Going ‘headless’ is an approach that reflects a true omni-channel offering. In this article, James Brooke, CEO of Amplience discusses this further with RLI and highlights some of the key points which may suggest it’s time for retailers to transform in a changing marketplace.

james brook
Retailers are under pressure due to the rapidly changing e-commerce landscape, and many are hamstrung by rigid legacy systems that curtail their ability to adapt and keep up. In today’s omni-channel world, digital reigns supreme and content on mobile and social channels influences how consumers view brands, products and services. To keep up, retail and leisure businesses must side-step traditional platforms and reassess how they conceive, design and deliver content and commerce at scale to meet their omni-channel ambitions. Cue headless commerce.

The term ‘headless’ means that the frontend is de-coupled from the backend, with content and functionality delivered as data via APIs (Application Programming Interface). This makes them more flexible by being capable of supporting many different customer experiences across multiple channels from a single system. Headless, ironically, means you can have many heads, multiple ways to present information from a website to a mobile app to an in-store kiosk or in-store. The backend manages the content and commerce functionality, while the frontend is free to make quick changes to content, without complexity.

Pain points that indicate it’s time to change
If it has become difficult for a brand to present itself consistently across all touchpoints and be truly omni-channel, it’s time to change.

If it feels like workflows and processes to build and present content are being bottlenecked, and productivity is low, it’s time to change. 

If customers are abandoning the website or mobile app because they are just too slow, and it’s impossible to scale with demand, it’s time to change. 

If a large backlog of user experience ideas need implementing, or even testing, and the inability to keep up is making the brand languish behind its competitors, it’s time to change. 

If a brand wants to harness great third-party commerce solutions, such as Search, Payments, Analytics or Content Management but its current platform restricts plugins, it’s time to change. 

Small steps to transformation
Retail and leisure brands will recognise many, if not all, of the pain points above if they’re using monolithic, traditional technology. Adapting to omni-channel using new technology is hard, but it’s worth it. One of the great advantages of going headless is that it brings speed, allowing brands to confidently make changes, push releases live, and react to the market much faster than before, and consistently across channels.
With headless, brands can take small steps towards big change, and realise value little by little. In a decoupled environment, migration happens one piece at a time, so there is no need to completely rip out the old tech and start from scratch.
Customers will, however, appreciate the sub-second load times, even during peak periods, improved SEO, increased customer satisfaction and conversion. Site speed is paramount, with search engines now measuring a website’s customer experience and factoring these scores into their search algorithms.
Headless also means freedom. By separating front and backends, brands can do whatever they want with their architecture, and bring in best-of-breed tools and solutions so they can create, preview, schedule and publish content at will, without any need for code.
Headless supports scalability, particularly during peak periods. This will enable brands to meet customer demands without the worry that systems will crack at the first sign of pressure or overload.
Delivering consistent customer experiences on all touchpoints is central to omni-channel. Utilising best-of-breed tools and features and delivering powerful data means brands can deliver more engaging digital experiences for customers, however they interact with them.
Brands should be free to set up their frontend in the way that they want, to reflect their online brand presence. Headless architecture provides more options for incorporating personalisation, making it easy to deliver contextual and personalised content, products and search results and make data-driven decisions to create tailored customer experiences.

Plan to make the move
There are lots of moving parts when moving to a new platform or reorchestrating an entire architecture, so here are a few considerations.
Plan ahead with an agreed roadmap and decide on the approach but consider phasing it so there is less risk. Understanding the business, its problems and challenges and the omni-channel objectives is a good place to start.
Consider the knock-on effects. Going headless affects an entire business and thought should be given to the features and tools that are a must, how a brand organises itself internally and how it approaches products and developments. Brands should plan for how barriers between development and marketing teams can come down, and how best to work together.
Researching the options and analysing vendors is essential. The best solution may not be the most expensive, but the one that suits the business best.
At some point all that planning needs to come to fruition and it will be time to implement. Thankfully with headless, this can be quick, regardless of whether a brand is adopting a full replacement or an iterative approach to updating its aging legacy architecture.
Life doesn’t stop after the new solution goes live. It will take time to adjust and make a shift in mindset but those retail and leisure businesses that do make the move to headless will be in a strong position to achieve their omni-channel goals, and adapt their operations, tooling and processes with confidence. Freedom comes from moving complex monolithic decisions into smaller and more
manageable components.