Digital vendors and tech-heads alike are talking about decoupled architecture lately. But what is it, and how can it benefit your ecommerce business?
The growing popularity of the concept is driven by the increasing issues facing business owners with platform-based architecture. Decoupled architecture is considered to be part of the natural evolution of system design.
A traditional platform-based architecture generally contains all functionality in one codebase. This kind of architecture is easy to set up; however, scaling, customizing, and maintaining it can quickly become costly and complex. This means that platform-based architecture is not agile enough to meet the constantly changing needs of companies.
Enter decoupled architecture, which offers the flexibility and scalability required by modern ecommerce businesses.
Related Reading: Ecommerce Replatforming: Is Now the Time?
Decoupled Architecture, Defined
The term “decoupled” usually refers to tearing things apart, so they become easier to manage on their own. In contrast, composable concerns bringing decoupled elements together in a useful way.
In decoupled architecture, some components of the architecture function independently from the rest of the system. These components have their own data and logic, and can be developed, executed, tested, and debugged independently.
These decoupled components can be interconnected or “composed” with the larger core system. This is achieved by a data buffer separating the system’s memory access and instruction cycle processes from the execution-stage processes.
Decoupled Architecture in Ecommerce
In ecommerce, decoupled architecture can mean that your core commerce engine is separate from the front end and can integrate best-of-breed modular solutions.
The core commerce engine manages back-office activity in a robust and reliable way because it’s built for easy integrations with 3rd party solutions. The front end, which is integrated with the core commerce engine through a series of APIs, is more flexible and scalable than with traditional architecture.
The Key Benefits of Decoupled Architecture in Ecommerce
Unified Core Commerce Engine
A unified core commerce engine ensures everyone on the back end is working together to the same standards. It enables shared functionalities, easier maintenance, and lower total development and ownership costs. With decoupled architecture, features can be developed centrally and then shared within the company in a tailored manner.
With decoupled architecture, the core commerce engine can be easily integrated with internal or external platforms, including
- Web Content Management (WCM)
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Product Information management (PIM)
- Payment Service Provider (PSP)
- Email Service Provider (ESP)
- Fraud Detection
- Warehouse Management System (WMS) platforms
This allows you to make the most of the best-of-breed modular solutions that are best suited to tackle your key issues—create real-time order flows, update pricing, automate adding products, and so much more.
Front end Flexibility
Decoupled architecture allows you to meet needs across multiple languages, technologies, and brands. By decoupling data, you’re able to achieve the optimal front end solution for all of your sites, as front end scalability is managed independently from the commerce layer.
Not only can you tailor the front end solution to various stages in the business cycle for each of your sites, but you can customize all other front end aspects.
Showcase the value proposition and individual presence of each of your brands to build a loyal customer base. Or easily modify a page for a different language or culture without jeopardizing other pages.
Modern customers expect a targeted ecommerce website that meets their needs precisely. Decoupled architecture provides the flexibility needed to create a personalized experience for all of your customers.
Related Reading: Ecommerce Personalization: Benefits, Tactics, and Best Practices
Improved User Experience
Today’s ecommerce conversions rely heavily on seamless customer journeys and experiences.
Decoupled architecture allows you to integrate content and commerce into a single platform, an ideal solution for more complex content needs that a purely commerce-focused platform can’t handle. In turn, this empowers you to deliver a great customer experience.
It can also have considerable implications on site speed and usability. Decoupling complex routines from the customer-facing front end, reducing the loading of core systems, and accessing data as and when needed all culminate in a faster solution and smoother user experience.
Related Reading: Optimize your Digital Customer Experience in 5 Practical Steps
Decoupled architecture allows you to build a platform for future needs, not just immediate requirements. Ecommerce platform requirements are never static—as your company grows its revenue goals and customer base, the underlying processes, integrations, and platform need to expand as well.
A decoupled ecommerce engine allows you to scale significantly faster and with less risk—you can leverage work you have already done and have lower entry costs for additional brands or languages.
Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support Separate from Development
Decoupling the internal commerce engine from the management side of the house allows teams to work more efficiently, without stepping on each other’s toes. It allows for more efficient content management and for marketing, sales, and customer service teams to work independently and not rely on the development team to handle all changes.
The Challenges in Migrating to Decoupled Architecture
New strategic directions bring up new challenges which must be addressed from the beginning of the process. Adopting a decoupled approach poses the following potential challenges:
- Organizational: Managing this type of platform requires a mature internal technology organization, that is comfortable in a “Product Owner” type role, can work with multiple vendors, SI partners, and keep track of the top-line vision
- A shift in mindset: Managing several technology stacks and their interdependencies requires a shift in mindset
- Cost management: This type of platform consists of complex technologies with development and maintenance requirements, requiring a strong cost management component
For a large international or multi-brand company that is looking to grow and keep pace with the ever-changing customer expectations, decoupled architecture provides the infrastructure to scale and the flexibility to adapt quickly.
The initial investment to build a decoupled ecommerce solution can be substantial. Building a scalable and modular solution, with a core commerce engine robust enough to support multiple sites for many years to come, is not an easy or cheap undertaking.
However, when the system is expertly designed and leveraged, the investment pays off. Many of our clients have seen extremely fast ROI, thanks to the opportunities decoupled architecture offers.
Decoupled architecture is a type of computing architecture where components are autonomous. In ecommerce, this means that the front end is independent of the back end core commerce engine, is integrated using APIs and independent services provide key modules for the specific requirements of your business.
The core commerce engine is a robust way to manage back-office activity that is built especially for easy integrations with best-of-breed modular solutions. The independent front end is more flexible and scalable than in traditional architecture.
The key benefits of decoupled architecture in ecommerce include:
- Unified core commerce engine
- Easy integrations
- Front end flexibility
- Improved user experience
- Marketing, sales, and customer support separate from development
Decoupled architecture is often the best solution for bigger companies who are looking for high flexibility and scalability. It allows for highly individualized ecommerce and easy integrations with best-of-breed solutions. While the investment needed to develop this kind of ecommerce solution can be substantial, when done right, the ROI can be extremely fast.
Why Choose Vaimo?
Vaimo is one of the world’s most respected experts in digital commerce. As a full-service omnichannel agency, we deliver strategy, design, development, and managed services to brands, retailers, and manufacturers all over the world.
We have a 14+ years track record of technical excellence in helping clients design the right modular and scalable solution to fit their business.