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What is a Monolithic Application?

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What is a Monolithic Application?

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Yuliia Buinova

October 24, 2022

In eCommerce development, all-in-one monolithic applications have successfully dominated the industry for decades. Yet, there's been a notable shift happening over the last couple of years: Businesses have started to embrace composable commerce and MACH architecture

Why the sudden change? It turns out that composable commerce can solve most of the issues caused by monolithic architecture like sluggish web performance or poor customer experience.

This article answers the question “what is a monolithic architecture” and why they are getting replaced. Let’s jump right in.  

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What is a monolithic application?

A monolithic application is an all-in-one system that covers multiple eCommerce features under one hood. In the past, monolith architecture used to be the only choice for eCommerce businesses. Yet, as the eCommerce market grew and customers started to expect unique and smooth digital experiences, challenges with legacy monolithic systems started to emerge. 

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In monolith applications, the frontend and backend are heavily linked together in a coupled architecture where all components depend on each other. This means that when you want to update one element on the frontend, it requires changes to the entire eCommerce application. And if something goes wrong, the whole monolithic structure goes down. 

To succeed in the eCommerce business, constant evolution is a must. However, monolithic architecture keeps limiting marketers from introducing quick changes to the frontend. And this in turn affects customer experience and leads to the loss of conversions. But the list of drawbacks goes on and on.

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Drawbacks of monolith applications

Once you know what a monolith is, it’s time to discuss its pitfalls. Below you will find some of the key issues presented by traditional legacy solutions.

Decay in speed, SEO, and Google's metrics

Poor web performance is one of the biggest disadvantages of monolith applications. The reason for that is the fact that in the monolithic architecture all functions and business processes are intertwined, working closely together. And one command from the user makes the whole system “think”, which takes time.

As customer experience starts with lightning-fast page loads, sluggish web performance leads to dropping conversion rates. Deloitte study proved that web performance impacts the customer experience more than you think:

  • In the US, latency is the top reason consumers abandon mobile sites, with 10% blaming slow loading as a reason not to make a purchase.

  • 70% of consumers acknowledge that page load speed affects their willingness to shop from retailers.

  • The probability of bounce increases by 90% as page load time goes from 1s to 5s.

  • Speed improvement of 0.1s translates into 10% more customer spendings.  

Google Core Web Vitals (CWV) is another essential factor for your eCommerce website performance. Since the 2021 update, Google has used page and image loading times as one of the core ranking elements for websites. With the monolithic model, it's difficult to introduce changes vital for matching Google's requirements. This, in turn, affects your SEO results.

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Web performance in eCommerce has never been so critical. Unfortunately, with legacy monolithic software you seem to be blocked from working on that crucial aspect of your store.

Poor customer experience

Customer experience is one of the most essential aspects of a company’s online presence, and it all happens on the presentation layer of the website. However, monolithic technology fails to deliver exceptional customer experiences due to the fact that their storefronts are non-performant and can’t be updated easily without developer’s help.

Hence, updating monolithic eCommerce systems and customization of customer experiences is very time-consuming. Marketers are often completely blocked from introducing changes on the frontend layer, which drives away existing and prospective customers.

No flexibility 

Monolithic applications incorporate multiple inbuilt functions within one system. As such, they are very restrictive and only grow more complex with each next update. 

You might think that all-in-one systems are quite convenient as they provide most of the needed functions within one software. Unfortunately, although most of the key features are included, they are usually pretty basic

In short, monolithic architecture restricts you from using best-in-class solutions developed to perform dedicated tasks (aka microservices ). This blocks you from innovation and keeping a competitive edge. 

What is more, the process of introducing changes is challenging and costly, as you need to involve developers each time you want to test new features or update the website. Adding new features is sometimes impossible, even with a development team.

Last but not least, the complexity and restrictive nature of a monolithic system makes it challenging to scale and expand your business to new markets. And this is a real pain for the businesses which aim to grow.

Composable commerce is the best alternative to monolith applications

Composable commerce is a common term for software architecture, which, unlike the tightly-coupled monolithic platform, separates the UI (frontend) from the business logic (backend). It provides the possibility to choose the best-of-breed technologies to build a flexible eCommerce stack. The software communicates via API, and the particular solutions can be managed without impacting other system parts.

Composable architecture allows business teams to control the eCommerce frontend without involving their technology teams. This gives them full control and autonomy to hit their conversion and revenue goals. 

Composable approach aligns with broader trends, such as headless commerce and microservices architecture

Microservice architecture breaks the whole eCommerce system into separate components and structures them as a collection of solutions dedicated to specific functions, like CMS, search or payment.

Migration from monolith to composable brings numerous benefits that drive your business: 

  • Enabling easier scaling and web performance 

  • Supporting mobile-first architecture 

  • Making upgrades quicker and safer 

  • Providing advanced personalization 

  • Delivering ultimate flexibility 

Additionally, eCommerce stores built with a composable approach give merchants flexibility, which they are deprived of when using monolith software. Thanks to API-first architecture, they can plug in and unplug particular headless elements enabling development changes and updates without interfering with the rest of the business operations. 

Take a quick look at the challenges of monolithic architecture that can be easily resolved with composable commerce.

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Opting for composable commerce is a great way to bring success to your eCommerce business, but you'll need the proper strategy to move forward. A successful composable journey begins with a storefront, as frontend drives customer experience

Want to go composable? Start with your frontend

You don’t need to disrupt your entire eCommerce stack to go composable. As frontend is where the customer journey happens, let’s start your digital transformation by replacing just the presentation layer

Thanks to Vue Storefront, you don’t need to fully replatform to gain the flexibility provided by composable commerce. To boost your customer experience and revenue, build your eCommerce storefront on top of the existing eCommerce platform, using one of 30+ out-of-the-box integrations.

Vue Storefront is a Frontend as a Service (FEaaS) for composable commerce that delivers custom storefronts at the fraction of cost and time, and with lightning-fast page loads to achieve better conversion rates and higher revenue.

Problems with monolithic technology 

Vue Storefront solution

Pre-defined UX that can’t meet performance expectations of customers and Google, leading to increased bounce rates and decreasing conversion rates.

Frontend is designed to meet Google's SEO and UX performance metrics. Leads to increased conversions and customer satisfaction.

Tightly coupled frontend and backend decrease opportunities to implement best-of-breed technologies. It holds back your business when you need to scale and speed up to meet market demands.

You have the freedom to choose from a variety of best-of-breed microservices and headless applications to build your eCommerce stack fast and with the best solutions for your unique needs.

It has limited customization possibilities. Merchants have limited freedom to alter pre-defined features or services and replace them with those that work better. Any changes on the UI are supported by IT as they can affect the entire environment.

You can easily plug in or unplug headless commerce applications as your business needs change. Headless software is highly customizable and allows your marketing team to update the frontend without IT help.

SEO optimization is complex, especially for mobile. It increases bounce rate, decreases conversions, and fails the Google Core Web Vitals test.

Vue Storefront architecture is performance orientated (incl. mobile) with best practices.

Slow Time-to-Market due to time-consuming updates and testing phases.

Quick TTM advantages with ready codebase and smaller dev teams, saving time and money.

Download the whitepaper and learn how Vue Storefront can help your business grow with the composable strategy!

Frontend Drives Experience

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