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Why commerce is the place to go headless

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3 minute read

For most organizations the website is the public face of the company, it is the place where customers come to learn about the brand, where they come to research products, and hopefully where they come to conduct business. Nobody sees an organization’s ERP, CRM, or warehouse management system. These systems were purpose-built to model a business in a very specific, and hopefully completely optimized way to cut costs, track progress, and eliminate inefficiencies. 

Customer interaction is a whole different story. Similar to retail space or a showroom, a business website is constantly being adapted to meet the customer’s needs. And whether products are taken on a roadshow, or moved from one rack to another, businesses don’t want to have to rearrange their stockroom just to optimize the flow of the storefront. This is why headless is gaining ground in ecommerce. Disconnecting the front- and backends makes rearranging the furniture much less painful.

The second reason ecommerce is different from other systems is because expectations are constantly changing. When goods are purchased from a wholesaler, and shipped to the dock, a company’s ERP or WMS has a really good idea how to handle that process, and the channels for delivery. Whether DAT, DDP, or FOB, those delivery terms are well understood by a global network of shippers, and they aren’t going to change overnight. 

By contrast, ecommerce feels like the wild west. Alexa, IoT, shoppable lookbooks, personalized recommendations, mobile-first sites, the list just keeps going. And it is going to keep on keeping on. The only certainty for the future of commerce is that it will be different from today. Decoupling your commerce frontend from the backend allows an organization to build new capabilities into their business without disrupting their customer experience, as well as delivering their brand’s experience on new channels as they emerge without making massive investment in that channel if it doesn’t work out. Headless commerce allows the freedom to experiment, and the confidence to be ready for what is next.

The most important, and maybe least obvious reason why commerce is the place to go headless is because the commerce platform is where all of the business processes are to be unified as a single portal through which the world can consume services and interact with the systems and people that make the machine run. 

Making the switch to a headless-first commerce architecture isn’t really making a switch to headless commerce, it is making the switch to a headless enterprise. Commerce is already the head by which an organization speaks to the world. It is the customer’s gateway to the global network of suppliers they interact with, and the terms they’ve negotiated and diligently entered into the ERP. It is the window into store availability through OMS, and so much more. 

In effect, these other systems were already headless, they just needed commerce to speak for them. Decapitating the commerce platform gives an enterprise the freedom to take an already mature organization and point it at new markets, or new customer channels to get ahead of the competition.

Ecommerce is unique in the enterprise application space. The customer centricity of the application makes it ideal for a headless model. In the past developers made the mistake of intermingling the core business logic with the content they were presenting, but lessons were learned from those mistakes. The new norm for ecommerce is going to be a lot more flexible and a lot more customer focused, and it isn’t going to look like anything ever done before. All that being said, APIs will be at the center of whatever comes next, and a headless strategy is a sure way to be ready for whatever comes next.

Previously published on LinkedIn

Michael Rasmussen
Michael Rasmussenhttp://www.zilker.com
Michael is a Senior Commerce Architect at Zilker Technology LLC. He has over a decade of experience designing and implementing ecommerce systems with deep experience in IBM and Elastic Path Commerce platforms.
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