Destination Commerce is Dead, Long Live Anywhere Commerce
Commerce is no longer one destination, nor one concept. Commerce is everywhere. Commerce is content, virality, leverage, microservices and cloud-native. This rethink shouldn't surprise as one-fifth of the population worldwide shops online, with e-commerce sales expected to reach $4.8 trillion by 2021.
Brands are quickly finding that they need to be able to pivot quickly and adapt as trends change, something that old platforms driven by destination commerce no longer suffice to service.
More Screens, More Options
Let’s start with arguably the biggest change to commerce — the smartphone. More screens prompt the need for more front-end flexibility. These devices are now in the hands of more than 80 percent of Americans, up from just 35 percent in Pew Research Center's first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.
This widespread ability to browse on demand changes how e-commerce platforms must present to users. Brands need the ability to experiment quickly with front-end designs for different screens and build out optimized customer experiences. This is where anywhere commerce — or “headless commerce" — makes sense.
Headless commerce is an architecture in which the front end is decoupled from the back end, and they both are able to function independently. This modern commerce architecture allows different touchpoints (or “heads”) to connect seamlessly to the back end via APIs, giving the flexibility to change and scale the customer-facing experience independent of the back end. Similarly, this means customer experience must be consistent across formats.
One United Customer Experience
If your brand isn't one destination, then where is it? The answer: everywhere else. The rise of anywhere commerce requires brands to create compelling customer experiences across all devices.
This is because customers today don't look at brands as having separate channels; rather, they evaluate the overall experience. Being present in those intent-rich moments when users turn to their devices to research or to buy makes all the difference. The better the combination of content and commerce capabilities, the better the user experience.
For example, research from Harvard Business Review reveals that 73 percent of consumers use more than one channel during their shopping journey. Additionally, omnichannel customers spend 4 percent more in-store and 10 percent more online than single-channel customers.
Headless commerce allows for the addition of touchpoints without building a business case for a new back end every time you want to add a new front end. This opens the door to more integrations, which helps break down silos in consumer-facing operations.
Unlocking the Data
Another major benefit of implementing headless commerce comes from the flexibility to test, and not guess, different user experience settings. This is in contrast with traditional models which make it much more difficult to conduct UX experiments. Traditional commerce architecture forces designers to modify both front-end and back-end code simultaneously.
This is where headless commerce encourages data-driven decision making. We live in a digital-first world, so it makes sense to experiment and tinker with the user experience without affecting back-end operations. This environment helps to receive feedback, test more effectively, and optimize UX to get the best results.
Headless commerce allows companies to unify their brand and improve customer experience at the same time. This is more important than ever as the explosion of growth and adoption of connected devices and digital touchpoints have resulted in disjointed customer experience. Destination commerce is dead, long live anywhere commerce.