To seize post-pandemic opportunities, Australian manufacturers must look at going ‘headless’

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By Joshua Emblin, Territory Director, APAC, commercetools 

The recent signing of the RCEP trade agreement is a true win for Australian manufacturers – particularly as we emerge from the pandemic. It also presents interesting new opportunities for services. As Aussie manufacturers increasingly go direct to consumers, they’re looking more closely at the types of services they could offer as part of new go-to market strategies and revenue opportunities.

More manufacturers want to introduce a services aspect to their online experience, whether that’s to upsell or value-add, appointment bookings, or to simply managing subscriptions and billings for recurring services. Discovering new ways of thinking and working differently requires the right operations and technology in place to support this change. It must enable you to make quick decisions and also implement the right changes quickly. 

Enter headless commerce, a concept invented and pioneered by commercetools whereby the front and backend layers of any technology application are separated – making it possible to use all kinds of frontends (heads) from standard webshops and mobile devices to voice assistants and car commerce scenarios – completely independent of the back-end. 

There are five very straightforward benefits to a headless approach for the manufacturing sector – as Kohler Co (US), Panasonic Information Systems Company Europe (PISCEU) (Germany), VIZIO Inc (US), and others are convinced – and the first of those is customisation

A headless solution provides independence from monolithic software that dictates how a frontend should be structured. There is no specific templating system or need to train employees to follow the exact rules of a program. Instead, it gives the ability to build the exact type of user interface needed to their precise requirements. Users have full control of what happens in the frontend and shape their brand’s identity without having to adhere to a templated layout that makes sites and apps look generic. This allows retailers who have adopted this approach to gain brand recognition and the ability to convert more customers and increase Life Time Value (LTV).

The freedom to experiment with user interaction improvements without concern for jeopardising the entire ecosystem is another benefit to headless and means users can learn faster. For example, if you want to A/B test specific parts of your commerce website, try to build an Alexa skill or a fast and shiny Progressive Web App (PWA), you can make errors in the process without affecting the backend operations – in turn saving you on development costs. In contrast, with traditional monolithic commerce solutions, you often have to modify frontend and backend code simultaneously, more often than not requiring taking your entire commerce application down for maintenance, meaning you are unable to transact for the duration.

Having had the freedom to experiment, headless enables the implementation of new user interfaces more quickly than installing and then maintaining full-stack software. With this speed and agility, development becomes much more efficient because teams can work in parallel. Due to its decoupled nature, changes can be made to the UI without having to test all the core logic in the backend, and you get a reduced time to market.

Headless opens up the door to limitless scalability in your commerce operations. You’re able to scale both the backend to handle large amounts of traffic during seasonal peaks – such as holidays – and the frontend to cache and serve content faster. This translates into reduced operational costs and the ability to stabilise uptime. 

A headless scenario also enables multiple frontends to connect to a single set of APIs and underlying systems. In other words, adding new touchpoints can be done with ease and without the worry of managing a software “zoo” or hacking together a way to extend functionality to cover those new touchpoints, instead gaining more efficient software maintenance and the scope to seize business opportunities. 

As we emerge from the pandemic, every single one of these benefits will help manufacturers along the path to recovery and growth. Over the last several months the sector’s online service offerings and the need to switch to a direct to consumer model have been at the core of their survival, and there is every indication it will remain just as critical well into the future.