Go headless and enjoy the benefits

As retailers close their brick-and-mortar outlets and people all over the world stay at home for all but essential activities to reduce COVID-19 transmission rates, there’s never been a higher demand - or need - for ecommerce. Nielsen highlighted stockpiling, a reduced number of store visits and permanently altered supply chain as some of the key consumer behaviour trends tied to the pandemic.

Brands need to ensure they’re able to meet the needs of their customers online, but even before these times customer acquisition costs (CAC) have been steadily increasing by as much as  20% annually. So, what can be done to keep online sales figures healthy without escalating CAC?

Many attempt to make the customer experience as seamless as possible and focus on tailored, omnichannel digital content that meets the buyer with their wants and needs on their platform of choice. However, traditional commerce platforms have a harder - and costlier - time in meeting this goal. That’s because they tend to be built using full stack systems which are designed for desktop commerce. Given that fewer than 4% of desktop browsers convert into sales, many newer retailers have chosen to use a headless commerce solution that can be easily adapted to any platform.

Here’s how headless ecommerce works and why it’s the smartest choice for 2020.

How headless gets the job done

Traditional commerce platforms use full stack development which combines a detailed front end desktop tightly coupled with a monolithic back-end logic. Although there are customization options available, these require both the front and back end to be developed in tandem, and mainly focus on desktop sites.

In contrast, headless commerce decouples the front end from the backend to create a flexible and scalable architecture. Edits to the customer facing content can be made with no disruption to the backend business logic that processes sales. Brands can also expand online sales to function across any touchpoint in the buyer pathway, be that desktop, mobile or smart device, and ensure the content fits the device in question perfectly. The API first microservice approach in headless makes it possible to pick useful services and extend them with own or 3rd party microservices to build tailored solutions for a better user experience.

Let’s take a closer look at what the benefits of headless commerce offer in today’s complex buyer pathways.

The main benefits of a headless approach

Customers value personalization and expect a tailored experience whether they are using an app, in-store tablet or social media. A decoupled system allows for endless experimentation and personalization tests without causing disruption to other shoppers that are using the system.

What’s more, as the systems are decoupled, changes to the content layer can be made quickly and easily. This means retailers can launch new campaign ideas for product lines and promotions to keep up with any shifts in demand or new trends.

New features and design adjustments planned as a result of the thorough user testing and personalization experiments can also be rapidly applied with headless commerce. Changes to either the front or back end can be made without a full system reboot thanks to the scalable architecture, creating a faster overall time to market for these continuous refinements.

To put this into perspective, commerce brands using traditional platforms usually roll out updates every few weeks, whereas Amazon deploys updates every 11.7 seconds. Even if brands hold the insight into what customizations are required, traditional systems are so tightly coupled that these just can’t match the pace of headless architecture. This agility is also replicated when brands want to roll out an experience on new channels, such as a new Instagram store, or reach new regions.

With these tools in hand, headless commerce also enables ultimate marketing effectiveness. The knowledge of who is buying what allows brands to tailor ad campaigns, messaging and product suggestions to match the shopping habits of users at each touchpoint -- driving sales even further.

E-commerce everywhere

Consumers have been quick to adopt IoT products, with voice-activated assistants, smartwatches and appliances proliferating the home. Intel predicts that there will be 200 billion IoT and connected devices by 2020. This creates endless opportunities for brands to develop sales touchpoints through these devices.

The less friction shoppers experience, the more likely they are to complete a purchase, and IoT aids this by making it as simple as a quick swipe and tap or a conversation with Alexa. With headless commerce, brands can easily try out new device integrations and ensure that key data such as the customers’ delivery address or clothes size are mapped across the device networks to create a smooth, tailored experience.

A true omnichannel future

We’re closer to true omnichannel than ever. In a world of constant change, being able to move quickly and adjust online shopping channels when needed is an important success factor. With COVID-19, this has been into even sharper context, as brands who are able to adapt to the shift in consumer needs find new markets waiting for them online.

Even after COVID-19, customers are likely to continue shopping in the way that’s most convenient, and retailers must be ready to meet them on every platform.

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