The ecommerce segment is witnessing unprecedented growth at the moment. Accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. ecommerce spending hit $82.5 billion in May, a 77% year-on-year increase. Without the pandemic, experts believe it would have taken four to six years to reach these growth levels.
Meanwhile, expectations towards digital customer experience (CX) in ecommerce have also grown to reach an all-time high: Consumers demand holistic and personalized online shopping experiences, enriched by value-adding content and convenient order processing with full status visibility throughout.
This rise of experience-led commerce puts a premium on up-to-date ecommerce tech stacks. Most importantly, it marks the downfall of inflexible, monolithic ecommerce platforms and the rise of new, function-rich architectures built around specialized microservices. Fully integrated via APIs, these microservices work in harmony to enhance the ecommerce experience for every shopper. And from a merchant’s perspective, microservices offer a new level of simplicity, unity, efficiency, and choice of applications.
A recent ecommerce industry report by experts at Forrester concluded:
“As monolithic technology becomes outdated and less appealing to merchants, the providers that lead the pack will demonstrate deep integrations with both owned and competitive solutions, as well as business user tooling that unifies controls across those solutions and streamlines workflows.”
This blog post examines the advantages of adopting an API-first architecture in ecommerce.
Experience-led ecommerce architecture works on two levels: It prioritizes the experience aspect for both end customers as well as merchants operating the ecommerce system. On the backend, this type of architecture is based on a digital experience platform (DXP). The DXP combines functionality and data streams from all key systems, including CRM, ERP, commerce, content marketing, customer experience engine, and other engines into a coherent whole.
As a result, end consumers welcome experiences based on the kinds of products and content they personally enjoy – across all channels, from mobile to. Additionally, the shopping experience is enhanced via API integration with services like push notifications upon package delivery or seamless payment upon checkout.
From a merchant perspective, this type of API-first architecture solves two fundamental problems: First, lack of unified visibility and insight into performance of the technology stack and its impact on customers, quoted by 80% of worldwide IT professionals as the major obstacle to delivering high-quality digital customer experiences. And second, it helps providing positive digital customer experiences across all channels, which 80% of professionals consider a challenge.
Graphic: The major challenges to delivering high quality digital customer experience.
Only two decades ago, monolithic ecommerce systems were the only game in town. They allowed merchants single-point management of the entire online shopping process. But as business needs evolved and became more complex, monolithic systems proved too inflexible and difficult to scale.
Amid the rise of experience-led commerce, monolithic ecommerce systems are at a disadvantage for reasons such as:
As a nimbler alternative to monolithic platforms, microservices architecture combines loosely coupled (but connected) services to create a system. Instead of a single platform that contains all functionality, these decentralized systems separate different business requirements into services. Supported by a headless commerce system in the middle, these services communicate with each other via APIs.
Graphic: The structure of a monolithic compared to a traditional SaaS and a microservices architectural style.
As we speak, this decoupled approach is trending. A whopping 92% of senior development stakeholders report an increase in adoption of microservices as a continuing trend. In ecommerce, the switch to a microservices-based architecture offers five key advantages:
When it comes to solving the earlier mentioned site performance issues associated with monolithic platforms, microservices architecture presents another advantage: They integrate relevant commerce content through Frontend Experience Platforms (FXPs) like Styla to achieve a boost in speed and relevance.
With that said, decoupled content management systems, built for seamless integration into ecommerce architectures, present a logical fit for experience-led commerce. An FXP like Styla layers on top of existing systems with APIs, decoupling the customer experience from slow-moving, monolithic backend systems while allowing for personalized content experiences based on the latest customer data.
Graphic: Styla FXP & Commerce CMS.
The result is an agile platform that can quickly evolve to meet changing market demands and deliver the rich experiences today’s online shoppers demand. Leading merchants looking to enhance digital CX, deliver personalization and drive innovation are making the switch into microservices architectures. A switch that, according to Forrester, helps companies “grow revenue, deepen customer loyalty, and expand into new markets.”
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Lee is the Account Executive at Styla. Having worked in the martech industry for over 10 years, Lee has extensive experience in working with ecommerce leaders to deliver strategies around customer experience, increasing conversions and personalised digital communications.