The ecommerce environment increasingly looks like a battlefield, as brands and tech providers team up to slay the unified software dragon, separating heads from bodies.
Using APIs to dislodge the front-end from the back-end of an ecommerce website is becoming more and more common, as businesses search to provide smoother, more targeted customer experiences. (Elsewhere we have discussed the pros and cons of headless ecommerce and laid out the map as to whether it’s the right path to follow or not.)
Isn’t it weird how online shoppers make a beeline towards a brand’s website, simply browse its digital aisles, and click buy?… It would be if it simply happened just like that. Living in a world of digital and technological explosions, there are multiple pathways to ecommerce.
In fact, the average customer uses 9 touchpoints to discover, browse, and purchase products and services. Touchpoints such as social media, messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and livestream shopping.
Add to this the growing use of mobile for ecommerce has meant that brands and retailers have need to stay on the ball when it comes to not only covering as many touchpoints and platforms as possible, but to provide a unified and continual experience – no matter where a consumer may come in contact with a brand.
As one example of the growth of ecommerce touchpoints, social commerce exploded by 104% year-on-year.
When losing your head may work
On the theme of providing a seamless experience across platforms and touchpoints, one of the newer solutions to supply this is headless commerce.
Going headless means using APIs to anchor the entire omnichannel journey to a singular experience – whether that’s social media platforms, third-party touchpoints, curbside pickup apps. And today, many consumers have begun to shift away from the more traditional retail space, and even the more “traditional” digital points like Facebook and brand websites: spaces like TikTok, livestreaming commerce, and shopping via games consoles like Playstation and Xbox. And this means APIs have come to the forefront.
(If you’ve had your own head in the sand for a while now then let’s quickly define headless commerce: the separation of the front-end presentation layer and the back-end functionality of an ecommerce application. This type of architecture provides businesses – generally the bigger brands that have a broader dev team – the flexibility to use APIs to build and shape as they see fit, with the grand aim of providing better user experience for not only customers but also employees and workers.)
Perhaps the reason for the hype surrounding headless is that it not only represents a tool for developers or a tech solution. Headless represents an organizational shift, as it gives teams the ability to keep agile so that they can attach commerce capabilities to new channels.
Of course, it’s not for everyone. And we’ve covered that in a previous article. But if you are thinking about reaching for the axe and swing at the neck, keep these steps in mind.
Find the ideal partner
Seeking the right kind of help to improve your brand’s customer experience is a key step. There are many solutions out there: the ride-alongs that are hitching rides on the headless freight train; those that have been recently investing in their headless capability; and those that have prioritized and understood the importance of API-led solutions and have been using them to power commerce for decades.
One of these solutions that finds itself in the third basket, which saw early on the direction of ecommerce, is Salesforce, which provides headless capabilities via Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud provides easy-to-use drag-and-drop tools as well as a rich partner ecosystem (which humbly includes ArganoUV) to define your next ecommerce upgrade. Not to mention that, with many brands and retailers experiencing holiday-season footfall on their websites, headlessness can help to prepare them for sustained peaks in traffic this year.
Spread the word internally
Salesforce actually has advice on how to massage your leadership emotionally into thinking of headlessness. “Bring marketers, merchandisers, and digital teams together,” said Salesforce in a blog post, “as they are the ones who will need to evangelize the approach. Many organizations see the move to headless as an IT-led decision. But as it takes many lines of business to ensure commerce success, the same stakeholders should also lead a commerce transformation.
They actually advise not to mention the term “headless commerce” as it may come across as too nuanced if it’s brought up too soon.
Test and make mistakes
For brands that are more old-school in their practices, who are used to the meticulous planning of each and every step, and who devote a lot of time to such undertakings, it may come as a cultural shock to work agile, to streamline and launch quickly, to use customer feedback and integrate that into new iterations.
Here’s one example, for sports brand Under Armour – which runs their ecommerce site on Salesforce Commerce Cloud – they had a particular problem: with the majority of their traffic coming from mobile, low conversions and AOV translated as a $115 million hole between mobile visits and sales. As a response, they worked with SFCC and Mobify (a headless commerce solution that is now integrated into SFCC) to build progressive web apps across dozens of markets. Their headless, API-focused renovation enabled them to launch live fast, review the corresponding results, and adapt accordingly to provide elevated online experiences.
Distill the digital experience
Using APIs to integrate broader third-party sources, such as messenger apps, Instagram Shop, TikTok, can deliver a more unified experience. But that’s just the beginning of headless commerce. You can reach even further by plugging ecommerce into marketing, service, and order management, to create a unified platform that is home for all data.