Guest Column: Four ways headless commerce is transforming retail

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Guest Column: Four ways headless commerce is transforming retail

By Gerry Szatvanyi - 08/02/2019
As retailers look to keep up with the latest solutions and remain competitive, one key term keeps popping up: headless commerce.

Headless commerce allows businesses to more quickly adapt in supporting new technology as it comes into play, integrating into any system with ease, and enabling them to meet consumers when and where they want to purchase. The platform takes off the normally templated front end (or the “head”) of the system, allowing developers to create various touchpoints for products and services in any type of framework.

This gives back-end developers the flexibility to create and use application programming interfaces (APIs) to deliver a unified brand experience across a variety of third-party platforms. Here are three ways headless commerce is transforming retail.

Faster adaptation
It’s more important now than ever to meet your customers where they are and create strategies that allow this movement to happen quickly and seamlessly. Technology is constantly changing. What is fast today is slow and dated tomorrow. Headless commerce has emerged as the solution to the lack of agility that many organizations have struggled with when trying to meet their customers beyond the desktop.

Today’s customer is very powerful and needs to be addressed on their terms, and companies will lose revenue and be unable to retain and attract new business if they don’t adapt to this mindset. Above it, it’s about delivering an exceptional customer experience — anytime and anywhere. Headless commerce has been the force behind the push to move faster than ever and enter the new spaces where technology is supporting the commerce experience.

Easier personalization
Traditional commerce platforms have predetermined experiences for both the customer and the business, providing little room for personalization. The time required to edit the platform, associated code, and database(s) can be a large undertaking.

Because the front end is tightly coupled with the back-end code and infrastructure, there’s little room for change, which tends to hold retailers back from pursuing any potential customizations. A change in one area causes a domino effect to all the other touchpoints, resulting in a time-consuming process to ensure consistency.

However, removing the front-end of the platform sets developers free, allowing them to create an experience for various users that best fits the needs of the business, like adding a field to a customer account or updating the checkout flow. This does mean that the developers are building everything from the ground up.

…And flexibility
When headless commerce is used in place of a traditional approach, the old “plug and play” technology is replaced with a flexible system that helps retailers build a commerce site without any platform-specific limits. Companies aren’t pigeonholed into a specific system, but instead can pick and choose the components that best match their business needs.

For example, once a new technology or commerce path has been created (think purchasing via voice, apps, or one-click shopping) a headless commerce platform allows a company the flexibility to alter whatever part of their system they need to in order to update their business to be more competitive.

It’s a worthwhile investment (for some)
While there are many benefits to headless commerce, it’s important to know that the solution is a big commitment to implement. Headless commerce allows for faster adaptation in the long term, but it’s also a large time commitment in terms of ongoing maintenance and up-front work. For smaller companies who don’t have the budget or the workforce, this approach may seem ambitious. Fortunately, there are many third-party platforms available and willing to help achieve these types of solutions.

Additionally, if topics such as advanced personalization and highly customized multichannel experiences seem like a lot to take in, headless commerce may not be the right fit just yet. Adopting a headless commerce platform should coincide with business goals, and not be implemented just because it’s a popular trend.

Customers want to purchase from brands that understand their needs across all channels, which is one of the best things a business can do to connect and engage with its customers. If a company is building an e-commerce strategy or looking to make a change, the headless commerce approach might just be the right fit to transform their business.

Gerard “Gerry” Szatvanyi is the founder, president & CEO of OSF Commerce, an OSF Global brand, and president & chief technologist of eSkill.