September 16, 2019
By Dietmar Rietsch, CEO, Pimcore
Customers today value buying experience as much as they value instant product quality, features, and price range. They want personalization that “speaks” to them. They expect interactions to be shaped by their purchasing patterns. What used to do the trick earlier – mere speed and convenience – is no longer enough.
Manufacturers are also starting to understand the significance of “directly connecting with shoppers and satisfying them.” To meet customer expectations, they are adopting direct-to-customer sales models. However, building direct digital interaction with end-consumers requires more than just a direct sales strategy – it requires an agile architecture to deliver personalized customer journeys in real-time. As a matter of effect, there is a need to implement more flexible and dynamic commerce platforms to adapt to rapidly fluctuating customer demands and market trends.
Manufacturing organizations that realize this shift are redesigning their customer experience (CX) platforms using advanced technologies to infuse direct visibility across all touchpoints. The foremost demand is for IT teams to work in parallel as manufacturers update or roll-out new products in the market. Be it a new campaign or a custom checkout flow, the commerce solution needs to be flexible enough to seamlessly integrate existing platforms with modern technologies. For these reasons, manufacturers are increasingly motivated to separate customer-facing layers (the systems at the customer (UI/UX)) and backend layers (commerce engine). This is where a headless commerce approach comes into play to ensure that customers have a seamless, rewarding, and exceptional experience between consuming content and making purchases.
What Is the Headless Approach?
A traditional eCommerce architecture has tightly webbed User Interface (UI) and commerce service layers, often implemented on a single system. This seems to work for B2B scenarios, but it can cause inefficiencies in the B2C environment. The issue originates because all aspects, UI and backend system, of the commerce site are tightly coupled. Additionally, these full-stack/monolithic platforms cannot quickly monetize new touchpoints or support new channels because of the inflexibility to experiment with customer-facing interfaces.
Headless commerce essentially decouples the UI layer from the backend services, connecting the two through a set of web services, called APIs. As the name implies, the backend (tail) and the frontend (head) exist independently of each other. It means that the entire shopping experience, be it an app, website, mobile store, wearable device, etc. can function separately with fewer restrictions.
With such technology, manufacturers can truly transform the way they sell. For instance, a furniture manufacturing company that connects directly with customers via eCommerce portal can dynamically showcase its products across channels like creating purposeful animation of products and 3D user interfaces for a better experience. Plus, using mobile apps, customers can easily place, view, and interact with furniture products’ 3D models in their environment. Here, the code of the backend commerce engine remains the same, but the game is changed at the UI-end. Likewise, manufacturers can innovate UI in many ways without worrying about backend code. This will not only elevate the customer experience but also enhance the brand’s customer conversion rates.
Why Go the Headless Way?
The concept of headless commerce has gained popularity in recent years because it eliminates the technical challenge of integrating an eCommerce platform with an existing content management system (CMS). Where monolithic eCommerce solutions combine content presentation capabilities with catalogs, carts, and underlying commerce, headless commerce gives manufacturers the freedom to run multiple front-end solutions simultaneously with a single commerce solution. By segregating the storefront (front-end) and the commerce engine (backend), it provides developers the required freedom to customize touchpoints and address the evolving purchasing experience.
Here are the key benefits if you go the headless way:
Adaptability: The most popular advantage of the headless approach is the flexibility it provides to brands. Companies are free to make updates to their customer-facing content layer without disrupting their business infrastructure. From launching new promotion campaigns or delivering new customer experiences, to changing the UX completely as per customer demands, there is no time lag, dependence on developers or need for full system reconfiguration.
Simplified Integration: A flexible UI layer in-sync with backend systems results in easy data pulls and service integration across a range of systems. Not only that, with such a configuration in place, it is also simple to integrate the commerce functionalities into any other system quickly and efficiently without having to disrupt the overall architecture. This ultimately helps in effectively identifying the integrations that will both benefit the business and support the development needs. Also, with a mesh integration, the UI layer presents a consistent experience to the user where timely integrations are seamlessly tailored.
Agility and Efficiency: The instinctive result of having a headless infrastructure is the speed with which one can make changes. The basic need to go hand-in-hand while updating one system in a coupled architecture is eliminated, and changes can happen at any end at any time, even simultaneously. Having an open architecture also means that new functionalities can be efficiently integrated at speed. It provides improved development efficiency and agility. The teams at both the commerce and UI side can work in cohesion and harmony since any change required at the customer (UI) end can be made without altering and/or retesting the core integrations.
Personalization: With the constant need for personalized assistance while making a purchase, headless systems allow manufacturers to experiment with diverse personalization offerings. One can adopt innovative techniques or integrate smart technologies that deliver an engaging shopping experience on the go. Vice-versa, it is also easy to experiment at the backend without stopping/slowing or introducing any glitches in the commerce platform.
Is Headless Commerce Right for You?
New technologies emerging every other day make it difficult for manufacturers to strategize their next move. Features like personalized recommendations, real-time updates, and predictive assistance offer a lot of benefits; however, implementing everything at one go is not so easy in a complex technological environment.
Going the headless way resolves such issues. It allows manufacturers to make their digital commerce portals as flexible as possible. A headless solution provides the freedom that manufacturers need to revamp, recreate, or redirect their UI strategies however they want, and whenever they want. But it is not an out-of-box type of approach. You need a clear strategy, experience, and technical expertise to implement it successfully. So, choose wisely to make it work best for you. Headless architecture is thus a roadmap imperative for responding to omni-channel UI, interactive interfaces, wearable UI, and the experience-driven era that is relentless.
As CEO and co-founder of Pimcore, Dietmar Rietsch deals with new technologies and the digital transformation of companies daily. Dietmar is a passionate entrepreneur who has been designing and realizing exciting digital projects for more than 20 years.