HOW TRAVEL RETAIL BENEFITS FROM HEADLESS COMMERCE

By Radu Iliescu | 16 April 2021


As an e-commerce manager, one of your many goals is hitting conversion targets with a next-level customer experience.
Popular eCommerce platforms for retail goods have traditionally offered out of the box UIs which enable retailers to undertake a level of cosmetic customisations or theming but is fundamentally constrained in shaping the overall shopping experience. Complicating matters further, to thrive in the IoT era, you need to embrace selling your branded content on new touch points and inside different apps. The way forward for e-commerce is headless. 

To put it simply, headless commerce refers to platform architecture where the front-end customer experience is decoupled from back-end commerce components (e.g. shopping cart, promotions). Instead, commerce functionality is exposed through individual APIs that enable developers to build UIs for multiple touch points and channels. 

Headless eCommerce is rising in popularity. You may have already been thinking of implementing solutions such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Hybris, Shopify Plus and BigCommerce. These are all powerful, agile and scalable platforms which, when used in a headless approach, enable you to completely customise your shopping experience. 

Benefits with headless commerce 

So why is headless so popular? 

  1. Revenue-generating opportunities – For retailers with multiple touch points, outlets or marketplace partners, coupled architecture implies refactoring or otherwise compromising on experience. In headless, digital products are abstracted: pieces such as business logic and session management remain back-end, whilst the front-end paints and renders products dynamically. Thus as an ancillary or digital retail manager, you can have greater control over your non-airline products, as well as extend and manage the context in which these branded products are displayed and sold.
  2. Unified experiences – In headless, one or multiple backend solutions are orchestrated through one or multiple APIs. This simplification means that rather than maintaining separate touch points, you build, manage and deliver a unified shopping experience. 
  3. Technical agility – The most obvious and direct benefit of headless commerce is the agility and flexibility afforded in a more open architecture. Changes and experience enhancements can be rolled out across the front-end without impacting the back-end, and vice versa. What this means for digital retailing teams is that the commerce solution can more easily adapt to incorporate new and emergent tech or other experience enhancements. 
  4. Agile go-to-market With headless, not only is the development speed-to-market accelerated by using, but the way you approach solution delivery can shift to become more agile. Headless fits naturally with the prioritisation decisions necessary in product development, as the inherent flexibility of the approach affords a more gradual product ramp up instead of targeting a massive release. For example, by adopting a headless strategy, a Branchspace client was able to build a scalable and extensible digital commerce platform to carry them through their rapid MVP phase to launch, and beyond. 

In short, the headless approach enables brands of any size or maturity to design next-gen retail and future-proof their commerce platforms. 

Opportunities in travel 

In the travel industry, airlines in particular have a unique opportunity to build high-value goods stores for their customers, enabled through headless. A traveller heading to Tenerife for the weekend may end up buying sunscreen and sunglasses in duty-free shops. Which begs the question––why shouldn’t these items be purchasable from an airline website?  

For many airlines, pre-flight is still an area of untapped potential revenue. For the past few years, digital teams have turned greater attention to their experience and embraced the concept of becoming a retailer of the travel experience. With headless commerce, airlines can sell products from their retail goods stores to their passengers, no matter where they are. So the passenger taking a taxi to the airport can make the most of their time stuck in traffic and buy the swimming briefs and beach towel they forgot to pack, all from their trusted airline.  

 

A headless-first solution 

At Branchspace, we’re no strangers to headless commerce. From our work with airlines and travel retailers, we’ve seen firsthand the challenges digital teams encounter when trying to implement new technologies and optimise their storefronts. One of their main challenges rests around building out a unique portfolio of mixed products and adding new touch points, while maintaining and delivering a unified customer experience. To do just that, we helped one of our clients implement a headless e-commerce platform by leveraging BigCommerce and dotCMS to build a new redemption shopping experience for their loyalty users. 

In another recent project, our client wanted to implement a forward-thinking digital ecosystem and expand their retail touch points. To do so, they needed a headless approach leveraging a flexible e-commerce platform like Triplake, our in-house digital commerce platform. By embracing headless, our client has enabled an agile and scalable framework that grows with their digital needs and takes travel retail to the next level.