Headless Commerce: 3 Leading Use Cases & Ultimate Benefits
May 9, 2022
Businesses have been running on legacy eCommerce platforms from the likes of Oracle, Magento, SAP, and IBM for decades. These provided all-in-one desktop-based solutions for buyers and sellers. But times have changed. B2B customers want to interact with your business the same way they do with their favorite B2C sites – something these legacy systems can’t always provide.
Usher in the era of headless commerce. From expanding markets to facilitating scale, headless commerce provides business value far beyond the capabilities of traditional ecommerce platforms.
What is B2B headless commerce?
Headless commerce differs from its legacy counterparts because the frontend presentation layer – aka the head – is separate from the backend system. You might be asking why decoupling the two matters. First and foremost, a headless commerce solution gives you greater flexibility. You can continue to utilize your existing backend IT investments (CRM, ERP, or EDI) and choose an user interface that suits the needs of your business – and more importantly, your customers – best. Headless eliminates the “Can our system do that?” and instead invigorates “How can we best serve our customers?”
What’s more, updates or expansions to your user-interface have no impact on your backend (and vice-versa), eliminating the disruption and downtime that is “just the way it is” with traditional e-commerce platforms.
Wondering if headless commerce is right for your business? We’ve outlined three of the best use cases for businesses like yours to move to a headless commerce solution.
1. Improving the B2B customer experience
“We’re losing customers to new suppliers who provide online ordering options we can’t offer.”
Can’t? Or won’t? Your customers expect a simple ordering experience that’s tailored to them. If you aren’t able to deliver, chances are, one of your competitors can and will.
A headless ecommerce solution provides an infinite number of options to improve your existing B2B user experience. This includes impactful tools and options for your business, marketing, sales, and customer service teams, as well as personalized simplicity for your users.
With headless, options come standard! Here are just a few examples of how you can leverage headless to maximize the customer experience.
Ordering is the primary function of any B2B e-commerce platform. As competition continues to grow online, your ordering process will directly drive (or detour) sales for both existing and returning customers who buy more – and more often – and potential customers who are seeking a best-in-class user experience.
Ordering is more than just taking your shopping cart through checkout, especially in B2B. Ordering encompasses the entire process from login to order confirmation. This includes:
- Finding the product in the catalog (search functionality)
- Product availability (inventory access)
- Add to the cart (shopping cart)
- Purchase (checkout process)
Headless ecommerce allows your business to create B2B ordering experiences that rival the likes of B2C, unlocking feature sets like buy again, buy now, and selecting multiple ship tos. For customers who purchase the same items on a regular basis, order templates (or wish list-type functionality) are a great way to further simplify the ordering process.
Custom catalogs with user-based pricing
B2B catalogs can contain a vast number of SKUs – each with its own subset of units, options, and availability. Certain users can only buy pallets – so why show them the option for boxes?
A headless ecommerce solution allows your business to create custom catalogs through a separate identity management system. It can display only those products relatable to the user with the exact pricing tied to their account or contract – without disrupting speed and performance.
Accessible product inventory
As you may have experienced for yourself, the pandemic has had detrimental effects on the supply chain, resulting in inventory inaccuracies and delays. While traditional ecommerce platforms can integrate with inventory systems to display availability on product detail pages, providing real-time information can take a toll on overall site performance. What’s worse, data pushes are limited, resulting in unreliable, outdated numbers – and frustrated customers.
A headless B2B commerce platform can connect to your separate inventory systems and provide customers with the most up-to-date inventory without affecting site experience. It’s quick, efficient – and most importantly – accurate.
Complete order visibility
Complete order history, easily accessible in B2C scenarios, is often unavailable to B2B users. Access to order history is one of the fastest and most confident ways for your customers to reorder. Creating that visibility, yet another option in a headless system, provides many opportunities to businesses like yours. This translates to less reliance on customer service and sales reps for order updates, streamlined repeat orders, and the self-service capabilities today’s users expect.
What’s more, a headless solution can easily provide multiple user-types leveraging an identity management system. This would allow view-only users from departments like accounts payable (“What orders are included on this invoice?”) and supply chain teams (“When is it coming?”) who don’t require ordering permissions to access pertinent order information themselves.
Improved order tracking and notifications
Amazon tells us every step of the way what’s happening with our order. They even let you know when it’s 10 blocks away!
So you know that order tracking and notifications keep customers satisfied and engaged, which leads to sustainable long-term relationships with businesses.
A headless commerce solution can provide that same level of personalization for your small to midsize business more efficiently. This gives users the capability to track their orders directly from your digital storefront and select their notification types and frequency. This is simplified by leveraging a system that suits your business needs best, rather than shoe-horning functionality into your existing backend and bogging it down further.
View and pay bills
As previously mentioned, B2B ecommerce platforms don’t have to be limited to only users who need to place orders. A headless ecommerce solution can integrate your current backend bill pay system plus unlock extra features to maximize visibility like reports. Access invoices, schedule and track payments, and secure payment details all from the same interface where your users place their orders.
2. Growing your B2B customer base
“We want to launch a new storefront for another business unit, but our existing platform is too limited to support the requirements of those customers.”
The needs of your customers and users should drive your business decisions rather than the limitations of your tech. There’s a variety of ways you could be missing out on customers by leveraging a traditional ecommerce platform. For example, if you’re offering a digital experience to your larger customers, why not use your existing technology investments to give that same experience to your smaller customers? Make all your customers feel like your only customer!
A headless B2B ecommerce platform gives your business the flexibility to support the needs of every customer – even if they differ from the needs of your current ones (from payment options and terms to promotions). What’s more, with complete control over the presentation layer, your business can provide a best-in-class customer experience that is highly-attractive to prospects – in both new and existing markets – while simultaneously retaining existing customers by exceeding expectations.
Target smaller customers who do not have IT infrastructure
Headless commerce gives small and mid-size businesses omnichannel effectiveness without enterprise level IT infrastructure. APIs and plug-ins integrate with your existing backend functionality so you’re not held hostage by legacy technology decisions that force you to do commerce in an inefficient way. A headless UI works to your advantage by driving your core competency rather than restricting it.
Transition customers to e-commerce
Manual orders (phone, fax, email) require internal personnel to support the processes—which can lead to costly human error mistakes. EDI is great for large clients, but it leaves out small and mid-size non-EDI customers. B2B headless e-commerce allows enterprises to expand their customer base to new or non-EDI customers and frees up your staff for more revenue-driven tasks.
Onboarding new customers
With a headless commerce solution, you can provide your users and customers a best-in-class user interface with intuitive functionality that gets your users up to speed quickly. With the aforementioned personalized experience and user-based custom catalogs, customers are motivated to order right out of the gate.
Take the current business model to new markets (also support market disruption)
Headless commerce digitally connects customers with your entire supplier and vendor network through marketplaces, globally. A headless framework scales with growth, changing to meet customer demands and adopt any new touchpoint.
3. Faster time to market (and greater value)
“We want to take our replacement parts business online, but we don’t have the resources to dedicate to a lengthy (and costly) enablement.”
Great news! Enablements don’t have to take over a year or even months. With the proper groundwork, going headless allows a new storefront to be deployed in as little as 30-60 days without:
- Disrupting existing processes
- Tying up your internal decision makers and stakeholders for long stretches
- Racking up costly development efforts.
Headless ecommerce solutions combine the flexibility of the frontend with the efficiency of your current core functionality. Not only can a headless solution speed up your go-live timeline; it can also improve page delivery speed and performance to your end users.
An on-prem and cloud-based headless commerce solution can easily handle the usage increases that happen as a company. As the needs of your users grow, the framework can easily scale to meet demand without touching your backend systems. Not only will it manage business growth; headless B2B solutions let you expand your functionality without hindering your platform.
With the frontend and backend loosely connected, a headless commerce platform can make changes that serve your business needs quickly and easily. Imagine adding other components to your headless software environment as an incremental add-on rather than an install and upgrade.
As your business needs change or grow, you can easily integrate new systems or functionality (think HubSpot for marketing or Salesforce for CRM) without worrying how it will affect your existing B2B ecommerce platform processes – because it won’t! This encourages and facilitates that type of change that typically cripples traditional commerce software systems.
Making the move to headless B2B
Headless B2B commerce solutions make it easy for manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to evolve from legacy to headless e-commerce. With the right strategy and support, you can meet the ever-changing customer demands without sacrificing the user experience or going over budget.
Still unsure if a headless solution is right for your business? The e-commerce experts at Excellis Interactive can show you how a headless commerce platform like CUE Commerce can be specifically designed to fit the needs of your B2B business. Contact us to find out how.