How Headless Commerce Can Solve Omnichannel Challenges

New ways of doing business demand a new solution architecture.

cashierless retail

Engaging consumers digitally has become standard operating procedure for competitive merchants. However, some retailers struggle to get it right. McKinsey & Company research found that 56 percent of consumers say they’re dissatisfied with digital channels UX/UI or access to the information they need. Additionally, 39 percent of consumers say they can’t accomplish everything they’d like on digital channels.

Chris Bach, co-founder, chief strategy and creative officer of Netlify, shares his insights on the challenges retailers face with e-commerce and omnichannel engagements and how headless commerce can overcome them.

Why is it challenging to build web experiences that meet consumers’ expectations?

Bach: Most e-commerce and omnichannel businesses still use legacy monolithic web providers, but those monoliths were built in an era with fewer digital touchpoints and less complex infrastructure needs. Today, omnichannel is more important than ever, and a company’s ability to successfully manage multiple customer touchpoints is crucial. The old monolithic approach of “one size fits all” has resulted in an architecture that is best in class at nothing. This means slower time to market, bloated workflows, and cumbersome governance. Composable or headless architecture seeks to remedy this, hence its rapid growth in popularity.

What types of experiences are consumers looking for?

Bach: Customers are looking for seamless, quick, customized interactions with e-commerce brands. And with 1 in 4 retail purchases expected to take place online by 2026, web experiences are at the very center of a brand’s customer experience. This leaves e-commerce businesses under mounting pressure to build powerfully differentiated digital experiences.

Where do businesses fall short?

Bach: Many e-commerce businesses fail to recognize the symbiotic relationship between stellar customer experiences and the technology used to build those experiences. The right technology solutions enable e-commerce providers to meet customers where they are, thus improving personalization, reducing friction, and driving loyalty. This requires reevaluating outdated legacy technology that falls short of meeting customer needs.

How can e-commerce and omnichannel businesses solve this problem?

Bach: The best ways to solve this problem are embracing the power of headless and composable architecture, building with best-in-class components, and optimizing for every digital touch point.

Headless architecture can solve various customer experience problems, including poor functionality, bulky workflows, rigid architecture, and slow pace. It gives development teams freedom, choice and flexibility in building customized web experiences for their customers.

Rather than buying one large package from a single web provider (even if you don’t need all the components), investing in headless architecture enables e-commerce businesses to only use what they actually need, with the tools and components that make the most sense for them.

How do you ensure successful outcomes when adopting headless commerce?

Bach: The benefits of going headless include faster time to market, reduced cost, more performant digital experiences, and a massive alleviation of IT overhead. However, if you just choose a headless e-commerce provider and fail to address the other bottlenecks in your organization, you won’t reap all the benefits of going composable.

Think of it as a theory of constraints. If you fix one end of your assembly line but not the other, the end product won’t arrive any faster than before.

Headless and composable commerce solutions are the path forward, but tying these solutions to a modern workflow is often the missing link. If you continue operations as usual, you may get faster APIs, but all the same operational overhead (such as delays or handovers), will still result in slower time to market, higher costs, and less flexibility.

Combining headless e-commerce components with modern workflows that abstract away the legacy operations and consolidating all the components to deploy instantly and continuously will enable your business to reap all of the benefits headless has to offer.

What is the software developer’s role in the solution?

Bach: The majority of brand interactions today happen online, and developers are the ones building these online experiences. Supporting developers to ensure they have whatever tools best suit their needs and bringing developers closer to their customers will ensure superior customer-centric e-commerce experiences.

Mike Monocello

The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.


Mike Monocello

The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of DevPro Journal.