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Product

Feb 23, 2022

10 min to read

PIM as a Keystone for Headless Commerce

Migrating to a new composable or headless commerce platform might seem daunting. It doesn't need to be, thanks to PIM.

They say that hindsight is a great teacher. And if we look back at the last couple of years, we have learned how important it was for brands and retailers to have been ready for the huge pivot they were forced to make virtually overnight (as many of us were in our own ways). Those businesses are still dealing with everything from supply chain issues to getting onto new channels where their customers are now buying. For some, their legacy ecommerce platforms just weren’t ready to keep up with the sudden change in needs and expectations that we shoppers had – whether that was fulfilling demands for sanitizing wipes, or expecting the same high-quality service we got in-store to be available to us digitally. As a result, we at Akeneo have seen a lot of interest in the market to move to new commerce technology architectures that bring that agility and flexibility to those brands and retailers, enabling them to be ready for the growth challenges of today and tomorrow. Let’s take a look at why this matters…

A composable commerce architecture, including headless commerce, is one such modern path that promises to bring that agility and flexibility to commerce businesses. These solutions take a modular, best-of-breed approach to commerce technology. By decoupling and then orchestrating front-facing capabilities and experiences from back-office business applications and integrations, brands and retailers can implement new features across all their owned and unowned channels within a matter of weeks, not several months, while supporting new shopping experiences, all without having to upgrade the entire back-end infrastructure (hence being headless). Composable commerce promises to bring greater control back to those businesses for the experiences they provide, compared to the ones the legacy ecommerce platforms used to drive while supporting the ever-evolving needs that we fickle shoppers have, irrespective of where and how we wish to discover, browse and buy the products that we need (or convince ourselves that we need!)

Is Composable Commerce Only for the Most Mature Businesses?

Composable and headless commerce sounds really promising, right? We agree. But these new approaches can be somewhat mystifying to many in both business and IT roles. So much so that Forrester found that 84% of firms are at a beginner or intermediate level of digital maturity. Yet many modern composable commerce solutions are only suitable for the most digitally advanced clients. As Forrester’s Joe Cicman said, “Thinking about your new platform merely as a container to lift and shift legacy customizations is a recipe for trouble.” We have heard from our customers and partners that thinking this way can end up significantly delaying these strategically important transformation initiatives. And that puts businesses at the risk of missing growth targets as a result of a delayed or failed ecommerce replatform project. Relying solely on a new commerce platform isn’t enough to transform a business and be ready for the next pivot, especially if your organization isn’t mature enough or doesn’t have the required resources to make the switch in-time and on-budget. There are so many other factors and technologies that need to be taken into account, from the types of data needed, to the people and processes involved, to the related technologies that need to be integrated into this new composable commerce architecture. So what should be tackled first to smooth the migration to this exciting, future-proof composable commerce architecture?

A PIM Is The First Step To Take

The recommended first step to take before or when starting to replatform to a composable commerce architecture is to get the underlying product data and content in order and ready for migration. And that’s where a PIM solution comes into play. Why is that?

Firstly, everything that constitutes product information is a critical foundation to how you deliver product experiences, irrespective of the architecture used or the channel it appears on. The first touchpoint we typically have with a brand or retailer is through the product experience we have with them, and getting the product information right will determine success, no matter how we deliver that experience today or 10 years from now. When we do start shopping for hard-to-find console game controllers from our in-car display screens, businesses won’t be recreating information about their products just for that channel.

Secondly, a headless, composable commerce architecture by its nature is made up of individual, best-of-breed applications, each handling a specific aspect of the overall shopping experience (recommendations, merchandising, shopping cart, payment, and so on). Product data and content flows through and is processed by many of those applications, all of which are orchestrated via standardized APIs. Therefore, the product information needs to be well-structured, consistent, complete, accurate (and of course, compelling) to be handled reliably across those applications and correctly according to the channel or experience on the front-end.

If you’re thinking “well it sounds like a PIM is a necessary part of this composable commerce architecture” you would be right!

A PIM Can Help Minimize Risk When Replatforming

What should you be looking for in a PIM solution to de-risk your ecommerce replatforming project and be ready for whatever challenges the future throws at us? There are a few things to include in your checklist:

  1. Be a cloud-native SaaS application that is reliable, secure, and highly scalable (especially when it comes to API calls – more on that in a moment). This is a key tenet of a composable commerce architecture: PIM applications that are merely on-premise software hosted with a cloud infrastructure provider may not provide that scale and reliability you need.
  2. Be API-first, with services that are available in a number of different ways and can scale as needed. Composable commerce architectures are built around APIs, and so this is a must-have for each application that is part of the architecture. A PIM solution that is integrated with a composable commerce platform needs to be able to handle massive amounts of API calls and as many SKUs as you have in your current and future catalog. We’re talking about confidently handling tens of thousands of API calls per hour and millions of SKUs.
  3. Have integrations with both your current and future ecommerce platforms, whether they are developed by the PIM vendor or by a trusted & validated 3rd-party solutions provider. The PIM vendor should also have strong, validated partnerships with the leading composable and headless commerce platforms, such as Adobe, Salesforce, BigCommerce, and commercetools. This will ease the transition from one platform or architecture to another, without compromising on the product experiences your shoppers expect over that time. “We have some new technology we’re moving to” is not a forgivable excuse for your customers at any time.
  4. Empower your team to get up-to-speed quickly and start being productive when it comes to enriching product information. If you’re going to build a foundation to your commerce replatforming project that won’t delay your transformation initiatives, then you must have the process of working with product information be seamless for you and your team, have a PIM that is validated by your peers and industry experts as easy-to-use, and not take months to get started and not take months having to go back and clean up erroneous information after the fact.
  5. Be ready for all the new channels that your composable commerce platform will be able to support. As you look to grow your business on new and future channels (such as 3rd-party marketplaces, social media shopping, or even those in-car displays we mentioned earlier) you don’t want to be wasting time recreating product information and content just for those new channels that have their own specific requirements. Some ecommerce platforms have a built-in tool for managing products in your catalog. But they are typically limited in scope and intended for managing the catalog sold on your owned ecommerce site. That won’t suffice as you expand to other owned and unowned channels. A modern PIM supports true omnichannel shopping, providing capabilities to let you enrich information and product across all channels (and locales) efficiently, without having to recreate attributes and content for each one, both today and in the future.

How Can Akeneo Help?

So how can Akeneo help you check these things off this list of success criteria you now have, we hear you ask…

  • Learn how Rural King was able to get more of their products available to buy online faster than ever before and exceed new business goals when using Akeneo PIM while migrating their Adobe Commerce (Magento) platform version.
  • You can also start by checking out the freely-available documentation and guides we have for our REST and Events APIs.
  • Or check out the Akeneo Connectors and other extensions on Akeneo Marketplace. If you’re considering or are moving to Salesforce Commerce Cloud, you can also read up on how Akeneo is Salesforce Headless Commerce Certified.
  • If you’d like to experience for yourself what others are saying about Akeneo’s ease-of-use and powerful flexibility, then feel free to sign up for our Free Trial too.
  • And we’re always happy to have a conversation with you about your own ecommerce replatforming projects and explore your best options.

Demystifying how composable commerce architectures and headless commerce platforms can help your business transform while being ready for the next pivot we will inevitably have to make can seem daunting. But by taking some first steps to build a foundation for your ecommerce replatforming with a scalable, well-integrated, and fast-to-implement solution like Akeneo PIM can ensure the product experiences never miss a beat and get your business going in the right direction. By doing so, we have faith you will be one step ahead of, and not relying on hindsight, in building the next great product experiences!

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