Data Orchestration and the Modern Commerce Stack (Part III of III)

4 min read
November 8, 2021

The most innovative and disruptive brands in eCommerce are going headless. They recognize that their digital experience is the most critical component of the overall shopper journey. By going headless with a progressive web application (PWA), they improve their conversion rates and average order value by boosting their site speed. Further, they accelerate innovation cycles by giving their teams—developers, merchandisers, and marketers—best-fit tools to experiment, innovate, and connect with their customers.

Brands and retailers choose the modern commerce stack as their platform to capture both immediate ROI and build a durable foundation for their headless transformation. The modern commerce stack is composed of modular, purpose-built tools that can be deployed by lean IT teams and support the business’ need for speed both in performance and delivery.

Adopting the modern commerce stack enables eCommerce teams to build features that drive differentiation while buying solutions to address core components. One of those core components is the data orchestration layer.

"We went headless with Nacelle in order to better serve our customers with a fast, modern PWA and to empower our development team through adopting a modern tech stack. We believe that the flexibility to swap out platforms and choose what tools would bring the best customer experience for our brand is important, and the Nacelle platform allows us to do that."Albert Chong, VP of Digital, ILIA Beauty

Data flow and orchestration

The distributed nature of the modern commerce stack makes data orchestration a critical infrastructure component. The data needed for delivering on a new “head” (a PWA that is a single-page application using static site generation) is often large, varied, and constantly changing.

In fact, one of the often cited challenges for static site generation in eCommerce is “stale data.” Digging deeper into the nature of modular systems surfaces the need to address concurrency, consistency, idempotency, scalability, availability, reliability, fault tolerance, and transparency. Data flow and orchestration are foundational concepts that ensure the modern commerce stack is the platform of the future.

Thinking of data flowing through the modern commerce stack vs. “pushing and pulling” establishes a base on which data can be omnipresent. As James Urquhart says in his book Flow Architectures: The Future of Streaming and Event-Driven Integration, “the easier it is for data to find the right path to the right entities, the easier it is for the system to adapt and discover desired behaviors.” The ultimate goal of data flow is to make the exchange of real-time data relatively cheap and nearly instantaneous.

Orchestrating data vs. “integrating” is also a principle that can accelerate the adoption and enhance the benefits of the modern commerce stack. Gartner summarized it best in “How to Achieve Digital Business Excellence by Mastering the Pervasiveness of Integration.” It reads, “for many business leaders, in fact, integration is, regrettably, just ‘an implementation detail’ in their digital strategy. This attitude often stems from the incorrect belief that, after all, integration is a ‘solved problem.’”

Developers know it’s not solved easily. Data orchestration in the modern commerce stack solves integration and more by giving developers self-service access to an integration and composition layer that allows them to freely and creatively do their jobs, with central IT support and governance.

Nacelle: addressing data flow and orchestration

Nacelle does a few things to ensure the successful adoption of the modern commerce stack.

  • Connects to commerce systems such as an eCommerce platform or CMS

  • Ingests up-to-date data from connected systems in near real-time

  • Creates and maintains a highly-performant commerce-specific index

  • Provides a unified API to access all commerce data

  • Supplies a set of tools to accelerate initial development

Yet, it’s not just what Nacelle does, but how it does it. Nacelle addresses flow by using the event stream as the source of truth. Gartner cites that, “by 2022, the majority of business organizations will participate in event-driven digital business ecosystems.”

The Nacelle event-based core is an infrastructure-level process that logs every change in state as an event instead of writing and reading a database. It allows Nacelle to store data in a way that doesn't take long to query as there is no need to call another server to get information or rely on another system’s data as fuel. Systems receive real-time updates to changes in state from all upstream services. With the event stream as the source of truth, each system or microservice in the stack can take what it needs from the log. Further, it allows for rapid adoption of streams like inventory and availability to ensure experiences are always up to date.

Nacelle addresses orchestration by incorporating the best of composability, purpose-built for headless commerce, with out-of-the-box connectivity, commerce-specific indices, and a single GraphQL API. A haphazard approach to integration often leads to costly upfront integration costs and an unmanageable, fragile, rigid, and ultimately expensive “digital business spaghetti” non-architecture. Any expected acceleration to the speed and agility of innovation will quickly evaporate. Nacelle removes integration friction with connections to common commerce and business systems. It uses elastic technology to ingest eCommerce data from a variety of sources. Nacelle scales horizontally to match the computing resources needed at any given time by adding more machines in milliseconds (traditional infrastructure scales vertically, which means adding more power—CPU, RAM—to an existing computer).

In addition, the Nacelle index comes structured with an extendable, purpose-built commerce schema that has no rate limits and can support static site generation for large catalogs in seconds. The GraphQL API makes it so that frontend developers, those responsible for shopping experience innovations, have a convenient method for accessing all data from commerce and business systems.

As Forrester points out in “Forget About Build Versus Buy; Your Choice Is Customize Or Compose” to “differentiate, firms must use creativity to digitally express the values of the brand meeting their emotional needs at relevant points of engagement… In eCommerce, the pendulum has swung hard from buying packaged suites to building bespoke experiences.”

The Nacelle data orchestration platform for headless commerce is a foundational piece of the modern commerce stack. With Nacelle, brands and retailers can quickly incorporate a data infrastructure layer that accelerates their ability to build bespoke experiences with data flow that capture immediate ROI and builds in future-proof stability.

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