It’s not enough to earn loyal customers; forward-thinking businesses seeking to gain an advantage with their ecommerce technology would reach a deeper level of customer satisfaction by ensuring their digital offerings focus on a fast-growing trend: customization.
The more some consumer segments remain static in how much they spend, which trended pre-pandemic, the more important it is for business owners to integrate strategies that enable a move to headless commerce and leverage its customization benefits.
“The biggest challenges I'm hearing from retailers and brands are a lack of differentiation,” says Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer at headless SaaS provider commercetools, in an interview with Bold Commerce. Spending on both premium brands, and low-income retailers such as dollar stores is doing well, he adds, but middle-class spending has been curtailed.
Shifting demographics increases consumer expectations
Researched reports back up his observation: Between 2007 and 2016, higher-end US stores saw revenue growth of 81%, while revenues for discount stores grew 37%. By comparison, revenues at mid-market stores grew only 2%, a Deloitte report found.
This pressure on brands doesn’t afford them much leeway for judgment errors, and the last thing they want to do is simply view their customer loyalty as something to take for granted. Instead, they should bring individual experiences as often as possible to consumers accessing their digital touch points.
Headless commerce to empower personalization
A 2019 global survey of 3,000 consumers found that two-thirds of them expect personalization as a standard of service and believe they are recognized as an individual when sent special offers. And a separate survey noted that 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.
Shifting to a headless commerce model, which allows business to stitch together best-in-class technology from a variety of vendors instead of being stuck in one monolithic system, brings immense value to customization priorities, says Goetsch.
“I'm a firm believer that innovation requires iteration and to release new functionality, you have to be using these newer practices and principles, such as microservices and APIs. You have to use those innovations to adapt to a very fast-moving business climate.”
Web designer and author Alewx Belding writes in Medium regarding that role of custom experiences: “Companies that find ways to personalize the customer experience through interactive content will actively impact repeat purchases and customer loyalty in the coming years.”
How that looks granularly will depend on the business, but the features can range from personalized emails to quizzes to learn customer preferences to special coupons triggered by a customer’s mobile device and its proximity to a store.
Scale with the times instead of timing your scale
Adopting a headless commerce framework is also a win-win for retailers and shoppers. Goetsch says that shoppers embrace “the best UI possible with headless. In the past, when you had a commerce platform have the front end within it, whenever you wanted to change the front end, you also had to release the back end at the same time, because the two were very intrinsically coupled. And what that meant is many retailers were on a monthly or quarterly, or sometimes even an annual release-to-production schedule and now, they can release to production whenever they want. “
Also, this architecture decoupling brings a breadth of choice to businesses that want to shop for the right partner. “There's this whole new ecosystem of vendors out there that are really good at doing these single purpose business applications,” Goetsch says, “so it becomes really easy now to compose your experience, whereas before it wasn't very easy to do so.”
Get specific with your APIs
On what cautionary advice to offer to businesses seeking to go headless for the first time, he says to be wary of APIs “over fetching or under fetching…because with rest APIs, you have to specify what data you want returned. Otherwise it'll return everything and if you're retrieving a product for example, and you don't put limits on what you want to retrieve, a product might have 200 fields behind the scenes. And you don't want to retrieve 200 fields from the back end, and then only grab the five fields that you actually need.”
He suggests making sure your dev teams specify the fields needed in the request, or you need to use API query language GraphQL to limit what’s required and only retrieve specific data.
For businesses seeking a sterling example of headless done right, Goetsch points to commercetools client Audi. He highlights their in-car connected commerce feature called “functions on demand” to allow car buyers to buy or subscribe to services as they own the car, not right from when they buy the vehicle.
“The goal is to reduce the asking price for the vehicles, and to manufacture them the exact same way internally,” he says, “but then [customization comes out] when drivers are paying for what they need, and also the car manufacturers can get a stream of revenue going forward.”
For example, Audi drivers can get heated-seats for a certain amount per month instead of having them full-time, which doesn’t make sense for buyers living in warm climates.
When major brands such as Audi make customizations a core part of their products, customers will come to expect similar flexibility with the other brands they interact with daily. Headless commerce is another arrow in the quiver of business leaders seeking to make those customized shopping journeys ever simpler, both for their teams to develop and their customers to enjoy.