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Understanding Headless Commerce: Is it right for your brand?

Why do companies make the technology choices they do? Generally, we all try to gain the greatest value from the investments we make and choosing your technology strategy should by no different. Finding the right technology to serve your business in today’s evolving digital markets is an orchestration in itself because you want to ensure the various technology services you decide upon will guide you to out-innovate and outpace your competitors. Headless commerce has proven to be a major mile-marker in this journey and for good reason.

When we talk about “headless”, we’re typically talking about a front-end digital channel that customers interact with that is not built on your e-commerce platform.  That front-end interaction is built on a platform that specializes in crafting engaging experiences for particular human/channel interactions and with the right API orchestration strategy between the platforms, many “heads” may be built to create commerce channels for your business.

While the web browser is at no risk of falling from the top spot, it’s clear that the Internet of Things transformation is providing many more interactive channels to allow people to engage with their favorite brands.  From home and mobile devices to wearables to kitchen appliances and virtual reality, digital markets are expanding and integrating with every facet of our lives. And businesses that want to sell to those markets will need to grow many heads and support many channels that deliver a seamlessly orchestrated interactive and personalized journey to each and every customer.

Know that no single technology platform will ever be the entire solution to your digital commerce. However, when deciding how many technology platforms you choose to support your business and to what degree they are able to meet your strategic needs, it always returns to business fundamentals.  How much must I invest to achieve some viable progress along my journey toward the ideal state of my digital commerce business? Crawl, walk, run, sprint, pivot, sprint!

Understanding The Decision To Go With Headless Commerce

Is decoupling the front end from the service layer purely a technical decision?  

Not at all.  In fact, it’s one of the most strategic decisions you can make in today’s digital economy. It’s the same kind of decision companies were making over a 100 years ago when deciding how to leverage electricity to create a more modern and competitive business. The Cloud gave rise to a new lexicon of technology services and features that business constituents could relate to, see value in, and incorporate into their strategic vision. As software development practice and technology platforms improved over the years, results have become more transparent and predictable (costs, timing, progress).  The consistency of reliable execution provides the business with the levers and dials they need to direct the investment and pace of technology innovation. The business’ involvement with this IT decision is a leading influencer on deciding to move forward, which is how it should be.

Understanding Headless Commerce with Cloud

Many of us can agree that on-premise customers could benefit from going headless. But what about the Cloud?

The Cloud has created a viable delivery vehicle for SaaS.  Whether a software platform is built for on-premise operation or operation in the “cloud” doesn’t really change the benefits received from going headless.  You can accomplish the same either way. However, companies who have embraced Cloud SaaS to support their business are much more familiar with and adept at leveraging software that, by nature, is decoupled from their monolithic enterprise systems.  This familiarity means they will be able to more confidently and quickly make decisions about changing or adding SaaS providers that support their continued innovation. And they will be more efficient and integrating these new platforms into their ecosystem and orchestrating the change in experience it creates for end-user (customers and administrators alike).

A few things should be considered before deciding on recommending a headless approach with SaaS:

Understanding Total Cost of Ownership – Cost / Agility / Innovation  

Does headless deliver on all of these or does it introduce complexity for a business?  

As most things do when it comes to technology, it depends.  The difference a technology strategy makes is ultimately determined by how effectively a business executes it. Headless can deliver on all of those points, but a pure “headless” approach requires much more effort and advanced expertise to architect the orchestration between a front-end platform and its underlying commerce engine.  Once in place, the resulting solution may provide more control to introduce leading edge front-end innovations that e-commerce platforms have not introduced to their front-end frameworks. And more importantly, the API orchestration exercise can then be leveraged to more efficiently buildout new interactive channels that could be commerce-enabled.

Many companies need to take baby steps on their journey to maturity and this level of sophistication is simply not feasible or affordable to all. This is where the robust site and content management features provided by e-commerce providers is so attractive, and for them, the better option from a TCO perspective.  As these companies learn how to operate a modern commerce channel through these platforms and build a pace of continuous innovation, their technology strategy will evolve to consider further investment in a decoupled “head” for web commerce. At the same time, commerce platform providers will continue to expand their offering to compete with other best-in-class platforms.

We help our clients navigate all options available to them when deciding upon e-commerce strategy and technologies. Interested in learning more about headless commerce and if it is a viable option for your brand?

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© 2017 Echidna