Is your retail business ready for headless commerce?

Heard about headless commerce yet and know what it means for your retail business? If not, it’s time for a heads up, before the technology that underpins the concept goes mainstream across the Australian retail sector.

Australians have taken to online shopping with gusto over the past two decades. According to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index January 2019 update, online retail sales hit $28.8 billion in the preceding 12 months. Department and variety stores were the fastest growing categories, followed by games and toys, takeaway food, groceries and liquor.

Historically, online shoppers purchased their goods and services from sites linked to e-commerce platforms that carry out the series of tasks associated with processing a sale. The term headless commerce refers to the decoupling of these two elements – the front end with which customers interact and the back-end which executes transactions on behalf of the retailer or supplier.

The headless model allows retailers to craft a different user experience for each of the channels consumers access to purchase their products, while maintaining a centralised, back-end system that supports common functions, such as payment processing, across all of those channels. Under this structure, new channels can be added and user interfaces modified or improved without the need to reconfigure the back-end system.

The shift away from desktop shopping

Why does headless commerce matter? Because the online shopping experience no longer consists of an individual sitting at their desktop computer, credit card at the ready, and browsing the sites of their favourite brands and stores.

Today’s consumers are a highly mobile lot and they’re no longer content to buy online in this traditional manner. In fact, the majority don’t – recent research showed between 60 and 70 per cent of retailers’ consumer traffic originated from mobile devices, rather than old school PCs.

Today, we see consumers looking to purchase online in a plethora of different ways, including via mobile apps and voice-controlled devices such as Google Home. Social media platforms, Instagram in particular, have also become interfaces for shoppers who want to browse and buy direct from their feed. The imminent arrival of the 5G network and the exponential increase in internet speed it promises to deliver will result in further changes to the way Australians transact online. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will become standard aspects of the online shopping experience, as stores begin to offer consumers the opportunity to stroll through their stores and ‘touch’ their wares.

Headless commerce makes it possible for retailers to offer customers all these buying experiences, without having to invest large sums on developing and maintaining an array of complex back-end systems to support them.

Time to act

The headless model and the technology associated with it are still in the experimental phase but digitally-driven early adopters are already moving into the space, abroad and here in Australia. The likes of Bang and Olufsen, Rebel and Young Tribe are investing in headless commerce and, in a year or two, we’ll see the mainstream majority start to follow suit.

If your business sits in this mass middle category, it may not yet be the moment to move but it’s definitely time to get ready to do so. You can do this by educating yourself about headless commerce and by reconfiguring your technology stack to support it, so when the time comes to take the leap, you’re well placed to implement an ecommerce platform that supports the model.

Fail to act and you may find yourself lagging behind more agile digital rivals which are already devising strategies to compete in this emerging space.

Laura Doonin, Director, Moustache Republic

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