Today, customers use an average of 5 to 6 touchpoints when buying an item. In this fast-paced world of communication and information overload, consumer’s attention is the most coveted currency that brands are striving to capture in order to realize their business goals. This is why customer experience is key to acquiring and retaining loyal customers. According to Forrester, as many as 72% of businesses name improving customer experience their top priority.
However, many brands still struggle to enable “experiential commerce”, a unified, rich, engaging shopping experience that allows customers to transact in the now. Consumers are often offered disjointed and confusing pathways to transacting, in which the brand experience is curated and immersive, but product selection and ordering occur in a siloed, non-compelling environment, and opportunities to retain the buyer’s engagement are missed.
Why is it challenging for brands to monetize the experiences their marketing teams are creating?
Monoliths stifle business agility
For a number of brands, the challenges to experience monetization opportunities are dictated by the limitations of brittle, monolithic systems and legacy platforms. Traditional ecommerce systems couple the front-end presentation layer with the commerce engine. This creates siloed solutions for mobile, web and other channels, limiting a business’ ability to launch new, consistent modes to engage the customer. Adding new front-end experiences involves working with backend code, and this requires the involvement of specialized resources.
This type of effort forces the business to adapt its pace to accommodate its own operational dependencies, instead of matching the pace of consumer behaviors and expectations. Because today “consumers are benchmarking experiences laterally,” brands are not only required to take note of competition in their industry vertical, but are also expected to innovate on par with other disruptors in any market their consumers inhabit: Internet of Things, bots, and wearables are only some of the emerging touchpoints that monoliths lack the ability to rapidly monetize.
Single-stack turn-key solutions undermine innovation
Other brands choose to delegate their online shopping experiences to single-stack turn-key solutions. While these systems’ impact on a business’ operations are less significant than monoliths’, they share the same limitations from an experience monetization standpoint.
They were built with tightly coupled front ends and commerce engines and purposely architected for a web-commerce dominated shopping paradigm. This is to serve consumers a digitized equivalent of the brick-and-mortar store, however there is an explosion of emerging touch-points these systems struggle to address (Gartner predicts that 25 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020). A catalogue-based engagement model, with a brand-centric conversion funnel and highly prescriptive interactions, is going to be a major let down for a consumer used to the fluid relationships applications like Uber or Starbucks’ mobile app are able to offer.
While they are quintessentially systems for digital commerce, single-stack turn-key solutions end up powering limited experiences that reflect an ‘analog’ construct of consumerism: brand-centric, one-directional, prescriptive, undifferentiated, poorly adaptable to alternative consumption modes or channels.
Balancing ‘best-of-breed’ with ‘best of ease’
Today, “headless” commerce systems decouple commerce capabilities from the presentation layer. This type of model allows businesses to fully take advantage of the consistent and contextual experiences that a robust Digital Experience Platform is capable of crafting and orchestrating, because headless commerce is architected to evoke transactional capabilities to monetize the moment in which the consumer is most engaged with the content delivered by the brand.
A headless commerce system can connect with a Digital Experience Platform and expose the same transactional business logic to other experiences or touchpoints the business may want to adopt. A decoupled content and commerce architecture establishes a flexible technology foundation that is highly extensible and future-proofs the business; hence allowing it the agility to innovate without major disruptions to the stability of its operations.
If a decoupled, or best-of-breed approach is clearly the one that fosters a broader set of long-term advantages for a brand, why are some enterprises hesitant to embrace it?
Sometimes buyers are intimidated by this type of approach because they fear that carrying out parallel technology evaluations can become burdensome for them. Even though they recognize the long-term benefits of decoupling their ecommerce architecture, in a best-of-breed context they need to assess during the buying process, in a reactive mode, what solution is the best fit for a minimum viable product in which they need to bring together a number of systems, so that they can iterate from there afterwards.
At times, they get stuck on a no decision and stay on their brittle monolith. Or alternatively they settle for a single-stack turn-key solution knowing it’s not the right fit for them, because they wrongly believe that at least this will be the less effort-demanding approach they can take to effect some change in the short-term and buy some time. In both cases, they get left behind, while change sprints past them.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Best-of-breed systems can be brought together in a configured state that allows reduced time-to-market, while injecting in the enterprise architecture the long-term, overarching flexibility of a headless commerce and content approach.