Ecommerce is ultimately about one thing: sales. However, the approach to converting sales requires several different strategies, including customer engagement and emotional connection.  If the past year has taught us much about ecommerce – and it has – it’s that many online retail experiences are barely functional, let alone engaging. Some people say they couldn’t wait for physical stores to reopen following poor experiences online. These are clearly missed opportunities, but indicative of the backseat that ecommerce played in retail mixes prior to 2020.

The key to engaging consumers for any purpose is establishing an emotional connection with them.

Mobile and direct-to-consumer channels are now favoured over traditional eCommerce websites. Young shoppers, in particular, want slick, highly personalised and exciting online shopping experiences.

New channels like social commerce (social media shopping) and live commerce (ecommerce conducted on the side or after a livestream) promise to further fragment the number of front-ends that retailers are expected to support and sell through. L’Oreal is among backers of social selling, while US retailer Bloomingdale’s has run over 50 live commerce streams in the past year, claiming success in sales and intelligence-gathering.

It’s only a matter of time before progressive Australian retailers make similar leaps of faith.

A technology primer

What will enable local retailers to do so is headless commerce, an architectural concept that allows retailers to plug eCommerce into just about any interface they have with customers, combined with a modern content delivery network (CDN).

Headless commerce is the decoupling of the backend and frontend of an ecommerce platform. The backend can then be plugged into any frontend of the retailer’s choosing, meaning they are no longer constrained to offering online shopping through only a traditional website such was recently the case with companies such as Bang and Olufsen, Young Tribe and Rebel.

CDNs, meanwhile, are the essential piece of web architecture that get content quickly to people, no matter where they are trying to consume it from. The importance of the CDN is elevated in eCommerce, where it is the ‘missing link’ to delivering that engaging experience consumers demand.

The combination is still spoken about in limited terms in Australia, perhaps owing to the small number of early adopters, which include Kmart and mattress retailer Koala. However, given its potential to allow retailers to plug eCommerce into virtually any channel where they talk to customers, it will only take the success of one for many others to follow.

Powering up personalisation

Aside from enabling retailers to transact just about anywhere their target audiences gather, the headless commerce-modern CDN pairing is also a personalisation enabler.

Most companies recognise the value of offering tailored experiences to increase conversion and average order value, but there can be a significant technical challenge in headless architecture. With a legacy CDN, you’re unable to send visitor data between the ‘heads’ – the front-facing channel – and the back end in real time, leaving you unable to truly personalise shopper experiences.

A modern CDN uses client insights to rapidly adjust the content served to visitors based on their location, device type, and language. Retailers can deliver different experiences by visitor type, which is useful if you want repeat customers to have a different experience than first-time visitors to further increase conversion.

Modern CDNs can also increase the performance and resiliency of headless commerce applications and provide visibility into how visitors engage with sites and apps, allowing trends to be identified and experience issues to be quickly resolved.

Ultimately, today’s customers are empowered to own the buying process and they won’t remain loyal simply because they’ve done business with an organisation before. Every supplier, vendor and services organisation must continually meet or exceed the changing expectations of their customers, or risk losing sales – and even their reputation. The customer, not your company, now drives your brand experience and a modern CDN will be your rocket fuel to power a seamless customer engagement at every opportunity.

Sianne Chen is marketing manager for Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia at Fastly.