SAG_Twitter_MEME_HeadlessCommerce_880x440_May18I came across a new term a couple of weeks ago: “Headless commerce.” But what does it mean, and is it really a new concept?

Headless commerce refers to retailers separating back-end capabilities from the technology that fuels their front-end customer experiences. This gives them flexibility to continuously tweak and improve the customer journey at the front end, without having to constantly re-platform.

It seems the term has been around for a couple of years but it was a new one to me – perhaps the choice of word – “headless” has not aided wider adoption. 

Success at the customer level depends on regularly upgrading their experience with your ecommerce applications. Re-platforming is costly and time consuming – it is counter-intuitive to a good customer experience.

This is not a new concept, however, as I read the definition explaining how content presentation layer is separated from business logic and functional layers it instantly made me visualize a diagram I first saw in 2014 – one which my colleagues and I use to explain exactly what Software AG does for its customers. 

2014 was the year Software AG launched the Digital Business Platform.  The concept was to enable businesses to decouple the different layers within their IT structure and rapidly build internal and customer facing solutions that enable a differentiated customer experience.  This experience requires connectivity between and orchestration across multiple existing systems and could react to the real-time nature of business and customer actions.

The diagram I first saw in 2014 has evolved slightly, but the concept remains the same and I use it regularly to help explain the value the Digital Business Platform can bring for retailers – as well as many other verticals.

 Headless commerce

In the last 10 years we have seen massive changes in retail and the one thing retailers, and technology vendors alike, have learned is that no-one really knows what’s coming next.  What will the next customer touchpoint look like?  What are the new processes retailers will need to embrace?  I am not alone in saying this – Bob Hetu of Gartner recently took this as a key takeaway from Shoptalk.

One thing is clear; core systems cannot be replaced or upgraded in time to deal with the change.  The reality is that, traditionally, businesses run transformational projects and make technology investments around specific initiative to support a given business change.  However, businesses really need to change their approach to focus on supporting continuous change – and that is why the Digital Business Platform is so relevant.

The benefits of this approach are that businesses:

  • Replace only the parts that need replacing
  • Have the agility to try new things and support new business models
  • Have to ability to grow as the business scales

As well as being trusted by a vast number of the world’s largest retailers, Software AG’s ownership structure ensures independence allowing customers to avoid vendor lock-in – further enhancing the ability to continually react and respond to business changes.

Given the pace of change in retail and the threats that even the mightiest are under, this approach has never been more relevant.

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