Guest Post

A lot has been written about omnichannel strategies and their implementation. The shift to a focus on customer experience in eCommerce is also well on its way. Yet, many businesses still struggle with implementing a truly effective omnichannel approach.

This might have something to do with the setup of their eCommerce infrastructure. Let me quickly touch up on what omnichannel means and then explain to you how the headless commerce approach can help you by providing the groundwork for great omnichannel strategy implementation.

Why it is time to be Omnipresent

Most businesses today utilise more than one sales channel for their products and services. They might sell on their web store, on Amazon and maybe through retail partnerships.

While you could argue this makes them omnipresent, however, while these brands are represented in many places, omnichannel is so much more than that.

Multichannel & Omnichannel – what’s the difference?

I still see people struggling to understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel ideas. Thus, explaining what both ideas mean should help differentiate and answer the question: What is the omnichannel idea?

Multichannel is the idea of making products or services available through different sales channels. It’s an introspective business strategy – e.g. when they start selling on Amazon. It’s about logistics, data integrations and processes that come together to allow marketing their products through different touch points.

Omnichannel is all about your customer’s experience. Overly simplified, it’s an upgrade to multichannel. You don’t just sell through as many channels as possible, you want to be in the right place at the right time when your customers want to buy. And you also aim to offer a unified and consistent shopping experience, regardless of where your customers interact with you.

So, why Omnichannel?

It’s all about delivering a great customer experience wherever your customers wish to interact with your company and offering.

There’s a big emphasis on the latter half of this sentence: it doesn’t make sense to just be anywhere. Brands need to think about the right place and time to interact with their customers, and how their customers actually want to interact with the brand.

Brands that do this well, have a competitive advantage. They will reach more potential customers, deliver better experiences, and thus form stronger and longer-lasting relationships with their buyers.

An Omnichannel example

So, what does an omnichannel strategy look like in implementation? For this example, I have chosen a company that’s decidedly not all about the “classic” eCommerce business model of selling products. Instead, we will take a look at what Disney does with their resorts and theme parks.

If you have been to one of these places lately, you probably already used a keystone of their omnichannel offering: the Disney Experience app. This little piece of software cleverly connects all the services and experiences that come into play with your stay.

It helps you discover the resort and attractions. It lets you plan out your day and routes through the theme park. Not only that, but it allows you to make reservations at restaurants, shows and other facilities or virtually queue up for attractions. Furthermore, it makes personal recommendations based on your interests and demographics. And the list goes on…

In short: the app is there to connect all the services Disney provides – from theme park attractions to accommodation – whilst giving you the best possible experience during your visit. They do this because they know that a great experience will directly lead to more business, as well as building lasting relationships with their customers.

Implications for the modern eCommerce setup

I hope you see the value in the omnichannel approach now. Maybe you already have ideas about how you can connect different touch points to deliver an exciting experience around your products, and you are itching to get started. If this is the case, then now is an opportune time to look at what kind of tools you need to get going.

You will need the right IT setup to be able to integrate new channels quickly and deliver your message consistently through all of your customer touch points.

A great omnichannel approach will be almost impossible to set up without bespoke development. Let’s go back to Disney’s example to illustrate why. There’s simply not going to be one vendor who will offer this kind of experience out of the box. There are just a handful of companies, aside from Disney, that could make use of such a product.

The same holds true for any line of business, that isn’t just a me-too. Your business is unique, and the success of your omnichannel approach will hinge on integrating this uniqueness with your touch points.

This is where a headless infrastructure can make a difference for you.

What is Headless commerce?

Headless commerce describes a situation where the customer experience and the logic and admin are only connected through APIs. So instead of buying any piece of eCommerce software that takes care of both parts, you have separate components that you can combine as you need them.

The benefit of this approach is that you become extremely flexible in what you can build. A traditional eCommerce software will only allow you to build an online store that you can visit via web browser. A headless commerce platform will instead be able to power any kind of transaction on any kind of interaction layer. Like a mobile app, or even an IoT device.

Another benefit is that you can combine different software components to build exactly what you require. A traditional online store might need a way to intricately manage product data and information. An app like the Disney Experience probably requires a map feature and ticketing solution. A headless setup allows you to get tools and software for each of these scenarios and stitch them together as required for your unique customer experience.

This is not to imply that every sales channel should be set up the headless way. It’s completely okay to run an online store on platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce or Magento and connect it with a central platform in the back-end. Yet, you will need these headless capabilities to build certain channels and experiences.

Some components to think about

Now let’s look at some of the components that are commonly used in a headless commerce setup. First, you need to choose a commerce platform that supports what you want to achieve.

Your commerce platform is the brain of your commerce operations and should be flexible enough to accommodate your business case. It should be able to handle the main components of eCommerce: the order process, customers and stock keeping.

I also recommend looking for a commerce platform that provides a pre-built checkout because the checkout is the most intricate and risk-heavy part of any online store. You don’t want it to get hacked and your customer’s credit cards stolen. Leave it to a software provider that invests a lot of money into testing and security measures.

It’s safe to say that additional tools will be required. Which ones depend on your business case and the needs and want of your customers. Here are a few that are pretty common in headless commerce setups:

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) 

Commerce platforms are designed and built to help you sell. However, their features might fall short when it comes to managing resources and processes inside your business. This is why many businesses rely on ERP systems to facilitate order picking, packing, shipping and many other processes in the background.

CMS (Content Management System)

If you have a lot of content in the form of text, images or videos, you will want to have a central place to store and edit them. This is typically your CMS, which integrates with your channels to deliver your message everywhere consistently.

PIM (Product Information Management)

Similar to content, product information can get arduous to spread and update through multiple touch points if you don’t have a central place to save and edit it. A PIM helps you to do just that.

Reviews

Trust is an incredibly important prerequisite for selling online today. Thus, you will probably want to collect reviews and a reliable review platform will help you collect and display text, photo, or even video reviews on all of your channels.

The above list just covers the basics. Of course, there are many more components out there, ready to be found and implemented when you require them.

To sum it up

Customers are seeking fun and exciting experiences, and the brands that deliver them will always be very successful. Having a reliable yet flexible IT infrastructure will determine whether you will be able to deliver such experiences, and the Headless approach to commerce can massively help you with that. 

To understand how a customer data platform can tie all things together, requested a demo here.

About the Author

Malte Dietrich is an eCommerce consultant and co-owner of Shopify plus certified web development agency Especial. They specialise in headless commerce builds, through which they enable their clients to provide best-in-class user experiences on any customer touchpoint.

About Xtremepush

Xtremepush is the world’s leading customer data and engagement data platform. We work with various top brands within the eCommerce industry. Schedule a personalised demo of our platform to learn more about how we can help your brand drive repeat customers and increase revenue.