Headless commerce: more simplicity, more trade

Michele Caprini
01/10/2021
In brief
Conversation with Mauro Antelmi - After successfully completing his degree, he promoted digital innovation for leading fashion and luxury brands. Since 2020, he is the Global Information Technology Director of Woolrich.

Retex During and after the health emergency, to the word ‘change’ are typically associated the concepts of delay, obligation, choice, opportunity. Which one should we choose?

MA I would exclude the first two. I changed company to join Woolrich right at the height of the crisis, where I found that the transition to digitalization was well underway and on track. That’s a big plus for people who do my job.

Retex How significant has e-commerce been for the recovery?

MA A lot that’s for sure, but one concept needs to be clarified. For a long time, e-commerce has been widely considered as the symbol and model of multichannel retailing; i.e. an additional channel to traditional commerce and nothing else. I was lucky enough to start from an insourcing process already completed before my arrival. No longer delegation to external agencies, but an internal and organic governance of corporate strategies in a strong omnichannel logic.

Retex What has changed?

MA Today, our direct to consumer channel looks at the market as a whole and includes all sales methods. The distinguishing feature is not the modus operandi, but the customer’s purchase path at each single stage, on which to act accordingly. The decision making and operational benefits are important, and are shown in the constantly growing results.

Headless commerce, because

 

Retex Now that the conceptual and organizational misunderstandings have been overcome, what is the driving direction?

MA My personal view is that the key element is the decoupling of the presentation and sales phase from the back-end processes. Headless commerce, in a word. For me, as a Global Technology Director in a company with a strong commercial vocation, the natural objective is to untie the front-end of the corporate website and the multiple points of interaction from the management processes. Namely, the freedom to act on your audience without the complexities, obligations and slowness imposed by traditional e-commerce websites, whose monolithic system is a constraint that cannot always be overcome.

Retex Is this a growing awareness?

MA Today we talk a lot about it, but interest does not yet mean common practice. Indeed, I participated in a first headless project in 2012. It was not completed, but at least the road has been mapped out, and like all journeys worth taking, it takes time to follow it to the end.

Retex Let us try to go a bit deeper then.

MA Headless commerce uncouples two energies that normally coexist in all companies: on the one hand the commercial needs and creativity of marketing, and on the other hand the need for stability, security and a broad portfolio of IT services. The elimination of interdependencies makes them free to express themselves at their best.

Retex So what is the final goal?

MA A set of consolidated and functioning services at low cost, available 24/7, accessible from any point and with any technology, aligned and consistent to support the corporate roadmap.

Retex That’s clear, but how do you get there?

MA The keyword is ‘simplicity’. Separating, then, the content and purchasing functionalities from the channels in which they are distributed, using dedicated and specific microservices which, inter alia, make digital infrastructures more scalable and minimize vulnerability points. Quite the opposite of what happens in a traditional e-commerce website, where back-end and front-end are tightly coupled. Whatever anyone interested in buying sees and wherever he sees it, he must necessarily access the company website, making the process long and complex, with the frequent risk of cart abandonment, as well as extending project times to integrate any new functionality on the platform.

Technological support

 

Retex And what about the necessary technological support?

MA Clearly, in the headless commerce the use of an API-first architecture is the starting point for making services available to anyone entitled to use them. A unified view of the data and stock in particular, allows to avoid the typical risks of channel segmentation, such as not finding in the store what the customer has seen online. As far as software development is concerned, this should possibly be done from a test driven perspective or, in any case, without neglecting the automation of tests: it is not possible to pursue a headless path incurring into the risk of regressions. Lastly, the cloud ecosystem is in my opinion the best choice for focusing IT skills more on the evolution of business support tools rather than on the management of the hardware infrastructure.

Retex What changes in content creation?

MA It is no longer possible to think only in terms of website functionality and features as it is necessary to cover all possible points of contact that already exist and others that will continue to emerge, such as voice and wearable devices, for example. For the creation and management of content it is therefore necessary to use CMS purposely designed for headless technology applications.

Retex Let’s now turn to the buyer’s point of view.

MA Within a headless logic, what the customer like is ready for purchase on any point of contact with the brand, be it internal or external to the web (messenger and email), in its native format. The customer journey becomes more engaging and compelling, with a broader variety of services. The ease and naturalness of the path are consequently improved and the complexity and slowness during the purchasing phase more easily removed.

Innovation, investment, balances

 

Retex More simplification and better management of investments in technology?

MA Yes, but here the question becomes more involved. Not responding to the demand for innovation makes no sense and means irreparably penalizing the business in many ways. The limit, however, is given by the sustainability of spending levels: it is impossible to ask to a company with a 50 million Euros turnover to allocate a budget of 2 million Euros for IT systems and services. This level is easy to reach though. We need only think of the user licenses of the most advanced platforms and the projects that are based on them. The misconception of customization is always present, and this is a formidable cost generator. In a headless logic, once the initial effort has been made, the development of new processes and new points of contact, rather than the extreme automation of some tasks, becomes easier and more manageable, and with very low budgets.

Retex. One last suggestion?

MA Full speed ahead towards innovation, starting with removing all that is unnecessary. In my experience, headless is synonymous with essential.

Innovation and monopolies, you always need to pass “Go”

Innovation and monopolies, you always need to pass “Go”