The Path to Omni-Channel Commerce is Headless

May 29th, 2019 by Matt Daddario

In a previous article, we discussed how Progressive Web Apps are changing web development and digital experiences. In a similar vein, I wanted to touch on another topic that is leading the revolution of progress in content management and Omni-Channel ecommerce.

Digital experiences and the devices that are capable of delivering them are changing at rapid pace. For example, smart speakers are now used by over 25% of the U.S. adult population, and more importantly the one-year growth rate of adoption across 2018 nearly eclipsed 40%. Content management systems (CMS) of old have fallen flat with the advent of new channels like voice, chat, and kiosks that have stretched them beyond their native capabilities. Their inherent lack of flexibility has ushered in the adoption of what is known as headless content management systems.

The standard content management system setup, i.e. a monolithic CMS, was created in tandem with software platforms to handle content being displayed on a desktop. As mobile traffic moved to its current state of exceeding desktop traffic, the lack of flexibility and control technologists had over their content display and distribution became apparent. Headless solves these two issues by decoupling the presentation layer from the backend of the website. All while still allowing developers to continue using the Admin Interface to manage content and an API to make it accessible for display on any device.

Decoupling the presentation layer from an ecommerce platform like Magento, BigCommerce, or Watson Commerce creates three key benefits.

  1. Centralized Content Management: Similar to the value of managing multiple web stores from a single backend. With a headless setup you can push content from a single content repository to your website, mobile app, Alexa skill, kiosk, and more via API. This eliminates inconsistency across channels and streamlines internal content management.
  2. Single Backend System Integration: Headless ecommerce is more than just separating the front-end, it is also a benefit to have API driven integrations on the back-end. For example, since you are pushing out product and inventory information from the ecommerce application via API, you can rely on a single and simplified integration between your ecommerce platform and ERP, PIM, and/or POS for correct product information, inventory display, and data flow across all channels.
  3. Future Proof Architecture: With a headless architecture your business is positioned to quickly enter emerging digital sales channels that your customers demand and capture early adopter market share. You can also more easily swap out technologies and products that are tied to a headless commerce architecture.

The downside of an exclusively headless system is the lack of native frontend tools like a WISYWG editor and content preview. These non-negotiables for marketers and non-technical ecommerce leaders can be addressed with a decoupled CMS. Products like Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, and opensource options like WordPress offer nearly all of the advantages of headless flexibility via APIs with frontend templates and publishing tools that administrators know and love.

Like many components of an ecommerce technology stack, whether this architecture makes sense for your business depends on where you are taking it. For businesses that plan to strictly sell on the web and mobile, you can potentially circumvent the transition to headless by using a mobile first design template that most modern platforms offer or go even further with a Progressive Web App enhancement to keep up with modern user experience standards.

Headless is truly a commitment to Omni-Channel content and commerce, if your customers currently demand or are likely to benefit from multi-channel engagement then headless has proven to be the way you can create those experiences in a highly efficient way.

Alpine has been at the forefront of this evolution, having already completed several headless eCommerce implementations for organizations of various sizes.  If you need help deciding whether going headless makes sense for your business, give us a call!

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