always complete, however. Many organisations are choosing a more pragmatic path, leveraging the principles of Composable Commerce to modernise their existing single suite applications. They are making strategic choices about which components to evolve and which to retain, essentially creating a hybrid model that combines the best of both worlds.

The hybrid approach

As companies begin to re-evaluate the static limitations of single suite commerce platforms, a hybrid approach can make the path forward a little less daunting and far more strategic. This method provides the freedom to modernise progressively, minimising disruption while still introducing significant advantages associated with Composable Commerce.

One of the most notable examples of this strategy is the evolution of SAP Commerce Cloud. Despite being labelled a 'cloud' offering, it is clear that the single suite DNA is still in place. The system is still deployed as an entire copy of the platform, with individual nodes being assigned one of several 'roles', controlled via access routing.

Nevertheless, SAP has been making strides towards modularisation.

The most significant step was SAP enhancing their headless capabilities, SAP created the Omni Commerce Connect (OCC) module. This module allows any storefront, mobile app, or Point of Sale (POS) system to connect to SAP Commerce and act as a 'head'. It provides an API representation of the platform's commerce functionality, which was previously only accessible via the built-in and tightly coupled accelerator storefronts.

Another enhancement to SAP’s Composable capability was the decoupling of the storefront from the SAP platform. Previously, SAP Commerce Cloud came bundled with pre-built storefronts known as 'Accelerators'. In response to the changing market, SAP introduced Spartacus, now known as SAP Commerce Cloud Composable Storefront. This standalone open-source frontend application is built using Angular and aims to replicate the standard accelerators' functionalities.

This transition enables businesses to leverage third-party standalone storefront applications like Vue Storefront, which are pre-integrated into the OCC. This flexibility allows for further role splitting, letting businesses use a separate CMS, such as Bloomreach, Contentful, or Amplience over SAP's SmartEdit, which is closely tied to the SAP Commerce platform, and has many restrictions on ease of use and flexibility. These steps have propelled SAP towards a composable future while keeping the core of its single suite structure intact.

Case Study 1: Multi-brand, multi-market organisation

To see how these updates can be deployed, take the example of a current Brave Bison project: a large multinational organisation with a diverse portfolio of brands. With an existing decoupled web estate built on SAP and Sitecore, they found themselves grappling with ageing infrastructure and an urgent need to modernise. Initially, our role was purely advisory. Our task was to understand their unique requirements, identify what could be retained, what needed to be updated,and crucially, which products could be introduced to bring their web estate up to modern standards.

Through this process, a project plan was developed: Guided by our expertise, they chose to update theiradopt a headless architecture, a critical first step towards Composable Commerce, while keeping SAP as their commerce backend. Vue Storefront was selected as their front-end to rebuild their brand websites, marking a significant milestone in their journey towards a modern, adaptable e-commerce platform. Bloomreach was also brought in to deliver a much needed upgrade to Headless Content Management, Search Engine and Merchandising capabilities.

The decision to adopt a hybrid approach allows the organisation to maintain their existing backend systems, minimising disruption while integrating a high-performing CX layer. The first MVP for one brand will be rolled out, testing the waters and gathering insights before gradually moving more brands onto the new platform. This allowed them to incorporate a modern frontend that delivers fast performance, flexibility, and improved SEO.

Vue Storefront, being a best-in-class frontend platform, helps the brand to provide a superior user experience and better search capabilities, thanks to its integration with cutting-edge AI-enabled tools.This approach enables them to take steady steps towards Composable Commerce, unlocking the agility needed to respond to future developments.

Leveraging best-of-suite commerce capabilities

While charting a path towards a more flexible and adaptive e-commerce landscape, organisations don't necessarily have to abandon the inherent strengths and investments already made in their existing single suite applications. The case in point here is the enterprise-grade capabilities of platforms like SAP Commerce Cloud. The platform's rich feature set remains a valuable asset. These comprehensive capabilities form the 'core' of many businesses' operations, and include:

Customer and order data management
Product information management (PIM)
Content management system (CMS)
Complex ERP and OMS integrations

The goal is to retain and utilise these strong foundations while modernising the other parts of their platform.

Moreover, SAP Commerce Cloud's future roadmap indicates its willingness to further align with the Composable Commerce approach. The strategic decoupling of application roles and the plan to break away modules of functionality into the BTP Kyma runtime represent the next steps into this composable world.

Next, let's delve into a real-world application of this approach, where a successful organisation was able to leverage the best-of-suite commerce capabilities of SAP while transforming their customer experience layer for a more modern and responsive digital presence.

Case Study 2: European automotive supplier

To see this kind of transformation in practice, we can turn to our experience with a successful automotive supplier operating in Europe.

After being acquired by a larger group, the company was tasked with transitioning to the group's common infrastructure, utilising an SAP technology stack. However, they were faced with a challenge: preserving their high-performing customer experience, which they felt was not well served by SAP's standard offering.

Brave Bison was brought in to provide strategic direction for their digital transformation journey. The challenge was twofold: how to leverage the capabilities of SAP Commerce Cloud while maintaining a high performing, customer-centric digital experience?
In response to their unique needs, we proposed an approach that balanced the best of both worlds: integrating their existing infrastructure with the best-of-suite commerce capabilities of SAP, while adopting a high-performing CX layer using Vue Storefront.

Dive deeper into Composable Commerce

In the fluid landscape of modern e-commerce, single suite commerce platforms need to evolve or risk becoming obsolete. But as we've seen through the lens of SAP Commerce Cloud and other similar platforms, there's a viable path to modernisation that doesn't require dismantling the entire structure.

By adopting the principles of Composable Commerce, organisations can enhance their existing platforms with flexible, interchangeable components, ensuring they remain resilient and adaptable in the face of changing market trends and customer demands.
Whether it's integrating a headless architecture or leveraging best-of-suite commerce capabilities, these strategies provide valuable opportunities for innovation and scalability.

To explore the potential of Composable Commerce further, we invite you to download Brave Bison's latest whitepaper. This in-depth analysis showcases how we transformed MKM, the UK's top independent builders' merchant, from a burning platform into a global trailblazer using composable.

The whitepaper provides valuable insights into the strategic approaches and principles that make Composable Commerce a game-changing solution for enterprise-sized businesses. By exploring the technology stack in depth, we demonstrate how Composable Commerce allows organisations to innovate and scale at an unprecedented pace, while also reducing costs and enhancing user experience.

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