You might think of headless eCommerce solely in terms of pushing more products, but these are only the beginning of the benefits you’ll find from a headless integration—even if you aren’t using it to sell directly.
Product information management (PIM) software helps retailers consolidate and manage data about their products and ensures that accurate, current product information is shared across all digital and on-site retail platforms. By having a robust and centralized product information repository, businesses can more effectively manage, promote, and sell products. However, at mid-tier levels, these systems aren’t as affordable or available—and as a result, product catalog management becomes a burden. But with a headless eCommerce platform equipped with robust PIM capabilities, product management is a breeze.
For example, companies with substantial product diversity across merchandise, subscriptions, and more have a lot of details to juggle. Headless commerce offers a flexible way to keep things organized:
Update merchandise based on stock
Make subscriptions available based on changing marketing promotions
Offer variable content access for flat rates
Create and promote events based on preferred timelines
Gain a centralized CMS where all products can be updated and managed from a single platform
Keep in mind that a significant portion of product management is related to customer expectations. Customers need simple ways to conduct transactions and make purchases, but these basic processes are only the beginning. Your headless eCommerce platform must include the features and functions that let you best serve your customers, no matter what expectations they may have:
Build a product based database of support materials and documents, such as installation guides, brochures, printouts, etc.
Display pricing by country, stock/inventory information, and expected availability dates
Show recommendations and relationships between products - automate the display of products based on their properties and attributes
When your eCommerce platform allows you to manage existing product info, roll out new products seamlessly, and reconfigure settings, you gain benefits that go beyond direct sales capability.
When technical challenges prevent marketing teams from accomplishing their goals, companies often get stuck with disconnected and disjointed systems running different types of eCommerce experiences. There might be landing pages, product sites, shopping sites, and more. Add in the need to provide these assets across multiple channels, and it’s clear that this disjointed system isn’t tenable at scale.
By migrating all sites to an environment where they can run off a single eCommerce platform, a number of benefits are immediately available.
Order Syncing: All orders are entered into a single system regardless of where (site or channel) they were created. All sites and sales channels will funnel orders into a single system, making it easier for customer service, operations and other stakeholders to get their work. In addition, you eliminate the need to have multiple data syncs running from the different eCommerce platforms into your “master” system or ERP.
Multi-Fulfillment: With a platform built around the concept that a business can (and often will) have multiple sales channels, the flexibility to allow for many types of fulfillment including physically shipping the goods, in-store pickup, e-mail or access to content is built-in. These capabilities give the marketing team the opportunity to select specific fulfillment methods by market or sales channel. Launching a landing page and taking pre-orders? You should probably turn off the option for overnight delivery. Best of all, these fulfillment method settings can be managed from a single place. Think of the difficulty in keeping three or four different systems up to date with the latest API settings, usernames, and passwords. If you’re actively selling, that management is a time sink eliminated by smarter multi-fulfillment processes.
Multi-Payments: Similar to making fulfillment methods and settings available on a channel by channel basis, a headless platform provides the same level of flexibility for payments. In addition to the payment methods themselves, consider the opportunity to divide your customer base into different profiles and marketing segments based on where they’re shopping, and deliver customized pricing levels accordingly.
Purchase History Collaboration: With a portfolio of several eCommerce sites and channels all running off a centralized headless eCommerce platform, a “unified” customer account and transaction history become a valuable marketing tool. A single customer account logging all transactions and history available to all channels means that sales associates in-store or customer service reps on the phone are all accessing the same profile.
Inventory management is a critical component of your eCommerce model. One of the early hurdles of doing business online was the disconnect between physical transactions of products or services with digital systems. Modern headless platforms offer new tools for inventory control that create a seamless connection between your warehouse and eCommerce framework.
Transactional Inventory: Rigorous inventory accounting allows you to keep track of inventory in real-time from an annual to daily scope. This includes changes in outgoing orders or incoming inventory from vendors. Note that all sites and sales channels are referencing a single inventory system, eliminating any discrepancies between your inventory and sales channels.
Vendor POs: Vendor Purchase Order (PO) integration supports continuous tracking of the purchasing lifecycle, from initial purchase to order fulfillment, allowing you to keep users informed on stock updates, including projected restocking of items currently out-of-stock.
Site-Specific Customization: With a headless setup, the developers are able to define, in a site-specific method, when products show up on each page. Do they show whenever they’re in stock? Can I backorder? The opportunity to customize all aspects of merchandising and marketing experiences at the inventory level is a key benefit of a headless migration.
Drop Shipping & Third-Party Fulfillment: Instead of managing unique product data feeds from the same vendor in separate platforms and running into issues with data consistency - use a headless platform that will allow you to sync only once and use the data however you need. The same type of one-time integration for getting product data can also be used for integrations that are required for shipping and fulfillment. Integrations to third parties are tough and time-consuming - you only want to manage and maintain them in a single place.
Real-Time Physical Counts: Can your inventory back up the promises you’re making to your customers? Headless eCommerce platforms let you scan and go by connecting to wireless devices in order to keep track of physical counts. The system resolves these counts by comparing timestamps at the time of count and ongoing transactions, allowing you to maintain operations throughout the entire count process. As a result of that count, multiple sales channels see the differences in real-time, meaning that product administrators don’t need to force a sync or make manual changes - the changes appear immediately.
Multiple Locations & Location Nesting: Your headless eCommerce system will be able to work with data across multiple warehouses, stores, or inventory buckets depending on the size and growth of your business. While your CMS itself manages huge stores of data in one place, you’ll need ways to slice and dice this data in ways that help track your goals. For example, nesting locations in your platform allow you to divide a single location into multiple nests, by section, aisle, shelf, or bin.
Physical / Digital Bridge: Your headless platform will allow you to connect your physical and digital selling experiences. For example, you can sell in-person (think retail, trade shows, etc.) while “fulfilling” that order immediately by handing them the product--but you can also allow the customer to have the items shipped to him/her at a later date. Overall, it’s a more flexible approach to selling that gives your customers a choice in how they shop.
All things being equal, an eCommerce platform built on a headless architecture is more flexible and integration-focused than an all-in-one system. The philosophy behind the headless eCommerce platform assumes, at a very basic level, that key functionality, tasks, and data will come from somewhere else.
This becomes a problem when your teams—such as your marketing team, for example—have to pull data resources from numerous systems to achieve their goals. Obviously, this is neither efficient nor scalable.
Thus, the data collection process relies on platforms and systems with robust APIs and automated methodologies for grabbing and syncing this data. Not only does the automation reduce the need for overhead and minimize human error, but it creates marketing and operational opportunities in some interesting ways:
Order Processing: Strategic workflows allow you to set up custom processes based on item evaluation. This lets you automatically segment processes between members of your team so that orders go can go through without hitting any speed bumps.
Marketing Automation: You can set up your marketing automation to manage both simple and complex tasks. The system coordinates with account organization tools to export users to email marketing platforms or to respond to feedback from user activity like shopping cart abandonment or buying trends. You can also set custom triggers for sending out promotional codes after cart abandonment, recommending specific items, or alerting users of promotions.
Import / Export Scheduling: A key selling point of headless eCommerce is cross-compatibility. You can set up schedules for data import and export along with notifications to keep your systems running smoothly and in coordination with one another.