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What is Headless Commerce?

Applications AND Benefits of Headless commerce platformIf you’re a wholesale distributor, manufacturer, or specialty hardgoods retailer, you must be flexible and agile if you want to keep up with buyer expectations. But, to do that, your business systems must have the same latitude. The sophisticated needs of the B2B marketplace – such as approval workflows, RFQs, payment options, and offline mobile ordering capabilities – require multiple tools and continual updates across business systems and channels. So how does one handle the complexities of these B2B functions without sacrificing the customer experience? By migrating to headless commerce.

Headless commerce may have an enigmatic name, but the concept is pretty straightforward: it involves decoupling your eCommerce platform’s front- and back-end systems, allowing you to make changes to content, product data, and more without requiring full updates to your entire system, or to the channels and devices that it feeds. There’s obviously more to it than that, so let’s review how a headless commerce platform works and discuss its practical applications and benefits for those B2B organizations with an omnichannel digital presence.

Headless commerce framework

Unlike traditional eCommerce platforms, a headless commerce platform separates the front end, or “head” of the system, from the back-end, more IT-dependent portion. This separation allows user-centric changes to the front-end’s interface to happen more quickly and efficiently because they don’t affect the back end – unlike traditional eCommerce platforms that typically require recoding and reconfiguring of each presentation layer, such as an online marketplace, kiosk, or other digital device.

The essential component to enabling headless commerce is an application programming interface (API) tool set. APIs, also known as API calls, maintain the communication between the application layers and presentation layers so that data can be delivered in real-time. APIs are built to connect everything from ERP systems and shipping carriers to payment gateways and social media platforms.

George Lawrie, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, says APIs and headless commerce help companies deliver rich, relevant content to customers in their context. “Buyers have different preferences in how they interact with you, and a headless commerce platform enables you to develop a particular digital experience for each user that is separate from the commerce element.”

Lawrie also maintains that buyers are interested in convenient self-service options, which is why businesses must make content available to buyers wherever they are, whether it’s at work, at home, or on a job site. “Headless commerce helps you respond to their needs by making sure digital content and tools render and work properly on different devices,” explains Lawrie. “It gives you the control to create a compelling experience for your users.”

How content comes into play

Not all content resonates with every buyer, nor is it applicable at every customer touchpoint. In fact, buyers are looking for different content at different stages in their journey along the sales cycle. To ensure a more effective path to purchase for your buyers, use a headless content management system (CMS) that delivers captivating content at every customer touchpoint and supports your omnichannel sales strategy. With a headless CMS, content is created and stored in one database and managed via a single interface where the content can be customized for various channels and audiences, and then sent to different presentation layers. This simplified method of content management provides more opportunities to personalize experiences, creates more efficiencies, and increases lifecycle marketing effectiveness.

While getting the right messaging to the right audience is vital, so is providing product content that resonates with buyers. As part of the customer journey, buyers conducting pre-sales research are looking for helpful information about your products. In addition to images, videos, specifications, pricing, reviews, and other product-specific information, buyers want access to product manuals, brochures, and expert content to help them make an informed purchasing decision. Look to content service providers like Unilog to enrich your product catalog with robust content that goes above and beyond standard manufacturer-provided data.

Lawrie says businesses need to change their thinking when it comes to customer needs – it’s not just about getting them to buy your products; it’s about building a long-lasting relationship with them. “Don’t focus on the demand funnel; instead, concentrate on the lifetime value of your customers,” insists Lawrie. “If you want to maintain or increase their value, you must be transparent with your content, especially your pricing.”

Finding a headless commerce solution to fit your needs

Unlike a monolithic solution that has capability limitations, a headless commerce platform gives companies the option to build new digital experiences and technologies when they want – whether that’s six months from now or five years from now. “It allows midmarket B2B companies to expand their offerings when they’re ready without having to upend their digital commerce platform,” explains Scott Frymire, SVP of Marketing at Unilog. “A headless platform essentially ‘future-proofs’ their business, even if they aren’t in a position to take advantage of its capabilities today.”

If you’re ready to migrate to a headless commerce platform, consider Unilog’s eCommerce solution. As a leader in B2B digital solutions, our platform provides a strong foundation for businesses entering the digital marketplace and inbuilt tools to catapult them to eCommerce leaders. In fact, Unilog outpaced its counterparts in Paradigm B2B’s 2020 independent assessment of digital commerce solutions for midmarket businesses. As one of 16 eCommerce solutions evaluated, Unilog’s platform was awarded the most gold medals in the recently released Combine report. Andy Hoar, B2B eCommerce expert and Paradigm B2B’s founder, presented Unilog with medals in nine out of 10 categories, including a record four gold medals for Total Cost of Ownership, Ability to Execute, Sales & Channel Enablement, and Content & Data Management.

In the report, Hoar stated, “Unilog CIMM2 is particularly well-suited for midmarket B2B companies looking for a reasonably priced vendor with a powerful content-driven commerce value proposition that can spin up microsites relatively quickly and easily.”

If you’d like to see just how powerful and flexible our headless eCommerce solution is, contact us for a free demo and complimentary assessment of your current eCommerce offering.

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