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Headless Commerce: Take Control of the Customer Experience

Rich Minns • September 6, 2018

Why the Future of Digital Commerce Might be Headless

In today’s digital environment, business teams require the ability to not only move quickly but to stay in front of ever-changing customer expectations. Brands need to make changes across multiple channels and introduce new functionality for targeted experiments and new customer experiences in order to personalize the digital shopping experience faster than ever.

To add to the challenge, it is extremely difficult for a brand to adapt these customer experiences without impacting the current priorities of their back-end commerce operations and still enable fast-paced business growth. If this is the case for both your commerce platform and content system, Headless Commerce is a potential solution.

Headless Commerce solutions are designed to address these issues. They promise to enable very rapid, business-driven commerce and enable businesses to serve and sell to customers in a plethora of new ways. There’s every reason to expect that Headless Commerce will be the standard for omnipresent, omnichannel commerce in the decade ahead.

 

A World of New Possibilities

Meanwhile, consumers are buying things in more ways than ever. Social media posts lead directly to one-click purchases. Marketing emails present us with personalized special offers and messaging. Conversational devices such as Amazon’s Alexa have entirely removed the screen and browser from the digital shopping experience and operate using the consumer’s voice.

These examples show that transactions are taking place over an increasingly large number of interfaces, and commerce channels are rapidly growing and evolving. According to the Harvard Business Review, 73% of shoppers use multiple channels along their shopping journey, and this is slowly proliferating into mobile, voice, and other forms of digital commerce.

We are at the point where businesses are doing everything they can to adapt to this new era of commerce, but are unable to because of the monolithic nature of their commerce system. This is where Headless Commerce comes in.

 

Headless Commerce

It’s perhaps a misleading term. Headless Commerce systems might, in fact, have many modular, interchangeable heads.

The key to the technology and its relevance today is the decoupling of the customer touchpoint (the head) from the common background processes.

Think about those familiar basics of digital commerce: the shopping basket and the checkout. Placing an item in the basket signals your intent to buy and might hold the item while you browse for more. That simple process is required no matter how you arrive at the moment of purchase. Maybe you got there from an online store. Maybe you’re having a chat with Siri or Cortana. Perhaps you’re replying to a text.

The point is, it shouldn’t matter. All of those touchpoints should know who you are, and that you want that item. Every single channel should access the same providers, prices, inventory, fulfillment options, and customer data. If you’re entitled to loyalty points or discounts, all those systems should be aware and able to apply them to your order. They should know your preferences, your billing details, and your purchase history.

That’s the purpose of Headless Commerce. Today’s retail ecosystem produces daunting amounts of data and variables. It isn’t practical to store all of that across multiple standalone front-end touchpoints. Sourcing the data from a unified back-end is much more practical and has a much better technical design.

 

You’re in Control

A capable Content Management System (CMS) can make changing the front-end experience quick and simple; online publication takes one click. However, to create truly differentiated offers and campaigns across a range of touchpoints, marketing managers, product managers, and UX designers need control over much richer data-sources and automated features.

Personalisation, integrated analytics, AI and marketing automation can transform every touchpoint into one that builds real customer loyalty. Zoro attributes a one-year 8%-10% increase in site revenue to their investments in personalized recommendations, offers, and search, according to Forrester. But only 14% of digital professionals say their cross-channel personalized experiences are very consistent.

Headless Commerce opens the door to all those differentiators: customized 1:1 offers and journeys, richer functions, and consistent personalization. Systems like Adobe Experience Manager bring the elusive 360° view of the customer within reach of the marketing manager. Now every customer touchpoint, no matter how temporary, can source and make use of the entire repository of context, transactions, behaviors and customer information needed to feed consistent, deep and engaging experiences.

 

Headless Commerce Isn’t Only for Retail

While B2C is driving the early adoption of Headless Commerce, the potential for B2B is enormous. The accelerated pace of business is a serious challenge. The ability to quickly and easily compose powerful, flexible touchpoints can transform interactions across the entire supply chain.

Direct selling and subscription models are disrupting traditional relationships between manufacturers, suppliers, and buyers. Self-service B2B capabilities are proving very popular. According to Gartner, Inc., by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

Staying competitive in B2B will mean taking control and becoming very responsive to customer experience and expectations. Headless Commerce offers the most likely solution because it decouples frequently-changing touchpoints from core systems that need to stay secure and consistent. That makes it good for marketing and sales teams, and just as good for IT.

 

What Should You Do About It?

Implementing a successful Headless solution is a complicated journey that requires careful upfront planning with a partner that is not only familiar with the technology, but is willing to take the time and get to know your customers, challenges, markets, and strategy.

Also, Headless Commerce may not be for every company, yet. Some enterprise commerce systems come equipped with robust experience management functionality out-of-the-box. While Headless solutions offer a greater degree of control and agility, your trusted commerce services partner should be able to identify where your business and technology needs exceed the capabilities of these commerce platforms.

Selecting the right partner and technology solution enables you to move forward as one team and define a roadmap that efficiently moves your business forward while enabling you to stay out in front of customer expectations.

For some, that will lead to radical transformation and a truly future-facing business model. For others, it may mean a measured adoption of elements of Headless to upgrade and future-proof an existing commerce strategy. For others still, it may simply not be the right time just yet.

Regardless, the potential for Headless Commerce is vast. It is coming, and we can expect it will have a huge impact on the next decade of digital commerce.

To learn more or for an evaluation of your business and technology needs, get in touch with us at info@lyonscg.com.

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About LYONSCG

Lyons Consulting Group (LYONSCG), part of the Capgemini Group, is a leading global commerce service provider, with capabilities that include consulting, digital agency, systems integration, technology services, and managed services. LYONSCG combines proven methodologies, deep technical expertise, and award-winning design to create digital commerce experiences that engage and convert consumers and buyers. Hundreds of leading B2C and B2B brands trust LYONSCG to realize their commerce vision and continually optimize it to drive profitable growth. For more information, go to www.lyonscg.com.

 

References

Forrester, Masters of the Top Four Retail Tech Trends, January 2018

Gartner Customer 360 Summit 2011


Rich Minns

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Rich Minns

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