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How APIs Enable the Creation of Composable Architecture
Oct 5, 2023
MACH

How APIs Enable the Creation of Composable Architecture

Businesses upgrading from outdated and hard-to-customize legacy systems are turning to composable architectures, leveraging the power of service-oriented architectures (SOA), API-first, and headless technologies for future-proof commerce. Composable commerce represents the next era of digital commerce. 

According to Gartner’s report ‘Composable Commerce Must be Adopted for the Future of Commerce Applications‘, businesses adopting composable commerce will outperform competitors by 80% in the speed of feature implementation by the end of 2023. 

For those familiar with headless or composable commerce, it’s clear that APIs are the backbone of ecommerce platforms. They’ve become indispensable in modern software development, enabling developers to efficiently build complex systems using smaller, independent components or microservices.  

The result? Scalable, adaptable systems that adapt to evolving business needs

Here’s our step-by-step guide to composable commerce for everyone just getting started with this approach. 

That being said, we’ll explore how APIs and microservices facilitate the development of composable architecture and discuss the benefits and challenges of this approach. 

What is an API? 

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, have been fundamental to software development for years. It refers to a set of functions and procedures that enable software applications to interact with and utilize the functionality or data of an operating system, application, or other microservice. 

Image the role of APIs in a software ecosystem similar to the restaurant metaphor. A client places an order at the front for a particular item from the menu, and the waiter takes it to the kitchen to prepare the dish and returns the requested dish. In the software development landscape, the client is a user, the kitchen is the backend storing information, and the waiter is the API – facilitating requests between the frontend and backend. 

APIs enable seamless communication between different components in a commerce system, making them a crucial part of composable commerce. APIs allow one component to fetch data from another, ensuring interoperability. This interoperability empowers applications, microservices, and entire systems to communicate effectively, bridging the divide between diverse components. This crucial role firmly establishes APIs as the foundation of composable commerce. 

In today’s digital landscape, the use of APIs for integration is nearly unavoidable. However, the real value lies in reimagining commerce development and deployment strategies around an API-first approach. This is where the API-first approach comes in, which is a fundamental principle of MACH technology, and for compelling reasons. 

To know more about MACH Architecture, read our article: What is MACH Architecture & Why It Is the Future of Ecommerce   

The Role of a Composable API and Microservices 

A headless ecosystem is composed of microservices — small, standalone applications developed and deployed independently, enabling concurrent development due to low coherence. Each microservice can add functionalities like shopping carts, payments, and search features. These components are modular, which means each can be built and deployed independently. When loosely coupled, they form a flexible and efficient ecosystem. 

This microservices-based architecture reduces reliance on marketing and IT teams. Customized services ensure faster daily operations compared to all-in-one monolithic systems. Simultaneously, this saves the ecommerce team from the risk of a system-wide disruption because of minor updates. 

However, for seamless collaboration, these independent applications (microservices) must communicate effectively, and the exchange of information must be well-designed. APIs serve as the medium for this. 

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The Benefits of Using APIs in Composable Commerce 

APIs play a transformative role in enabling composable commerce by facilitating the flexible and efficient creation of tailored ecommerce solutions. Here’s how APIs contribute to composable commerce: 

1. Modularity and Flexibility 

APIs in composable commerce offer flexibility by allowing businesses to integrate different services into their platform without starting from scratch. This speeds up time-to-market for new features and improvements.  For example, companies can connect payment gateways or shipping providers with their platform, enabling a seamless customer experience.  

Moreover, using existing APIs enables businesses to make rapid and efficient changes, as well as swiftly introduce new products and services, allowing them to stay ahead of the competition. 

2. Interoperability 

APIs define clear communication protocols between different services. This enables various systems to seamlessly interact and exchange data, regardless of the technology stack they’re built on. In the context of composable commerce, this means businesses can mix and match best-of-breed solutions without being tied to a monolithic platform. 

3. Specialization and Innovation 

Businesses can focus on innovation and specialization in specific areas by decoupling functionalities into separate services. This can lead to higher-quality services as each component can be optimized for its intended purpose. For instance, a business could opt for a specialized recommendation engine instead of relying on a generic built-in one. 

4. Scalability and Performance 

APIs are crucial for businesses looking to scale up their operations. They allow quick addition of features or services without building a complex infrastructure. This agility helps meet customer demand and maintain competitiveness.  

Furthermore, APIs help businesses ensure their data and functions are accessible across platforms and applications, making it easier to scale their operations without compromising security and privacy. 

5. Vendor Lock-In Mitigation 

Traditional monolithic ecommerce platforms can result in vendor lock-in, where businesses rely heavily on a single provider for all functionalities. APIs enable companies to diversify their tech stack and switch out components when needed, reducing dependency on a single vendor. 

6. Personalization  

APIs facilitate the integration of specialized third-party services that can enhance personalization efforts. By incorporating AI-driven recommendation engines, customer data analytics, and other such tools, businesses can offer tailored experiences to individual customers. 

7. Future-Proofing 

As new technologies emerge, businesses can adapt by swapping outdated components for newer, more efficient ones. APIs ensure that these transitions can happen with minimal disruption. 

Examples of APIs in Composable Commerce 

APIs and modularity enable connectivity, creating new opportunities and securing the integrity of the decoupled headless commerce. Additionally, the API-first approach saves both costs and the frustrations often associated with monolithic platforms. 

Time previously dedicated to maintenance is now allocated to development. A lot of retail platforms provide APIs based on a serverless architecture, facilitating the seamless integration of sales channels, including: 

1. Catalog API  

Catalog management API tools are designed to automate synchronizations with back-office order management systems. They are versatile enough to accommodate various categories, complex products, and even gift vouchers. Additionally, APIs can link this catalog to your warehouse management system, including an inventory API. 

2. Cart API 

Cart API integration provides innovative strategies, such as personalized product recommendations, which can drive sales and make well-informed business decisions.  

3. Checkout API 

The checkout API enables businesses to tailor the checkout process, optimizing the UX of the ecommerce platform to target the right audience and boost conversions. It also allows the extension of the functionality of a platform to create a checkout experience on a remote platform, like a mobile application or a headless storefront. 

4. Payments API 

In today’s fast-paced world, consumers demand efficient online payment solutions. Payment APIs have made it possible to cater to diverse needs by offering multiple gateways, including credit cards, debit cards, PayPal, Stripe, InterPayments, etc. 

5. Anti-Fraud API 

Integrating an anti-fraud API into your ecommerce platform can route customer-initiated sales through an anti-fraud algorithm, which helps identify potential issues with suspicious purchases. Moreover, anti-fraud APIs keep you informed about current financial trends and recent credit card fraud cases and detect patterns from past deceptive activities. 

Challenges Associated With APIs 

While APIs offer various advantages, some challenges can be faced in their integration. For example, businesses need to ensure secure interaction between their systems and those offered by the API provider. They may also require extra resources or tools to help manage the integration process. 

Finding the right APIs can be another challenge due to the growing number of available APIs in the market. It’s crucial to select the best fit for specific business needs. Furthermore, businesses must ensure that their chosen APIs align with industry standards and data protection regulations. 

Strategies to Overcome These Challenges 

Maximizing the value derived from API integrations requires businesses to implement various strategies. 

Firstly, companies must invest time in thorough research and select the right APIs that align with their needs. Furthermore, ensuring the security and seamless compatibility of their systems with those offered by API providers is equally important. 

Subsequently, businesses should invest in the right resources and tools to oversee the integration process. The developer experience is also essential as it can improve time-to-market and reduce maintenance costs. Key elements influencing the developer experience include: 

  • Standardization — The uniformity and readability of the API. 
  • Efficiency — The level of abstraction in the business logic, facilitating faster implementation with a single request. 
  • Supporting Documentation — Resources like SDKs and other examples that help developers understand and effectively use the API. 
  • Navigation — The ease with which developers can navigate and explore the documentation, enabling them to locate the information they need quickly. 
  • Log Changes — A dedicated section for documenting logs and status changes, allowing developers to track changes and updates efficiently. 
  • Community Support — A forum or support system to answer questions and provide guidance. 

Finally, businesses should also focus on staying updated on industry standards and data protection regulations to ensure compliance and security in their API implementations. 

The Bottom Line 

APIs and microservices take composable architecture to the next level.  

The role of APIs in composable commerce is quickly becoming necessary for businesses looking to stay competitive in the digital economy. By leveraging APIs, companies can integrate new features or roll out services into their platform with greater flexibility and ease, thereby reducing costs associated with scaling up operations. Understanding Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) can further enhance your knowledge of web-based applications and commerce. 

At TechBlocks, we abide by principles that prioritize business problem-solving and ease of operation while providing flexibility for the future. Join TechBlocks’ journey to leverage the potential of APIs and elevate your business to global success.   

About the Author

Kevin Gordon

Born in Technology, Raised in Marketing – This is the one-liner Kevin uses to describe his 20+ year career. Kevin is our Director of Marketing and joined the team in 2021, coming from technology start-up, SkipTheDishes.

Starting out in technology, Kevin has a unique blend of technical and marketing experience, with experience as a computer hardware technician, web designer, programmer, Windows & Linux systems administrator, and product development manager, which has allowed Kevin to lead a team of high-performing developers and systems administrators to build integrated omnichannel marketing & sales technology platforms used in retail stores across Canada and the USA.

In addition to his technology background, Kevin has 12+ years of progressive data-driven marketing experience in B2B and B2C industries, including legal, retail, agency, financial technology and more, with over eight years of direct leadership experience in marketing roles.

Kevin has education in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University, Business Administration and Project Management from Red River College and additional formal training in Change Management and Business Analysis.

Kevin Gordon