Brick-and-mortar vs online shopping has taken center stage in the next-generation retailer dialogue. However, the retailer of tomorrow goes much deeper than that. Consumer demands and expectations as well as market conditions continue to change at a rapid pace. Retailers need to not only consider but fully embrace all available touchpoints of today’s Omni-channel commerce reality. It’s time for headless commerce.
What Does This Mean?
In a traditional commerce setting, the customer experience aspect of a system is what we consider the ‘head’ of commerce, the mobile and consumer apps, mobile POS, responsive websites, etc. The ‘head’ is well positioned to be a separate tier which can provide user experience across any and all channels.
Ecommerce was and for the most part remains a monolithic platform. This platform lumps everything required for an ecommerce site to function (i.e. business logic, inventory management, content management, etc.) under one roof; all the way up to the ‘head.’ Sticking you with a particular presentation/experience for your entire commerce system.
Over time, the commerce platform became more and more complex, providing various distinct channels (i.e. mobile, desktop, an amazon button). The monolithic commerce platform grew to be so heavy, that the weight from the “head,” or the presentation layer, was gradually neglected. Lost in the shuffle, it became more difficult to keep up with the times, and complications occurred when retailers tried to digitize their systems. As a result, the ‘head’ of your commerce platform grew stale. Which is why we’ve chopped it off!
Headless commerce is a digital commerce platform that views the system as a series of independent APIs or micro services, which a presentation platform can interact with. This provides more flexibility to mix and match commerce systems, inventory systems, CMS’s, pulling in the best-of-breed from each platform. We are no longer stuck with the presentation tier/ User Experience embedded within the commerce platform.
Headless commerce views each system independently, creating a middle tier. The ‘head’ is what the user sees and how they interact with a retailer’s commerce system. They don’t know or care about which inventory system you use and that it’s separate from whichever order fulfillment system you’ve chosen. So why did we allow all these separate system’s affect the user’s experience so much?
The ‘head’ can be hosted on a lightweight, cloud-based platform, allowing you to use the latest gadgets and front-end technology without disrupting your entire system or spending a fortune. The middleware tier is easy to deploy and monitor to any cloud or internally. It’s the flexible way of gluing together whatever backend systems you have and unchaining them from a monolithic commerce platform. With the middleware platform, there is flexibility to not only use commerce systems that work best for your company, but the agility and elasticity to keep up with the ever-evolving customer expectations. Delivering increased sales in Omni-channel retail environments, increased revenue potential from the ability to proactively market and target merchandise more frequently and rapidly at the channel level and cost savings associated with licensing, hosting, support and maintenance.
Regardless of where a consumer is located, in a store, at home, on the road, etc. they have instant access to your brand and products. With the right architecture such as a feature full front-end application ready to be plugged in with the appropriate commerce components and requisite APIs required to drive a headless commerce experience already defined, you have a solution that’s well thought out. A solution that is built with performance, security, availability, scalability, agility of making and deploying changes and ease of future expansion in mind. One that creates a seamless customer experience transforming all the various channels into numerous touchpoints that can be used to sway a shopper into becoming a customer. A head to headless commerce. We’ve seen a lot of cautionary tales about people who want to make minor changes to their system that eventually turns into a several million-dollar project. Or they discover the project is not possible in the first place. Over time we’ve seen many struggles; now with this architecture, you avoid any and all of those pitfalls.
Possible Head Splitting Scenarios
- Customer has an existing ecommerce platform and wants to start shifting to a headless commerce experience. An example of this might be that a customer is running their site on a traditional Commerce platform with an embedded presentation tier. They want to keep the commerce platform but would like to separate the presentation tier interacting with the business logic (exposed via APIs/Micro services) in the commerce platform.
- Customer that has a legacy platform that they want to replace with headless commerce and a separate presentation tier.
- B2C customer wants a B2B site, but doesn’t want to build another platform and wants to use headless commerce for their new site. In this case the key is to expose the functionality required by the B2B site as services and create a presentation tier for the B2B site. The B2C site will continue to be on the current platform and can be potentially moved to the new presentation tier in bits and pieces.
- Customer is already utilizing a headless commerce experience and needs to improve it, but doesn’t know where how
- Client has an existing site and wants to build another microsite, but doesn’t want to build it using the existing platform to gradually move over to a new headless site.
Don’t know if headless commerce is right for you and want to learn more? Our time spent meticulously building up then breaking down monolithic platforms allows us to help you understand headless commerce from every level. Simply put, headless commerce moves faster, is easier to deploy and test and is agile and scalable to mobilize with the connected world. Contact us if you have or are thinking about implementing a headless commerce system in your organization.
Andrew Powers, Senior Vice President, Solutions Delivery