Real Talk: Headless, Unified, APIs, AI, Oh My!

FitForCommerce Sr. Consultant, Jeff Buttimer, was one of four experts who gathered to share insights on how to decipher the modern commerce platform and how businesses can decide what platform best suits their needs. Cy Fenton, Chairman on the NRF IT Security Council and former Head of Privacy & Security at Ralph Lauren & Booksamillion.com, Alex Richardson, former Head of Digital at Frederic Fekkai Brands, Kidbox & Tory Burch, and Blake Billings, Sr. Solutions Engineer at Kibo joined Jeff. This workshop was held as a complementary discussion following the release of our workbook (download here) released earlier this month. Below is a recap of the workshop!

Short preview of the workshop:

Blake kicked the workshop off with some data from a report Kibo recently conducted: 74% of retailers are not satisfied with their current commerce platform. The panel alluded to a few issues being the root of this dissatisfaction. A live, multiple-choice poll of workshop attendees concluded that “Systems being not fully integrated” was the issue keeping them up at night regarding their current tech stack. Here are the full results:

Blake continued, “[This report] in particular was interesting. Just think about the time and money invested into picking a commerce platform – for 75% of them to not be highly satisfied shows the complications and challenges with evaluating and picking a platform that’s right for your business as well as some of the complications of picking a platform that stays up to date.”

Why do commerce platforms fail to deliver the intended results?

Alex dove into the reasons commerce platforms fail to deliver the intended results, stating  that people are generally unhappy with their commerce platform because many teams underestimate the amount of work it takes to put in these new platforms and overestimate the benefits. Overall, teams don’t realize how much work it is to put together a commerce platform, and they expect to see results. Jeff agreed, mentioning that one of the key focuses [should be] making sure there is a consensus on what a new platform is intended to solve.” Further, Alex mentioned the impact of ‘wrong partnerships’. He claimed, “I suspect that companies often have the wrong vendor partner… Most teams don’t understand the complexity of the complete end to end nature of enterprise ecommerce systems and they pick the wrong partner.”

How do we pick the right platform?

Before getting into how one should choose a platform, Blake explained the importance of understanding what the customer is looking to solve.

He stated, “I think from our perspective one of the first things we really try to get to the bottom of when working with our clients is, “What are your pain points?” It’s great you want a new platform, everybody wants to grow revenue, but understanding where those pain points are or where the opportunity lies [is important]. Once you go live on a platform, two months later it feels like there’s these new options, new technologies, and new platforms that you now ‘need’ to get to the next stage.” As seen in the workbook, the panel shared insights on how to get MORR (multi, omni, relevancy, and responsiveness) from your platform:

Alex explained, “Today customers are really experiencing a convergence of experience where they want the same kind of experience whether they use a mobile device, or are online. They want the same convenience whether it’s Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS) or curbside. Being able to respond more quickly to customers in terms of experience and relevance [is key].”

What does a modern commerce platform mean?

Blake was eager to share his thoughts on buzzwords in the industry, stating, “From a vendor perspective, we are all buzzword certified. I know the words that are the buzzwords in the industry. We are a headless platform. You want to go headless? Great. Because there is some underlying kind of architecture and infrastructure that’s going to determine if you’re successful with that. Every ecommerce platform in this space says they are headless, but many of them cannot be consumed in a modular fashion, they have just found a way to bolt on a new content management system (CMS).”

Cy agreed and mentioned that there’s an important distinction between five years ago and today. He noted that commerce platforms are no longer driving a website frontend. It’s now driving a mobile frontend/kiosk frontend, etc., driving a transaction that starts online and finishes in-store, and vice versa.

What is headless commerce and what are the benefits?

Overall, headless commerce opens up the possibilities and abilities for creative teams without dependency on  the technology teams. 

Jeff explained headless commerce as an architectural structure that is another variant of a service-oriented architecture (SOA). With headless, the frontend, and potentially the CMS, is separated from the core commerce logic of the application itself, which allows the business to become more autonomous with a lot less IT intervention. There are two flavors of headless: One with a headless CMS, and one that has a single application that has a built-in CMS with a frontend being connected to that experience.”  Besides allowing for more business autonomy and control, Blake noted that by decoupling the frontend and backend allows both ends to work at their own pace. Overall, the greatest benefit of headless commerce is that it results in businesses having more control.

How do you decide?

Every business is different – so, how do you make the right decision? Tune into the full workshop to hear the panel dive deeper into the various buzzwords and further demystify the modern commerce platform. Plus, follow along in the complementary workbook!