Challenges of Traditional Ecom Platforms Solved by Headless
How Headless Commerce Achieves What Traditional Cannot: Top Challenges to Tackle - Banner

How Headless Commerce Achieves What Traditional Cannot: Top Challenges to Tackle

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A circular and never-ending flow of money is what drives the economy and pushes it forward. In recent years, a significant part of this process takes place online, with people buying products and services on billions of websites running on numerous eCommerce platforms. If we speak of numbers, global retail online sales totaled $4,3 billion in 2020 and are projected to grow by a substantial 114% in the next year. It’s clear that online shopping has won itself a niche among the top 5 activities that US users indulge in while on the web.

The implication of this is quite obvious – provide customers with a superb user experience, or they will leave for your competitors, who are targeting your prospects from all channels and platforms and are doing this 24/7. If the look-and-feel of your e-store isn’t on par with the current design and accessibility standards, then your website is unlikely to capture the attention of a buyer. The first impression of your brand is so powerful that even a slightly outdated layout or eye-roll-inducing ads could rob your online content of precious seconds, which can be decisive for your business. Though if you haven’t even started the process of moving your business from offline to online — you are already missing out.

One of the critical obstacles towards flexibility and personalization is monolithic eCommerce platforms with their fundamental but rigid architecture. When the mobile-first approach came to dominate the web, online commerce had to adapt quickly to provide responsive design and personalized experience on any device. Headless commerce made this possible by decoupling the back-end from the front-end and exposing all functionality and data through APIs.

Discover the basic notions of Headless eCommerce in our previous article — What is headless commerce and how it changes the retail industry.

While the beyond-desktop and operations-anywhere business models promise new opportunities — more digital touchpoints to reach customers — there’s also a whole lot of new challenges, like the need to modernize core systems to do so. Let’s sort through those challenges and have a look at the solution offered by headless commerce.

Challenge #1: Slow Response to Trends and Time-To-Market

To succeed in digital, you would need to adopt MACH (Microservices, API, Cloud, and Headless), an all-in-one technological framework, approach, and strategy. Traditional eCommerce solutions were built when business requirements were standardized and relatively static, for which the monolith architecture was a good fit. Everything changed, and changed fast, and keeps changing every day. So, making minor changes within a traditional platform requires extensive back-end coding, not to mention personalized experiences, which are not fit for integration within legacy systems.

Headless solution: The decoupled architecture of headless commerce software tools makes it quick and easy for programmers to make modifications in content. The ability to tune content to fit various needs and requirements widens companies’ opportunities in terms of what products they can offer and in what way they can do it. Moreover, modern consumers are more demanding and savvier than ever. The 2021 EY Future Consumer Index states that 79% of US consumers do not forgive retailers and brands for service disruption caused by COVID-19. Now imagine the implications for service disruptions caused by your eCommerce platform.

Challenge #2: Limited Customization Options

When online shopping just arrived, it was hard to imagine that it could get any better. The mobile-first approach made the whole process even more comfortable, allowing you to research and buy a product/service through your Instagram account, smart speaker, and even some smart cars. However, such an orchestrated array of sales channels is only available through a comprehensive omnichannel strategy that synchronizes and personalizes those digital touchpoints. Its wide success lies in limitless customization options that can be applied almost instantly. Traditional eCommerce platforms are a bit short of the scalability and flexibility needed to adopt a winning customer-first approach.

Headless solution: Fully integrated headless models give you room for out-of-the-box customizations and complete control over the UI. Front-end developers can edit headless platforms with simple API calls, while some platforms allow admins to add some simple tweaks with no coding involved. As a result, brands are free to diversify and enrich user experiences with engaging websites and e-stores. To put this into perspective, consider the following finding from the research by Harvard Business Review: users, who shop across multiple channels, tend to spend 4% more in-store and 10% more online.

Challenge #3: Flawed Security

Interconnected parts of monolith platforms create lots of security gaps easily exploited by hackers. Danger hides in the traditional CMS, tightly connected to the front-end layer, exposing data-holding areas, and attracting gruesome DDoS attacks. You should also keep in mind maintenance and upgrade responsibilities that come with traditional platforms and require technical expertise or more costs on your part to make it happen. Even more daunting consequences may occur when a simple process like an update can possibly compromise the website performance and cause downtimes that are unacceptable in instant access to everything. Just look at the numbers: for Walmart, a multinational retail corporation, a single minute of its website downtime would cost the company $40,771.

Headless solution: The microservice architecture of headless commerce platforms splits up those processes and allows you to fix anything on the back-end without interfering with the front-end performance and causing brutal downtimes. By being decoupled, your headless CMS creates a safety buffer by separating content from its delivery environment. Any arising issues can be dealt with individually without needing the whole system to pause and adjust.

Challenge #4: Dependence on Default Technology

A traditional eCommerce system is usually limited to its default framework. Just a reminder that the architectural framework of eCommerce consists of various existing resources like DBMS, data repository, programming languages, software agent-based transactions, and communication protocols. So, it also limits the toolsets that engineers can utilize to deliver new features or updates and ultimately compromises time-to-market. However, you should carefully consider your business objectives and available resources to choose the right platform for your business.

Headless solution: A decentralized architecture of the platforms equips developers with a choice of different technologies (languages, frameworks, and OSs) to create an application. The exclusion of the reliance on a single technology stack gives your programmers the freedom to execute the most recent or suitable technology when building a new service. What’s more, decoupled front-end and back-end are a great option when it comes to the collaboration of different teams when the code base needs some quick fix.

Challenge #5: No Room for Scaling

Speed-of-light changes in the digital landscape, like saturated markets and volatile trends, turn slow performance and interruptions into instant brand killers. Let’s be honest: it’s a near-impossible task for retailers to ensure a performant, scalable, and forever-online website and sales channels that are running on a traditional eCommerce platform.

Headless solution: Headless commerce platforms are built according to the scaling principle with open APIs, enabling developers to create personalized user experiences that can fit any device. Thus, scalability covers the ability of your headless system to provide flexibility and reliability across the entire customer journey. In its research, Google claims that a 1-second delay in mobile load time can cause a 20% drop in conversions. As you see, competition is even more granular than ever, making every second and pixel contribute to your commercial success.

Many techs and retail giants went headless; however, Amazon was the first and the most grandiose of them all. As a humble online bookstore, they started with a monolith platform and were quick and smart enough to pivot their strategy towards headless. Already in 2016, Amazon updated its store code every 11.7 seconds with no downtime or unnecessary manual processes.

Headless Conclusion

If a consumer journey was pretty straight before, nowadays those journeys are as diverse as users themselves. This drastically reverses priorities for retailers, who should switch from considering “What eCommerce investments do I need to make?” to “What consumer experience do I need to offer?

Headless commerce platforms are built with limitless customization options to help businesses answer that question. Incorporating superb, fast, and satisfying UX is no longer an option. McKinsey’s research says that 73% of respondents state the intent to engage with new brands regularly. To win the loyalty of such demanding buyers, you need to build your eCommerce ecosystem outside-the-box.

Contact us, the official Optimizely Partner, to implement a headless strategy into your business. Whether it would be CMS & Commerce development, upgrade, integration, or migration – you can always count on Infopulse help and expertise. Get a free consultation today.

About the Author

Borys Sokolov has 13 years of experience in the IT industry, during which he has built deep expertise in software design and development, specializing in .Net enterprise applications. He has contributed to the successful development and delivery of a variety of solutions in fintech, telecom, and e-commerce domains. Borys’s high qualification in enterprise development for e-commerce is proven by a number of certifications from Episerver.

Borys Sokolov

IT e-Commerce Expert

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