Headless Commerce 2020: Trends & Predictions from the Ecosystem

It’s been a tremendously exciting year for headless commerce, although, let’s face it. We’re a little obsessed. As the front-end platform for headless, we’ve been focused since the beginning on helping brands deliver amazing digital experiences to everyone. To meet customer expectations demands an agile architecture. Headless is the solution for making commerce agile because it provides the freedom for brands to move quickly enough to keep up with their customers. The industry is rallying around an API-oriented approach that delivers headless solutions which are best-of-breed—or, as a wise man said, “best of what I need.” In the headless ecosystem, what’s next for 2020? We rounded up insights from our valued industry partners and experts.

Microservices Everywhere

Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer, commercetools

“As retailers shift away from monolithic, legacy platforms they are also moving towards microservices – small, self-contained applications that can be developed and deployed individually. API-driven microservices allow developers to easily and quickly update specific parts of the front-end, resulting in shorter release cycles and faster time-to-market. They also allow retailers to achieve true omnichannel experiences for their customers as all the information is coming from the same back-end. This enables retailers to always stay one step ahead of the competition.” See a few more e-commerce predictions from commercetools.

Growing Demand for Orchestration – Fast!

Harry Chemko, Co-founder & CEO, Elastic Path

“The art of the possible is now very much becoming what customers are preparing themselves to deliver to their end users. We were the first to come to the realization that commerce was going to evolve from a web and mobile centric storefront experience to the expectation that transactions are accessible everywhere. We didn’t know exactly what touchpoints were going to take advantage of “headless” by 2020, and now we see many organizations gearing up to commerce-enabled voice assistants and IoT devices.

As we start seeing more B2B organizations wanting to deliver to their buyers seamless experiences that are on par with what they are experiencing as consumers in their downtime, the demand for orchestration is growing: a lot of these organizations have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the early direct-to-consumer commerce adopters and invest in flexible, extensible systems so they are not unprepared when the next touchpoint becomes table stakes in their industry. However, they have a big gap to fill: they are often complex organizations with multiple business units and different stakeholders that want to take advantage of the capabilities they are investing in, or sometimes they are organizations that want to serve commerce to both B2C and B2B business cases, and they are recognizing that orchestration is the key for them to stand up a system rapidly (one of the customers we recently went live with – Medimpact – needed to do it in a month), get a win, and then propagate those capabilities across the enterprise over time.”

Hybrid CMS Increases in Strategic Importance 

Michael Gerard, CMO, e-Spirit

“Web content management (WCM) is no longer about managing content—it’s about orchestrating experiences across the entire customer lifecycle journey. AND it’s certainly about much more than the “web”—experiences must be managed in a connected manner across every potential customer touchpoint or mode. The most successful companies get this, and are modifying their customer experience tech stack to include a hybrid (headless+) content management system (CMS) with AI-driven personalization as part of their digital experience ecosystem. A hybrid CMS is the next generation of today’s headless CMS. More specifically, the headless CMS has enabled developers to more easily get content into any customer touchpoint; however, the headless CMS was designed for developers and not business users, and it also lacks more enterprise-level features such as workflow, collaboration, permissions and other capabilities required by multi-national, multi-business unit and/or multi-brand companies. (see Headless CMS: Everything You Wanted to Know)”

As Mark Grannan, Senior Analyst of Forrester, cautions: “There is heavy interest from the end-user clients—many of whom are marketing leaders—who tell me they want headless because they don’t want to have to work through IT to publish updates to their content. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that “write once, publish everywhere” is a promise of headless, but that potential future reality will require more developer input rather than less, especially at the start of the replatforming. So we have (somewhat jokingly) crafted a headless rating for software vendors and customers to better understand the risks for digitally immature organizations.”

“The areas where a pure-play headless CMS come up short are more than addressed in today’s hybrid CMS. The hybrid CMS offers the complete solution, enabling companies to have the best of both worlds—a headless CMS and a “head on” (coupled or decoupled) CMS—to operate in any type of DX ecosystem and architecture, and without sacrificing the power of easy to use, enterprise-class capabilities that are expected from a traditional CMS.” See more digital experience trends from e-Spirit.

B2B Expansion

Andy Peebler, VP B2B Commerce, Salesforce

Headless commerce—has traditionally been in B2C. But there’s a big difference in how headless is applied in B2B; brands aren’t looking at headless primarily to drive entire sites or app experiences. Instead, B2B companies expect certain aspects of commerce to be delivered via headless, so they can invest and differentiate in customer experience and their digital product offerings. They’re also leaning on platform providers to deliver more SaaS technology, preserving agility in the long run. This matters a lot in B2B — while aspects of a digital experience can benefit from headless, there are also approval workflows, payment complexities, and legal terms and acknowledgments that benefit from streamlined, out-of-the-box experiences that are always kept up to date.” See the full quote here.

Headless in the Real World 

Friedhelm Scharhag, Founder & CEO, Mobizcorp

“As an experienced digital commerce company we faced several headless challenges with custom builds on Salesforce Commerce Cloud. With our latest use cases, we see enormous acceptance by the shoppers and strong uplifts in mobile adoption and revenue. The main challenges throughout the ecosystem are different custom ecommerce platform implementations and lacking APIs to empower headless. For us, Mobify is a way to make headless fast, transparent and risk free for retailers. We see a huge potential because headless commerce will become the default not only for B2C but soon, for B2B, too.”

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