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Making headless decisions in eCommerce – Improving your content life

By using a headless CMS to deliver content and user journeys, you make the best out of your content’s life. This guest blog by Storyblok will cover why you should get on the headless train.

Laura Gavrilă

7 minutes

The future of e‑commerce is headless, but what does that exactly mean?

To be convinced that headless is the future of eCommerce, we should take a look at the past. The first instances of a web CMS were developed 20 years ago with a technical focus. As the importance of the web channel grew alongside the roles of marketers and creatives, the focus shifted to benefit the practitioners. Thus, the so‑called experience CMS was born, offering WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) interfaces.Fast forwarding to today, web experiences need to share the scene with a myriad of channels, platforms, and devices. Add to that the fast‑moving customers and technologies, and, once again, the focus shifts toward agility powered by a flexible architecture used to improve customer experiences on all channels and devices.The headless CMS is the answer to this need of agility. With headless commerce you have the ability to create the content once and use it on all channels, devices and platforms, offering your customers a seamless experience as they move between them.

A headless CMS is a back‑end only content management system built as a content repository that makes content accessible via API (Application Programming Interface) to be displayed on any device and channel. The term “headless” refers to the concept of removing the front‑end, the head, from the back‑end, the body. This essentially means you can add any “head” to your “body”, and offer your customers a seamless experience on all channels, devices and platforms as they move between them.

The main benefits of headless

While it is a developer‑centric CMS, a headless CMS can make life easier for both developers and content creators. Let’s deep dive into the main benefits of going headless.

1. Platform independence
As we found out, a headless CMS is independent from any platforms. This type of CMS makes your content accessible via API and you can display it on any device without having to make any changes. This means you can reach brand consistency across channels and meet the customers on all devices, offering them an omni‑channel customer experience. Consumers can move between channels without restarting their customer journey. More than that, you can personalize their experience, something that 79% of clients value over personalized marketing. It is obvious why omni‑channel marketing is becoming more and more a crucial factor in customer satisfaction. Having an omni‑channel strategy in place yields an average customer retention rate of 89%.  

Storyblok architecture

2. Freedom of technology
Another great benefit of headless CMSs is that they are virtually language agnostic. You are free to use your technology of choice to connect the back‑end to any of the “heads” or front‑ends. The developers can build their own stack according to their preferences and skill set.

3. Flexibility and speed
With a headless CMS you can overcome the challenges of siloed content that is managed manually. Your content team can make fast changes that are implemented across all channels, minimizing the impact of redesigns and product changes. Some systems offer the possibility to automate a portion of your content creation process through using Intelligent Content, moving  towards data‑driven, automated content creation. To summarize, you would increase reusability, flexibility and experimentation for practitioners while allowing technical professionals to build and deploy in short iterative bursts.

4. Updates and security
Headless CMS platforms protect against security risks due to their decoupled nature. Most systems use APIs to provide content that is read‑only. Additionally, an API can be placed behind an application and a security layer. Generally, headless CMSs leave the rendering of the content they deliver client‑side, rather than server‑side, reducing the impact of any possible DDoS (distributed denial‑of‑service attacks).


Headless e‑commerce will close the innovation gap

The digital abilities of a business are directly tied to revenue, but a lot of business leaders are struggling to offer custom, personalized, omni‑channel customer experiences with web‑centric traditional CMSs. At the same time, the customer’s needs and expectations are increasingly higher in terms of experience, journey, and personalization. Essentially, the digital innovation gap is the rift between what tools you need as a business to meet customer needs and what tools you use. So, what do the customers want and how do we give it to them with minimum effort and resources?

For one, clients want speed. According to a study done by Google in 2016, 53% of visitors leave a mobile site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. The study also revealed strong correlations between page speed and revenue, bounce rate, session duration and viewability. In fact, there have been observed 2X more revenue for sites that loaded in 5 seconds instead of 19.

A newer study shows that a one‑second delay in mobile load times can impact conversion rates by up to 20%.

It’s true, a headless CMS won’t make your site automatically faster, but it does offer you the possibility to increase your website’s performance significantly by taking full advantage of its JAMstack architecture.

Clients also expect a personalized, contextualized and localized journey. In fact, using personalized product recommendations increases the average order rate and conversions significantly.To back up this claim, let’s look at a recent study. It seems that 79% of users say that a personalized service is more important than personalized marketing. Customers want to be known, they want you to know their name, be aware of the discussions they already had with you, and their purchase history.

Furthermore, 84% “go out of their way” to spend money on a brand that provides great experiences.

With the API‑first architecture, provided by headless CMSs, you have a solid foundation to deliver personalized, localized and contextualized customer journeys, using the same content. Such a CMS enables you to provide these user experiences to leverage your customer’s unique data points and contextual information, and to drive conversions.

Choosing the right CMS for the whole team

By now you might be convinced of the benefits of a headless CMS, but there are many options to choose from. While most of the market‑leading headless CMSs will have a lot of common features, you still need to look for the unique selling points that meet your business’ needs. We have already established that headless CMSs are developer‑centric. However, in order to create seamless and engaging customer experiences which drive loyalty and unlock revenue sources, you will rely a lot on your content creators and marketers. Keeping that in mind here are some things to take into consideration when choosing a headless CMS:

1. Localization features
Reaching as many audiences as possible means unlocking new streams of revenue, but it also means delivering a localized user journey complete with conversion of prices in local currencies.

Content creators and marketers can have a hard time managing all the languages if the headless CMS you choose doesn’t offer a clear overview of the locales.


2. Custom workflows with custom user permissions
Complex editorial workflows are prone to mistakes. A solid approval process can make all the difference in publishing flawless content.

For the best editing experience you should choose a headless CMS that gives you the possibility to create custom workflows, including custom roles, custom user permissions and scheduled publishing.

3. Content preview options
One of the biggest pain points brought up by traditional CMS supporters is that the headless CMS, by its nature, makes it hard for content editors to see what they are editing. Most headless CMSs do offer a preview option, but make sure to analyze the specifics.

4. Intelligent and reusable content
Aside from the clear benefits it brings to the developer team, the headless CMS is also a magic wand for marketers and content creators. A good headless CMS will offer you the possibility to reuse your content, to create reusable templates and to create multi‑purposed, adaptable, and streamlined content.

5. Versioning system
Versioning is one of the most useful features provided by headless CMSs. Check that the system of your choice lets you compare, restore, remove, name and rename versions of published and draft entries. Ideally, you should also have an activity log.

6. Easy to use digital asset management
Content creation is highly dependent on the way you are able to manage assets. When choosing your headless CMS, make sure it offers an internal asset management system and the option of integration with external services. Also, check that it lets your users bulk edit and that images can be optimized by adding parameters to the URL.

The real costs and benefits

As presented in the beginning of this article, the headless CMS is an answer to the ever‑growing demands of the modern market. With it content delivery has become a much easier experience. However, what exactly makes it an easier experience? Let’s dive into the factors that influence the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of your content operations.

1. Time‑to‑Market
As a business owner your goal is to create seamless and engaging experiences that drive revenue and loyalty. Agility in time‑to‑market plays a vital role in achieving said goal.

When it comes to content creation, using a headless CMS empowers your content creators and marketers to manage their content with custom workflows and synchronize experiences across channels. Instead of creating content for each channel individually, the same content can be used for all. More than that, time‑to‑market can be shortened by using and reusing your templates and content modules and even automating it through artificial intelligence. This efficiency can free up your creative team to experiment with and improve user journeys. You are giving them the right tools to test, target and optimize those experiences.

2. Content governance
Depending on the size of your business and the volume of content you publish, you have a series of guidelines and quality control processes for publishing entries. With a headless CMS, you can take a strategic approach to managing and publishing content. Features like custom workflows, versioning, custom user permissions and approval processes will help you plan, test, re‑edit, schedule and publish your content. There is room for mistakes and repairs before the content reaches the users.

3. Maintenance costs
With a headless CMS you don’t need to worry about storage costs or costly backend operations. As everything is in one place, and accessible to your team from anywhere, equals a more economical solution, with a better ROI to get your content and campaigns out there. Additionally, when it comes to hosting your site with JAMstack, a lower cost of hosting equals better uptime. Hosting static files rather than dynamic, means you don’t have to pay for expensive web servers or databases. All you need is a CDN (content delivery network). 

Most systems are available at different prices, according to the features they include. This way, you only pay for what you and your business needs.

4. Onboarding of the team
Although headless CMSs don’t necessarily have a practitioner focus, they offer friendly user interfaces that are easy to learn to use. 

Most vendors of headless CMS offer extensive instruction guides, FAQs covering a lot of situations and, in some cases, live support. They are also fast to respond and open to feedback and product suggestions.

Conclusion

We can end this article with the same statement it started with: at the heart of every digital experience lies content. The way you approach your content delivery will impact your business and revenues. The way you empower your creative team will impact your business and revenues. Choosing a headless CMS and pairing it with a powerful headless eCommerce platform, like Centra, will enable you and your team to create omni‑channel, localized and personalized digital experiences, while keeping your resource utilization at a minimum and reaching a global market.