Losing Your Head? How to Decide Whether or not it's Time to Go Headless!

Aug 23, 2022 1:30 PM2:30 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways

As technology evolves, many companies are moving to a headless commerce approach. But what are the benefits of headless commerce, and how do you know if it’s right for your company?

Headless commerce is when you decouple your website’s front end from its back end. But headless is a much bigger and broader conversation than just deciding you want to be decoupled. Along with the advantages, including website speed, flexibility, and autonomy, headless commerce comes with its share of complexities.

In this virtual event, Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson is joined by Michael Harvey, CTO of Corra, David Augustine, Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting at Adobe, and Larry Laska, VP of eCommerce at Salt Life. Together, they detail the process of going headless, the benefits and challenges of doing so, and the importance of finding a partner that can guide you through the obstacles.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:


  • What is headless commerce, and what are PWAs?
  • Larry Laska shares how Salt Life began working with Adobe and Corra to improve performance
  • Why site speed is the #1 reason people travel down a PWA investigation path
  • David Augustine talks about Adobe’s stance on headless commerce
  • Michael Harvey and Larry discuss how Salt Life optimized their PWAs
  • What is the PWA implementation process like?
  • The complexities of headless commerce — and why you should work with a partner
  • The stakeholders and resources typically needed for headless projects
  • What’s next for Salt Life’s website?
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Event Partners

Guest Speakers

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson LinkedIn

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Michael Harvey

Chief Technology Officer at Corra

Michael Harvey is the Chief Technology Officer at Corra, a company that builds fast and flexible digital storefronts for growing brands. In this role, he’s responsible for the firm’s global technology organization with development centers in India, Europe, and the Americas. Previously, Michael was the Vice President of Technology and Brand Globalization for Operation Smile and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Concursive Corporation.

David Augustine

Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting at Adobe

David Augustine is the Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting at Adobe. Before joining the Adobe team in 2018, David was the Director of eCommerce for Trusted Wellness and Active Forever. He was also a freelance eCommerce consultant and eCommerce Services Manager for Jagged Peak.

Larr Laska

Larry Laska

Vice President of eCommerce at Salt Life

Larry Laska is the Vice President of eCommerce at Salt Life, a clothing and beachwear brand. Larry has been with Salt Life for nearly 25 years and was previously an Event Operations Manager for The Game and a Department Manager for Delta Apparel, Inc.

Event Moderator

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson LinkedIn

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution. BWG has built an exclusive network of 125,000+ senior professionals and hosts over 2,000 virtual and in-person networking events on an annual basis.

Michael Harvey

Chief Technology Officer at Corra

Michael Harvey is the Chief Technology Officer at Corra, a company that builds fast and flexible digital storefronts for growing brands. In this role, he’s responsible for the firm’s global technology organization with development centers in India, Europe, and the Americas. Previously, Michael was the Vice President of Technology and Brand Globalization for Operation Smile and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Concursive Corporation.

David Augustine

Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting at Adobe

David Augustine is the Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting at Adobe. Before joining the Adobe team in 2018, David was the Director of eCommerce for Trusted Wellness and Active Forever. He was also a freelance eCommerce consultant and eCommerce Services Manager for Jagged Peak.

Larr Laska

Larry Laska

Vice President of eCommerce at Salt Life

Larry Laska is the Vice President of eCommerce at Salt Life, a clothing and beachwear brand. Larry has been with Salt Life for nearly 25 years and was previously an Event Operations Manager for The Game and a Department Manager for Delta Apparel, Inc.

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Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson

Senior Digital Strategist at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Senior Digital Strategist Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  0:18

Hello everyone, I am Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson and digital strategist for BWG Connect. And for those that don't know, we are a network and knowledge sharing group. We say on top the latest trends, challenges, whatever it is that is changing in the digital landscape. We're on track to do at least 500 of these virtual events this year, due to the increase in demand to better understand everything in digital space. And we will be doing at least 100 in person small format dinners, which I love to do. So these dinners are typically 15 to 20 people sitting at a table having a specific discussion around a digital topic. It's always an awesome time, definitely check out our website for upcoming events, or feel free to email us you can email me at Tiffany Tiffany@bwgconnect.com. And we can send you an invite, we spend the majority of the time that we have here at BWG talking to different brands would love to have a conversation with you, you can feel free to send me an email and we can follow up and talk about any opportunities challenges that you are seeing in the space. It's very important to have these conversations because it's how we generate the topics for future conversations and webinars that we have. And it's also where we gain our resident experts such as Adobe and Corra, who are here today with special guests Salt Lake. So welcome, y'all. Anybody we asked here to teach the collective team, I've come highly recommended for multiple brands within the network. So if you ever need any recommendations within the digital space, please do not hesitate to reach out we have a short list of the best of the best. And we'd be happy to share that with you. And we also know a lot of people are hiring or have different hiring needs right now. So do note that we do have a talent agency BWG talent that we'd be happy to put you in contact with as well. A few housekeeping items. Before we get started. We wanted this to be fun, educational, conversational. So if you have questions, comments, do not hesitate to put them into the chat q&a Bar feel more comfortable, you can always email me Tiffany@bwgconnect.com we'll be sure to get to them. And we did start a few minutes after the hour. So rest assured, we're going to wrap up about five to 10 minutes before the end of the hour to give you ample time to get to your next meeting. So with that, let's rock and roll and start to learn how to decide whether or not it's time to go headless. The team at Adobe and Corra have been awesome friends in the network. And when they kick it off to you, David and Michael and Larry, if you can give a brief introduction on yourself, and then we will dive into the discussion. That'd be great.


Thank you so much. Awesome.


Michael Harvey  2:48

Oh, go I guess so my name is Michael Harvey. I'm Corra's Chief Technology Officer. I've been with Corra for 13 years. All of that time, we have been partners with Magento. And then now Adobe commerce, and have built a very large practice around that. And for about the past four or five years, an area of focus for us has been around headless architectures, and progressive web apps PWAs. And we are now busy launching probably one of those types of sites every month or so and including quite recently and very exciting to us Salt Life who will we'll be talking to Larry about


David Augustine  3:39

my name is David Augustine. I lead the commerce solutions consulting team for North America at Adobe/Magento. So my team helps in designing solutions and answering technical questions during the pre sales and decision making process for customers like solid.


Larry Laska  4:01

Awesome. With Salt Life Palo Alto has had some connectivity issues here today. I handle VP of eCommerce for Salt Life and responsible for really everything related to our eCommerce channel. We're looking for new solutions, looking for ways to optimize and increase revenue.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  4:22

Perfect. Thank you so much. So I guess we will start with the buzzword of the year that we've been hearing more and more about is headless, headless commerce and I guess high level here.


What is headless?


Michael Harvey  4:35

So you're tossing that over to me?


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  4:37

I think I'm gonna toss it over to Michael.


Michael Harvey  4:39

Yes. Okay. I'll take that. So so there's always I've been in the in the software industry for a while. There's always lots of religion there are particularly when you see a new trend or kind of a shift in how we do things in the technology space coming along. Headless is absolutely one One of those things where where we're seeing one of these every 10 to 15 year kind of really systemic shifts in how computing works. And you have these mega trends that have been coming together. So cloud computing, mobile computing, SaaS, the rise of progressive web apps, PWA, is and all of these things. So a point I like to make is that headless is not a religion, it's a spectrum. And the the kind of stages I would call out would be, for example, an early step would be decoupling. And when you decouple your head from the back end, then you now have a headless architecture, you'll hear people talk about a headless front end, which makes no sense because the front end is the head. So it's the back end, that is the is the headless piece of an architecture here. If you've decoupled the head from the back end, you bet, you immediately start to get certain types of advantages. So you can have marketing and the business working on the front end the customer experience without having to work at the pace of the back end, which is going to just move slower inherently and deservedly so. But if you still have a one to one correspondence between the front end and the back end, you're still giving up, or not fully taking advantage of some of the some of the advantages that we get with a true headless system. So the next step in the journey would be where you actually make the head be agnostic with regard to what's in the back end. So it is going to communicate programmatically with some back end. And it doesn't actually care what's what's there. And then the final step, will actually not the final step, but kind of the next step, sort of where we are today is where you start thinking of the back end as a set of composable services. So you'll start to hear that term composable commerce. And that's where we can start thinking about the various functions that the back end provides, such as checkout, product account, my account, the product information, these kinds of things, we can start thinking of those as discrete services to be consumed by the front end. And now we're into kind of what we would call a composable type of framework. Looking down the pike, there's also going to be distributed commerce. But let's let's not, let's not go there. So that that's sort of the lightning tour of headless.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  7:33

And you had mentioned PWA's? Can you expand on that, because that is also something that I've definitely seen more of in the past.


Michael Harvey  7:43

So PWA stands for progressive web app. And each, each element of the name is important. The engineer at Google who sort of coined the term Progressive Web App, one of his quotes was, it's just a technology that was in good search, it was in search of a good name. And I think that his other quote is PWA's are just websites that took all the right vitamins. So real fast, the P, the progressive part means that the the website, the application is able to take progressive advantage of the capabilities of the device that and the browser that it's running on. So the classic example would be if a PWA is running on a mobile device on a smartphone, it can use the camera, it can use the gyroscope, it can send push notifications, things like that. That's the progressive part, the W is really important, because these are just websites, they're written in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, the same technologies that we've been using since the dawn of the modern, the modern web. And so the same code is running on your desktop, on your mobile devices. And that leads very nicely to the next piece, which is the aid app. You can have app like behaviours that a PWA provides offline, working offline, for example, I mentioned camera gyroscope, you get into all sorts of cool use cases, that up until now I really only could be satisfied with a native app. So instead of different code bases, my website, my iOS app, my Android app, I now can can do many of those things with a single code base. That's my progressive, my Progressive Web App, and progressive web apps, I should say. They tie into headless in that progressive web apps are deployed as as part of a headless architecture where they are the web front end or the web head to a headless back end. I think that's kind


David Augustine  9:49

of important to note. You know, that's a great description of PWA. I think it's important to also realize that when we talk about headless, all you're really talking about is the decoupling, so a headless commerce Station is a much larger conversation about are you going PWA? Are you going some IoT device that works in a different way? Or is some combination of all of the above? So I mean, when we talk about headless, it's a much bigger and broader conversation and then just deciding, okay, I want to be decoupled and PWA is the step that we go to most often, but not the only one. And you have to consider that as part of the complexity of making that headless choice.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  10:26

Got it? So, Larry, how old is your website,


Larry Laska  10:31

Salt Life? Well, our current website we've had, we launched it earlier this year on the PWA. But we have had Salt Lake websites that's around 2011 is a brand brand actually started in 2003. We got involved as a licensee. And then few years later, it actually acquired the brand. And we were on IBM Platform on WebSphere. And we converted to Magento. In about 20, probably 13 or 14, we made that switch. And then we just kind of ever since we went to Magento, we've been looking for ways to make it faster, we had, we got a lot of out of the box advantages by going to a more robust out of the box solution with Magento, then we've always been in the hunt for more speed, and then something solid local traffic, increasing global revenue increasing, it really kind of got to the point where we had done everything we could and still couldn't get our page load speed to anything acceptable.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  11:32

So speed was always top of mind for your organization of the website, performance.


Larry Laska  11:37

Absolutely. Speed has always been important to us. But really, what started happening is we started seeing more of our traffic reports 50% from mobile devices, we can't have data to get where we need it faster. But most of our people are browsing on the mobile purchasing desktop, then we realized that we were starting to see more of our revenue coming in from a mobile device. And the site speed was built as we were before teamed up with Corra, I think our homepage took about eight seconds to fully load. And with their Hill, we went to the Adobe cloud environment where we're self hosted before that. And once we did make those few changes, we got it down consistently under five seconds, which is like, it seems like just a lifetime to wait on a page to load for. We started digging into it, we realized that there was really no way to make our current site any faster. We're we're about a lifestyle and about a brand. That means pictures and videos to tell the story. So we can only take so much content off of our site, we, in order to try to speed it up, we were taking images and really making the quality bad just to get them small enough that it can speed up the page load speed. And when Corra started pitching us on the idea of looking at a headless solution, and using a PWA front end, it really kind of kind of clicked for us and made sense. It's like, okay, the commercial part is all of these backend pieces that are loading, inventory, and loading proxies and loading all of this data and all the stuff in the backend. That's that's really where the the memory load sits. If we just disconnect the backend piece on the front end, and the front end can focus on all the pretty fun pieces that are what people see. By doing that, we now consistently have our site speed down to under two seconds, just received a report yesterday from the relevant and for two months 28 day average throughput we're at like 1.6 seconds on our load time, which works on any any type device you want to access at all. That's fast enough by today's standards. As we were as we were looking, I mean, there really was nothing else that would be able to even as we were looking at other tools like within our Google Hangouts as our website, we realised that you penalized if you're not currently on use their Lighthouse toolset, there's a section that says Are you a PWA. And if you're not, and you don't have preferential treatment that you won't, because they don't feel like you've taken your mobile experience seriously.


Michael Harvey  14:12

And just to re emphasize or give a little more emphasis to what Larry's saying. So we've been launching headless systems on Adobe since September of 2020. So basically two years now, so we have a lot of experience with this. And site speed is the number one reason why people at least thus far have started down this PWA investigation path. And then you know, we'll probably talk about a little bit later, you know, where Larry can share some of the other insights and benefits but that site speed one is so important and like Larry is saying the the importance to the search just the search engines alone now is huge.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  15:00

Can you expand on that of like, why the site speed is so important to SEO?


Michael Harvey  15:04

Yeah, so there's a couple of reasons. So one is, we've all seen the stats about for every second of page load, you know, some significant percentage of traffic will just simply bounce. And that's true. And you know, you can just go online and find the latest claim around around that. But it's significant, and it's true. The other thing is that, as Salt Life has seen, the many certainly many b2c brands, and I can speak firsthand with our portfolio are seeing mobile traffic that might be 70 80%, even 90% of total traffic now. So mobile load times, in particular, very important. And then Google has over the last several years, been increasingly prioritizing mobile before performance as part of their search engine rankings. And, and about a year ago, basically, August of 2021, changed their algorithm and did so in a very public way to prioritize specific elements of what they felt were measurable attributes of a positive user experience on mobile. So what's called first input delay, how quickly can a user start interacting with with the site after they navigate their Whats called? Largest Contentful? Paint? You know, how quickly are the large, large elements coming down? Measures of visual jitter? How much do the elements seem to wiggle and waggle on the screen as as you as you load, largest cumulate, what's called cumulative layout shift. And so all of these things are things that progressive web apps address directly or can you can still code a really slow, visually unstable progressive web app. But but if you do it, right, a PWA really score can score very highly on these measures. And as a result, your organic search engine equity goes goes up, which we all know is incredibly important for discovery and things like that. So those are all a bunch of reasons why site speed is so important.


David Augustine  17:27

And I'd add to that, that you make a great point, obviously, you know, Google's algorithm for all of its complexity, fundamentally, the goal is the best user experience, you know, they want they want the best sites to be first. And, you know, sometimes we will be all lament some of the changes and things that they do, and it doesn't always go the way they wish it would and the algorithm. But in reality, the goal is to get the best content in front of the user as quickly as possible on their experts have decided that the way you know is an indication of your intent to do that. So just being PWA fundamentally gives you an advantage, like Larry said, but also, I think we've made a really important point that PWA gives you the toolset to accomplish it to deal with all of these things. But that's not synonymous with just having it. So that leg up that you get for making the PWA choice gives you a small advantage. But you also have to take advantage of all the tool sets that PWA provides to accomplish all those different. And it's important to remember that that it's not a it's not a slam dunk that you doesn't happen immediately. But done correctly, it can have a huge advantage for your performance and for your Google placement.


Michael Harvey  18:33

I think you said it really well, Larry, and actually kind of laid out the challenge, which is that with a traditional monolithic, which is the opposite of a headless application, you're at the end of the day, you can only do so much to make it fast, particularly if you have constraints, like we are lifestyle brand. And we need to have imagery that reflects that. So going to a progressive web app allows you to to capture those those additional site speed opportunities without having to sacrifice things like your, you know, your presentation of the brand. But you still have to do it right.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  19:13

So David, I'd love to get your perspective from the Adobe side is like what is Adobe's overall stance? And plan for headless? I mean, all of these are such major important points that I would make the assumption it's not a fad. But yeah, we'll be the norm. But curious what you believe.


David Augustine  19:34

Sure. Yeah, we definitely are not seeing it as a fad. I mean, we've made huge investments and continue to make investments to migrate all of our API library into Graph QL compatibility. We haven't discussed it, but Graph QL is the primary API language that we use. It's based on the old Facebook Open Graph principle and it's essentially is small digestible bits of data on request rather than huge datasets for us to deliver in the old Old sort of rest and soap API's, we made big investments there. We don't have plans in the short term to do away with our monolithic architecture, but we view it as one of the available heads. And it's also consuming a lot of that API library. In addition to that head for those customers that choose to go the old way, that's fine. In addition to that, we also have a full PWA studio development library for making it easier for people to create them as well as reference architecture and reference front ends built in React for PWA. And then, of course, just the Open Library for anybody choosing to use a different head, who's not not neither PWA nor the monolithic architecture. So we definitely see it as the wave of the future and making large investments in supporting it, both for b2b and b2c.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  20:46

Okay, and then looking at Salt Life and a core built for Salt Life, how does it stack up against, you know, others that you've seen?


Michael Harvey  20:58

Yes. Okay. So if I were to take that, I mean, we literally have benchmarked some of our some of the information against, you know, let's just say competitors, including competitors who have come to us where, you know, they've, they've gone down the PWA path somewhere else. And maybe it didn't quite pan out the way it did. But so in benchmarking against some other PWA's that that no competitors have have launched, we can see that on largest Contentful paint, which was that that measure of how quickly the site essentially is loading, we're about 35% faster with with Salt Life. First input delay, that's that interactivity, measure about 52%, faster cumulative layout, shift that visual jitter 85%, more visually stable, and these are things that we see in Larry mentioned lighthouse. But what Google also provides to merchants is what's called a crux data, which is available to them as part of the analytics package and stands for Chrome user experience, that is looking at these things I just cited, which are called core web vitals, which is what Google is prioritising in their in their search rankings. And, and what Crux provides is a measure of the actual user sessions, the actual customer sessions across a month. So it's only updated once a month. And this is really where you want to pay attention. And where you can start to make evaluations about about performance. Because you're not, you're not relying on Google simulating a 3g connection or something like that. You're actually looking at what my actual visitors to my site are experiencing. So Crux Chrome user experience. So that's where we're seeing these the step ups. The other thing I just mentioned, is that and I think I have this right, but basically, we launched Larry, I think, in May something was you Yeah, exactly. And I think saw right away, like a 40% increase in organic traffic, for example. Some of that was, you know, strictly site speed. And some of those elements I tick ticked off. But we also had an opportunity during the replatform. To to add structured data and, you know, improve the XML sitemap and, and, you know, just make content more discoverable and, and things like that, which actually is a benefit I should call out about PWA, is that because it's just a website, remember that W and in the PWA, acronym, all of your content is discoverable, nothing's locked up behind an app store. There's nothing. There's no intermediate step that the search engine has to take to find that all of which helps with this organic traffic.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  24:16

Awesome, friendly reminder, if anybody has any questions, drop them in the chat or the q&a, or feel free to email me. Larry, I'd love to get your perspective of when you went down this path, this journey. What excited you the most, and I guess also what excited your staff when you started this implementation


Larry Laska  24:33

of something that we mentioned earlier, it really was site speed is where we were seeing that, that we had the biggest struggle and trying to reach out to someone on a mobile device. When we started looking at it. It's like initially, it's like, okay, this is a newer technology as we dug into it. The technology guys has been around for a while, but Starbucks is one of the first ones to release a PWA. So we started putting a lot more comfortable about the whole The whole process we found that had been around I think, for almost 10 years, at least over five or six years, for sure. And they made us feel more comfortable that people had experience in doing this, were able to see some examples of core up and bill. But for us, it was the idea that we had always kind of played with the idea that at some point, we would need an app, we need an actual app that people can download. We are, we like to think of our website as being very content heavy. We have a blog, we have a podcast that you can listen to on our site, we have directories so you can find a fishing charter captain for your next fishing adventure or circuit structure, you want to learn to surf. And because of that, we felt like it really lends itself to a title, we have a weather feed that we pull in that you can see the weather being specific with like wind and wave forecast for your area. So all of those things felt like an all but there's a lot to building an app is another piece you have to maintain. It's it's kind of why we've never looked at the mobile side. We've been faced several times by other companies. But will you just keep your desktop site and let's build a mobile site? Well, it's, there's another database you've got to maintain. There's another theme that someone on my team has to take over when they're doing that they're not focused on merchandising, the site and enhancing user experience. So what we saw was a place that we could start basically, with the PWA. And then we could grow into this true app like experience. And we're always gonna have laid the groundwork. You know, nothing is truly future proof. But I feel like at this point, as a front end piece for headless commerce solution is definitely as future proof as you can get. The fact that you can, once you get to the point that people can actually add it to the homescreen on their phone, then they can actually browse your website, when they're not connected to the internet, they can literally, if they if it's cash product, they can shop while they don't have connectivity. And then when they get back to Internet order goes through and everything's great. So that really gives us a lot of advantages over some of our competitors that are still using more of a monolithic web platform, or even something that's more nimbly, like customized. If you're doing nothing that I can think of that that we could do that someone else was doing on a website with this type of setup, because as Michael pointed out, it's still just a website on the front end. And the front end pieces build with like some of the most basic website components. And it's JavaScript, it's HTML, it's the CSS, very simple pieces. So we can figure that out a little bit. So my team was excited to be working with new technology as well. Because when you get into this, you start getting into a whole different way of, of how things in the background where this site, you can scale itself up and down. And I'm not the most technical person so I can get as lost in this. But the learning about new technologies that are out there things along the lines of like Kubernetes, and service workers that are actually spooling up, it's building down, based on the demand for the solid. It's just a whole different world than what we had worked in before. And kind of really just raising the bar for us that we really can decide can do what we needed to do. But it comes down to talent and budgets. Decide what's holding us back?


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  28:36

Is my details. Right? Yeah. Very cool. And I wouldn't say you're not detective, we're not technical, because very progressive and like where you've taken the business and be ahead of the curve. So don't sell yourself short there. I love to understand about that implementation process. Because that's always like, Okay, how long is this going to take? And where do you start? And I guess if you can give some success, or you know, what you learned along the way, Larry, that'd be awesome.


Larry Laska  29:07

You know, the thing that we learned really is a PWA's are very complicated. It sounds simple. It's like we're gonna take this heavy backing piece. We're gonna leave it sitting on Adobe's cloud, we're going to post the front end piece somewhere else in the cloud. And that sounds really simple. But the way that everything interacts actually gets a little complicated. And some of the things that we learned that were challenging is we probably didn't ask a question running as far as like, once it's live, how do we do certain things because we kind of, we had a pretty quick timeline determinists really want to get this up and going during a period of our business that it really made more sense to go ahead and have some downtime during this period, to do something really pushed 14 independent Adobe team as well Magento to make this happen for us, we'll jump, everyone jumped a lot hoops for the title. But understanding how the Magento Admin Panel how you actually change the skinning, and then how that replicates on the running, it's a little different world than what we were used to, we were, we were used to going in and making a change, clicking Save or Okay, and then everything amendments on the front end. With the with have separated, it kind of works both ways. It separates it, which makes the front end piece very fast, but it also separates some of the data transport. So in order to keep the front end fast, you can't do instant caching, you have to understand that there's a Tom spring. So we're having to work some of our systems around that to be able to make those things work for us. As far as when we update the site and how we update it. And what's what's worthy of an instant update that'll slow everyone's experience down for a few minutes. And what's not. So we've worked through those things. As far as like, you know, the planning going into, it's really just about starting with the end goal in mind, we wanted to do a mobile first experience, we want something that would not hold us back with search engine optimization. We want something that our customers would love the experience of using that wouldn't get any more hate mail about how slow our website was. We wanted to start with that. And then we'd really build backwards and figured out the best way. And when we relied on 14, we Whittle and it started talking to us about this, we said okay, we want to build this as close to out of the box as we can for the PWA really don't want to do a lot of customization because we want to build everything to be as fast as possible. And to the industry best practice. If we need to do some customizations on the backhand or two things popped up along the way that we had to do. We dealt with those as we had to, but we really wanted this to be really more of an off the shelf solution. So that we could then get it going and then add the things that we'd have to add. And that's actually worked out really well. We didn't build a super heavy to begin with. So now when we go back and do things, we're not having to undo things that we didn't throw didn't take. I believe this project, honestly, I think we did it in about six months, which sort of Michael doesn't want me saying that core can deliver a PWA with a Magento upgrade with inside of six months. But we, you know, we did everything they asked us to do. Adobe stepped up and did everything they were asked to do. And everything just kind of worked out to do that. Compressed Tom opportunity.


Michael Harvey  32:49

It was a great collaboration, though, to be sure. I'd like to amplify if I may, something that Larry said that I think is really important, which, which is that it's tempting. And we're even falling prey to it a little bit in this conversation where everything's unicorns and rainbows, right, you go ahead less and just, you know, the clouds part. And it's just sunshine. And technology's complicated. And I mean, Larry use the term future proof, which is a always a daring term to use in our in our industry, because you know, we're all realistic, nothing really is. But as I said at the outset, this move to headless is kind of one of these these significant technology rotations, and it's going to play out over the next, you know, five to 10 years for sure. But so the point that I think is really important to take away from what Larry was saying is that there's still complexity here. It's just the complexity, the locus of it, and the nature of it tends to shift. And so the the really key salient point, or part of this is that if you're, you've decoupled or you've detached your head, it's running, it's scaling, it's doing all those things, business marketing, design, you know, they're pushing things to it. But you still then have all these things happening in the back end, that have to be orchestrated, right. So when we talk about composable, commerce, the you know, you get these musical terms in there. So the orchestration of all those services becomes really important and being able to make sense of that. And, and, you know, Larry, you're talking about out of the box, there is no out of the box for this yet. There just isn't it, we're too early on it. And so just making a little bit of a pitch here. That's why it's so important to work with a partner who is experienced in this and who, you know, ideally has kind of taken it as far as we have where we've actually taken those industry standard components that Larry and David have been talking about, you know, react as the front end JavaScript library Graph QL as the API layer, and we've, we've, we've sort of started from there and then created a framework that allows us to achieve that orchestration and test it and performance test it and stress test to, you know, do all those kinds of those kinds of things. So that's, that's kind of as close to out of the box, as you get now is, and Larry, I think we kind of you really, we really became your development team, right, you kind of move that move that along.


Larry Laska  35:38

Yeah, we actually moved our development team, we had an in house team, and we actually relocated some of them for and for us now, our in house dev team, basically. So all of development was done for us on what we do in houses, we do all of the merchandising, the look and feel of the site, the we can do some basic coding type things to make the page look a little different, but really reliable for us to build us templates. And then we basically just update the content within that template. So we can focus more on inventory, and profit Merchandising, and campaigns drive people to solve and look for the hidden. Like, one thing I would add on that I do realise it's not true out of the box solution, like you would think about if you signed up for basic write scripts into Magento, or Shopify or anything like that. But the solution that you guys build me really is pretty much out of the box, we have to put everything to it to make it look like a website. But I've been literally, once we got, once we upgraded to the newest version of Magento. It was weird sorting, we literally were viewing a PWA website, almost. It was we didn't, we didn't want to change how the shopping cart work, we, of course, got a great job of building that front end piece. And you literally get the BW experience right away. And then you just have to make those connections and, and update content and things like that. But it amazed me how fast we actually had something that we can view that we can see what it was going to be like. And we saw a performance even on the staging environment, which is nowhere near as robust as what we have decided sitting on today was incredible for us, for us.


Michael Harvey  37:31

And I was trying to keep the pitch a little bit soft, but you made it made it possible. Yeah, I mean, everything you just said is because we have been investing in that for the past three years. Right. And that was really my point is that there is a learning curve here. And so you know, vetting who you're going to work with, or whether it's an internal team, whatever, there's complexity here that needs to be, you know, needs to be addressed. And that's frankly, what we've kind of staked our claim on in the industry and why, you know, we're, we're having a lot of success with this.


David Augustine  38:08

And I want to comment on that as well. I think I think that we have to be careful not to understate and in this call, we haven't the complexity of it. And and a company like Corra that's made the investment and the time to think about it, once you decouple the back end and front end, you're dealing with two tech stacks, most often you're dealing with too often sort of disparate technical abilities. So you know, your in house dev team that might have been able to maintain a web experience before, it's a little less likely that they're going to have all of the skills necessary to do that in a PWA. And you have to consider that someone like Corra, they spent a lot of time building a reference architecture. And that orchestration that Mike's talking about is, is important, right? The order of operations and how you pull in those headless components, to have them function and to have your website work. And I'm not gonna get on a deep technical hole. But it's really important that you work with someone like Corra or, or a partner that really has put in the time. I think we had Adobe, we have a reference architecture for PWA. We have a starting point, you can take it and be up and running very, very, very quickly. But to build a really good customised, you know, industry specific website, like what Salt Life has, you really do need to be focused on a really strong partner.


Larry Laska  39:21

Yeah, the way to do that is that, you know, we had an in house 50 that we felt was fairly robust. We had three developers in house, we had two offshore developers. And there's no way we could have pulled this off of the team we had, there's just so many steals the core possesses, that we couldn't, we couldn't afford to go out and hire the right skill set to do that. We would have never been able to launch the site that we launched this year. On PWA. We're trying to learn how to use too many lanes you run into we need that one person that has that unique skill set, and you only need them for an hour. That's all Army Corps got those people because they were in the process, they're not trying to put the hard sell for the biggest important farmer by far.


Michael Harvey  40:07

So it's okay, to do a hard sell?


Larry Laska  40:09

it's really hard to, you really have to find the right partner, once you're comfortable working with on this, because this really is a journey, an adventure that you go through, and something that you tested 1000 pounds, and it worked fine, something changes somewhere else, and then a problem pops up. And you got to have the right team that you can go through saying, I don't know what caused this, but you got to fix it. And most of the time we reach out to them, they're already aware of their are working on the face.


Michael Harvey  40:41

One thing I just want to say that also is directly relevant here is that once the site is built, and I want to keep coming back to the important parts of the acronym, so again, we're just talking about one one possible head, right, David mentioned, you could have IoT, you can have point of sales, you can actually have an app, you can have a gas station pump, you can have a smart car, you know, all of those can be heads within a headless architecture. But before the website itself for that progressive web app, the technologies are JavaScript, specifically a library called react HTML and CSS, what I can tell you is that the skill set that every smart developer out there in the world wants to have now are are those you know, is, is when we think about a full stack developer in this context, we're talking about react on the front end node on the back end and Graph QL to kind of, you know, make everything work. those skill sets are ones that you can bring in house and, you know, either work right alongside a partner like Quora or you know, you can actually actually take that in. So that's a, that's a is a benefit of a progressive web app is that is that those technologies or standards are open source. And they're very, very popular, and they're the ones that developers really want to work on.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  42:09

So that is a question we do get often when we talk about headless is, Do I need a developer full time on staff? So from this, I say, Well,


Michael Harvey  42:20

what I would say is do need no, because if you're comfortable, just you know, literally, like sonlife did basically having a partner, like like Corra say, Who is your technical team? But does it? Does it help? Is it good? You know, might certain merchants want to have that up? Absolutely. So, and my point really is, is that the skill set is not an obscure one, it's one that, you know, we are having a lot of luck recruiting for frankly, it's the easiest role for us to hire for because there's so many really smart engineers out there who want to be working on this stuff.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  43:03

Interesting. So Larry, I'm curious, when you embarked on this journey, who were the stakeholders in the room with your team that you had to get them engaged in the beginning, for this project to be successful?


Larry Laska  43:16

You had everyone involved from the president of our company, we had our VP of admin set in on it, we brought in some of our marketing team, just to make sure that this platform so they deliver what everyone needed, because there's our site. Because we're not strictly an eCommerce company, we still have a very robust wholesale business, we have our own retail stores that we operate across the country. So it's not like that Congress is really the hub for all things related to living solid. So we had to make sure that the solution was going to be satisfactory for everyone. But when we started talking the speed improvements, when we started talking that we evolved from the very content inside, unfortunately, news today, that this is a platform that we deliver that and then throw in the athletic experience. And years ago, I sold everyone on the idea of a mobile first strategy and an SEO first strategy. Because if you make it fast on the slowest device, then you become one. And then if you focus everything towards SEO, that's basically focusing on the user experience, which is what ranks the registry, people coming back to the solid. So it was a very easy sale to do this. Unfortunately, that's also about bringing those people into the room is why we got to six months to get it done. They said yes.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  44:47

Excellent. And Michael, are those the typical stakeholders you see with the clients you work with?


Michael Harvey  44:52

Yeah, yeah. So by and large people who are finding their way to kind of the headless You know, ideal and are able to commit to that they're going to be a pretty seasoned crew, we're going to we're going to get, you know, the directors of eCommerce, we're going to get it typically involved executive level stakeholders to be sure. So, yeah, that's, uh, that's, that's the mix we tend to see.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  45:26

And besides


having potentially that in house developer, what other resources should organisation Think about if they're thinking about going headless,


Michael Harvey  45:34

that they might need? So I guess I'll take a quick crack at that. But then I think Larry, you'd probably have a lot of firsthand insight. So you know, like Larry was saying, things that you might have just done like through the Magento admin panel, let's say may have to be done a different way. So there's some some learning curve there that has to happen. But basically, what at at the high level, what you want to be able to start to do is is actually think in a headless way, you almost want to like start to think, as a headless organization would where your designers, your marketer, your merchandisers, those, those people who are very much concerned with the customer experience, are working together and understand that this asset, this head, or set of heads that they own, are kind of their baby. And as long as they play by the rules, which means they you know, they don't try to, you know, customize something in the back end, or get something customised in the back end that risks, you know, that system that they could they have a lot of flexibility and autonomy now. So. So it creates the opportunity to really optimise a team or teams around that, that front end experience without the historical constraints. And then whether it's with a partner or whether an internal team, you need to make sure that you're worrying about security, scalability, all of those kinds of things on on the back end that are the appropriate domain there. So sort of a general answer. And then, you know, be interesting here, Larry, just kind of, if there were adjustments to your team that that you decide to make.


Larry Laska  47:27

Yeah, we have a pretty lean team. For what we're doing on our website, I've got two people that focus on merchandise on the site. And that's everything from adding new products each season, to making sure that when someone lands on the site that they're seeing, what we will see that we're removing items that are going to low stock down the page are also their merchandising, making sure that all of the the planning pages have the content that will make someone want to purchase that item and get enough information to make that decision. So we really have invested heavily in that then we also we have people that are handling our digital advertising, and our working with the agency on that. And then we do our email campaigns in house, what we the shift that we made is we get someone that decided to leave our team. And they were really like a junior level developer. And it was nice, because it was good having someone with a technical background, that can help us with communication with Corra, and dealing with their super technical people. But on the other hand, it really after after they've left, as I was trying to replace Ling, I realized that we need to focus more on making the site look better on graphics on being more creative and being more fresh with what we're doing. So a completely different way on that and our graphic designer, who will be working for and what they'll be doing is they'll be coming up with a better looking page layout which Corra will then code force, and then we'll just go in update the practice. So we decided to kind of take some of the technical away, because what we've learned is the PWA. As we said, it's simple, but it also complicated things is that there's nothing we can't do. But someone has to go into the backend created in a way that the funneling can understand how to render it to the customer. So one problem we ran into once we launched on the PPA is that we would have something that didn't display a spec that people could feel the front end. And it was a simple line of code to make something large or small or whatever it might be your favorite whatever we wanted to do. And our developer would do that. And then it would break the front because that component had never been written into I guess it's the Graph QL and Page Builder, which is how we build our pages in Magento. So all we had to do is that easy ticket you put it in Corra integrates that into page builder, they can just choose that out of page builder and you're good to go. So it's replacing things like that. So if you don't this is your your honest one. A dangerous spot moon. Because you can do stuff that will it'll, it'll take the go to the Magento Magento doesn't really care about that. But if you have to think about everything you do in the backend has to have a receptacle for it on the front, you can add stuff into the admin panel that you can you could add Amazon pay to the Magento, it's integrated, it's easy to plug in. But if you don't build that into your shopping cart experience on running, then there's no place for someone to click to get to, it doesn't just automatically put the buttons in places. Like the way we're all used to Magento is platform model of the talk Web. Yeah, I think


David Augustine  50:40

that's a great point. When you talk about a monolithic monolithic architecture, you know, when you decouple the front end and the back end, you also decouple the technical expertise that you need to use it. So you can really focus on hiring marketers. And you can hire specific graphic designers, and you can hire specific merchandisers and they can do a lot. But in a monolithic architecture, you have to remember that there's virtually nothing you can do on the back end, if you go into the admin panel of your of your platform, it's going to be fine on the front end, because they're built to work together. Whereas in a PWA, it's separate, which means that it only does as much as you taught it to do. So if you decide to try something new on the back end, you very much can introduce an element that that can break your site. So by decoupling those those experts, which which you definitely get a lot of benefit from your site will look better you get those extreme creativity, you do have to consider you're partnering with somebody who makes sure that that's going to work for you on the back end, or have a different person responsible for feeding those things through.


Larry Laska  51:39

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. What we've learned is that we need to, we need to start off with just like what we've done in the past, where we want to be something vastly different on the page, and we go to them, and they got us down the correct path, it's very important that you do that with whoever your partner is for your for your PWA front end, because they're really going to have to funny and almost kind of has to guide what you do in the backend. Awesome.


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  52:08

We're in the final stretch here. If anybody has any final question comments, feel free to put them in the chat q&a, you know, Larry, I get a spinal question to you is what's next for the Salt Life website.


Larry Laska  52:21

We're, we're continuing to optimize to make it faster, we're looking to add in some user generated content elements, we're always looking for ways to bring our customers and our fans of the brain more into the conversation and one of the so that's definitely a big area that we're going into. We are also which crazy to say this, but we're gonna raise a lawsuit. relaunching our site on the latest version of Magento, which is 2.4 dot file, when we build out a PWA, I think, week after we were too late to make any changes to the underlying revisions version that came out with two dot 4.4. So we were already built on two dot 4.3. And I've done that part of the upgrade. So it was too late to kind of change in the middle. But now I'm excited about that, because I believe in dot five, there's a lot of PWA support that's built into it. And it's on a newer version of PHP as well. So I think that that's going to really get us through probably most of 2024, I think it's only projected into like 1.4. So excited about that. So that's a big thing that we're doing. And then fourth, we'll get straight into our code for Easter holidays as we get that last. But we're also exploring some direct to garment printing options, where we'll be able to allow people to do some custom print environments for has built that component for us. And we're in the final testing phases of that. So that's something that we're excited about. Just another way that people can connect with a brand new type of product that they can talk on this is popular with a lot of companies gotta see how it goes with us. The PWA made that so much easier to do, because there is a lot of heavy lifting. A lot of your images go back and forth. And having that more nimble from you definitely got to be able to do that more efficiently. as


Tiffany Serbus-Gustaveson  54:22

well. Definitely everyone who's on the call checkout saltlife.com. It went out this morning. It is a beautiful website. It's a very well done. And thank you, Michael, David, Larry, for the fantastic discussion. And we definitely encourage a follow up conversation with the Corra, Adobe team. We'll be making connections here after the call, and we'd love to have a conversation with you. So always feel free to reach out. So with that, happy Tuesday everyone have a great week. Take care and we hope to see you in the next segment.

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