Implementing Buy-on-the-Fly Commerce with Drupal

» 8 min read

In today's rapidly growing eCommerce market, time plays a crucial role. Sales teams depend on how quickly a product can reach the customer, and how expediently the technology platform can engage the customer to make a purchase. If the platform has a long and tedious process to buy a product, it is natural for the customer to lose interest and move on to the next available option.

The concept of buy-on-the-fly commerce emerges from this problem, and with the help of modern platforms like smartphones, it is helping eCommerce sites increase sales in a short period.

What is buy-on-the-fly commerce?

Buy-on-the-fly commerce is a new model for eCommerce that rectifies customer issues like unsynchronized steps or lengthy processes. It merges product purchase with our daily environments.

The following examples will make the concept clearer ─ when we browse a social networking platform like Facebook or Instagram, the site generally displays product advertisements. We often find a 'Buy Now' link below these product images, and clicking on the link directs us to its eCommerce platform, keeping the product already added to the cart. We can now buy the product proceeding through payment. This is a general example of how buy-on-the-fly works. The customer did not have to search for the product or go through steps to add the product to the cart and sign in to the site. With a couple of clicks, the order can be placed. This experience is replicated when customers receive promotional messages via SMS, WhatsApp, etc. with a coupon code and link to that product. Using this link will automatically give customers a discount on that product. Even replying to a promotional SMS can lead the customer to purchase the product.

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Why eCommerce platforms need buy-on-the-fly

The benefits of buy-on-the-fly apply to both businesses as well as customers. While customers find it useful because it saves time and makes it easy to search for and buy a product, the overall benefits are numerous. Some of these include:

1. Easy to reach the customers

A customer may not necessarily be a user of every eCommerce site. To purchase a product, the customer may first search for it and eventually land on a specific eCommerce site to make a purchase. However, eCommerce site owners already know who their potential customers are. They have the data, research, and customer info in place. If an eCommerce site starts using this concept, it can reach customers easily before customers try to search it. Current platforms like smartphones, tablets, etc. and its features like push notifications and social networking apps help eCommerce sites to implement this concept.

2. Saves time for customers

Buy-on-the-fly helps customers save time in looking for a product or browsing multiple sites to compare product value and prices. Features like guest checkout enable customers to purchase the product by giving minimum details like name, mobile number, and delivery address.

3. It helps not only sales but also marketing

Connecting with a potential customer with a tool is an excellent option for any marketing team. They can do a survey of the product with quick inputs from the customer using this concept. For example, when we pass by a mobile store and get a push notification with a huge discount on a newly launched mobile and still do not feel compelled to know more about the product by clicking on the notification, it suggests that the product is not appealing to the customers.

4. Reduce the steps where a potential customer can drop off

We often experience a situation during an online purchase about the tedious next steps. Or maybe before getting the Add to Cart button for a product, we navigate to some other pages. This causes eCommerce sites to lose potential customers. To avoid this, the Add to Cart button can be placed directly on the notification received on the user’s phone. By clicking on the link, the product will be added to the shopping cart without navigating to any other page.

5. Good platform and technology support

Every eCommerce site nowadays is developed on some frameworks like Drupal, Magento, AEM, etc. Every framework has updated itself with this concept and given an end-to-end solution. For example, Acquia launched ACF, which has enabled any Drupal-driven eCommerce site to use this method to minimize configurations and customizations.

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Pros and cons of buy-on-the-fly commerce


  • Easy to implement with the help of supporting frameworks like Acquia Commerce Framework. (ACF)
  • Better engagement with customers.
  • Removes complex navigation or lengthy processes to purchase the desired product.
  • Improves conversion ratio between leads and customers.


  • Time-consuming to build on any platform from scratch.
  • It is tough to pull customers who are not into smartphones or social platforms.
  • Sometimes disturbing to customers getting regular notifications.

How does Drupal support buy-on-the-fly?

Drupal is a CMS that supports eCommerce sites and their end-to-end workflows. To enable this concept, an open-source module Acquia Commerce Framework (ACF) is developed and available in the market. Enabling this module in a Drupal commerce platform will help the site to engage users with the advantages of buy-on-the-fly commerce.

This module has the decoupled eCommerce architecture where Drupal serves as frontend and has options to connect with Elastic Path and BigCommerce. One of these will serve as the backbone of the product with its core data like prices, stocks, etc. But the module can be extended to work with other commerce platforms also. As Drupal 8 have JSON API in its core, creating this architecture is easy and compact. The whole system helps the developers and site builders to build both regular catalog shopping and buy-on-the-fly commerce quickly and efficiently.

This system provides flexibility to place commerce components directly into the content. For example, every product will have a code which can be passed via push notification or broadcast message. Clicking on that will enable the customer to place that product in cart with discount and other options. So, when content is built on the site, it seamlessly creates shopping components. Product information is like content to the site authors, and they can use it to view, refer, and embed it easily. Content authors can place the product data according to customer expectations. Within the system, the site admin can create multiple catalogs with connectors. These connectors will link product data to content.

In recent TA Digital offerings, CommerceFactory closely works with this sales strategy. Keeping Drupal, best-in-class CMS backed by a large open-source community to build sophisticated digital experiences, is in the frontend, which consumes API released by Elastic Path Commerce Platform. The product is a headless, enterprise-scaled commerce platform purpose-built to support experience monetization and inject transactional capabilities into emerging channels such as social, chat-bot, voice-assistants, digital shopping walls, Internet of Things (IoT) as well as traditional ones like web and mobile. CommerceFactory provides all the features to transact with an integrated solution, including payments, tax, and shipping accelerators. Drupal helps in content creation functions such as template-creation, workflows, and change management to manage modules, templates, and assets for all marketing initiatives.


Buy-on-the-fly is one of the exciting features available for any eCommerce site. However, it is up to the site owners to frame a strategy and make the most of this feature. It can be the right choice for an eCommerce site based on its user base and sales plans. With the availability of ACF, Drupal is one of the most robust open-source systems that can be leveraged to attain this feature.

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Rajdeep Paul

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