Headless ecommerce Architecture for B2BTechnology
Headless and microservice-based solutions are great for complex industries that have multiple target audiences and non-standard sales channels or product definitions. The headless approach minimises dependencies between systems, since the solutions are loosely decoupled. This makes it possible quickly to iterate and improve the user experience, without lengthy development or release cycles.
Currently, SAP dominates heavy industry IT implementation. They have a well-established customer base. However, monolithic platforms that offer an all-in-one solution might not be the best fit for everyone. Many companies are realizing that there are more agile ways to build online portals and B2B commerce solutions.
Many modern B2B commerce solutions are not headless by nature and are a good match for B2B needs. However, when B2B business is complex, with multiple channels, many target groups, and many outdated legacy IT systems, then a modern headless approach can work miracles.
B2B Commerce is gradually moving toward 24/7 service
B2B business logic is complex. This means that beginning a customer portal or ecommerce project requires making a gradual move toward 24/7 customer service. Think of your ecommerce or portal development as a journey of creating industry-leading experiences.
An easy way to begin a portal project is to share information that creates value for customers, such as order documentation, order history and status. Once your organisational capabilities have grown to handle digital services, the second step is to move toward transactional commerce. The third and fourth steps in commerce and portal maturity are predictive analytics and the creation of new business models. If you have selected headless and microservices-based IT architecture, it provides the means to expand commerce functionalities over time, as the organisation matures.
Step 1: Show information
Step 2: Transactional commerce
Step 3: Predictive analytics
Step 4: New business models
B2B Businesses have multiple target groups and business needs
Even within a single enterprise, global companies have multiple target audiences and business needs in various divisions. Therefore, it is rare that a single storefront and user interface can match every audience. It is possible for different divisions to need different functionalities, utilise different channels and build their own experiences, in line with the expectations of their target groups. The headless approach makes it easy to create unique experiences, based on the needs of a particular country or segment.
Outdated legacy systems add complexity to commerce projects:
Manufacturing and heavy industry are full of outdated IT systems. This makes it challenging to retrieve information in real time—and frequently, to retrieve information at all! The ability to integrate and upgrade one part of a solution, without affecting the rest of the solution, is important. For example, you might want to work on a pricing module, independent of order-tracking. Decoupling solutions generally requires microservice, or an API-based, headless-solution approach.
Another approach is monolithic, a more traditional way to look at ecommerce. For many B2B companies, monolithic, all-in-one platforms offer a good way to begin in ecommerce. When standard products or spare parts are sold and integrations are not complex, standardized monolithic architecture is a quick and easy way to implement portals and commerce solutions. Monolithic platforms offer all functionality from a single platform. This way, organisations don’t need to acquire or manage multiple applications separately. Headless architecture tries to find optimised applications and solutions for specific purposes.
The Petra B2B Portal Accelerator – for an easy start
Some B2B companies are struggling to start up their transactional ecommerce. It might be that the business logic doesn’t match the transactional commerce. At the same time, there is pressure for IT to launch 24/7 services for customers, without lengthy development processes.
That’s why Petra developed a B2B Customer Portal Accelerator that connects to customers back-end systems through microservice-based architecture. It uses GraphQL programming language. This provides the flexibility to connect and work on individual applications and features, such as the ability to retrieve product certificates, order and transportation status, invoicing documents to show to the customer and the ability to connect to CRM, etc. GraphQL makes it possible to retrieve minute bits of information, for example, information related to orders from back-end systems. The Petra Portal Accelerator provides a gradual approach to launching and expanding 24/7 customer services.
The retrieved data is normalised in the Portal Accelerator layer, which means it can be shown to customers without the need to connect to website content management systems. It is possible to have either traditional CMS or a headless solution in place. This creates additional flexibility for marketing and IT organisations.
The best way to get started, or to improve existing services, is to map features that customers really need and get a solid understanding of which functionalities make the highest impact. Understanding the long-term vision behind what you want to achieve, in terms of customer experience and digital services, is key.
Next, create understanding of the type of commerce solution that would carry you to the next level of digital maturity. Let's discuss the commerce possibilities - so you can create your digital vision.