By Vikram Saxena, Founder and CEO of BetterCommerce
With the pandemic accelerating the shift to digital, a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses, that possibly avoided pursuing a direct-to-consumer business strategy in the past, have now taken the plunge and set up their own ecommerce.
The initial steps are fairly easy to take. When a business decides they want to set up an online business, they have access to excellent tools that have been developed to get them up and running in just a couple of days. With readily available platforms like Wix, WordPress, Shopify and accompanying Excel spreadsheets for storing business information, the process is straightforward.
These platforms and IT solutions work well for smaller businesses in the early stages of their ecommerce trajectory. However, as they grow they often struggle to maintain control over their data, analytics and user experience, and find it difficult to scale their infrastructure to support the growing volumes of data. Ultimately, they struggle to establish a single view of the business, including fulfilment, stock and returns.
Outgrowing a legacy IT infrastructure
Sticking with software based on a ‘template theme’ approach is suitable for companies taking the first steps on their commerce journey, but it won’t allow for the customisation and personalisation that sets your brand apart and creates a competitive advantage. It also won’t enable you to create unique content experiences and customer journeys.
To give a common example, companies that have just started in ecommerce will often adopt a standardised checkout journey. For midsized businesses that are looking to grow further afield or even on a global level, a lack of customisation becomes a challenge as they need to tailor experiences, and adapt the checkout journey to the needs of their specific customer base.
In practice, we often also see ecommerce players lacking the critical information about how many customers are returning to their website and repeating a purchase, making the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) estimates difficult to make.
Management of inventory and returns
As they grow and scale, it’s essential for ecommerce brands to shift from fragmented platforms and Excel spreadsheets to an integrated technology stack in order to gain a consolidated view of essential business factors. Such a view enables full visibility of inventory, and allows them to keep on top of key processes like fulfilment and returns.
One of the biggest challenges for ecommerce businesses is to manage and reduce their returns. One of the most prominent reasons is a lack of the right information at the relevant stages of a customer’s user journey. It is essential for your ecommerce solution to give you the control to own your brand experience and implement custom designs that match your customer’s needs to reduce returns as much as possible.
The power of a headless approach
A headless modular approach has emerged as an increasingly popular option that addresses the pain points of ecommerce businesses looking to scale and gain control of their customer experiences. Headless commerce APIs and modules can work together as a platform or independently, and integrate with existing technology solutions.
Headless commerce, in simple terms, means having a clear separation of the presentation layer from the backend layer. The presentation layer being the customer facing touchpoints such as store, website, mobile app, social channels, marketplace, IOT, and others. The backend layer is the servers, security, APIs, databases and infrastructure. A headless approach enables businesses to focus on customer experiences without the backend complexities.
As businesses grow internationally, the flexibility of headless empowers them to add new capabilities to their proposition without the complexities of the backend services or challenges of, for instance, scaling hardware, omnichannel selling to a global market, brand customisation, effective SEO and rich content. Headless supports the creation of personalised customer experiences to meet continuously evolving consumer demands.
Taking care of the backend
Most legacy solutions were not designed with modern consumer expectations in mind. As retailers grow their (global) footprint, they need more flexibility from their tools to create unique experiences, while bringing together the various parts of their operations to gain a consolidated view of the business.
They don’t have the resources of global ecommerce giants to employ an army of technology workers and digital specialists though.
A headless approach to ecommerce offers an alternative to template-based engines, providing scalability and flexibility to design the experiences that work for your business. Headless commerce takes care of the backend complexities and security while enabling your business to have full control over the frontend, and continually measure and optimise the customer experience.