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Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore Headless Commerce

June 6th, 2019

By Igor Faletski, CEO - Mobify

There are 3 different approaches to delivering front-end experiences – as outlined by Gartner Research below – but only a headless commerce approach (otherwise known as an API-oriented) enables you to stay ahead of customer expectations and deliver amazing digital experiences that drive top-line growth.

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  1. Commerce-led: The front-end experience is built on the ecommerce platform.
  2. Experience-led: The front-end experience is built on the digital experience platform (DXP) or content management system (CMS).
  3. Headless (or API-oriented): APIs are used to pull content and functionality from the ecommerce platform and CMS into a custom front-end or Front-end as a Service.

Why Commerce & experience-led will soon be the way of the past

Most retailers today manage their digital experiences with a commerce-led or experience-led approach. In other words, the front-end experience is built within either the CMS or ecommerce platform, so it’s tightly coupled to the backend.

Because of the tightly coupled architecture, every time there’s a leap in technology, retailers have to replatform or revamp their site to keep up. Replatforming requires rebuilding everything from scratch, which is risky and requires costly re-orgs and retraining. Revamping means squeezing more out of what you have by layering on point solutions and redesigns.

This costly replatform-revamp-repeat cycle results in a complex and tightly coupled architecture that slows organizations to a crawl.

Teams can't be agile

A coupled architecture inhibits teams from moving quickly. The front-end is locked into the same pace of innovation as the backend and all user experience changes require a heavy redeploy of the CMS or ecommerce platform.

Some may perceive an experience-led approach as more agile than commerce-led because it enables fast changes to certain parts of the experience – copy, images, video – but retailers still can’t make UX changes quickly or easily. The goal should be to unlock the entire team to make larger experience changes beyond just copy and content.

The full value of backend systems can't be activated

In the example below, the CMS functionality has to be forced through the ecommerce platform before it can be exposed on the front-end. With an experience-led approach, the opposite is true. Either way, you’re not able to activate the full value of these systems without significant effort.

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Frontend systems aren't future-proofed

Finally, you’ll lose any previous customer experience investments when it comes time to replatform with a tightly coupled approach. For most, this means having to start from scratch every 3-5 years.

Break the cycle with a headless approach

It’s time to break the replatform-revamp-repeat cycle with an API-led headless commerce architecture that enables you to stay ahead of customer expectations and drive top-line growth.

Introducing a headless commerce approach will activate the full value of the CMS and ecommerce platform by lining them up side by side.

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It will also unlock agility by separating the front-end from the backend.

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And it will future-proof front-end wins and knowledge by isolating them from backend changes.

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The best path to headless commerce

Not many have fully gone down the headless commerce path yet because it used to require building an entire custom front-end layer from scratch, which can introduce risk and lengthy timelines. Now a Front-end as a Service like Mobify offers an alternative path to going headless.

Get the Enterprise Guide to Headless Commerce Front-ends to determine the best way to introduce a headless commerce architecture and unlock agility across your organization.

[1] Gartner (September 2017) The Three Approaches to Digital Commerce Platform Architecture and How to Choose Among Them, Refreshed 14 May 2018, Published 28 September 2017.

Figure 1. The Three Approaches to Commerce Architecture

https://www.gartner.com/document/3809365

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