Senior Commerce Consultant Karie Daudt joins the Perficient Digital team with over two decades of experience in digital commerce, management, and business development in the manufacturing and distribution industry. With experience in a variety of roles in the industry, Karie recognizes the pain points that manufacturers and distributors face as they work to digitally transform their businesses, as well as the difficulties that come with attempting to evolve to meet changing customer expectations. She has worked with businesses to strategically solve both these problems and has extensive knowledge and experience from both a business and a technological standpoint. Now, she acts as a consultant to help Perficient Digital clients identify their problems and works to align them with the right technology solution to fit their needs.
The Importance of Commerce Infrastructure in Manufacturing and Distribution Companies
The modern buyer has the ability to make purchases through a variety of touchpoints and many legacy eCommerce systems are struggling to meet the omnichannel expectations of customers. Now, an elevated user experience (UX) is equally as important as the technology that drives it on the back end. Adopting the right commerce solution as a manufacturer or a distributor will largely depend on your digital maturity and internal resources.
Some companies go the route of a traditional commerce model. A good start for a developing company, traditional commerce solutions are designed to be all-in-one systems with the front-end technology tightly coupled with the back end. By connecting the technologies at both ends of the spectrum, this model is more simplistic than the headless commerce model, which is developed so that the front and back-end technologies aren’t coupled, allowing manufacturers and distributors to create user experiences that are customized and relevant to their customers.
Headless Commerce: Customizing the User Experience
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Depending on your customer expectations, your organization may have the need to provide an above-average UX. In this case, a headless commerce solution is likely going to fit your needs better than an integrated model, which may not be designed to supply that elevated UX. There are several UX solutions that are considered “best in breed” because of their customization and advanced design capabilities. Using a headless model essentially means your company is free to utilize those solutions that can provide a top-of-the-line UX and isn’t limited by the UX capabilities built into the back-end system. In addition, this model allows business users to use experience platforms they are familiar with to modify and manage the ongoing experience with more flexibility as a whole.
However, a more advanced system requires a larger development team to perform the integration and continually manage the experiences. These integrations are generally complex and require a team with extensive development knowledge and expertise in APIs. Otherwise, you run the risk of delivering a broken experience. As a result, a headless commerce solution will be the more expensive option and many manufacturers and distributors that aren’t digitally mature enough to take on a headless strategy face financial frustration and fall short in experience delivery.
Traditional Commerce: Integration Across the Board
Integrated solutions are more limiting in what they can provide from a UX perspective, but for many manufacturing and distribution companies, this may not be an issue in the interim. If you are a company that is new to the eCommerce world, or just beginning your digital experience journey, an integrated commerce solution may be the more attractive choice for your business needs. The deep integration between the front and back-end systems puts more control into the business users hands and requires fewer resources and financial investment from your company.
In addition, many traditional commerce models are built on the RESTful API infrastructure, which gives companies the option to start with an integrated front end but allows the flexibility to transition to a best-in-breed content management system (CMS) as they grow and mature. So while your company may not require a flashy site or dynamic and personalized UX at present, you have the option to migrate to a more complex system as you digitally mature and your customer expectations advance.
Which is Right for You?
There is no one-size-fits-all commerce solution. Every organization has different processes and unique customer needs, and the commerce model they adopt needs to be tailored to meet their business needs and future goals. The reality is, either of these solutions could work for your business, and choosing a path will largely depend on your digital maturity and internal resources. While headless commerce is more customizable, it requires more people and time to manage. In turn, traditional commerce models are more limiting and generally cannot provide an extraordinary UX, but can be managed by a smaller team and provide room to expand to headless in the future if necessary.
Before selecting a technology, you must understand your business, your customers, and your needs now and in the future. It’s important to remember not to place the technology ahead of your individual needs. By understanding your organization’s digital maturity in both commerce and UX, how they fit into your business model, and what resources you have to support either model, you’ll be better equipped to identify the solution that’s right for your business. To get started, I recommend selecting a partner to help you identify what you need and find the solutions that fit your situation.
Here at Perficient Digital, we take a technology-agnostic approach when it comes to developing our clients’ commerce solution strategies. Our goal isn’t to steer clients towards a specific platform or solution, but rather to align their needs to the best solution for them. The intent is to help each organization get the right solution at the right time, today, tomorrow, and in the future.
To learn about how Perficient Digital can help you assess your commerce platform needs, check out our Commerce Platform Assessment.