How to turn eCommerce infrastructure inside out

4 min read
July 19, 2023

The Intellyx take on Nacelle and the modern approach to headless and composable commerce - Part 3

Written by: Jason Bloomberg, Managing Partner & Analyst, Intellyx

In part one of this four-part series, I laid out the strengths and weaknesses of the GraphQL API query language for fulfilling queries. Then in part two, my colleague Jason English discussed how vital a canonical data model is for modern e-commerce offerings.

English pointed out that Nacelle’s Composable Commerce platform’s request-centric GraphQL-based data engine [transforms unstructured data into structured data] processes and normalizes commerce and content data into a data layer that can respond to complex multi-dimensional requests with one API; which makes it much faster and more efficient than managing multiple APIs for each service.

It might appear that GraphQL is a magic elixir, able to fix all that’s wrong with traditional monolithic e-commerce systems. GraphQL is powerful, to be sure – but there’s no magic here. Let’s delve deeper into Nacelle’s platform to gain a better understanding of how it works.

Data ingestion and normalization

The Nacelle platform can ingest data from multiple sources (since it's system agnostic) – including best-of-breed systems for content, category, product, and inventory that are already in place in the e-commerce merchant's infrastructure.

Nacelle uses pre-built connectors to access the APIs of these systems, while also ingesting data from data lakes and even flat files when necessary.

The result of all this ingestion – much of it in real-time – is a mishmash of different data formats. This diversity of data is why normalization is so essential.

Nacelle's proprietary data orchestration layer handles this normalization by transforming incoming data into a single, consistent format. It then indexes that data to support rapid queries. Finally, it stores the data, making it available when and where the end-user wants it.

One of the primary benefits of normalization that differentiates Nacelle from other e-commerce solutions is the way it ensures that future changes to the data stack won't require a complete refactor of existing connected systems. 

In other words, it's relatively simple to plug in additional data sources to enrich the e-commerce experience for end-users.

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The pros and cons of buying or building
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Data delivery for a flexible headless experience

Nacelle delivers both content and product data via a single GraphQL API. This API is where the power of GraphQL pays off for Nacelle customers, as the Nacelle platform automatically provides the information that any query is looking for – fast.

This data delivery supports multiple storefronts, apps and channels for a comprehensive e-commerce experience.

Supplemental to its GraphQL, Nacelle leverages software development kits (SDKs) and accelerators to support whatever off-the-shelf or customized front-end technology an e-commerce merchant wants to use.

Despite this diversity of modes of consumption, Nacelle’s normalization logic supports all of them. There’s no need to rewrite the normalization logic for each head or channel. Instead, Nacelle provides a consistent data structure across the board – for products, variants, content, inventory, and orders.

Furthermore, Nacelle propagates changes to all channels in real time. For example, if marketing launches a new campaign, Nacelle will transmit the specifics of that campaign to each head in a coordinated fashion.

Composability on the Front End

Nacelle’s approach to composing back-end applications is data orchestration-based, rather than the typical integration-based approaches of earlier-generation eCommerce platforms.

The data normalization creates the canonical data model for heads, endpoints, and channels to compose into working eCommerce solutions.

This data-centric approach turns traditional approaches to eCommerce infrastructure inside out. With Nacelle, merchants can compose any applications or data sources to create the eCommerce stack they desire – delivering the content and product data to the right customer at the right time.

Furthermore, Nacelle works with all the legacy commerce solutions on the market, including Magento, Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and many others. Merchants don’t have to migrate off an existing platform to take advantage of the flexible, customer-focused capabilities that Nacelle delivers.

This data-centric composability empowers merchants to optimize the front-end shopping experience, both in terms of the product data and content, but also with respect to the performance and efficiency of the eCommerce workflows – critical for reducing shopping cart abandonment.

Given the high expectations among customers for seamless, high-performance eCommerce in today’s Amazoned world, Nacelle is well-positioned to help many different types of merchants become more competitive and profitable.

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Boost Ecommerce Performance with
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The Intellyx Take

Historically, headless eCommerce has largely overpromised and underdelivered. Delivering back-end eCommerce functionality via APIs to whatever front-ends a merchant might wish to implement makes perfect sense – but the devil is always in the details.

GraphQL is an important tool for addressing the limitations of headless eCommerce. Instead of the back end delivering its data via multiple APIs, the front end can request just the data it wants from a single API.

GraphQL alone, however, falls short without the infrastructure to support it. By ingesting data from multiple sources, normalizing it to create a canonical data model, and then providing the GraphQL API for diverse front-end technologies to query, Nacelle provides the infrastructure necessary to make the promise of GraphQL a reality for eCommerce merchants of all sizes.

©2023 Intellyx LLC. Intellyx is editorially responsible for this story. No AI chatbots were used to generate the content. At the time of writing, Nacelle is an Intellyx client. Image source: Shutterstock


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