Insights from Elevate — The Global Commerce Summit™ by commercetools

Elevate — The Global Commerce Summit™ Spotlight: Migration stories about moving from monolith to composable

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools
Published 18 April 2024
Estimated reading time minutes

What does it mean to go composable? Moving from a monolithic environment to composable commerce is about having the choice in how, where and when you want to innovate at scale, as well as customize a tech stack that meets the exact business goals of a company.  Dasha Cherniavskaia, Head of Product Marketing at commercetools, caught up with customers at Elevate — The Global Commerce Summit™, to gain insight into how composable commerce technology serves as the key to unlocking high-touch experiences that ensure personalized, seamless interactions, elevate brands’ connections with customers and open up market opportunities.

Insights from Elevate — The Global Commerce Summit™ by commercetools

The panelists represent three very different companies, and each shared the context and the challenges that led them to consider their own composable journeys. Speakers included Kyle Barz, Director of Global Retail & eCommerce Technology at Mars Wrigley, Claudio Uribe, CTO at Cencosud and Paul Hornby, Digital Customer Experience Director at The Very Group.  

At global consumer packaged goods company Mars Wrigley, the obstacles to modernizing its digital commerce solution were multifaceted. The team had to navigate internal governance processes and security controls to create new direct-to-consumer (D2C) value propositions, as well as move beyond the three- to five-year cycle of platform upgrades. Primarily, the company wanted to bring the disparate parts of its mass channel and distribution network, spanning thousands of locations across the world, into an ecosystem that would be greater than the sum of its independent parts. As Kyle explained, the team quickly identified that the business capabilities and technologies they had at the time would not support that ecosystem.

“It was really the need to drive consumer journeys across multiple touchpoints that led us to this path,” Kyle said. “Being able to drive commerce transactional experiences not only on our web front — on our eCommerce store — but being able to power the same or similar experiences in our physical stores or even in other retailers’ locations, and being able to create deeper, more connected consumer experiences inside of other locations, really drove us down the path to conclude that composable was the right route for us.”

Cencosud, one of the largest multiformat retailers in Latin America, has a portfolio that spans grocery, home improvement and department stores, media, home delivery and more. In order to meet the needs of its various business units, the need for flexibility was primary.

“The second point is related to the complexity of the technology,” explained Claudio. “When we run on top of a monolithic solution, we are constantly trying to solve problems on top of those monolithic platforms, and that increases the complexity of the solution and the cost as well,” he said.

Complexity is familiar to The Very Group. The online-only company operates solely in the UK and Ireland, but does £2.2 billion ($2.7 billion USD) in sales across multiple categories spanning everything but grocery and books. The Very Group also is a fully regulated financial services business that offers its own underwritten financial service products to customers, from insurance to flexible ways to pay. In the late 2000s, it was a multichannel business with a significant bricks-and-mortar presence, relying on millions of thousand-page catalogs that were mailed to customers each year. At the time, its growing eCommerce business was built on in-house tech before moving to ATG-Endeca, which served the company well. Today, the entire group is all-in on eCommerce, having been rebranded after the brand.

“ in its own right is a £1.7 billion ($2.1 billion USD) business, and that’s been fueled by growth on a monolith, but being on a monolithic platform for 15 years also created a lot of tech debt, a lot of cholesterol,” Paul explained. “As our business model started to evolve, it was increasingly difficult for our people to make meaningful customer change at pace.”

The monolithic environment was difficult for the team to manage, and prevented them from creating the experience that customers wanted. So they framed migration as a business problem.

“We articulated a burning ambition and we did that in a relatively tech-agnostic way,” Paul said. “And that burning ambition was, how do we create a flexible platform that delights our customer — that allows us to choose the best of everything that we need rather than settling for the median anywhere? And when we looked at that in a tech-agnostic lens, the best technology route to deliver that business strategy for us was composable.”

While each of the companies is on their own migration path to composable, all have already begun reaping the benefits. Despite the challenges in launching new value propositions at Mars Wrigley, Kyle was able to transform the platform his team built for M&Ms into an internal starter kit that could be replicated by smaller brands within the organization that lacked the resources to create one on their own. Migrating to composable has also sparked a culture shift at Mars from a defined project focus to a flywheel mindset.

“We are shifting to a product management organization where there is no defined end,” Kyle said. “We're continuously iterating, continuously investing into the ongoing development of features so that it doesn't stop creating value for the business. And what we're doing is taking that same mindset and the muscle that we're building and applying it to other areas of the business, and we're starting to see a lot of transformation happen,” he added.

Mindsets are also changing within the business units at Cencosud. “The main benefit of this composable strategy is related to the people and the culture,” Claudio said. “Now everybody's thinking about capabilities. We are enabling tech capabilities, which enable business capabilities,” he explained. “And starting from there, how those capabilities enable new customer experiences or new features that we were not thinking about before.”

The Very Group is seeing results across three dimensions: Value for customers, value for colleagues and value for shareholders. 

“We’ve begun to see real benefits from this composable model where customers are getting the right product at the right time very quickly,” Paul said. “Our colleagues have got a digital experience that they’re starting to be proud of. The ecosystem is significantly easier for them to work in…and all of that is unlocking value for the shareholder. We're really pleased with the choices that we've made and looking forward to it being done,” he added.

To learn more about Elevate — The Global Commerce Summit, including keynote highlights and other session spotlights, visit the event website.

Anita Temple headshot
Anita Temple
Corporate Journalist, commercetools

Anita J. Temple is the Corporate Journalist at commercetools. She was a fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and W Magazine before launching a career as a freelance writer and creative producer. She has written content and worked on a wide range of marketing projects for companies including Dreamworks, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Adidas.

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