Do I really have to lose my “head” to replatform my commerce solution?

If you want to stay competitive, the answer is yes.

Replatforming any technology solution is never an easy undertaking – humans by nature are opposed to any kind of change, especially one that could cause major disruptions. Therefore, discussing the notion of replatforming your commerce solution is usually brought on with some protest.

However, there is a customer-centric commerce platform revolution unfolding and it’s all powered by APIs. An API-first,“headless commerce” solution is becoming the go-to commerce application for modern, cutting-edge brands and service providers.

The monolithic commerce solutions that exist today were built back in the ‘90s when there was only one digital touchpoint to worry about – the web.

  • Intershop, 1992
  • IBM WebSphere Commerce, 1996
  • Oracle Commerce (formerly ATG), 1997
  • SAP (formerly hybris), 1997

Today, consumers use an average of six touchpoints to make a purchase.

With today’s emerging technologies and the ever-growing consumer touchpoints, it is not enough to just upgrade your current monolithic commerce system. Yes, some of the monoliths are beginning to add API functionality, but they are doing so as an afterthought. They were never intended or designed to be headless, and their APIs are disjointed and not optimized.

If you select to upgrade your legacy system and go through the long and expensive migration, your organization will still lack the competitive edge – and worse yet, you’ll eventually just have to start from scratch and replatform anyways.

Progressive Transformation

For years, practitioners’ only option for replatforming was the “rip and replace” approach, but this does not have to be the case present-day. Moving to an API-driven, headless solution allows for a “phase out” approach when replatforming; or a progressive transformation.

A progressive transformation with a headless solution allows you to start small with a single segmented touchpoint, product or region, and migrate at your own pace.

So how do I get started?

Rather than replacing your existing platform, you’ll want to stand up the headless solution alongside it and move application integrations one at a time over to the new commerce functionality while keeping the back-end systems where they are.

Before you begin the migration, you should identify all your current systems of record for products, customers, and fulfillment. This will help you develop a better picture of how to align your roadmap for them with where your new commerce platform will take you.

  • Where is your product information kept? Is it stored in a home-built system, or in spreadsheets—and ask yourself where and how it will be stored a few years from now.
  • Where are your customer records kept? Are you currently using a third-party CRM or an in-house system? What level of interoperability do you hope to have between your CRM and your various channels?
  • What state is your ERP in, and what’s your roadmap for it?

Next, you’ll also want to examine your segmentation potential. The more you can segment your touchpoints, product lines, and geographic regions, the more agile and flexible you’ll be in the marketplace.

  • Which geographic regions are you operating in now, and which regions do you hope to be operating in one or two years in the future? Do you have a plan for payments types, payment gateways, and tax provider software in these various regions? Getting these in place can take time.
  • Do you plan to add new channels or touchpoints?
  • What’s your plan for mobile?

After all that is sorted out and the new commerce platform is in place, it will be time to migrate. This is where the phased approach or progressive transformation takes hold. All the while be mindful of how these changes will impact your own organization, whether you’re replatforming or going through any other business transition.

When headless commerce replatforming is done correctly, positive results are achieved immediately, with minimal negative impacts and the shortest path to revenue. With an API-driven headless solution, you build what you want, when you want. You’re no longer limited to the capabilities of your monolithic platform, but rather build with your customers’ expectations guiding the way.