Real World Use Cases for Headless Commerce & Multi-Storefront eCommerce

Apr 26, 2022 12:00 PM1:00 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways

A few years ago, the term “headless commerce” gained popularity. Now, there’s a new buzz around this concept as we see the benefits of headless commerce in its maturity. But is it the right approach for your brand? 

The most significant value for headless commerce is appearing in a multi-storefront experience, where you’re able to blend a group of best-in-breed eCommerce, content management, and marketing technologies in a more viable way. Ultimately, a headless approach can give you more flexibility, increase your marketing outcomes, and be more responsive to customer needs. Plus, headless commerce allows you to keep costs to a minimum while increasing ROI. 

In this virtual event, Aaron Conant is joined by Jordan Brannon, President of Coalition Technologies, to discuss the benefits of headless commerce. Jordan shares how headless applies to a multi-storefront approach, the organizational benefits of the system, and the different ways companies are using headless commerce to increase ROI and differentiate the customer experience. 


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

  • Why is headless commerce becoming a budding topic again, and how does multi-storefront fit into this concept?
  • Jordan Brannon defines headless commerce
  • The organizational benefits of headless commerce
  • How to gauge ROI with a headless approach
  • The cost of headless commerce — and the different platforms you can use
  • How does headless help free a team from the bureaucracy of large organizations?
  • The customer experience and presentation challenges solved through headless commerce
  • Best practices for managing headless systems
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Event Partners

Coalition Technologies

Coalition Technologies is a leading SEO, PPC & web design agency in the United States that does a variety of work across leading eCom platforms including: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, Vtex, and others.

Connect with Coalition Technologies

Guest Speaker

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Jordan Brannon

Jordan Brannon LinkedIn

President at Coalition Technologies

Jordan Brannon is the President of Coalition Technologies, a company that provides SEO services in digital marketing, design, web development, and PPC advertising. Jordan’s expertise in digital strategies has shaped his career for more than a decade, where he focused on developing solutions that allow for more qualified leads, better traffic conversion, and SEO optimization.

Event Moderator

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Jordan Brannon

Jordan Brannon LinkedIn

President at Coalition Technologies

Jordan Brannon is the President of Coalition Technologies, a company that provides SEO services in digital marketing, design, web development, and PPC advertising. Jordan’s expertise in digital strategies has shaped his career for more than a decade, where he focused on developing solutions that allow for more qualified leads, better traffic conversion, and SEO optimization.

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

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

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant  0:18  

Happy Tuesday everybody, my name is Aaron Conant, I'm the co founder Managing Director here at BWG Connect, giant networking knowledge sharing group with 1000s of brands who do exactly that we network in knowledge share together to stay on top of the newest trends and strategies and pain points that are shaping digital. I spend the majority of my time advising brands and just chatting with them and trying to figure out hey, what are those pain points? What are those strategies, what's working, what's not, that's where we get the topics for our calls. It's also where we get the experts for our calls as well. We're asking everybody who's working for you and who's not when the same experts come up over and over again, those are the ones that we asked to kind of come on and share a what's going on in any particular space or subject. So if anybody needs a shortlist of recommendations of any of the top partners, we're finding out there from 1000s of conversations from 1000s of brands, don't ever hesitate to reach out, that's everything from direct to consumer, and everything that goes along with it to drop shipping to Amazon to international, just so I spend most of my time doing and so love to do that as well just shoot me an email. We're starting a few minutes after the hour, we're gonna wrap up with a few minutes to go. And we want it to be as educational as possible. So if you have any questions, drop into the chat, drop it in the q&a section, or you can always email me Aaron That includes an hour after the call tomorrow next week, more than happy to follow up with you. But I want to kick this conversation off because headless is come up over and over and over again. There's more and more, I would say headless providers that are out there, the digital side was at shot talk ran into no less than four of them. And, and they're out there like preaching headless, headless, headless, headless, headless. And I was like scratching my head, like what does it really mean? Do I? What is what are those real world examples? Of what it would look like? Do I need it? Do I not need it? And so anyways, it's just been a ton of questions. And we actually have Jordan, Brannon, as part of the network, he's a leader in this space. And we chatted on this before, but just thought, Hey, be great to jump on. And kind of walk us through what this space looks like. Again, if you have any questions, just shoot them in the chat or the q&a. If you have to drop early, more than happy to follow up and finish up the conversation with you. But Jordan, you know, if you want to jump in, you guys are awesome supporters of the network. But a brief intro on yourself and Coalition Technologies would be awesome.

Jordan Brannon  2:43  

Yeah, my name is Jordan Brannon, I'm co founder at Coalition. At this point in my career, I'm a bit of a generalist, we are a larger agency, we've got around 300 People today, we work with a range of different platforms, a lot of different industries and verticals. But we really are eCommerce focused. We're very marketing outcome focused, even in terms of our design and development. So we love to talk shop about eCommerce and all of the different moving parts that are there and have a great team that works with me and provides a lot a lot of knowledge to me in a way that's simple enough that I can understand it. And so yeah, excited to participate today.

Aaron Conant  3:29  

Yeah, awesome. So if we just jump into, you know, this headless topic as a whole, I think of it originally is like the digital transformation topic. That was four or five years ago, it spikes, and then it goes away. And then here we are, a lot of more people are talking digital transformation, because I think you have all these aha moments. Oh, yes, we need to do it. But headless, you know, started popping up a few years ago. And, you know, it's still around is still persistent, which is, in my mind says there's something to it. And yet it's almost intangible. What is it about it? What is the staying power behind the headless in the attraction of it?

Jordan Brannon  4:08  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think I think a big part of the staying power, at least, you know, from a conversation standpoint so far is that we started hearing about the value of headless before the value was really evident and kind of proven out, you know, I think, early on, you know, the headless stories that we were hearing were related to speed and site performance. It was sort of a, you know, a chance for a technical team to kind of demonstrate their prowess. You know, now, I think it's evolved quite a bit from that initial conversation to cover a lot more value propositions, you know, headless, you know, increases sort of your marketing outcomes, it can be an organizational, you know, wall breaker, can help you free you from some of the bureaucracy traps that maybe you're stuck in with a larger organization that can be more accessible. It can be more flexible and dynamic. It can be faster to stand up, it can be more responsive as a customer needs. So I think there really is, you know, a bit of the staying power of headless is that, you know, it started as one thing and was maybe being marketed and promoted as one thing, you know, maybe a bit prematurely. But today, we're starting to see, you know, what it looks like when it's reached maturity and the value that it has. And so I think that, you know, we've really seen it become a bit more of a viable alternative to kind of the typical kind of eCommerce monoliths that are out there. And that's developing some staying power. Now, I think we're seeing, you know, more brands using headless in a real way, a real meaning that actually is providing value to them. And it's not sort of the novelty project for, for an agency or for a development team someplace. And so I think it's worth considering now more than, you know, perhaps when we first started having these conversations a couple years ago,

Aaron Conant  5:48  

yeah, I think one of the things just in you know, we're chatting ahead of time, you know, around, you know, headless in this conversation as a whole and somebody that's evolved, as you had brought up multi storefront and bringing that into the conversation. Is that part of the evolving piece of it? Like, why the multi storefront? Is that like, a de facto, hey, I might need to look into this, or is it an easy way to carve things out? Would love to? What was it about multi storefront?

Jordan Brannon  6:14  

Yeah, I mean, I think that one of the big challenges, we see a lot of brands come to us with a bit of a misconception about where headless can fit in terms of their eCommerce mix. And so, you know, they hear headless, they've heard all the good stories, they've seen a good use case. And so they think, Well, I've got to abandon sort of the old, or, you know, the old eCommerce platform, the, the old approach in full, and I have to walk away from that. And, you know, a lot of times, it's not necessarily the best fit, you don't necessarily need to fully walk away from what you've done, and you're doing well. And to find sort of value for headless, I think, you know, for our experience, you know, in our client experience, we're seeing the greatest value for headless coming out in that multi storefront experience, where it's a part of a complimentary strategy that takes advantage of what is mature organizationally, you know, what has, you know, substance and training and processes built around it and works for particular audiences, and then finding a way to use headless to become, you know, something of a gap filler, which, you know, again, sort of, you know, marginalizes, its potential value, but some of those gaps are pretty significant. And so, we've been really emphasizing headless as part of a multi storefront Initiative, where you're able to blend a group of Best In Breed eCommerce, content management, marketing technologies, and you're just really in sort of a more viable way. And when we do that, we do see, you know, headless really provide value. I mean, I think and part of the reason I think, you know, in the prior conversation that I brought it up is I do think headless is a bit overprescribed at the moment, it's, you know, in some conversations we're seeing, it sort of brought up as the solution for everything. And I really do think that multi storefront capabilities is probably one of, again, the most unique areas where if you see a need for that, where, you know, I think if you see that need in your organization and your eCommerce focus, then headless is probably going to be you know, more of a value story for you, then maybe it would be for someone who is trying to replace their existing eCommerce platform with a headless approach.

Aaron Conant  8:21  

Yeah, so, you know, kind of the intent then of the conversation that we'll have and probably you're having, you know, with other brands as well is that you know, multi storefront headless versus multi storefront non headless and kind of the gaps and or the strategy differences between the headless and not having those versions of multi storefront.

Jordan Brannon  8:47  

Yep, that's what what I think we'll try and cover today hopefully, and creates value for

Aaron Conant  8:51  

awesome. So again, if you have questions, drop in the chat the q&a or email them to me, Aaron But because the question will probably come in, just you know, the level set the playing field here for everybody. When you were headless, like how do you define headless? Is this a horrible I think name that was picked?

Jordan Brannon  9:14  

Yeah, I like the term skinless, but then that's much creepier when you're trying to like, you know, you get into Walking Dead and sort of stuff when you're doing that, but basically, the idea behind headless is that, you know, most of your customers, consumers, as an eCommerce brand, interact with a presentation layer, but then most of the actual administration and what happens from a business perspective happens in sort of a back end management tool. And so you have sort of these two things that are happening, you know, a lot of customer service teams, fulfillment, teams, warehouses, you know, accounting, finance, it, they're all working with sort of the back end and then the customer is really engaging with with that front end that presentation layer and so, I like that term presentation layer. The idea of Behind headless is that you can remove one from the other, you can remove the head from the rest of the body and the body continues to operate. Again, probably not the best term, I think, you know, separating the skin from the body. Super creepy, but probably a little better visualization of what headless is actually doing.

Aaron Conant  10:18  

So, it maybe we'll get into this a little bit deeper, but like the basic premise, then, of it starting to actually take shape and actually have a product, you know, has drastically increased over the past, I would say, like, year to 18 months, like, what started to push that into more of a defined product. And, you know, why is it playing a bigger role in industry as a whole.

Jordan Brannon  10:43  

I mean, I think it helps us really addresses limitations within sort of a single software approach. You know, you think about any single software that tries to do a lot, it usually comes up short in some way. And so headless is really designed as a solution for limitations that you might experience within sort of a single software. And so, we see sort of three big you know, kind of limiting factors or areas where headless is able to address, one is on that presentation layer and customer experience side two is sort of in that back end and management layer. And then I think three is headless actually helps to address sometimes limitations that we see in organizations themselves, that and you essentially can use headless as a way of of patching over some some problems that you have inside of the company. So

Aaron Conant  11:33  

before we get into others, the organization one intrigues me, right, I thought it would be just more technical. Can you just like walk through when you say organizational? Obviously, it's people, right? What are you? What is this all for there? I want to do want to get into a bunch of the technical stuff. But yeah, that's an interesting piece.

Jordan Brannon  11:58  

Yeah, I mean, I think honestly, I think what is actually driving a lot of adoption in headless, especially at the enterprise level comes from that organizational limit, rather than some specific technical advantage. And so, you know, a couple of common conversations that we have around headless really highlight that value in a few ways. You know, I think in one, we see teams that carry primary responsibility for eCommerce growth, not really having the authority to manage the eCommerce toolset. And so they're being pressured, you know, organizationally, you know, from the C suite level down, especially, you know, post pandemic, and then even during the pandemic, to be able to generate eCommerce growth. However, you know, traditionally inside of their organization, they're beholden to an IT team to an AI engineering group, to maybe legal and finance to operations to customer service. And even though they are the ones who are expected to generate, you know, significant ROI and significant advancement in eCommerce, the other teams that they're sort of filtered through really limit their ability to pivot and move quickly. And so they get tired of being gate kept by other departments and policies, and so headless can really allow them as eCommerce team to work more independently, more quickly achieve their goals. And they don't really have to be worried about sort of those traditional organizational workflows and approvals that are probably limiting them today. But

Aaron Conant  13:31  

it certainly does that makes sense. And it also aligns with my mind, while all of a sudden it's gaining so much traction right now. Right, especially, I think, iOS 14.5 updates. And, you know, everybody's looking to increase customer acquisition cost. And now there's a lot more pressure on the econ team. And what I'm hearing is, it's a potential solve for the I would say, more conservative parts of the company that aren't is ready and accepting of the fast momentum that have changed, including the number of new tech partners that are popping up left and right and CDP's. And whatever it might be, that you're plugging in. This is kind of a route like around that to kind of cover but not affect all the back end that's happening. That is, dots are connected. Now. This is also I had never thought of before, but it makes sense. Now. Now you have big companies, which is in my mind, you know, I come from big corporate America, right $15 billion market cap. Like, there's just a lot of things that take a while to change. And this is a way to affect change quicker. Is that kind of basically yet and don't want to. You want to call out I mean, companies that you've seen this happening.

Jordan Brannon  14:43  

Yeah, I mean, I won't mention specific client names, but we do have, again, so a number of enterprise organizations that you know, are sort of making their transition and eCommerce are really are just sort of doing it more meaningfully now. And they just the eCommerce team never really received the priority as maybe retail. So the team that sort of managed retail partnerships and distribution was the one that sort of got the money, got the team got the staff, you know, got the attention. And now eCommerce is really an important channel. And so they need to sort of be kind of freed up from that. And so I actually a good example that they see a comment from, you know, Pat in the thread is talking about sort of moving to a new ERP solution. And, you know, some of the challenges that that can present when you're, you know, essentially moving this whole back end software, and how to kind of avoid an interruption to the front end experience, and how to do that in a meaningful way, you know, headless, can start to solve for that. So you can make your content independent of sort of the inventory of the, you know, what products are going to be available in what markets and can manage things that way, whereas, you know, in traditional software solutions, a lot of times, you know, that new ERP, you know, becomes a problem point for that. So, that could be sort of an example there. And I think, you know, ultimately eCommerce teams that do have headless, as part of their toolset can pivot faster, to address changes in the market to take advantage of new opportunities as they see them arise. So, you know, things like iOS 14, you know, some of our big clients are a little bit fearful of TikTok, you know, and how to engage TikTok and short form video content in a, in a meaningful way and headless can start to address some of those things.

Aaron Conant  16:29  

Awesome. So I mean, in this case, you know, what pain points, you know, are traditionally highlighted, you know, just in others, if you have questions drop into the chat or the q&a. I mean, is it removing all of that I love, I'm just going back to presentation layer, that's, I think it's a great way to look at look at it, right, but I don't know if you can call it presentation, commerce doesn't quite, doesn't quite have the right maybe too many syllables. Right. But it's the complete separation, or can you piecemeal, it,

Jordan Brannon  16:58  

you can piecemeal it, I mean, and so I think, you know, a lot of the brands that we're seeing do headless really well in a way that really adds value there is that piecemealing approach. And so we have, you know, clients who are finding the need in some way to present content in a way that is different than typical eCommerce sort of, you know, here's your homepage, your, here's your collection, or search results page, here's the product page, here's the card, here's the checkout, here's the customer count, they really have unique content experiences. And that's a big part of how they sell their product and how they market their product or how they think they want to sell and market their product. And so that creates a lot of opportunities for them in terms of, again, exploring those testing those either fully separated from their eCommerce platform and other software solutions that they're using organizationally, or, you know, as a component of, you know, situations where, you know, they can actually kind of work on a blended approach.

Aaron Conant  17:58  

Just that I love it. There's another question that comes in. And I think this is a key one, it says, Are there any ROI examples around headless? Because it is something new is difficult to explain. Like, then what are the KPIs? What are the metrics? What's the ROI? The How do you gauge that? So you can say, hey, it's the right thing, or you can make an estimate on whether it's worth it or not? Yeah, there's

Jordan Brannon  18:22  

a few ways that we can look at this. I mean, I think some examples I will touch on, we have one that's a client called Q spray, they do pest control equipment, primarily to small and mid sized pest control companies throughout the United States. So very b2b play. It's a very small company. And I think, you know, you know, really a handful of people, not necessarily what you would consider sort of the most digitally forward thinking and innovative in terms of what they're doing. During the pandemic, they saw a big increase in demand for people who are shopping as consumers their site, and really, that purchasing experience is really not there, if you're just a regular customer, and so for them, they had tried to capitalize on some of that they were, I think they're called aprs, I believe as a beekeeper. So beekeeping was sort of something that was taking off and the pandemic and they wanted to capitalize on that. And so but trying to do that through their b2b focused, you know, great sites in terms of conversions and what happens there, but But ultimately, they needed something different. And so we help them stand up a number of headless experiences experience is specific to some of these products with content focus and emphasis. And so we saw about a 3x increase in the return on investment through paid advertising. And so they were b2b, thank you. Good one. But so they saw a 3x increase in their ROI on on adspend on their B suits and some of their B beekeeping equipment because they had a dedicated domain with information content or anything just really geared towards DTC. And we've set up other sub sites now for them using headless, you know, so there's a return on investment piece, it's more optimized for the consumer, so it sells better. But it also is less expensive for them, because their main b2b site is already connected to their accounting software, it's already connected to their warehouse, it's already connected to their ERP, it's already connected to their CRM. And so building those connections took time and took money, and many of them have a monthly cost, their eCommerce software, big Commerce, also, they can consolidate all their costs through one plan with them, you know, and so that allows them to reduce their costs overall. And so there's not only a customers are buying more and buying more frequently, but the setup costs instead of time, the cost of sort of maintaining the eCommerce experience has gone down. So the ROI is pretty, pretty good. So it's, I think there's a lot of different ways to look at it. And you can kind of approach them either from that customer side, the marketing side, the sales side, or you can look at it just operational costs, you know, this is a way that I can reduce costs there

Aaron Conant  21:03  

is so are you so a couple questions that come in one is, so Are you actively engaging then like if a brand like somebody on the call today, they reach out? Are you able to do that full blown evaluation and say, Okay, you're on this platform. Now? This is what everything looks like. Headless? Yes, headless? No. And kind of like, Hey, these are this is what the business case looks like, if you go I think that's where people are headed. Like, sounds great. But do I need it or not? I just need that like, honest opinion, like I do need it or I don't if I do, is time, effort money? Is it worth it or not? Is it worth the investment?

Jordan Brannon  21:37  

We do? Yes, we do help you evaluation. And one of the unique things about us is that sort of marketing focus, you know, so we have, you know, either if you come to us for design development, consulting on the eCommerce side of things, you know, trying to figure out, you know, how to approach your new eCommerce, build or improve your existing one, you know, what strategies, what platforms, what tooling you need to have, we have, you know, a team here that is, is, you know, multiple times larger than the typical agency. And then, you know, on the flip side, we also have a really fantastic marketing team that works closely with them, that's, again, typically multiple times larger than typical marketing agency would be in the digital marketing space focused on eCommerce. And so you get sort of bested best consultation and strategy in both sides. And we can help you establish Well, here's the ROI on the marketing side, if there is one, or, you know, for headlice, here is the ROI on the operations and setup and features and functionalities that you want to add. So So yeah, there's there's sort of that opportunity with us to do both. And we'd love to have that conversation. Because Atlas is I think, in some ways, is a bit oversold over marketed. You know, and so I do think there's some, some, some, you know, situations where you need to sort of pump the brakes. I see. Eric had the question, and what are the challenges around deploying have the solutions, and, you know, sometimes it can represent additional technical debt, sometimes, you are introducing a new software that needs to be learned and evangelize inside of the team. You know, there can be tracking challenges. And certainly there can be just sort of the, the the front end presentation and content, you know, can be a fairly heavy lift for organizations that aren't used to that. So that those are some of the things that come forward. Awesome.

Aaron Conant  23:21  

Another one jumps in and what about Shopify? Two? Are you better moving to that way for site speed?

Jordan Brannon  23:27  

Oh, yeah. So yeah, so Shopify, last unite, announced we're coming up on another one had what they called online store 2.0. And it was one of the first big updates that Shopify has made to their underlying framework to help improve site speed was, you know, one of the big things that they were looking to address in terms of deficiency in terms of if you're an existing Shopify store owner, you have a, you know, existing Shopify storefront, and you're just looking for kind of an incremental gain and speed, you know, a custom theme on Shopify to or, you know, online store 2.0, you know, it's probably going to be lower costs than, you know, going full, headless, you know, with some sort of front end piece built on headless and then into Shopify as the backend. And also probably just, you know, you know, more time sensitive, you can complete that scope of work much faster, which again, there's some some time and opportunity costs that come with that. So, again, if you're looking for, you know, a way to increment in speed is really your only reason for doing that, you know, invest in a nicely built custom theme on online store. 2.0 is Shopify. If you're there already, rather than headless as sort of being your default, go to.

Aaron Conant  24:37  

Awesome. And again, for those of you who've joined us here, drop any questions you have in the chat, the q&a. Just a great conversation here on headless. Dope. And if another one, is there a sense of time, at some point headless?

Jordan Brannon  24:56  

Yeah, yeah, I mean, so it varies a lot organizing rationally, so there's not necessarily a real clear cut, there's very inexpensive approaches, we have a essentially built an app for big commerce that will also be moving to Shopify. That's what we're calling sort of headless Lytx. And the idea behind it is that it allows you to quickly stand up a static front end or WordPress front end, to go with a Shopify back end, you know, that has a fairly modest cost, you know, once you sort of get past the initial development for it, you know, you're essentially building a new front end. But beyond that, it's you know, we're talking less than $100 per month for most brands, that's quite a bit more affordable than some of the bigger headless content management solutions that are out there right now in the market today, that are, you know, certainly more robust. And so that costs can vary quite a bit. I'll note that anytime you go to sort of a premium SaaS, headless front end, you're going to have a much higher total cost of ownership, both in terms of the launch and then also in the long run, compared if you're to using, you know, something that is more of a static front end, that it sort of exists, independent of a third party software.

Aaron Conant  26:17  

Awesome, just two more questions keep pulling in, pouring in. So what are some of those headless CMS is?

Jordan Brannon  26:24  

Yeah, there's, there's actually quite a few of them that are out there today. I think, Aaron, you said you kind of encountered a few of them in our pre call, as some of the, you know, the, you know, some of the ones that are being really kind of spent out. Contentful is a big one that we've worked with a few times now. Trying to drawing a blank somehow. There's a good handful we've worked with, I'm just trying to keep on them. You can use WordPress even as the front end, but that's not what I'm thinking of. Let's see. So Contentful, there's content stack. If you're dotnet, there's dot CMS. There's craft, there's prismic. Trying to go through the laundry list of them here. So there, there's quite a few of them out there, like 150. Now, yeah, that doesn't surprise me.

Aaron Conant  27:16  

It's like CDP's right now. Yeah. You know, outside of CMS board platforms. Where else? Have you seen a headless experience implemented? Apps, emails? Yeah,

Jordan Brannon  27:27  

all of the above games. So there's just a kind of a wide range of implementation to it. Got a lot of different experiences that you can approach with headless. So again, so someone touched on apps already, whether that's a full app or more of a PWA experience, you can certainly look at, you know, email improvements. So we've seen post iOS 14, you know, trying to drive more experience through kind of email and email content. So headless experiences have been pretty valuable there. We were talking, I think, in the pre call, I don't know if people are actually on yet. We're talking about sort of meta, you know, sort of that Metaverse type of experience, I think Aaron had shared a use case of a gallery shoppable gallery for an artist, you know, that was sort of developed. And it makes it makes a lot of sense for headless. Some of the projects, we're seeing it on AR AR AR VR oriented, augmented reality sort of experiences or kind of 3d rendered items. And so those tend to be sort of some of the popular options that we're seeing outside of just kind of use cases outside of just a headless experience.

Aaron Conant  28:35  

Yeah, and on that low, I don't know if it's tomorrow. Or if it is, you know, on the if anybody is looking for the first step in the metaverse, what's the first thing to do we actually have a call tomorrow, you can check out DWG And just go to the events and it's, you know, using virtual technology on NFT's. It's literally step one, if anybody's been looking at what is step one, you know, that's That's it. And it's anyways, the gallery is brought up. You know, other things here is, is headless? Is the headless route, like big commerce stencil implemented the custom PWA, realistic route for the SMB market, or is it still too costly?

Jordan Brannon  29:19  

Yeah, I think it's right now it is, you know, I think it's sort of there's just a lot of costs to that. It is specific to big commerce because of their API's. We are, we're launching that headless light solution. And that will really bring down costs quite a bit. And essentially the where you would incur extra costs looking at that approach would be you'd have a nominal monthly billing, I think it's $50 for big commerce enterprise builds using our solution for multi storefront. So, you know, again, quite a bit more affordable than you know, I think I saw someone mentioned to sell and prismic and Contentful and things like that. But you also sort of need to have that front end experience built for it. And then there's some hosting costs. So that makes it the whole goal. The reason that we're launching that is to make it approachable for SMBs. A number of our use cases for, for headless today have really we're seeing the most value, like Hugh spray is a good example. It's an SMB business. You know, I think in most respects, you'd kind of classify it that way. And that's where we're seeing a lot of the value. So I think, yes, I think cannabis does have a, an opportunity today for SMBs. And part of what we are trying to do is make them more approachable for SMBs, and mid market merchants rather than just enterprises.

Aaron Conant  30:40  

Awesome. Yeah. And again, you know, after the call, I'm more than happy to connect you with Jordan and the team over there. They're fantastic supporters of the network and the brands that are in it, and anybody who joins these events, it might be worth setting up, you know, a half hour an hour with their team to kind of walk through all your options and see if it's right, if it's not in there. They're the coolest people around so they can do it without a sales pitch and congest advice as a whole. They're, they're great. They're great partners as a whole. So another question that comes in, is around, I'll say the, the corporate bureaucracy, bureaucracy, practically speaking, how does headless help free a team from the bureaucracy common in larger organizations.

Jordan Brannon  31:26  

I mean, I think, you know, if you're a more established business, again, there's there's, they're sort of the sweet spots that are a bit off limits and data to everybody, you know, money is coming from somewhere in a data sensitive somewhere. And so headless really can be a good way of actually providing security, both organizationally and just also just an Instructure. And so you can limit access to some of the more sensitive aspects of an established business. You know, so if the current eCommerce builder experience is tied into some core software is more fully tightened to finance customer records and customer data, you know, maybe it's, you know, there's a hosting issue there. So you have your own hosting, or are standing up your own hosting, going to a headless can allow an eCommerce team to have a lot of independent without creating risk and existing channels. I think, headless also can open up talent pools, by simplifying sort of that management of the presentation layer. You know, good, you know, framework developers for JavaScript are a lot more common than they were, you know, five years ago, PHP, developers, WordPress, experienced developers, people are great at HTML and CSS static sites, but easier to find those and people who are really experienced working with Salesforce. And so there can be opportunities to simplify some of that talent pool challenge that we see in today's economic and job climate. And so large organizations that are looking to really grow eCommerce, and need people to do that headless can help sort of address some of that. I know from our example, kind of speaking of, you know, real world use cases, we have a fortune 500 client where, you know, headless was really a good solution for them on that front, their D to C eCommerce team was, you know, I think five people and then suddenly got a lot of attention in an organization of 1000s to generate some some results. And so, you know, they were handcuffs, I think they were using SAP Hybris was sort of what the commerce build was on. Nobody really knew how to work it. The company was concerned about competition with their retailers, the had a lot more oversight attached to it. And so a launching of a handful of headless storefronts allow them to promote individual brands and individual products in their portfolio, away from for DTC sales. There, we use Shopify as the back end. And so there's just an opportunity to independently set up connections to warehousing and fulfillment, without having to work through that sort of existing eCommerce platform and a value added reseller who wasn't adding much value. And so for a lot of Enterprise eCommerce and marketing teams, I think they'll find that kind of freedom appealing.

Aaron Conant  34:07  

Yeah, there's another question that comes in here. But before we get to that, are there other like advantages for large organizations that they should be thinking about as a whole?

Jordan Brannon  34:18  

Yeah, I think that, you know, it kind of ties back to one of the other reasons that we highlighted going into headless you know, when when your existing software solutions and stack is limiting eCommerce growth, you know, on the back end, or on the presentation layer, customer experience side of things. I think that yeah, headless can be a great answer. You know, a lot of large organizations are living out technical debt in the worst possible way. You know, several years ago, someone in the organization made a commitment to an eCommerce platform that was really an afterthought or some other larger software commitment. You know, back then eCommerce platform wasn't particularly relevant and today it still really isn't relevant just because of the cost of have, you know kind of improving and the costs of rebuilding and the cost of redesigning, and so now no one in the organization really wants to move on, we see that a lot with Salesforce commerce cloud type platforms, people sign on for Salesforce or Oracle or some other software vendor and get an eCommerce Store negotiated instead agreement. And in 2016, that made sense, you know, you know, it wasn't a big priority for the organization, but six years later, it's still is around. And you know, you're a million dollars into that investment. And there's a lot of work that's still needed to make it competitive. And so, you know, you know, if you need to sort of get more nimble, get more forward thinking headless, can help solve for that. And we see, we even see sort of Salesforce, you know, kind of promoting headless, it, which I think is a little bit funny, because I think they're promoting it a bit from a position of weakness rather than strength, because a lot of the headless use cases we're seeing on Salesforce tend to be because of deficiencies in the platform more than anything else.

Aaron Conant  35:56  

So you're not in love with the Salesforce commerce solution?

Jordan Brannon  36:01  

That is what I'm saying. I'll put it plainly. And I think the main objection I have, especially coming from the Shopify background, the big commerce background, and even the Magento background is that it's really hard for me to swallow that the value proposition there, the cost of investment, the cost of evolution and maintenance. I just don't see where where it has a place in the eCommerce market today.

Aaron Conant  36:27  

Awesome. So Erickson's in here another question. Is there any insight as to managing simultaneously the mains head list? Is there any impact to the code update to the headless system? What does it require to manage the core system of headless?

Jordan Brannon  36:42  

Yeah, I mean, it can be a lot or can be very little harm. And in most of the cases where we see value, we emphasize being lean, with headless. And so typically, the cost is pretty nominal, you know, so again, sort of speaking to some of the use cases, we have a couple of domains that are specific to have the storefront, you know, you're talking of pretty nominal annual cost to, you know, essentially have a new domain, the hosting can be quite expensive, if you're, you know, again, working through some of the existing kind of headless, you know, software as a service type vendors. But it doesn't have to be, you know, so I think for the example of like cube spray, we are using some pretty small price, you know, shared hosting type solutions, or in some cases with our headless clients, we have a small dedicated environment, specifically for their headless storefronts. And so again, we're talking, you know, maybe hundreds of dollars, you know, additional costs attached to that. And then the actual integrations, a lot of times we are doing more directly rather than working through a third party software. And so that to really reduces the cost. And so, again, you can, you know, really be looking at high upside in terms of marketing outcomes. But because you're consolidating most of the responsibility back to your core eCommerce platform, in terms of cost, and you know, kind of what's been invested there, you really can reduce a lot of that extra cost that way.

Aaron Conant  38:05  

Awesome. And again, if you have questions, keep dropping them into the q&a, emailing them to me, or drop into the chat, we'll keep getting them answer. So we pick on limitations a little bit on the back end in front end just a little bit further, like, what are some bigger issues that you see may on the customer experience or presentation layer side of things?

Jordan Brannon  38:26  

Yeah, I mean, I think if you think about most eCommerce platforms are built to sell product. And that sort of seems kind of obvious, but it's also a limiting factor. A lot of our brands today, especially the ones that are seeing high growth in eCommerce are really not doing that because of unique eCommerce functionality. They're doing it because of content marketing, new experiences, new interactivity, you know, two examples, you know, of clients that we're working with, we have one that's based on Shopify, it's a blend Another one that's based on big commerce, and that's And, you know, both are leveraging headless as a way of addressing, you know, sort of selling experiences that are different than a typical, you know, buy a single product, you know, both use recipe type content for top of funnel traffic generation, you know, that's more the strength of a true content management solution like like WordPress, and so, you know, they wanted their content marketing teams have more freedom to be able to publish that and do that easily. And so had this help sort of address that experience for DTC selling spice ology, specifically as an example, he does use WordPress as a front end, which, you know, people sometimes don't think like, oh, I can use WordPress as my front end for my headless store. And that really makes it very extensible and has really improved the ability to have multiple teams that are working simultaneously on that spice ologies also using headless as part of that multi storefront strategy. So they are She use big commerce as their dedicated b2b environment. And so you go to their b2b site that is actually using big commerce directly. But then their D to C sites, the the back end pieces, big commerce, the front end pieces is WordPress. And it handles sort of that presentation layer in a blend jet, again, has that content need on Shopify, and found that headless would help address that. But they also wanted to launch an eCommerce marketplace. And that's really not a strength of Shopify. And so going to a headless solution allowed them to open up that marketplace connection and really allowed them to begin selling product efficiently from from other vendors and other manufacturers and things like that. So they could expand beyond just their own particular product line and so headless, helped them overcome both of those things.

Aaron Conant  40:46  

You know, so what are some of the other cases for headless? You know, some people want to know, beyond Content Management beyond, you know, marketing tools. What are some of the other use cases for it?

Jordan Brannon  41:02  

Yeah, multi storefront widely appealing, I've kind of gotten hammered on that one, I think, you know, you got to ask how they're included in the title thing, because it is so common spice. ology is an example they have a very differentiated customer experience for consumers and b2b customers, all through a single eCommerce platform really has reduced their operating costs to be able to do that, but also sell really effectively and efficiently and understand that they can, they're really optimizing for each customer journey. You're also again, not managing multiple integrations into warehouses and ERPs and accounting solutions. And so they can really operate off of a single stack and headless allows them to again, create sort of a single stack experience, even with multi storefront. You know, headless can solve other problems. One of our clients that we work with, I think, actually might be a part of the the BWG Connect Network is an apparel company, and they they're licensed, to sell different brands inside of the United States and Canada, those licenses cover a variety of things, and have this has allowed them to stand up front ends for brands that they're licensed to sell, but maybe aren't directly handling order processing and fulfillment for, they want to own the marketing, they want to own the customer experience, but they can't own the rest of it. And so headless has allowed them to do that really effectively. We have a client who's in the exact reverse scenario, they have international partners who are handling all of their customer service, all their order fulfillment, and all the localized marketing. But the brand doesn't want to have to be beholden to that one, you know, third party for decades to come in a important market to them, like China or the EU. And so they've set up a headless storefront, which they can turn over access to the back end and all those components to this, this third party, but ultimately, they own And they own the presentation layer. And so if they ever did need to switch, they'd be able to do that. And so, there is a lot of different situations where that can really work. Well. And maybe the last one I would touch on, we have a client who's selling hard goods, you know, so they're selling exercise equipment, they are selling content products through streaming, and they also have subscription products for education. And they really wanted to have a common front end experience across each of those things. And so that was able to be achieved through headless you know, so you have the the product sold through big commerce, you have the the LMS component, you have the streaming component all running through a headless build. And so I had this to help solve all of those problems.

Aaron Conant  43:31  

So going back to the organizational side, just another question that comes in, is there some insight in the best organizational structure around managing headless systems, best practices, organizational differences between legacy eCommerce organizational structure versus headless? Yeah,

Jordan Brannon  43:47  

I mean, to some extent headless can sort of open the door for the expansion of your organization taking those things on internally. So you know, spice, ology is an example where you were able to do the initial build as an agency, but the client is really not dependent on us in the WordPress environment to do much. And you know, it's essentially WordPress. And so they already had the competency internally to manage that. And so their need for outside support was was reduced as a result of headless rather than increased. And so, you know, I don't know that there's necessarily a real clear best practice yet. But I would say that, you know, if headless is implemented, well, it should reduce, it should simplify. So it should really help the organization have less moving parts, less people sort of necessary to achieve the same outcome. And it may again, help you simplify and internalize things in some way. So as an agency that can be you know, you know, a little bit of a counterproductive for us, but really, I mean, that's part of where we see the value for headless coming in when we see you know, organizations that want to have sort of that internal engineering team managing it or their internal content or marketing team managing it, but haven't been able to do that so far had that sometimes is able to stand that up.

Aaron Conant  44:59  

Awesome. Love it. So next question. Earlier on, Jordan talked about how headlice addresses some functional shortcomings for the presentation layer Most commonly, where do you see that being beneficial?

Jordan Brannon  45:10  

Yeah, high speed is one, you know, especially if you're on one of those bigger ERP platform builds, you know, a lot of times, there's just a lot of slowness that comes with those things. So if you need to be faster, you know, consider headless as a way of potentially doing that. You know, I think the content experience piece, again, is, is another and then I think maybe interactivity is probably another, those are sort of some of the three big, you know, kind of presentation layer upsides that are out there. For that, for that. And so I think, you know, you look at it, I had lost sight can be much faster than many content management solutions, and especially against many of the themes that are sort of built for mass consumption on a CMS. So again, anything about Shopify, someone had that question about online store 2.0, you can build a headless store to really outperform even the fastest Shopify theme, just because you're decoupling some of the technical debt that comes with Shopify framework. And so that there can be some speed advantages when you really are pursuing that as an approach. And I think also, you know, if you're looking at, you know, SEO is a big piece of what you're doing from an eCommerce strategy, you know, Corwin vitals, is a really big deal. And that can be hard to address when you're, you know, using a monolithic eCommerce approach. And so headless can be helpful in that marketing side of things, you know, touched on, you know, kind of that content experience, you know, if you're pushing video, that's sort of the leading edge of your eCommerce strategy, or maybe user generated content as the leading edge of your eCommerce strategy, how this can unlock more flexibility, you know, again, unique content types that are really specific to your industry, like recipes, or formulas, or specially engineered things, you know, great, headless example, on big commerce utilizes, you know, kind of a modular, build your own computer, build your own piece of furniture, headless can be really useful there. And then again, I think going back to the the meta verse, gaming experiences, AR VR 3d renderings, all of those can find more life and, you know, legs to run with on on a headless building on a traditional eCommerce build. And so I think, you know, you know, a lot of where I see the value coming in headless, you know, is for brands that find an effective way to tie it into that that Metaverse augmented reality, virtual reality sort of experience, if you're finding your industry has got some some investment there, and it seems to be working, you know, headless could be something to consider.

Aaron Conant  47:47  

Yeah, and just as when you're talking about that, I'm just thinking, it's like headless is for the, the organization that doesn't want to wait for I mean, there's the organizational internally, right, it's not only just waiting internally, for people to jump on board, right to get comfortable with how fast things are changing. But also the big monoliths out there, how you're, you're beholden to how fast they want to change, or you can go headless, and there's so many new tech companies popping up, there's so much money pouring into there, there's so many new, cool tools that you can use. But this is an opportunity to allow you to do it, you know, quicker, faster. People around you. And it's not I mean, so another question that comes in is around cost. Like, I mean, we talked about this a little bit with total cost of ownership, but comparatively, like, what does it look like? Yeah,

Jordan Brannon  48:40  

I mean, I think, you know, again, headless, potentially can be quite a bit cheaper. And it can also be more expensive. You know, if you're able to consolidate all of that, sort of the the eCommerce software stack costs into, you know, one solution, and then headless allows you to branch out off of that, but still always come back to that one software, that can actually be a really significant cost savings. You know, if you think about, you know, some of our Shopify merchants are spending more on apps and extensions and integrations than they are on the actual software or Shopify plan. And each time if they wanted to set up another storefront, and that has to be another, you know, Shopify environment with another set of payments, those costs can become, you know, pretty ridiculous pretty quickly. And so, you know, headless can really reduce that because everything feeds back into that single store. And so you're not necessarily working off of 10 duplicate charges for your different app deployments. It same thing with just plan. So eCommerce, software's are often charging, you know, per plan or per store deployment. And so by running a headless environment, you can kind of bypass that in some way. I think part of the reason that Shopify is doing some of their own headless, you know, type launches is for sort of recognizing I can't charge someone for 15 deployments. I need to find a way to get by I can understand. So I do think that there's some opportunities for headless to decrease costs overall. When when you think about a headless approach, I'd seen Tracy had asked a question, I think about ongoing costs that, you know, could be anticipated or calculated when you know, moving to headless from Shopify Plus, the big one would be if you do make that commitment to use a headless vendor. So a software as a service vendor, those costs can be really significant, and sometimes unnecessary. You know, in terms of kind of what you're looking to achieve, you know, and I think that's probably one thing to consider, when you when you're doing that, if you go that route, be thinking about integration costs that you know, back either into Shopify directly or into other third party software's depending on your build, those will be usually your big gotchas. And then maybe the last part of Tracy's question was, Do you need a developer on staff? You're going headless? I don't think the answer to that is yes, I think a lot of times we are trying to go without a developer, if necessary, or simplified in the situations where you might need a developer.

Aaron Conant  50:58  

Yeah. Awesome. And I see, you know, we're pretty much right here at time. But again, anybody who dialed in today, I would encourage you to have a follow up conversation, you know, just to walk through all the different possibilities that are out there. So you know, hey, we're on top of it, or we're not more than happy to make those connections. We actually, you know, we interviewed Jordan for a podcast, we launched a podcast this week, and we have a lot of digital industry experts that we bring on. So drop a link to the podcast, the first one, I think Jordan is going to, you know, appear on one that's probably a week or two from now. But I encourage you to listen into that. Just gather some great insights from my side and love to have a conversation with you as well pick your brain on, hey, what are the biggest pain points? What are the newest trends you're hearing? And those are how we get the topics for these events. And also, if anybody ever needs any help with partner selection across the board, don't ever hesitate. I spend most of my time helping brands out with that digital strategy and partner selection during the team of coalition our tops there. And so with that, I think we're gonna wrap all of this up. I hope everybody has a fantastic Tuesday. Have a great rest of the week. Everybody, take care, stay safe and look forward to having you at a future event. Thanks again. Jordan. You're awesome. Thanks for Friday. Take care, everybody.

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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.
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