I’m more loyal to retailers when I feel like I have a direct connection, and I’m not alone: 84% of consumers say that being treated like a person is important to winning their business. We all want a more personalized experience, but for retailers, this is a huge challenge because of the brittle mess of systems supporting each channel. On top of that, even the best personalization efforts feel inauthentic when they break across channels. How many times have you called customer service from the phone in your profile only to be asked for an account or order number? Customers have caught on, and 54% say their interactions feel like sales, service, and marketing don’t share information.
Headless commerce is an approach leading retailers are taking to gain control of the customer experience and ensure that personalization extends seamlessly through existing and emerging channels. Before we get too detailed, it’s probably worth explaining what “headless commerce” means.
What is headless commerce?
In tech-speak, “headless” means running a system separated from its user interface. In the beginning, headless commerce started as little more than a “Bring your own website” option for retailers to have more control over the shopping experience. As commerce platform capabilities have matured, headless commerce has evolved to represent a tectonic shift in the way retailers deliver connected shopping experiences to customers across any channel.
Headless commerce allows retailers to extend the capabilities of a modern commerce platform like: personalized merchandising, browsing behavior, streamlined payments, and abandoned cart details to any customer touchpoint across departments. Headless can let a chatbot offer shoppers a deal on a scarf they left in their digital cart. Headless can make scheduling a TV delivery more enjoyable when the customer service rep can find a delivery window, and add the cables to the order — without asking the shopper for their credit card and order information again.
In short, headless commerce lets you enhance personalization of the experience in any channel in more meaningful ways than just look and layout.
Why retailers need headless commerce now more than ever
The COVID-19 pandemic forced a dramatic shift in consumer behavior, ushering in a new normal for both consumers and retailers. McKinsey reported that eCommerce penetration rose to 35% in the first quarter of 2020, effectively seeing 10 years of growth in three months.
The need for change is pretty striking with 76% of consumers expecting consistent experiences across departments, and 75% trying new stores and brands to get it. Shoppers want to be loyal to retailers that authentically connect with them, and given the amount of data retailers have about us, it’s infuriating when they get it wrong or we have to re-introduce ourselves every time we have a new interaction.
A mature API strategy is the key to getting headless right
Like any transformational initiative, the approach to embracing headless commerce can have a big impact on success. Wallpapering a pretty website and mobile app on top of your commerce platform might get your headless implementation up fast, but if it’s done with custom code or direct connections to proprietary interfaces, you’ll lose agility. Retailers need flexibility to evolve their systems as commerce vendors roll out new features and customers demand new channels for interaction like chat and conversational shopping.
Leveraging an API-led implementation strategy can accelerate and de-risk headless commerce by separating the channels from back-end applications while reducing the work needed to bring each channel online. APIs allow a retailer to re-imagine itself as a platform to build customer experiences and reshuffle existing capabilities with new opportunities to connect more meaningfully with customers.
Using well-designed and governed APIs, in partnership with your commerce and OMS systems, eliminates the fragility associated with custom code and direct integrations. New capabilities and channels can be quickly rolled out without the complexity and channel drift that so many retailers have seen with their aging omnichannel efforts.
Headless commerce is the technology shift that retailers didn’t know they needed and we’re here to help with the implementation.
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