Headless Commerce: A ‘Best of Both Worlds’ Approach for Manufacturers
Customer Experience (CX) today is as important a differentiator for manufacturers as product quality and price. Interactions on any level of business impact customer perception and their decision to keep coming back or not. In these times, where digitization shapes how buyers think and what they expect, relying on just traditional stores or distributors to reach end-customers is no longer enough.
Manufacturers need a way to deliver the same level of the personalized customer experience through online channels that customers receive in a physical store.
With an elongated supply-chain full of multiple touchpoints, manufacturers are now becoming more interested in how customers make their purchase decisions and what influences them across their buying journey. Sometimes, they do not get enough in-depth data insight about consumer behavior as behavioral data mostly lies with distributors/retailers/middlemen or market places.
Furthermore, with customers getting used to consuming content and purchasing through various touchpoints, legacy eCommerce platforms cannot keep up with their evolving demands. Multiple challenges arise in the existing digital commerce systems, including:
- Limited customization capabilities making it difficult to innovate
- The complex back-end and front-end systems restraining experimentation at the UI-end
- Inability to analyze the changing buying behavior of customers
As old trends morph into new ones – manufacturers must follow suit! A distinctive, compelling and focused public-facing customer experience, complete with direct-to-consumer (DTC) online sales, can help manufacturers control and cultivate customer relationships that transcend retail channels. With new-age digital commerce, they can envision the entire customer journey and deliver personalized experiences.
According to Gartner, by 2022, consumer product manufacturers investing in digital commerce will earn 50% of their online sales revenue from customized products and services informed by personalized experiences.
Manufacturers moving with this trend are reaping benefits while others are wondering how to build back-end solutions from scratch. In such a scenario, headless content management — and by extension, “headless commerce” – can play a crucial role in designing digital commerce architecture for the new age. With the ever-changing demands of a seamless omnichannel experience, flexible and scalable commerce solutions are the need of the hour. Headless commerce makes shopping-features accessible as a service and is currently one of the most popular architectures in the digital commerce domain. This can benefit manufacturers that have established eCommerce strategies and want to take advantage of the solution functionality without having to conform to its design constraints.
Manufacturers can improve digital commerce experiences across customer touchpoints, such as webshop, mobile, in-store, social media, point-of-sale, and more. It allows usage of different platforms and solutions for different parts of the product, letting the manufacturers tailor unique product experiences every time.
Digital Commerce Is Evolving the Headless Way
Headless commerce decouples front-end layer from the back-end or commerce engine of the Digital platform. Both layers— the presentation layer and the business logic layer— work independently. It delivers functionality via APIs, and then the “head” is run by another system. Developers can then use APIs to deliver things like products, blog posts or customer reviews to any screen or device, while front-end developers can get to work on how to present that content using any framework they desire. So why is headless commerce leading the way to innovate customer experience? The answer is multi-faceted:
- Flexibility – With the decoupling of layers in a headless architecture, it is easier to update a UI part without disrupting the business logic. Headless commerce reduces design constraints and provides infinite flexibility to innovate in customer experience across channels.
- Personalization – Headless commerce allows for experimentation without fear of slowing down the back-end process. Personalizing content based on geography and demography becomes much easier. Moreover, demand generation activities with Content Marketing, product showcasing, blogs or vlogs, images, etc. can also be accelerated.
- Speed – Making changes in the open without disturbing the backend (and vice versa) means new functionalities and integrations can be applied in virtually no time.
- Integration – One can work closely with the IT team and identify the finest integrations as per the business needs. It underpins an eCommerce solution with headless content management capabilities since changes only need to be made in the front end.
Headless Commerce = Improved CX = Revenue Acceleration for Manufacturers
The impact of high-level CX automatically results in better business outcomes. Furthermore, CX that incorporates voice and visual cues has the potential to improve convenience and long-term impact on conversion more than a single mode of purchase. Manufacturers are already using specific digital commerce components to sell their products online or are using non-transactional sites for sharing information with their customers. Nevertheless, they must capitalize on a wider array of channels and techniques to improve the buying journey. This is where headless commerce comes into the picture:
- Manufacturers launching a B2B portal designed to facilitate self-service ordering and specialty item distribution to smaller customers can deploy headless commerce to enable customers to shop and buy beyond the digital commerce site.
- Manufacturers, running a monolithic commerce application and the UI WYSIWYG tooling that does not allow complex UI, can use the headless commerce approach to implement rich UI’s and/or add commerce functionalities to an existing non-transactional web or custom-built mobile application. This would monumentally simplify the ordering and buying experience.
- B2B manufacturers can use marketplaces to grow sales, like selling overstocked or obsolete inventory to business buyers. Headless commerce with its ‘API approach” makes marketplace integration quick and easy.
- Manufacturers can also prepare for conversational commerce by tailoring product content to make it easier for buyers to browse by voice. They can maximize relevant channels and content aligning buyer behavior with preferences, such as mobile and social commerce, voice-powered assistants, and Internet of Things (IoT). A headless commerce approach also provides an avenue, via APIs, to integrate with custom-built applications, IoT endpoints, or other non-commerce transactional web apps.
- Omni-channel experiences achieved through headless commerce that link digital to physical can also increase conversions enabling manufacturers to improve the shopping experience and simplify buying with richer UI.
Traditionally, there were few options for manufacturers to tackle the need for further digital commerce innovation. Today, headless commerce architecture offers a new approach, a middle path, a better way. Moreover, this new way is empowering manufacturers and distributors alike to adopt the customer-first commerce approach for creating rich shopping experiences faster and using the resources they already have to handle front-end development without touching the back-end infrastructure. It is the best of both worlds for them to improve customer experience. But it is not a ‘plug and play’ solution, manufacturers need the expertise and skills to execute it accurately as per their unique business needs.