3 Services that Compose the Core of a B2B eCommerce Platform

We consider the best B2B ecommerce platform to be an extendable suite of services based on headless (API-based) open architecture, not a closed monolith or all-in-one solution. This may lead to the following question: if the platform is a set of services, what is the core of that platform? That is, what makes it a platform and not a ragtag collection of somehow interconnected independent tools? Is there some master software behind all this that manipulates all these services?

Services that serve as the business logic

Well, the answer is no, there is no 'master software' as such. But some services do provide background work that make the platform tick. They are mostly invisible to the end-user, as they do not bring them any immediate, easily recognizable value. We call these services 'business logic' of the B2B platform.

Like all other services in an API-based open architecture or in so-called headless ecommerce platform, these are also replaceable, their number is not fixed, and they may even be omitted in certain solutions. These services provide the means to execute a scenario needed by a particular business relation, while the scenarios themselves consist of 'useful' and visible services and microservices.

There may be many such 'business logic' services doing different, often specific tasks, but in this article, we will concentrate on the 3 most common and important ones.

1. User authentication and permissions control

This service is obvious. Any ecommerce portal must know its user and make sure both the user and the business are secure, so there is always some kind of authentication present. With more complex solutions, this service also provides the base for personalization, UX (User eXperience) improvements, complex pricing models and so on. In fact, this service is both obvious and complicated, so this will be content for some future article; for now, let us just note that user ID is a crucial business logic tool.

2. Communication service for other ecommerce services and software

This service can be described as a good old telephone switchboard. When some part of the platform needs to 'speak' with some other part, this service provides these parties with communication means. Considering we are dealing with a B2B open headless architecture platform, the 'callers' may be unfamiliar with each other, come from different vendors and speak different 'languages' (APIs). They must communicate seamlessly with each other.

Now, it is possible to connect services directly to some small ecommerce portals. It may even seem like a promising idea at the start of the digital transformation, as it is cheap and quick. For example: let's create a simple page with order statuses and see how it goes. Let's add a reorder button there, we do not need any expensive platform for it. However, this road brings problems later on, and these problems tend to snowball.

As the digital transformation proceeds, the number of services and tools used in the ecommerce solution grows, as does the number of communication channels between them. At some point we have 10 services that need to talk to each other, and each has its own unique API. We will have to teach each one to 'speak' nine different 'languages' for the system to work. If we decide to replace one of them, we will need to teach the new one nine 'languages' and re-educate the remaining ones. Considering these services may come from different parts of the system – some are ecommerce, some are a business ecosystem, some may be payment or logistics tools, some may even reside on the client's side - such re-education becomes extremely difficult and time-consuming.

Although it is sometimes appropriate to start with direct connections, such as evaluating the user adoption success, especially if there are reasonable doubts about it, this practice must end quickly, and an agile and progressing ecommerce platform should be deployed as early as possible.

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3. Data accumulation and real-time delivery ecommerce service

An ecommerce portal must present all data to a user in real-time. The business ecosystem, however, may not be able to provide it at such speed. An ERP integration, for example, is generally not equipped for simultaneous real-time communication with multiple users, so some kind of data concentrator is needed. This service acts as one: it accumulates the data the user needs by synchronizing with an ERP at regular intervals, presents it in real-time, and does lightweight checks with the back-office software when needed.

As there may be multiple types of data, sources and consumers, there may be numerous data accumulation and delivery services, each doing its own small amount of work. This way, an efficient real-time data delivery is achieved without burdening the slow back-office. Technically, these ecommerce services provide asynchronous communications with the back-office and orchestrate the dataflow.

A headless core of B2B platform

While the services described above may be considered as the core of an ecommerce platform, in an API-based open architecture they still abide by those rules. This means they are not some fixed structure with everything else build around it. Like any other service in a headless ecommerce platform, they can be replaced, expanded, multiplied, or even excluded altogether when deemed necessary.

As the platform grows, users' needs become clearer, new technologies emerge or just a possibility arises, these ecommerce services will change as ever. Because that is the nature of open architecture and its strongest point. The ability to change is what makes the headless approach the best solution for a B2B business digital transformation.

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Dmitrii Reznikov
Dmitrii Reznikov
linkedin icon Copywriter and researcher