Illustration of a headless person, with various technological symbols where their head would be, symbolizing headless commerce

Headless commerce, mindful customer experiences

Brainy retail brands are losing their heads, but it's no bad thing.

In eCommerce, going headless is the practice of separating a store's frontend architecture from its backend. It's a split that gives brands more flexibility and agility to build mindful experiences across numerous platforms, all without requiring technical, time-consuming changes to backend components like inventory and payments. According to Forbes, more than $1.65 billion in funding was raised for headless commerce architecture technology in 2020-2021 alone. This goes to show that this isn't just a buzzword, but is in fact changing eCommerce customer experience (CX) as we know it.

Headless commerce calls for omnichannel CX

Today's online shoppers don't follow a linear path to checkout: They jump between product pages and reviews, their computers and their phones, social media and search engines. Offering up a simplistic shopping experience that ignores these realities just doesn't cut it.

Shoppers should enjoy consistency in your brand, while simultaneously experiencing nuance in how you adapt the experience to each platform or channel. What's more, when questions arise, the support experience should be consistent — according to Salesforce, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage. This is where omnichannel CX comes in, creating aligned, low-effort experiences that increase customer loyalty, no matter where a touchpoint takes place.

Think of it this way: Launching and maintaining a store on a growing list of channels and platforms is a major undertaking. The agility inherent to headless commerce makes that task more manageable. But if you're providing more places to shop, you're going to need to give customers more ways of getting support. And not only that, when a customer switches from one channel to another, they should be able to pick up where they left off in the support process without great effort. Research from Hubspot indicates one-third (33%) of customers are frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple agents.

When brands get this right, the results are impressive. An early adopter of this innovative technology, Nike is leveraging headless commerce to increase direct-to-consumer sales and outpace their competitors. Crate & Barrel deployed headless tech and increased their customer conversions by 10%.

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Headless commerce improves UX

Brands looking to take their user experience (UX) to heady heights are seeing the value in headless commerce.

Personalization:

The flexibility afforded by a headless system means you can take personalization to another level, thoughtfully using data to recognize customers across different channels and making recommendations based on their shopping habits. This isn't just limited to a marketing point of view either; there is a massive opportunity for personalization in the customer support offered by technology and agents. According to Shopify, shoppers are 40% more likely to spend more than planned when the experience is personalized.

Timely promotions:

Marketing teams can quickly adapt to changing customer acquisition and social commerce trends by delivering timely promotions without a long development cycle. For example, if a product goes out of stock while it's still being actively promoted on the homepage and across social media, all channels can be quickly updated to show an alternative product. This ensures customers can always make a purchase after seeing a personalized ad. Alternatively, if you're trying to capitalize on an event that's capturing widespread public attention, like the Super Bowl or a viral meme, headless commerce architecture gives your brand the power to adjust messaging, imagery and promotions in a highly relevant and instantaneous way.

Faster load times:

Research shows loading time makes a huge difference to shoppers: 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and a one second delay in page response can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions. The faster site speeds made possible by lighter sites with headless architectures can enhance your most important metrics.

3D and augmented reality:

Headless commerce not only improves the general shopping experience, it also gives brands the chance to dip their toes into the waters of 3D technologies and augmented reality. These technologies create opportunities for customers to interact with items in new and innovative ways. For brands that want to test out emerging tech, the flexibility of a headless system is invaluable.

Example applications include:

  • View-in-room AR: This lets customers see how furniture or other decor might look in their homes.
  • Product configuration: A 3D configurator allows customers to see a detailed example of what a particular product might look like in different colors, fabrics or sizes.
  • Virtual try-on: Redefining personalization, virtual try-on enables customers to see what beauty and fashion items might look like on their own bodies.

Innovative applications of next-gen technology can help improve customer satisfaction and reduce return rates.

Headless commerce also benefits the employee experience

It's not just customers who stand to benefit; headless commerce can improve the employee experience as well.

Without having to rely on backend updates or developers, the marketing team has more control over the frontend. Often, no coding skills are needed to update offers and creative, add a new section to a page or conduct A/B testing on a banner. This allows them to make changes quickly and experiment, without needing to go through a complex development process.

Plus, headless architectures free up your developers to focus on backend projects without causing any bottlenecks to frontend enhancements. Win-win.

The bottom line

Headless commerce is helping brands reach and sell to customers in a timely, personalized way, right on the platforms that they spend their time. In this way it decreases customer effort, and the innovation is happening at the right time: With the rise in social commerce, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable making their purchases in new ways and from new places.

Brands must take a mindful approach as they sprawl across platforms, however. To engender loyalty and ensure customers keep coming back, the customer experience needs to be of the same high standard at all storefronts. Consistency is a must, but beyond that, the effortless nature of making a purchase needs to be matched by an effortless support experience in those same places. This is a clear call for omnichannel CX and an approach that guides shoppers through their questions or concerns without introducing frustration.

Effortlessness is the goal, and brands that combine headless commerce and omnichannel CX have the best chance of achieving it.

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