What to Know About Storefront Reference Architecture

January 8, 2019

If you are a current Salesforce Commerce B2C customer or if you’ve been evaluating implementing/replatforming on Salesforce Commerce B2C, it’s highly likely that you’ve heard the term “mobile-first” before.

It’s also highly likely that you’ve been awaiting its arrival with much anticipation, potentially even delaying your platform decision or putting off a backlogged project in order to take advantage of what promised to be a modern, Bootstrap-and-Controller-based MVC architecture and a shopping experience optimized for seamless purchasing.

Well, you can keep waiting because mobile-first is never coming. Salesforce changed the name from mobile-first to Storefront Reference Architecture for Salesforce Commerce B2C, in order to better describe the product and its capabilities, and to eliminate any confusion in the marketplace around the product’s ability to support larger viewports.
 
The Storefront Reference Architecture (SFRA) is just that–a reference architecture– or a blueprint that combines industry best practices and expected out-of-the-box commerce functionality in a web storefront that can serve as the foundation of your new Salesforce Commerce B2C site. Think of SFRA as an accelerator for your Salesforce Commerce B2C project and as a tool that enables you to launch on the platform in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost. Here’s what you need to know about SFRA for Salesforce Commerce B2C sites:
 
SiteGenesis is still relevant
The introduction of SFRA does not mean the death of its predecessor, SiteGenesis, and Salesforce is quick to point out that SiteGenesis continues to be used as the bedrock of almost 3,000 Salesforce Commerce B2C websites. 
 
In fact, Salesforce Reference Architecture and SiteGenesis can coexist within the same Salesforce Commerce B2C realm. This means, for example, that a multi-brand company could manage Brand A and Brand B storefronts from the same realm with the former built upon SiteGenesis and the latter built upon SFRA. Both Brand A and Brand B would still have the ability to leverage the power of Salesforce Commerce objects, sharing and merchandising functionality from a single backoffice. 
 
While SiteGenesis and Salesforce Reference Architecture can be used in conjunction with one another, Salesforce is recommending two scenarios during which the Salesforce Reference Architecture should be deployed in favor of SiteGenesis: new implementations on Salesforce Commerce B2C and major redesigns of existing Salesforce Commerce B2C storefront.
 
Salesforce is currently recommending that Salesforce Commerce B2C customers (and potential customers) interested in launching with the new SFRA, consult their implementation partner prior to beginning work. As one of the first systems integrators to build on the new Storefront Reference Architecture, Bluewolf, an IBM company, is well positioned to strategically advise you on your decision. 
 
It’s designed for the future of commerce
Despite no longer being called “mobile-first,” the new Storefront Reference Architecture was built with mobile experience as a primary consideration due to the growing trend of customers purchasing on mobile and tablet devices. Salesforce performed a study of over 2,000 ecommerce storefronts in order to analyze best design practices and mobile shopping patterns that resulted in high conversion. Salesforce then used this information to inform their development of a reference architecture that serves to provide a seamless shopping and checkout experience across all devices. The largest difference highlighted when comparing SiteGenesis and SFRA is the improved checkout flow, sticky CTAs that drive customer transactions, exposed search functionality, and an enhanced display of products and their variants, to name a few. 
 
In addition to the much-improved user experience and redesigned front-end, SFRA has been re-architected to consist of four distinct cartridge layers that bring the platform more in-line with a traditional MVC framework and provide for greater extensibility and compatibility with future upgrades.
 
Salesforce Commerce B2C Product Documentation defines and describes each cartridge layer in the following way:

 

Layer   Description 
Base Provides essential e-commerce functionality that is common to all sites. This functionality is only changed by Commerce Cloud Engineering or through contributions to the project repositories on BitBucket. The base cartridge includes best practice code for features used by the majority of customers.
Plug-in Enhances the e-commerce capabilities provided by Commerce Cloud or anyone else in the Salesforce community. Cartridges, provided by Commerce Cloud, let you integrate additional (optional) products and features such as product compare, wish list, and gift registry.
LINK Adds third-party functionality to your site. You can integrate features from LINK partners, such as payment providers and tax services.
Custom Adds specific customizations for your brand and organization. Perform all customizations of the base, LINK, and product cartridges for easy adoption of future features. 

 

Salesforce Commerce B2C customers powering their commerce storefront with SiteGenesis and older versions of LINK cartridges are familiar with the practice of directly modifying and customizing the core architecture code. With SFRA’s new four-layer stack, all core functionality remains untouched within the Base layer and all customization happeninging within the Custom layer. Similarly, the core functionality of LINK Cartridges cannot be modified and should be considered plug-and-play with all customization happening inside of the separate customization layer. This means that both the Salesforce Commerce Storefront and LINK cartridges can be more easily updated over time.

 
 
There’s some assembly required
The differentiation between the Base and Plug-in layers is an important one as this means that some features that previous Salesforce Commerce B2C user knew as native to the platform are no longer part of the core codebase. This also means that you need additional development effort to install these Plug-ins and/or the Plug-ins are not yet Generally Available. Salesforce Commerce Cloud has released the below list of Plugins that are no longer a part of the Base and are in various states of completion:
  • plugin_datadownload: implements a Download My Data button, which gives shoppers a way to download their data.

  • plugin_applepay: implements the Apple Pay feature.

  • plugin_reviews: implements a product review feature.

  • plugin_ratings: implements the product rating feature.

  • plugin_instorepickup: implements an order online and pick up in store feature.

  • plugin_productcompare: implements a product compare feature.

  • plugin_sitemap: implements a sitemap feature.

 
It is also worth noting that certain functionality, such as Gift Registry, Wish List and Contact Us Page, was not included as part of the GA release of Storefront Reference Architecture. Connect with one of Bluewolf’s Commerce experts to walk through a gap analysis between SFRA and SiteGenesis.
 
SFRA compliance is a thing
LINK cartridges need to be overhauled as part of the effort to make all LINK cartridges SFRA-compliant. In becoming SFRA-compliant, all cartridges will also need to become controller-compliant as well if they had not yet upgraded from the outdated Pipeline model. A select number of LINK cartridges participated in an early launch program with Salesforce Commerce B2C and are available today in the LINK marketplace on The Salesforce Store. A filtered search of the Salesforce Commerce B2C website shows that currently, 34/147 LINK cartridges are currently SFRA-compliant. LINK partners are aware of the need to update their Salesforce Commerce B2C cartridges and most have identified these changes as prioritized roadmap items. Each LINK partner is currently managing their own roadmap and Salesforce Commerce B2C customers/implementation partners are encouraged to reach out to LINK partners to better understand delivery timing. Those considering implementing on SFRA should factor in the necessary time and effort to refactor non-updated LINK cartridges, which can be considerable depending on the cartridge functionality.


 
Developer talent is trying to catch up
Developing on the SFRA is a new skill set that hardly anyone is familiar with. For brands looking to get an early lead and transition to SFRA sooner than later, enlisting the help of an experienced partner is a huge advantage. 
 
It’s delivering customer success

Salesforce has publicly announced that six customers are currently live on the Storefront Reference Architecture and that it has been deployed across 30+ storefronts. Recent conversations with Salesforce revealed that a number of projects were currently in-flight and leveraging the new Storefront Reference Architecture, one of which is currently led by Bluewolf, an IBM Company.


 
You can learn more on your own
See it in Action
At this time, Salesforce has not deployed a production version of the Commerce Cloud Storefront Reference Architecture, however, there is a demo.
 
Join the Community
Salesforce is maintaining a “Commerce Cloud Storefront Reference Arch” space within their Salesforce Partner Community. Join this space for SFRA updates, access to helpful links and to take part in the active conversation around the new Commerce Cloud architecture.
 
Dive into Product Documentation: Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s product documentation has already been updated to include Storefront Reference Architecture information. While not the most exciting reading, it’s often the most helpful. 
 
Hit the Trail
Interested in taking a more technical deep dive into the Storefront Reference Architecture? Salesforce has launched an “Explore the Commerce Cloud Storefront Reference Architecture” unit as part of their Commerce Cloud Digital for Developers module in Trailhead.
Connect with one of Bluewolf’s Commerce experts to learn how we can help your business with its SFRA.

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