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Elastic Path acquires Moltin for headless commerce, microservices

Elastic Path's headless approach to e-commerce takes a step in the SaaS direction as it acquires Moltin, which specializes in microservices to enable online sales.

NEW YORK -- E-commerce technology vendor Elastic Path has acquired Moltin, a microservices vendor specializing in connecting digital commerce platforms to a host of mobile channels.

Elastic Path's acquisition of Moltin represents a growing interest in headless commerce, said IDC analyst Jordan Jewell, and is part the company's general strategy to expand beyond its strong B2C customer base and appeal to a wider swath of B2B customers. Counter to traditional e-commerce platforms, the headless model decouples the e-commerce front-end interface or, in many cases, a content management system.

Headless requires more development on the part of users to enable sales over new digital channels. But the more flexible system architecture can add those channels much faster than traditional e-commerce systems because much less work is required on the front-end interface and content system.

When adding a new channel to traditional e-commerce platforms, users often must create what amounts to a whole new site, optimized for content scaling and workflows, Jewell said. Headless commerce architecture can shorten the cycle from months to days, in some cases.

Each time you deploy commerce on a new channel, if don't have to redesign the interface and checkout experience every time and instead use an API-first, headless commerce engine, that's [an improvement].
Jordan JewellAnalyst, IDC

"Commerce is just going to continue exploding, and we don't even know what the channels will be -- it could be augmented reality, it could be social media," Jewell said. "Each time you deploy commerce on a new channel, if you don't have to redesign the interface and checkout experience every time and instead use an API-first, headless commerce engine, that's [an improvement]."

The Moltin acquisition will also likely accelerate Elastic Path's future transition to becoming a multi-tenant SaaS e-commerce provider, Jewell said. Elastic Path currently offers single-tenant SaaS, which is less scalable and more expensive to maintain. To some enterprise IT users, single tenancy might seem old-school, but the e-commerce market has been slow to adapt as users continue to seek all-in-one platforms.

New digital sales modes to require new tech

Elastic Path's customers tend to be enterprise-sized, with $50 million-plus e-commerce sales annually, said Co-Founder and CEO Harry Chemko. The company introduced headless commerce a decade ago, but he said it has taken off in the last few years to accommodate the proliferation of sales channels beyond desktops and laptops, including mobile devices, smart speakers, IoT devices and self-checkout in retail stores. Potentially, game consoles with AR and VR headsets may emerge as sales channels.

Harry ChemkoHarry Chemko

Adding Moltin microservices to Elastic Path's Cortex API Orchestration layer will give users the ability to more quickly support e-commerce on these new channels, Chemko said, and to help customers support smartphone self-checkout in retail stores. It can also make pop-up store set-up more efficient from the payments perspective.

"We have this flexibility around adding any touchpoint on top of the platform, and then choreography around the different microservices to allow them to do that quickly and easily," Chemko said.

Financial terms of the acquisition, which was revealed at the NRF 2020 Vision: Retail's Big Show here today, were not disclosed. The deal will integrate the Elastic Path and Moltin teams, and Elastic Path will retain Moltin's offices in Boston and Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

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What is, or was, your organization's biggest challenge in migrating from traditional e-commerce systems to headless commerce?
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