Oct 14, 2021

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Headless Commerce: How to Choose front-end strategy and What to Look For?

Headless commerce is all about the customer experience. Legacy commerce platforms had presentation layer technology tightly embedded into the commerce platform itself resulting in a commodity experience - where one website looked and felt like any other. Brands couldn’t differentiate. The experience layer was controlled by IT, mainly for the purpose of exposing commerce data & functionality to the user, and so it was difficult to create unique experiences.

Today, the emphasis is on the buyer’s journey. Marketers and site merchandisers want to be in control and build emotionally engaging experiences that convert. The better the customer experience, the more customers will enjoy interacting with your brand, ultimately leading to higher margins. The primary prerequisite for all of this is to decouple the presentation layer from the commerce engine itself. This is the basic concept behind headless commerce (also often referred to as composable commerce).

Another key driver for headless is the proliferation of customer touchpoints. Not confined to traditional desktop web, customers want to shop and interact with your brand across a wide variety of touchpoints including mobile apps, in-store kiosks, wearables, voice, and social media.

Here’s a look at each of the three major categories of front-ends: digital experience platforms, frontends as a service, and custom.

1. Digital Experience Platform

The digital experience platform, or DXP, has the richest set of functionality and business user tools. Typically, these solutions combine page rendering & layout management with powerful Content Management & Personalization capabilities - and may include advanced features such as Digital Asset Management and A/B Testing.

The DXP suite contains a comprehensive set of features, with business user tools that put merchandisers and marketers in control. Tools such as What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) layout management gives business users an exact look at what their commerce site will look like across a variety of device types.

Many DXP solutions evolved from the Content Management Systems (CMS), so they include comprehensive content management tools, enabling business users to author a wide variety of content types to enrich the web experience, and powerful workflow tools to drive approval processes.

These solutions may include Machine-Learning powered personalization capabilities, tools for managing digital assets such as images & video, and other advanced capabilities such as A/B Testing.

Since these suites come pre-built, you can get to market quickly.

When considering a DXP, business stakeholders should consider the following:

  • Technology fit within your architecture – you want to make sure the solution has staying power
  • Suite approach – down the road, it may be difficult to swap out specific components of the system later on
  • Cloud or On-Prem – some DXP solutions are deployed as Software-as-a-service (SaaS) while others are on-prem. Work with your IT department to ensure the best fit.

2. Front-End as a Service (FaaS)

Front-end as a service is a somewhat newer category, which provides page rendering and layout management, and secondarily some lightweight content management and sometimes, digital asset management as well.

These solutions take care of hosting and managing your page rendering layer and offer some lightweight business user tooling and Content Management. It may take a little more time to implement than the full DXP, and they may not have the rich set of business user tools that a full DXP would have.

These solutions provide a front-end framework that your developers can work in, but they don’t provide all of the flexibility of a fully custom front-end.

3. Custom Front-End

Some organizations opt to have their front-end developers build out the page rendering layer using popular frameworks such as Node JS & React or develop front-ends unique to different touchpoints: one for the web, another for mobile apps, etc.

A custom front-end doesn’t have any business user tooling, other than those you build yourself, so it’s often a good idea to incorporate a headless CMS to enable your business users to build rich experiences.

A custom front-end gives you maximum flexibility but there are a few things to consider.

CMS - you should strongly consider a Headless Content Management System to provide asset management and content management for your business users

Speed – headless content management systems are typically deployed as SaaS solutions so they are fast and easy to deploy

There are many front-end software vendors on the market today. EWN provides custom front-end as well as complete headless platform development/migration service.

Contact us for more details.

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