Headless Architecture = Greater eCommerce Platform Flexibility

Chris Champlin

We don’t know what the future looks like. But what we do know is that today’s solutions will not meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Customers are already demanding more flexibility from their commerce solutions and a faster-time to market than what is typically provided in OOTB framework accelerators. As IoT devices become more prevalent, businesses will need to adapt their solutions to support them. This can be a difficult proposition without the right architecture and supporting technologies.

Moreover, the idea of delivering seamless customer experiences continues to generate buzz. This puts the microscope on 100% headless platforms that combine robust commerce and Content Management Systems (CMS) functionalities.

I’ll save a deep dive on Headless CMS/Commerce for a future blog, but as a quick and dirty explanation, a Headless Architecture decouples the front-end presentation layer from the backend platform/data layer, and allows front-end developers to create UIs in whatever framework they choose (think Bootstrap / Angular / React, etc.).

In essence, this targets layouts for specific devices and the optimal UX. The custom UI layer calls an API layer (typically REST) when it needs content, data and standard eCom functionality (articles, product data/pricing, cart/checkout, etc.). Technical nuances aside, the value proposition for the new approach is all about benefits to the business and its customers.
So who’s excelling in headless architecture? Well, let me tell you about BloomReach, brXM and commercetools.

What is BloomReach? And how does a Hippo come into play?

BloomReach is a leading digital experience and personalization platform for commerce. And, in late 2016 BloomReach acquired Hippo, an open source Java-based CMS. This extended their capabilities and created the first ever Open and Intelligent Digital Experience Platform.

Go forward, the merging of these two platforms will be referred to as BloomReach Experience Manager, or brXM for short. brExperienceManager can augment monolithic ecommerce platforms for clients that need more robust content management system capabilities.

Taking a look at commercetools

commercetools lands at the intersection of commerce + cloud + microservices. It is based on the use of APIs providing contracts, which ultimately separates the service consumer from the service producer. In doing this, commercetools provides the ability to expose functionality to the external world – things like System Integrators, Creative Agency, and other value-added functionalities.

commercetools provides 300+ individual consumable commerce APIs. Being individual, it allows an organization the ability to select a given set to start with, which can be consumed without having to purchase the whole package at once.

Experimenting with commercetools and brXM

I wanted to experiment, and see how commercetools could be used with brExperienceManager. My objective was to make use of the brXM gogreeen demo webstore and explore the APIs offered by commercetools .

I took a look at what it would take to pull in prices for products dynamically. Because of the completeness of the API provided, it was simply a few lines to create the query, and then to call the service to pull back the results and display them on the website.

As part of my next experiments, I plan to explore:

  • Pulling in complete product detail
  • Adding products to the cart
  • Placing an order
  • Adding extension to simulate order replication to an external system like an ERP

I will report findings in my next blog post.

Why use technologies like BloomReach and commercetools?

How organizations buy technology is changing. We’re seeing businesses purchase software in small packages, for example purchasing database as a service, load balancers, etc. This allows a business to pay for what they use, as opposed to purchasing monolithic applications that cannot be fully utilized.

Interested in learning more about headless architecture and the new way organizations are buying to support commerce needs? Stay tuned for more insights from Chris Champlin with Zaelab.

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