It’s time retail took headless and PWAs seriously


When ecommerce is the only way of doing business, companies have re-engineered their operations to be digital at their core. The coronavirus pandemic has also exposed ageing infrastructure, legacy systems and the need for something different.

“Looking forwards, 2021 will be the year of the digital storefront. For some, we’ve seen ten years of growth in digital within six months. A lot of retail players are now looking for a better ecommerce architecture, something that’s flexible, scalable and offers a more fulfilling customer experience,” says James Brooke, chief executive of Amplience, a global leader in digital experience management solutions for retail.

“We’ve now reached a tipping point. There’s a proliferation of very mature tooling right now that retailers can leverage. Businesses don’t have to compromise. At the same time many are going through a digital transformation. Those that adapt, create their retail digital twin effectively and utilise the right ecommerce solutions will thrive.”

The perfect storm has occurred over recent months. Customer habits have changed rapidly. Those retailers with monolithic systems realise the cost of making changes to their digital offering is high. This comes at a time when more purchases are on smartphones. This mcommerce could account for 73 percent of all retail ecommerce sales by 2021 and expect more growth when 5G is adopted.

Those that adapt, create their retail digital twin effectively and utilise the right ecommerce solutions, will thrive

“What we’ve seen is massive frustration with our customers’ ability to deliver change quickly and do that digital transformation in a reasonable time and cost. That’s what is driving a move to a completely new ecommerce infrastructure,” says Brooke, founder of Amplience, which works with more than 350 of the world’s leading retail players, including Sainsbury’s - Argos, Very Group, Liberty and Halfords.

If customers are coming through Pinterest or Instagram, Facebook Shops or TikTok in vast numbers, retailers need to funnel these customers effectively and pivot towards their needs with content to match. It’s similar with mobile. Consumers now expect lightening speeds for downloading content. If it’s not below a second, retailers can expect high bounce rates and higher cart abandonment.

“Customer expectations are evolving rapidly. They expect innovative experiences. Consumers also want to engage with brands in ways that are meaningful to them. The experience needs to be coherent, exciting and more optimised for digital channels, particularly mobile,” says Brooke.

Part of this new architecture is so-called headless commerce, which separates the interface that’s customer facing, or the storefront, from back-end solutions, which are the product and order management part; hence the name “headless”. It’s increasingly being adopted by digital-first retailers as an antidote to traditional ecommerce architecture, which ties both systems together.

“Headless is a far more flexible and scalable architecture. The challenge is that there’s still an issue with the business user experience. The management tools are fairly immature. This is what we’ve been spending our time and energy working on, trying to solve the management challenge for this new infrastructure, so we give businesspeople back control of this technology,” says Brooke, whose company was named a strong performer in Forrester Wave reports.

Progressive web apps, or PWAs,  are also part of this new retail tech architecture. These are app-like experiences, but without the need to build a native app, and are in response to the shift to mobile. Lightening fast when it comes to load times, searchable via the web and no need for an app-store, they’re another game-changer.

“Combining headless and PWAs, retailers can now have their cake and eat it. Businesses don’t need to incur huge upfront investment costs for the rollout of this architecture. You can take an iterative approach, manage the risk more easily and show early gains. We’ve seen clients show remarkable results with these new tools,” says Brooke. “Their time is now.”

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