Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What does personalisation & testing do for headless commerce?

By Harry Hanson-Smith, Regional Vice President, Dynamic Yield

“Headless” is not just a buzzword – it could well be the future of all commerce.  As digital markets become more saturated, it’s vital that brands keep their touchpoints relevant and engaging. Headless gives them the flexibility and responsiveness they need to do this.

But simplifying interface management shouldn’t be at the expense of losing the hyper-targeted sales experiences modern consumers increasingly expect. So, how do brands get ahead in headless? The secret lies in combining it with personalisation and testing to ensure every interaction is optimised for success.

Why decoupling is the new way forward

Headless involves decoupling frequently changing user interfaces from heavy-lifting back-end processes and transaction engines. APIs are then used to virtually connect the two layers. This lets marketers tailor digital channels, touchpoints, and microservices without having to change core processes that could otherwise disrupt or slow them down. With headless, they are free to innovate and differentiate customer interactions without worrying about the knock-on effects on the rest of the tech stack.

So, where do personalisation and testing fit in?

Consumers increasingly expect a personalised experience and are prepared to switch brands to get it. To differentiate, engage, and lock in customers, every experience must be relevant, tested, and augmented. Being able to integrate experimentation tools and quickly test alternate experiences across channels and touchpoints can have a major impact on conversion and acquisition.  

And there are more commerce tools available than ever, creating new options that can be used to tailor journeys for specific user segments. For example, offering the most loyal customers alternative payment options or free delivery and returns. Or discounts and access to different payment terms for specific segments like students, seniors, or healthcare workers.

How do you manage all these complex processes?

It’s important to be able to understand customer interactions with the brand and personalise them in real time. But commerce can be highly complex with multiple touchpoints and channels, e.g. web browsers, mobile apps, and kiosks.  

Yet managing all this within headless is easier than most digital marketers think. Both headless commerce and personalisation platforms utilise APIs to push, pull, and process data. This makes it straightforward to run A/B tests and include personalisation across the layers between API endpoints.

Mapping out a personalisation and testing path 

Here, there are different approaches that can be taken. However, the following diagram shows a basic personalisation and testing path (e.g. for a regional-specific homepage banner) within a headless commerce application.  

How easy is it to test in headless commerce?

Testing often involves tech team members. For example, to test search providers, someone needs to understand the search interface and write the code to direct a portion of users to one search provider and another batch of users to another. But not all tests need to be run using APIs; APIs can also be combined with client-side testing.   

With a headless commerce platform, you can build more interesting API-based use cases and still take advantage of a client-side integration’s ease of use to enable the marketing and business teams to iterate more quickly without heavy reliance on tech teams. 

There’s a lot of headless talk but where’s the action?

Many marketers are struggling to turn the headless hype into reality. Due to a lack of developers, knowledgeable practitioners, and resources, there’s still a capability gap holding them back. There’s also a lot of education that must happen to establish new operational and best practice models – both within brands and their tech partners.

This is why organisations such as the MACH Alliance are so important. This not-for-profit group of independent tech companies – including Dynamic Yield – is dedicated to advocating for open, best-of-breed technology ecosystems, striving to help more digital marketing brands to deliver headless experiences in the coming years.

Get ready for greater competitive advantage 

Although a conceptually simple architectural change, the flexibility of developing on top of a headless commerce platform translates into big advantages for commerce brands. It delivers accelerated and easier experimentation, new features, and integrations. Enrich this with personalisation and the ability to test and optimise – for engagement, conversion, acquisition and loyalty – and you have a powerful recipe for success. 

As long as businesses are set up to implement these changes – and have the right partners with the right tools and expertise – adopting a headless approach can be a true competitive differentiator.