It’s no secret that digital commerce is booming. In 2020, eCommerce sales in the U.S. jumped up more than 30% to a whopping $794.5 billion, making up more than 14% of total retail sales and offering a clear indication of how consumers increasingly prefer to shop—online.
As the eCommerce ecosystem has grown, so have the solutions and tools available for building online stores and the digital experiences that surround them.
In the final installment of this three-part series, which has looked at Omnichannel and Headless Commerce as key trends in the larger digital marketplace, we’ll take a closer look at microservices architecture and how it’s being used to power eCommerce stores.
What is microservices architecture?
Similar to headless, a modular approach to commerce offers flexibility to use the technologies that best fit a business’s needs. By adopting an API-based commerce strategy, businesses can implement and deploy newer technologies rapidly with greater ease.
Microservice architecture is built as a set of modular components or loosely coupled services. Often, these components are independently deployable and connect via APIs.
Now, the approach of using individual components together to offer digital experiences is not a new strategy. But historically, monolithic platforms have been the de facto solution, at least for the past 20 years.
With a growing market of modular, API-based solutions, businesses can increasingly decouple the components in their tech stack, strip away unnecessary code, and prevent themselves from being locked into a vendor-specific, closed system.
The main emphasis here is the power of APIs. This layer acts as the connective tissue/bridge/glue between the front end and back end or multiple front ends.
As mentioned in part two of this series, APIs enable you to add new functionality without having to create code from scratch and make best-of-breed technologies accessible to your current platform.
Conversely, APIs make your current platform extensible to these newer technologies allowing businesses to stay agile and flexible in the constantly evolving world of technologies.
In a way, APIs are similar to WordPress plugins. At its most basic level, WordPress allows you to plug-and-play a wide array of functionality to enhance both the back end and front end experience of WordPress.
The critical difference between plugins and APIs is that when you install a plugin, the new features essentially become a part of the WordPress site. Basically, you’re inheriting functionality, mostly written in PHP, which must be executed on the same platform as the WordPress site*.
As traffic and workloads increase, scaling and performance become more challenging because all requests must be processed through a single WordPress environment.
Using a microservices approach, you can tap into the power of APIs and connect services that function independently from each other and run on their own infrastructure (also known as decoupling).
For example, you might use BigCommerce for something like shopping cart functionality, but perhaps you need to leverage a specialized app for subscription services. Why? Because the core commerce platform you’re using may not offer it natively or offer the customization that your business needs.
*While this is the case for the majority of plugins, it’s worth noting that there are also many WordPress plugins that primarily function as a connector to third-party APIs.
How to use microservices architecture for your eCommerce site.
Here are a few use cases for how you might approach microservices architecture with WordPress:
The basic, default WordPress search is fairly limited. For instance, a normal search doesn’t provide auto-suggestions or recognize typos. Today, modern users expect these features to be part of the normal search experience.
Additionally, the default WordPress search can be slow, which affects conversion rates for online stores. According to Bloomreach:
While only 15% of shoppers use site search, they account for 45% of revenue.
What’s the solution? You can enhance your search experience with a more robust technology like Elasticsearch. Elasticsearch features include auto-correct and auto-suggest, allowing customers to find products easier—improving conversion rates and the overall user experience for your WooCommerce store.
With a microservices approach, you’re stripping away unnecessary functionality and deploying newer technologies to your architecture.
While Elasticsearch is available as a standalone solution, it also powers the enhanced search functionality that comes with WP Engine eCommerce Hosting, which combines enhanced search features and industry-leading performance with best-in-breed plugins and themes for a powerful, out-of-the-box eCommerce solution.
Whether you are using an “all-in-one” eCommerce platform or a modular headless architecture, Bold Commerce can extend and elevate your capabilities without the need to replace your current tech stack.
API-based Bold Checkout delivers extensive out-of-the-box capabilities including 20+ payment gateway integrations, pre-built templates, wallet payments, localization, multilingual checkout, discount codes, and additional modules for subscriptions and price rules.
With flexible, robust APIs, you can tailor any element of your transaction experience to your specific needs, including adding checkout capabilities to any customer touchpoint.
Specifically for WooCommerce, the most critical issue we hear from customers is the difficulty of scaling efficiently with optimal performance. As the volume of customers and orders increases, your online store can become slower and experience downtime.
With this problem in mind, Bold Commerce has partnered with our agency partner, Crowd Favorite, to enhance the checkout experience by decoupling checkout from the eCommerce experience
Bold Commerce is committed to extending the functionality of the WooCommerce platform to help retailers build the digital experiences their customers demand, especially during this rapidly changing time in ecommerce.
We are thrilled to launch Bold Checkout with Crowd Favorite — an agency committed to delivering innovative and versatile digital experiences. Together, we will boost performance and deliver unmatched flexibility for high-growth retailers.Mike Sanchez, Chief Revenue Officer, Bold Commerce.
By leveraging Bold Commerce’s checkout solution as a modular component to your overall architecture, you can improve checkout performance and reliability even as your business scales, while gaining the flexibility to completely tailor your checkout and easily integrate other technologies.
Queue-it is a modular service that allows you to provide a virtual waiting room that can mitigate store downtime during mission-critical events. If your site is experiencing a high volume of concurrent users due to a flash sale or product drop, a service like Queue-it can help.
Queue-it’s tools allow you to effectively manage the number of concurrents by offloading excess users to a virtual queue. For eCommerce sites, if customers are willing to wait, this feature could be well worth it to prevent lost revenue.
By leveraging a virtual waiting room, you can ensure customers are able to reach your site during high traffic events. Whether the traffic surge is expected or unexpected, this technology provides peace-of-mind.
Data and insights are key to making the decisions that drive your business forward, but that data isn’t always easily accessible. With Glew, you gain a tool that turns data into actionable insights by connecting your sales and marketing channels to powerful reports and dashboards.
You’ll be able to answer questions like: Where do you acquire the most valuable shoppers? Which products make the highest profit? Which products are ideal to bundle? Which SKUs are ideal for paid search campaigns? It will quickly become a key advisor in taking your business to the next level.
For some enterprise-level eCommerce storefronts trying to build a better customer experience and drive more sales, growing pains related to their WordPress site(s) and plugins can become a major frustration. Installing more plugins, missing features, and slow site performance are a few of the issues that might be hindering progress.
With these businesses in mind, Slatwall Commerce has introduced a WordPress solution for the enterprise, allowing companies to upgrade to a fully-featured commerce service, while keeping WordPress as their CMS. Using a headless commerce approach, this allows developers to replace and upgrade their eCommerce platform through the Slatwall Commerce integration, but maintain the existing storefront design and layout powered by WordPress.
Slatwall Commerce is a complete commerce service, with all of the selling, marketing, management, reporting and fulfillment tools an enterprise storefront needs. More selling features, rapid commerce upgrade, and improved site performance can help you build better experiences for your customers and more sales for stores.
Final Thoughts: It’s all about the customer.
This three-part series has provided an in-depth look at a few of the most salient elements and trends found today’s eCommerce strategies.
From Omnichannel Commerce to headless, to additional modular approaches via microservices architecture, all of these digital commerce “trends” reflect something larger: the growing need for many businesses to create seamless, multi-channel experiences that provide personalized convenience for each individual customer.
This cross-channel emphasis is of course in response to those very customers and their growing expectations and preferences for how and where they shop.
Not only are these consumer demands shaped by emerging technologies and the continued pivot to a digital-first model, they’re all prefaced on the expectation that every digital experience and consumer touchpoint is lightning-fast on any device and designed with the end-user in mind.
“The customer comes first,” may seem old-school or out of place in today’s fast-paced digital world, but in reality, technology is putting customers at the center of commerce like never before, and businesses must build out their digital footprint accordingly.
From using the technologies discussed in this series to provide that strong omnichannel experience, to focusing on the performance elements of your digital strategy to make sure your customer experience is optimized to meet customers wherever they are, investing in eCommerce solutions alongside your wider digital strategy has become a crucial element for continued business growth.
Find out how WP Engine can help. From arming first-time store creators with the tools they need to get started quickly, to helping existing eCommerce stores optimize search for increased conversions, see how WP Engine can fuel your eCommerce growth.