Architectures for Modern eCommerce Applications

Emily Nielsen
Emily Nielsen

March 19, 2021

Even beyond retail and eCommerce as an industry - most digital experiences are now transactional in nature. Customers expect brands to have an eCommerce component to their online experiences, as well as a seamless user experience from product discovery to delivery.

Any brand with a substandard checkout process, or confusing UI, will likely face hardships or a dwindling user base. Today users expect to be able to search for a product on their phone, order it on their tablet, and track it on their watch, without having to go through the entire process of searching for and selecting the product twice.

As more brands choose to build fully online businesses, the components of their commerce application are not only important but crucial to their survival. API-first, modular architectures offer many possibilities when it comes to creating highly performant commerce applications that center around user experience.

Whether teams are starting a new company or are taking a further step into digitization, best-of-breed architectures can be the key to unlocking a highly personalized customer experience. Building this custom stack, with all of the functionality that the team needs and wants without having to start from scratch gives the team more flexibility and shorter project timelines.

Those teams with existing monoliths in place can extend the lifespan of those data-rich systems while still taking advantage of a more current, flexible tech stack. Modular tech stacks enable teams to work flexibly and quickly adapt to changes in scope without having to consider each system’s maintenance, scalability, or vendor lock-in.

As teams begin to search for tools to build their modular, API-first tech stack, it can be a daunting task. That’s why we have created some high-level architecture to give you a place to start and serve as a guide for building an optimized modular tech stack for a commerce application.

Architecture

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Architecture Highlights

Asset Management

Asset Management tools make it easy to upload, transform, manipulate assets for your website or digital project. These services give users more control over their assets, a critical component of any modern digital project. Popular tools for asset management include Filestack and Fastly.

Localization and Translation

Localization and translation services help digital products serve the needs of a globalized user base. These tools range in their specific product offering; however, they either allow for easy translation or localization of content. This can be particularly helpful if localization is being outsourced or are looking to use an AI translation tool.

ERP

An ERP is a software that helps companies manage business processes. These processes can range from accounting to human resources, to order processing depending on the service and needs. As these services are often integrated the look and feel across various services tends to be similar. Oracle and SAP are some of the traditional ERP vendors.

Payment Service Provider

Payment Service Providers allow online shops to accept online payments. These payments can come in the form of credit card payments, bank transfers, or third-party services, such as Paypal, depending on the configuration of the service. One example of a popular payment service provider is Stripe.

Order Management

Order Management systems track sales, orders, inventory, and fulfillment to make digital commerce more streamlined and efficient. OMS solutions house a wide range of information including product information and order tracking.

PIM

A PIM serves as a single source to manage and enrich product information which can then be distributed to sales and commerce channels. PIMs ensure that data around a product is current and can easily be distributed where necessary throughout the buying experience. Popular PIMs include akeneo and PIMcore.

Marketing Tools

Marketing tools cover a wide range of tools that can be helpful to a team to give them the functionality they need and exactly the insights that they require. Marketing tools can range from personalization, to feedback, to business insights tools. These tools are highly dependent on the needs of your team and resources but are helpful for gathering data and user interactions.

Architecture Best Practices

In order to get the most out of your modular, API-first tech stack for a modern web application, there are some critical best practices that should be considered.

Choose systems that promote high-quality user experience

With commerce applications, the user experience must be held as the central consideration. Due to the fierce nature of competition and the more complicated processes, it is crucial to consider how to ensure that there are no technical barriers for the user and that the experience matches their expectations. Whether it be ensuring that the Martech tools in your stack gather the correct data or that the mobile and web applications share the same standards for experience, the user must be at the core of these considerations.

Ensure the redundancies are intentional

While it may be the case that you want to build some redundancies into your tech stack for extra security, it is important to make sure that they serve a real purpose. Creating too many redundancies or unnecessary ones can lead to a bloated tech stack rather than an agile, flexible system. Instead, by working with a decentralized system, make sure it is easy for content to flow through various systems while still being housed in a single place. This ensures higher data accuracy and less redundant work.

Decentralize information sources

In order to reap the full benefits of modular architecture, it is important to fully embrace the best-of-breed approach. Choosing specialized systems that suit the needs of your team is critical to being able to be reactive to new approaches. If teams choose to end an experimental channel that is no longer needed or want to try a different tool, it is much easier in a decentralized system as information is housed in a single system but is spread throughout the tech stack. Although it may take time to find the ideal tech stack, this time investment enables teams to seek out exactly the systems they need with little risk because of these systems communicating via API.

Consider data privacy standards

Data privacy varies wildly from region to region and it is important to consider how various services will handle data. Ensuring that data is stored in the regions that match your standards can be a key factor when choosing your tech stack. With commerce, this is even more essential as the data will require a high standard of security and privacy and it is important to choose systems that reflect that.

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