Getting closer to your customer with headless commerce
You might not remember the first time you enjoyed a personalized shopping experience on your favorite ecommerce site…but it remembers you. At the heart of any personalized ecommerce transaction is the under-the-hood technology designed to give you anything but a cookie-cutter experience.
And that’s where headless commerce plays a starring role, Joel Farquhar, the VP of architecture at Pivotree, tells Bold Commerce in an interview. Pivotree specializes in delivering and managing ecommerce and master data management solutions for clients around the world.
Headless architecture contributes to invigorating a brand’s customization ideas while also helping with scalability. Because headless commerce is designed to keep the back-end and front-end separated, brand owners can easily, and at any time, upgrade and customize digital assets without compromising the performance.
Test, analyze, optimize, repeat
The biggest benefit for clients leveraging headless commerce is gaining agility in their sector, notes Farquhar. “It puts them in a position where they can rapidly improve the user experience across many customer touchpoints without large code deployments. Typically, the chosen head is implemented using some sort of lightweight framework that can be deployed often and quickly.”
Building off a custom CMS or DXP as they go headless can give business owners the leg up in the layers of features they can bring to their customers. “With headless, I can easily integrate a variety of services whether it's in ecommerce or payment or rating reviews or A/B testing tools,” Farquhar adds.
Customizing the enterprise
A recent Forrester report around online commerce echoes Farquhar in how he views consumer trends turning towards the customizable. The report remarked on how retailers bring personalization to email marketing campaigns, but it’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. Slowly but steadily gaining traction are other strategies such as personalized discounts in-store or via email, in-store clienteling solutions for store associates, and marketing messages on other sites based on a shopper’s preferences or behavior.
Personalization becomes the key that unlocks a more engaging experience for a business’s customers, enabling the brand to move away from a top-down one-size-fits-all approach. Which can be frustrating for many enterprise clients.
Consider a large retailer that might want to make small, simple changes to its UI, Farquhar says. When their back-end and front-end are tightly coupled, these types of changes usually require a release of a whole platform, which can often be disruptive and frustrating to the business.
“So as a consumer, I don't want a different experience when I interact with my favorite brand,” he goes on to say, “depending on whether I'm in-store, online, or on their mobile app. In the headless world, the services are centralized and the experiences are just different heads.”
Bringing those personalized experiences to customers is a fulfilling aspect of his work at Pivotree, says Farquhar. “The most exciting part for headless commerce for me and Pivotree is really the ability to help our customers deliver experiences that we call ‘frictionless.’ And asking ourselves, ‘How do we improve and help out the customers that we work with to improve the experiences that they're delivering to their customers’ and ‘How do we do it quickly?’, especially in retail.”
Going headless can be jarring for businesses accustomed to legacy systems, especially those relying solely on SaaS. Farquhar recalls, “Previously customers in ecommerce often chose between buying a large on-premise ecommerce platform that gave them the power to fully customize it, but it also forced them to have to support and manage the whole solution. And a lot of customers can't do or don’t have the in-house ability to do that.”
Many of those businesses preferred using a fully SaaS-based solution which was simple to manage, but that often came burdened with limits on the ability to customize assets, especially when it came to the user experience.
“With headless, it gives you some of the best of both where I can highly control the user experience and give something unique to my customers, but I can still maybe adopt a solution that's managed by somewhere else,” he adds.
Asked for an example of a brand that is applying headless commerce architecture in an intuitive way, Farquhar nominates shoe retailer Aldo, who shifted to this framework in 2016. “They were early adopters and they did it right and it really helped them start to deliver some of that consistent experience across multiple touchpoints, whether it's their mobile app or the digital experiences that they offer in-store,” he says.
Download "Retail ecommerce in context: the next iteration," sponsored by Bold Commerce, here.
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