Rolling out a new web front-end is all about creating an experience that engages, delights, and converts customers – while also ensuring it’s built to be stable, secure, and scalable. As such, it’s important that marketing and IT pair closely on this type of project.
If you’re launching a new web front-end in 2020, chances are it’s as part of a headless commerce architecture, as most the digital leaders are transitioning to this model to keep with with customer expectations.
A headless approach completely separates the front-end customer experience from all the backend systems. This means the customer experience is no longer built on the ecommerce system or content management system, which can introduce some unique challenges that didn’t exist in the monolithic world.
As a CMO, you want a front-end that gives you the flexibility to be creative, adapt, and scale to meet the evolving demands of your customers. In order for the new front-end to deliver on this, it’s critical that both marketing and IT align on how it’s built.
Here are 3 questions to ask IT to ensure it will be able to address both marketing’s needs, as well as the organization’s overall objectives.
1. How will time pressures impact the roll-out?
Ensuring that marketing has the flexibility to continuously experiment and optimize the customer experience, and the ability to quickly adopt new touchpoints in line with shopper trends, requires the customer-facing web experience to be completely decoupled (i.e. separated) from the backend.
The potential challenge here is that even the most elegantly architected projects are subject to external pressures, not least of all time. And ensuring your custom front-end is truly decoupled typically takes more time and more code in the initial build.
For expediency’s sake, shortcuts are taken. In the short-term this is often a simple fix, but it breaks the “modular pattern” by using some internal aspect of a module, which means it’s no longer completely decoupled.
Maybe this is done with the idea of fixing this in the next release, but then further time pressures mount and more functionality is needed and so on. This is how elegant modular architectures can slowly evolve into highly interdependent monoliths.
To avoid this, it’s important to discuss the time pressures upfront and build extra time into the project timeline to accommodate them. Of course, this is easier said than done when there’s pressure to get to market as quickly as possible and the opportunity cost of continuing with an inferior customer experience longer. Alternatively, the experience could be built on a front-end platform that includes a built-in integration architecture to ensure the front-end is truly decoupled and time pressures won’t impact the separation of the front-end.
2. Who will be responsible for the stability of the front-end layer?
Front-end stability and support is critical to the marketing team, as well as the overall organization. If the site slows down because a successful promotion peaks traffic – or worse yet, completely crashes during holiday shopping – that can be millions of dollars in lost revenue.
So why is there a higher risk of this in a headless environment? By decoupling your front-end from a stack platform, you lose the predictability of the front-end layer because that platform is no longer hosting and rendering the customer experience.
For example, say your previous front-end experience was built on a commerce platform or CMS. If you move to a headless approach, then a new decoupled front-end would call on APIs to access any functionality that you need from your content or commerce system. This means the commerce platform or CMS is no longer hosting, monitoring, securing or scaling your front-end.
Building a front-end on your own puts that onus and responsibility on your IT team, while a modern front-end platform would host, monitor, secure and scale your front-end for you. It provides a stable, predictable layer that you can trust without having to throw a bunch of resources at it.
3. How will IT resources prioritize maintenance vs. CX changes?
The activities listed above are in line with what Amazon CTO Werner Vogels refers to as “undifferentiated heavy lifting, which are tasks that must get done but don’t provide competitive advantage,” compared to those “that are part of a company’s secret sauce.”
Having a strong grasp of this separation is the key to innovating in a highly competitive environment. If your organization determines that you do have the necessary skills to take on hosting, monitoring, securing, and scaling in-house, there should be a deeper discussion around how this maintenance work will impact the time spent on customer experience changes and optimizations.
One of the primary goals of headless should be to iterate and learn faster on the front-end. Rather than focusing on things like scalability and security, which are the same across every retailer, teams should be able to spend their time on projects that enhance the customer experience, such as:
- Quickly creating pop-up microsites for limited edition products
- Better enabling regional or brand teams to own and improve their unique localized experiences
- Experimenting with the impact of emerging front-end technologies like AMP and visual search
- Running more multi-variate tests and experiments
- Reworking how rich content is displayed and how content workflows are operationalized
- Doubling down on front-end performance optimizations
By outsourcing these undifferentiated activities to a front-end platform, you can see how your team would be more focused by removing a large set of responsibilities and distractions.
Taking a Customer-Led Approach
Using a modern front-end like Mobify enables a customer-led approach to headless. It offloads the high-risk, behind-the-scenes activities so that marketing and IT can work together to continuously test, learn, and iterate on the customer experience at a much faster pace. The result is a deeper understanding of your customers, and better, more unique shopping experiences that differentiate your brand.
Download the Enterprise Guide to Headless Commerce Front-ends to ensure your next web experience roll-out follows a customer-led approach.