April, 2018

Headless customer focus?

eCommerce today has many facets. And anyone striving for success in this arena needs to tap into a variety of channels: From web, mobile and the Internet of Things. To shops, social media and blogs.

One reaction to this complexity, that allows new perspectives opening up for developers and users is “Headless eCommerce”: With its API-based approach, its promises more flexibility in the provision of content. And aims to provide a comprehensive user experience, specifically tailored to the requirements of the customer.

 Adam, Matthias and Rafał discuss what kind of potential is actually offered by “headless” …

 Matthias: I first came across the term “headless eCommerce” in 2017 and found the idea to be in principle quite intriguing. But if you can’t put it through its paces as part of a concrete project, it’s difficult to say whether such a system will actually work in practice.

“I get the feeling that the world was waiting for something like this …”

 Adam: We already addressed the topic in our team last year. But we weren’t talking about “headless eCommerce” at this stage, rather about an API-based approach. I get the feeling that the world was waiting for something like this, something which would finally allow eCommerce platforms to be set up quickly for various different channels. The benefits are clear to see: More flexibility for front-end adjustments and generally in front-end and back-end development, a standardised user experience on a variety of devices …

Rafał: That all sounds great but I still have my doubts as to whether everything will be as rosy in reality. Very simple examples are always used in the presentations. There’s no way you can expect to implement more complex solutions, to an optimum level, in just a few predefined steps. You would soon be faced with performance issues, which would then need to be ironed out. There’s also the risk that an individual headless developer may fail to recognise the impact on the entire system when adding new elements – in some cases with fatal consequences.

“Away from the front-end approach …”

Matthias: “Headless” definitely offers great potential if you are looking at implementation in several channels – what you describe are perhaps only teething troubles. Over time it’ll get easier if you want to move away from a specific the front-end approach and look to introduce new technologies.

Adam: I am convinced that “headless” has a lot of promise and will therefore become more and more popular – maybe even becoming the standard in the B2C area? To date, however, SAP Hybris has not been actively supporting the change with its regular accelerator extension. Standardised solutions have yet to be introduced in Hybris for some APIs, meaning that you would often still have to intervene yourself.

Matthias: You would need to have a few concrete examples of application, which you could use to clearly highlight to customers the real benefits of “headless”. The impression cannot be given that this is just a matter of replacing an old type of technology with a new one, just for the sake of it.

Adam: You are right – and we still don’t have sufficient answers to many questions. For example, what is the situation with version management and the inevitable juxtaposition of multiple stages of development? How can slimmed-down JavaScript front-end applications be implemented?

“The workflow must be right …”

 Rafał: Irrespective of the details: The development of “headless” solutions requires a whole different structure in terms of teams and communications from what we’ve been used to previously. The complete workflow must be realigned for “headless” – so that the front-end team does not get “flooded” with APIs at some stage, which they would then have no hope of implementing.

Adam: I think we are in agreement: Even if “headless” is very much in its infancy, there’s no doubt that the idea is more than just some short-lived hype. All we need to do now is furrow our own path and figure out where “headless” might best be utilised. So, you think we should stick with it?

Matthias and Rafał: No doubt we should stick with it!

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