How to break free from start up eCommerce Platforms

Jay Jetley, Chief Technical Architect, Trinny London
By Jay Jetley, Chief Technical Architect, Trinny London

Many eCommerce brands were born in the last two years, helped by how the pandemic’s lockdowns drove demand for online retail. Now, as consumer demand for online adjusts and the cost-of-living crisis affects spending, how do those new eCommerce, mid-size brands compete and set themselves apart?

Key to differentiation in a more competitive market is how a brand’s eCommerce platform allows them to adapt their offerings more dynamically. However, many find those platforms on which they started their business are too inflexible as they scale up and must address new challenges and opportunities. This is making the case for migrating to composable commerce that gives a brand the freedom to fully customize their online customer experience.

One brand Trinny London has made a successful migration from an entry level eCommerce platform to customising their own commerce systems utilising composable commerce technology from commercetools. Their chief technical architect, Jay Jetley shares his main lessons from making this change.

“Firstly, moving from the comfort of an all-in-one eCommerce platform to composable may seem more expensive. But you realise that you can make significant savings because the composable approach means you are now free to choose your own payment provider. For example, we were able to do a deal with a big credit card player and got much better rates on all of our transactions. What you discover is that an all-in-one eCommerce provider makes money from charging you for each transaction. So, when your business grows, they are making more money from your transactions.”

Going down a composable path does mean the job is much bigger in some ways because you can be so flexible in your choices. This does take some time to accommodate, but you quickly realise how it makes it easier to respond to requests from the rest of the business for new capabilities and features.

Secondly, any apparently higher cost is massively offset by how much composable gives you the flexibility to support the business. The business felt restricted by the platform we had used to start up our operations, so it was easy to sell them the investment in a new approach with composable commerce technology. A good example of this was how we wanted to differentiate ourselves in the market around customer service experience.

A driving force for us in moving away from an eCommerce platform was how composable commerce allowed us to be in control of the checkout process. We wanted customers to be able to pick samples during the checkout process and those samples to match what they had bought, for example a shade of eye shadow appropriate to the colour of lipstick. This level of personalisation is only possible with composable commerce.

Traditional eCommerce systems cannot cope with this complexity. For example, a lot of eCommerce platforms require you to make every combination of bundle available as an individual SKU. We didn’t want to do that, and to be honest, we couldn’t do that because of the number of colours that there are in the makeup ranges. Some of the bundles that we wanted to allow our customers to build up could end up with over half a million possible combinations. This is something no team could maintain especially when every time you launch a new colour, there could be up to another 200,000 new possible combinations.

Thirdly, the composable commerce approach gives you stability when you need to move fast and dramatically to answer customer demand. We’ve learned how to exploit an API-first offering to build component tests and performance tests. So when we release stuff, we can release it with confidence. Currently, to support the business, the team is doing new releases two or three times a day. We have tests to make sure that the core functionality of the website doesn’t fall down, and we know that the user journeys are right, and part of that is being able to test the back end of commercetools. Exploiting the API-first nature of composable means that we were so confident that we did a software release right in the middle of our last sale day.


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