Does headless commerce have a home in your B2B ecommerce?

Does headless commerce have a home in your B2B ecommerce?

There’s no doubt you’ve heard the whispers, the murmurs, the rumors — headless commerce is a buzzworthy topic among business and technology professionals alike. The promise of agility and flexibility by leveraging multiple APIs to extend commerce experiences in a way that’s intuitive for technology teams to deliver.

But is it really that easy? Is this a strategy that you should consider? And, most important – does this headless approach make sense within your B2B vision?

In short – yes, but with many, many caveats.

First, let’s discuss some key points of what headless commerce actually is, and what it isn’t.

Headless commerce is a way to de-couple the front-end presentation layers (and other components) of your ecommerce experience to leverage the best-in-class content management system (CMS), site search, shopping cart, personalization, etc.

Headless commerce is not an end all cure-all to pain that you may be having in your business today.

Headless commerce is a great approach to keep up with the ever-changing customer experience expectations by creating paths to agility and customizations that create personalized purchasing experiences.

Headless commerce is not something that will likely deliver business value quickly to your organization. Moving down a headless strategic approach requires investment, time, and, most importantly, employees familiar with working in this type of development approach (especially IT professionals).

So, what should you do? Should you make this extensive investment in a new architecture and development approach? Should you stay within the traditional “platform” model?

The right answer to these questions really depends on the maturity of your organization and, moreover, where you’re looking to take it strategically. In that spirit, here are three areas to consider if you’re contemplating leveraging headless commerce within your B2B organization.

The investment and time needed to move to this type of headless framework will be extensive. So, when contemplating if you should walk this path or not, try to think about issues around your current existing platform. Is it stable enough to last through the time needed to move to headless? If your technology team focuses on developing a new headless approach, will your customers complain if you aren’t building new extensions or features they desire on your current platform? It’s essential to be transparent with your customers here, and you may be able to leverage this change as an opportunity to “sell” your future vision.

But in this early stage of considering headless,  your employees may be even more critical than your customers to your plans. Moving to this framework will no doubt require employee training and new ways of working. In fact, you may even need to hire new team members to support the headless approach. This will be a massive change for your IT organization and how it operates. Having employees onboard and comfortable with this technology approach will be essential for success.

The buzz around topics like headless commerce always creates a vacuum of interest from folks. But you need to assess your current B2B market and your customers’ needs and expectations before going down the headless path – if you catch my drift, there’s no point using an elephant gun for an ant hole. If your business is still maturing or your customers don’t require massive levels of personalization, deploying headless technology just doesn’t make sense currently.

The return on your investment won’t be large enough to justify the need. However, if you have complex products, with longer buying journeys and customers who are used to purchasing your products through exceptional experiences, it may make sense to move to headless. Even more so, if you aspire to build DTC (direct-to-customer) streams as part of your future business strategic approach, it makes even more sense to assess headless commerce as a viable option.

The investment in headless commerce isn’t just monetary, it hits the business as well. Many business teams struggle to gain tangible value quickly from headless buildouts – after all, it does take time to build and leverage this framework. There needs to be commitment and transparency from business team members that moving down a headless path will take time. The good news is that you should still be able to use the existing platform before the headless framework is completed, but the business teams may have to wait on new feature developments in some areas while this new framework is built out.

B2B organizations looking to move down this headless path is nowhere near as common as B2C brands. That being said, it doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t work for your business. The secret sauce here is really focusing on your customer needs. Who are the businesses buying from you? What experiences do they desire? Is your current platform supporting these expectations? Where is your business looking to go?

Answering these questions will help determine the path you should take. Stay tuned for my next Digital Commerce 360 article where I will discuss some specific B2B headless features that will change your business and customer experience for the better, forever.

Until then, remember what “The Office” character Dwight Schrute once said: “I’m ready to face any challenge that might be foolish enough to face me.” To be sure, headless commerce is daunting and hard to harness, but you and the business you run can make it work if it suits your growth plans. Don’t run from challenge — face it, embrace it, and use it to define your B2B brand’s future.

Justin Racine is director, commerce strategy, at Perficient, a digital technology and services agency focused on digital transformation. He is a former director of ecommerce and marketing at distributor Geriatric Medical and Surgical Supply Inc. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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