The change in the way customers now buy The emerging advancements in technology have changed the way people conduct business over the years. The industrialization process that started in 1930s changed the way people live and do business. The next major change came with the Communication revolution with the advent
We have all seen the fast and powerful changes in the way the business is done. The driving force behind these changes in the business process is the advancement in IT technologies.
As with other areas, there has been a significant shift in the eCommerce. The influx of new technologies and ever growing social media has significantly changed the way the online business is conducted. One of the major changes is in Content Management System often referred to as CMS on the eCommerce Platforms.
A typical eCommerce solution is made up of two components, the back end which include database and the code base which enable the program to operate in certain way. The other component is the front-end CMS which defines how the webstore will be presented to the visitors. Historically, there has been a continuous struggle to mesh the two together successfully to deliver an exceptional experience to the visitors/customers.
In the initial timeframe, the layout and product catalogs were created with hand written HTML codes with nested tables to achieve the best possible layout for the eCommerce webstore. This was a very cumbersome and resource intensive exercise both in terms of cost and the time. However, considering the technology and the requirement of that time, this was doing the job.
As the demand increases and the new technologies were introduced, there was no time to manage those complex and cumbersome codes which require building of web pages manually which was a nightmare if the eCommerce site has thousands of items and large sales volumes, the development community realized the need and started developing a solution that can automate most of the process and provide more enthusiastic approach to transform eCommerce sites to more robust and automated sites.
Content Management Systems or CMS were introduced that has helped significantly to handle big data easily for the eCommerce sites. As of now, CMS are widely used to augment customer and user experience. Depending on what solution one uses for the eCommerce solution, they have choice of only a handful of these or a selection of thousands of themes or CMS offered by solutions like X2X eCommerce for Dynamics GP.
The next level of advancement came in when visitors started using Smart Phones and Tablets to visit website and eCommerce sites. This results in development of Responsive Design themes. Responsive theme is theme which are intelligent enough to identify the device being used to access the website and adjust itself per the device being used. Responsive themes are a set of multiple themes, one for each device with the capability of presenting the design suited for the device being used.
The continuous evolution of eCommerce platforms to meet the expectation of today’s shopper who do not only expect but a flawless experience. The customer is more attracted to content rich experience on the reliable and fast platforms. Customers want a visually stimulating and well-engineered solutions. To beat and often to excel from the competition, companies are always looking for the ways to stay one step ahead of the competition. The need for a well laid down, customer friendly, attracted and integrated eCommerce webstore become more and more urgent with time.
Elegance though Headless eCommerce
Headless or Bolted eCommerce provide an elegant solution for eCommerce sites. Bolted eCommerce solutions represent a solution that is efficient, has fast speed and agility and can adapt without spending excessive costs. This is in a way, a new CMS system that integrated a seamlessly with the back-end eCommerce database and processes, making both the front and back end work together in perfect harmony.
What is Headless eCommerce?
To put it in easy and understandable terms, Headless eCommerce is decoupling the front-end CMS of the eCommerce solution from the backend database and code base. Instead of using the front-end CMS, the front end is developed independently using the website development tools and programs like Word Press, Drupel etc. The back end of the eCommerce solution is then coupled with the independently developed website providing a unique experience to the customer.
Difference between Traditional and Headless eCommerce
Traditional eCommerce solutions have both the front-end CMS and back end database and program. The program allows the site visitors to view the company’s offering developed on a Content Management System or CMS provided by the theme being used. The Administrative panel allows the administrative user to either manually enter the current information on products, prices, images, quantities etc. or update it from the ERP solutions being used by the company like X2X eCommerce solution for Dynamics GP, ERP.
The Content Management System (CMS) which is the front end of the Traditional eCommerce solution defines how the products will be presented to the visitors. The selection of theme largely depends on the eCommerce solution they are using. Most of the ERP based eCommerce solution only allow a handful of themes whereas solutions like X2X eCommerce for Dynamics GP being developed on a robust platform allows choice of thousands of themes. Irrespective of whichever theme you are using and how much relevant it is to your business; the fact remains that you must follow a certain protocol on how you can present your product to your online customers when using these themes.
Irrespective of how much choices of templates do you get, there is always some restrictions that you need to follow using those themes. Some companies need to put very long description of the products. They may also be requiring to put some mandatory information like in case of pharmaceuticals, technical specs or how to use, product features and a lot more which may not necessarily fit in the standard options provided by the theme they are using.
Headless eCommerce eliminates the need for the front end CMS.it decouples the CMS from the back end and allow using the back end to couple with a website designed and developed using web designing software like WordPress or Drupal.
You can design the web pages as you want with full flexibility, design the page as you want, put whatever information that you want to provide for the products or the product groups and then seamlessly attach the backend of the eCommerce solution to the website. This gives you unlimited flexibility of how you want to present your products and services to your customers.
Below are a some of the comparative advantages of using a Headless eCommerce over Traditional eCommerce solutions
- Easy of Front end CMS Development
Since the eCommerce theme are designed to work in a certain way, the web designers must follow the protocol when designing the eCommerce front end. Responsive themes are very sensitive. Changing the basic structure of a responsive theme will have an impact on the way the website or the webstore is displayed to the customer on nontraditional devices like smartphones or Tablets. Since Responsive themes are a collection of sub themes, it is often cheaper to redevelop a custom Responsive theme right from scratch rather than modifying a Responsive theme.
The front-end CMS and the back end of traditional website are coupled together making it extremely difficult to change one without significantly affecting the other. Coupling the front and back end of the eCommerce stores place limitation on the designer’s ability to edit data or the code beyond a certain level allowed by the creator of the solution or the theme. On the other hand, Bolted or Headless websites allows the developers a free hand to setup their stores the way they want.
- Customization and personalization
Traditional eCommerce solutions are offered with predefined user experience both for the administrator as well as for the website visitors. Headless eCommerce on the other hand provide full flexibility in setting up the web stores which is not possible with traditional solutions
- Low Maintenance
Because Traditional web solutions CMS are bolted with the rest of the codebase, Traditional eCommerce Solutions front end CMS require lot more maintenance compared to Headless Solutions which relieve you from worrying about security updates and other maintenance tasks.
- Cleaner code.
Since the traditional front end CMS solutions are coupled with the database, highly interdependent, and cannot be separated. On the other hand, Decoupled solutions can be cleanly separated from database making it a much cleaner solution.
- Technology agnostic.
Unlike Traditional Ecommerce Solution, Headless eCommerce solutions allow selection of the front-end CMS solution (like WordPress, Drupal or custom) instead of being locked with a specific technology
Example of Headless eCommerce
Just to demonstrate how Headless eCommerce look like, we would like to give example of Quicken which was developed by one of our partner organizations.
The site has been developed on Drupal and as expected does not give look and feel of an eCommerce site because it is much more than an eCommerce site. This site has Product, Support, Tool and Tips and Other Information pages that provide relevant information to the visitor.
On the Product page, the visitor can read about the various products version and comparisons. However, the thing that is different on this site than any other regular website is the customer’s ability to make a purchase from a regular website. An eCommerce solution has been coupled at the back-end with this site. When the customer click on ‘Add to Cart’ button, the eCommerce solution take the order using the regular website page instead or bring in the typical eCommerce shopping cart page.
Headless eCommerce for Dynamics GP
x2x-eCommerce for Dynamics GP offers Headless eCommerce solution. The front-end CMS can either be Word Press or Drupal and the back end will integrate fully with Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Since Headless or Bolted eCommerce are usually required by large size organizations, Drupal is usually preferred front end CMS due to its stability and the fact that it is more secured and less prone to hacking than the other Content Management Systems.
To find more information about the X2X eCommerce for Dynamics GP please visit www.x2x-ecommerce.com
Anyone who is responsible for the management of an eCommerce site understands the challenges that inherently go along with it. There are many options available in the management of your storefront, each of them beneficial in their own way. Before deciding on a solution for your site, educating yourself in the various aspects of what each of the options offer, and understanding what your site’s specific needs are is the first step in creating a user-friendly, engaging experience for your customers.
When selecting an eCommerce solution, organizations face two choices.
- Either go for an in-market solution that is well known, have a big client base, is top of the line and is one of the best in the market.
- Go for an eCommerce solution which may not necessarily be top of the line, have very small number of customers but can give enough functionality to go online and seamlessly integrate with the ERP so that the whole business can be automated through ERP.
In both the cases there is a tradeoff. In the first situation, you have an eCommerce solution that may be very powerful and have lots of features but this store must be managed manually. This means you need to have one or more full time people to manage your webstore. You may be able to get some connector from the market which will ease out some of the work. However, those connectors have their own limitations. They do not have a front end to allow you to manage them yourself and they can do only one to one integration. In other words, you can only map the information that exists in both ERP and eCommerce solutions
In the second situation, the store can be managed from ERP. However, the eCommerce site is not able to compete with the competitors who are using the in-market solution and its features easily beating the company using the ERP based eCommerce system. Whenever there a new development in the industry like a new social media site become popular or a new payment gateway or shipping company start offering reduced rates, you cannot avail those options due to the limitation of the eCommerce that you use.
So the limitation of ERP based eCommerce solution is their inability to keep up with the development in the industry and the limitation of the connectors is there inability to integrate anything other than common items in both the system, so is there a third option.
X2X realized the shortcoming of both the option and looked at mitigating those shortcomings and eventually, came up with a third option. X2X is an add on module written in Dexterity which is installed with Dynamics GP. This module enhances the functionality of ERP by adding eCommerce related features to Dynamics GP like additional item information, SEO information, product catalog, images etc. It also adds more feature to eCommerce program to make it compatible with Dynamics GP ERP.