On May 12th, Ori Weizman, Senior Solutions Architect at Silk, sat down with Keith Lyon, Senior Solutions Engineer at Blue Triangle, to discuss Headless Commerce in the retail industry and how multi-channel customer experiences are impacting the data layer.

You can watch the full conversation here, but in the meantime, here are some highlights:

What is Headless Commerce?

In its simplest form, Headless Commerce is a separation of the front-end and back-end of an e-commerce application. Headless Commerce architecture enables retailers to present front-end content and products to customers on the multitude of channels they are consuming content on, such as social media applications, like Facebook and Instagram, that have been dominating the retail landscape.

The term Headless Commerce was coined by the founder and CEO of commercetools in 2013. He was describing the evolution of retail technology from big monolithic software stacks that pre-package the user interface, application, and database into one solution, like SAP, to a new “headless” architecture that serves content across channels instead.

“Every single one of my clients has started pushing 50% more personalized ads through social media applications on top of what they’re already doing on their web properties,” said Keith on the webinar.

Headless Commerce Improves Customer Experience

Headless Commerce offers retailers freedom of expression to build various front-end experiences to delight current and potential customers. More importantly, it enables retailers to enrich the customer experience by meeting customers where they are.

The “head” in Headless Commerce can be something as simple as a retailer’s responsive design website or mobile app, but it can also be a wearable connected device or voice-activated device in the living room.

“Over 70% of e-commerce traffic is now coming from mobile devices,” said Keith.

Retailers are competing based on customer experience and customers will pay a premium for faster, more personalized experiences.

In a PricewaterhouseCoopers study titled ‘Experience is Everything,’ 42% of consumers said they would pay more if they had a better experience, and 52% said they would pay more if they had a faster experience.

Headless Commerce Puts More Demand on the Data Layer

With the rise of social media and third-party applications, the number of API calls on the retail database has quadrupled or more. Transactional relational databases still dominate the retail market, but the amount of workload has increased significantly. This increase impacts the data layer and how it is managed by the IT team.

It’s one thing to have a fast front-end: All the pictures show up quickly, the code is running as it should be. But what about all those back-end calls that result in personalization or check inventory? All those back-end calls (or microservices) need to be working correctly and designed as efficiently as possible so that data gets to the customer as fast as possible.

The team must perform functional testing and optimize the throughput and latency of the database workloads to deliver the best user experience.

Retailers are also moving their databases to the cloud to take advantage of the cloud’s flexibility, scalability, and agility. The public cloud providers offer various geographical regions and zones to keep data residing closer to the retailer’s customers and edge devices. This reduces latency and improves performance. Cloud regions and zones are also beneficial for complying with data residency regulations, like GDPR and CCPA, where customer data needs to reside in certain jurisdictions.

But depending upon the size, complexity, and performance requirements of the retailer’s database, it can be a challenge to move the database to the cloud. The cloud’s “one size fits most” architecture is not suitable for mission-critical workloads that need faster performance than what’s available on cloud native architecture.

But that’s where Silk comes in, delivering up to 10x faster performance for the most complex and demanding workloads on the cloud. More on Silk for Retail here!

Headless Commerce Improves Speed to Innovation

With the Headless Commerce model, IT teams are more agile. By separating the front-end from the back-end, developers can make changes to the front-end dynamically without having to make changes elsewhere. It’s the same API calls hitting the back-end.

This is in stark contrast to monolithic architectures of the past where changes to the platform could not be done independently. The team could roll out two or three major changes per year, but that’s far from having the ability to change the platform every second, like Amazon.com can do.

“The less changes you have to make to your back-end and the more you can focus on the front-end means you’re going to be more profitable, you’re going to stay more agile, and you’re going to go to market quicker,” said Keith.

Virtual Reality Hits the Retail Scene

What’s the next big channel to watch for retailers? Virtual Reality and the Metaverse.

Virtual reality will be the next evolution of how retailers sell products online. Soon customers will be able to immerse themselves in a brand’s brick-and-mortar experience without even having to leave their homes. The latest stats on VR are promising, showing that VR can boost online conversion rates by 17%, compared to the average e-commerce conversion rate of 2%.

“Probably within the next 3 to 6 months, I’m going to be able to put on my headset and walk into a virtual mall and go shopping,” said Keith.

In summary, Headless Commerce and multi-channel delivery is changing the way retailers present their brands online. The technology to reach customers in a highly personalized manner is evolving quickly and it’s critical for retailers to make their front-end content as accessible and fluid as ever, while making sure the back-end can support the increase in demand. Cloud technology helps to enable this innovation.

Watch the full webinar here

For more information on getting up to 10x faster performance for retail workloads on the cloud, visit Silk for Retail.