A headless commerce strategy can do a lot for your business, as consumer habits and behaviors shifted rapidly since the pandemic. In fact, it’s brought the world of e-commerce firmly into the spotlight. How retailers choose to navigate their digital journey will determine their success, both now and in the years to come.
If a flexible, scalable, fully-integrated e-commerce platform is the destination, then headless commerce is the vehicle that will help get there. A so-called ‘headless platform’ removes any dependencies between the front-end (what customers see) and the back-end (business processes and functions), enabling businesses to roll out new features and carry out maintenance without disrupting the customer experience.
The best way to achieve this is by taking a microservices approach to development, in which each digital function runs as its own independent piece of software. This is the same technology that allows retail giants like Amazon to constantly improve their online experience without the need for any downtime in development. That’s how headless commerce works.
A headless commerce strategy–top 10 benefits
What are the benefits of a headless commerce strategy and why should you be considering it in 2021? Here are the top ten benefits of embracing headless commerce for your business:
1. Easily deliver an omnichannel experience
Around 9 in 10 consumers that shopped online during the pandemic are likely to continue to do so once the crisis is over. That means retailers will need to start thinking about diversifying their sales channels to stay competitive and give consumers the best experience. Headless commerce will allow you to work on these channels in isolation, allowing you to re-think the purpose of each channel and optimize it without restricting customers’ ability to shop.
2. Seamless adoption of new picking and delivery models
As sales channels diversify, delivery models will need to keep up. Headless commerce will allow the seamless introduction of ‘click-and-collect’ and home delivery options, catering to customers’ specific needs. Grocers face added complications such as guaranteeing specific delivery windows and managing delivery routes with fresh produce. Headless commerce and a microservices architecture will make the software that enables this - as well as processes such as wave picking - much easier to integrate with other services such as payment and checkout systems.
3. Participation in hyperlocal e-commerce
Hyperlocal commerce is the art of partnering with local businesses, both offline and online, to fulfill a customers’ needs. It’s great for the local economy and the environment, it’s cost-effective, and it allows customers to make a choice based on price or provenance. We've seen this in the grocery industry –where even national grocery chains must still operate on a somewhat local level, and headless commerce will allow grocers and other retailers to easily ‘plug-in’ new services from region-to-region.
4. Improve online customer engagement
The number of customer touch-points has increased rapidly over the past decade or more. Headless commerce will allow you to tailor those touch-points independently as well as create new ones, delivering new integrated shopping experiences. An app-based interactive shopping list, for instance, could suggest items to customers, let them know what’s in stock and at which branch, and allow them to pick up certain items while having others delivered.
5. Augment the in-store experience
Headless e-commerce isn’t just about online shopping; it can also be used to enhance and augment the in-store experience. So-called ‘endless aisles’ are an increasingly popular example of this. An endless aisle is a terminal within a store that allows users to add items to their basket that are either too big to display on shelves or come from a different source. It makes an already-convenient shopping experience even more convenient by allowing customers to get everything they need in one place. Headless commerce can easily facilitate the implementation of an endless aisle platform, integrating it seamlessly with customer accounts and payment facilities.
6. Diversify your online brand
The switch to e-commerce is a valuable opportunity for retailers to reinvent themselves, but it’s rarely a one-off process. To stay competitive and in-line with customer expectations, online brands need to be in a constant state of evolution. This might involve altering how products are displayed, adding new products to the catalogue, or even replacing an old brand logo with a new one. Because the back-end and front-end are uncoupled, headless commerce will allow retailers to constantly refine their offering and appearance without disrupting business.
7. Broaden products and supply
Supply networks can be complex things for retailers to manage, particularly those with stores in different geographical regions serving locally-based customers. When testing new supply lines and adding new products, there’s always a small element of risk involved. Retailers own that risk each and every time they expand their product line-up. A headless commerce solution can reduce the time and resources required to add new products, lowering the risk and making the product catalogue more agile and easier to manage.
8. Personalization, increased spend and cross-selling
The omnichannel approach gives retailers more opportunity to influence purchase decisions through targeted offers and timely product placement for cross-selling. For instance, a retailer will slowly gather data on customers’ buying patterns, helping them to anticipate a customers’ future needs. This can lead to upselling opportunities such as suggested items, predictive shopping lists and an online experience that is tailored from customer to customer. Headless commerce makes the development, deployment and integration of these services possible without the need for costly downtime.
9. Rapid physical expansion
With e-commerce and brick and mortar retail now intrinsically linked, retailers need to ensure that the opening of new physical stores is supported by the right digital infrastructure. Everything from localized online storefronts to hyperlocal networks need to be established and connected to offer a unified and consistent customer experience. Headless commerce and microservice architecture were made for this kind of expansion, allowing you to ‘plug-in’ new digital services that integrate seamlessly with existing IT infrastructure.
10. Long-term sustainability and future-proofing
Headless e-commerce doesn’t occur in a single instance. It’s not necessarily something that’s ever ‘completed’ as businesses are always evolving and expanding. Headless commerce and microservices provide the foundation on which all future changes can be built, giving you the capability and agility to scale flexibly for decades to come.