4 Keys to a Successful Headless Commerce & Content Integration

Macaroni and cheese, Batman and Robin, content and commerce – great pairings, working together, can be amazing.

When an eCommerce storefront is at its best – there is a combination of content and commerce, delivered together, in a way that provides the right shopping experience for the customer.

Using content to inform, educate and tell a brand’s story alongside a shopping experience with an easy-to-use product search, shopping cart, and customer portal vastly improves the customer experience and keeps them coming back time and again.

So, if almost all eCommerce projects require a mix of content and eCommerce integration, why is it often difficult to connect these two services together? Getting the best out of both platforms and delivering a perfect commerce experience shouldn’t be so hard, right? From problems caused by platforms that don’t integrate well or try to be “all-in-one”, to limited APIs, lack of crucial capabilities, or expensive development costs, finding two platforms that both meet your business needs and are willing to play nice is challenging.

From the executive team looking to drive results, the marketing team executing a plan and strategy and the rest of the team invested in managing a storefront – an entire organization is focused on the outcomes from digital commerce powered by an eCommerce platform and enabled by content and customer experience.

What Exactly Does Integration Involve?

Before detailing the keys to creating a successful content and commerce integration, let’s first define what we mean by that.

#1: Content management and eCommerce are separate platforms
The content management platform could be legacy, there might be multiple vendors or any number of other scenarios, but at the core – each is its own unique system.

#2: The Connection
Let’s assume that there should be some connection between the content and commerce platforms. Integration is powered by the API or dedicated app. At least one of the platforms has an available API and can be accessible via the other platform’s environment.

#3: The Use Case
Content, from the CMS, can be applied to traditionally commerce-focused pages and commerce (products, accounts, etc.) can be added to content-heavy pages (blog, about us, etc.).

Key #1: Marketing Leads The Way

Understand that the content and commerce relationship is all about delivering results. Content supports your digital commerce strategy, branding and messaging. From customer experience to content management to direct selling and explaining the corporate story and message, marketing’s job is infinitely easier with an integration between the content and commerce platforms.

Imagine a non-existent connection between commerce and content…running two separate websites – one for the store and one for content. Or giving up altogether and running only a storefront with limited built-in capabilities.
Marketing can simply work more efficiently to the benefit of the entire organization when each system contributes to the other rather than trying to manage each platform separately for different customer experiences.

With marketing being asked to do so much and a broad set of responsibilities, eliminating the problem set of multi-platform management is critical.

Key #2: Finding Best Fit Is Worth The Effort

The ideal for any organization is finding commerce and content services that can connect and “work together” with as little effort as possible while meeting the requirements of the business.

Too often the compromise that businesses make is in finding a “too simple to ignore” plugin or app that just happens to work with a pre-existing service  (*think commerce plugin for a CMS) and then spending a significant amount of time trying to make it work the way they want it to. Dozens of plugins, developer hours and apps won’t necessarily get you what you want without massive headaches.

The commerce and content connection means finding a best fit service for each role based on your business need and then connecting those services together and avoiding compromise as much as possible from both the integration or capabilities perspective.

Key #3: A Better Integration Means Doing Less

You don’t ask an accountant to mow your lawn and you shouldn’t ask your content management or commerce platform to do what they’re not supposed to do.

It might sound like relationship advice, but the best relationships (integrations) are a true partnership. In the headless commerce and content world, a partnership when running efficiently should reduce the work each service needs to do in order to achieve a successful outcome.

For CMS and commerce platforms, there are two common causes of friction:

  1. Data synchronization is challenging and requires significant development and maintenance. You’re translating and converting, reformating, copying product data and writing custom code…it’s a hot mess. The best integrations keep data owned by a single system and minimize the amount of data shared between services. Commerce data lives in eCommerce and content lives in the CMS. Start from a philosophy that there needs to be a compelling reason to mirror or synchronize data. Rely on the API first.
  2. Workflow in the customer experience
    The creative team has designed something amazing. In fact, it’s so awesome that the commerce engine is completely confused. The storefront requirements to build an order, structure an “Add to Cart” or create a new customer can be difficult to work with. As a result, translating a complicated, non-standard design or workflow into a functional build while working with a rigid development framework inevitably forces compromises or shortcuts.

Key #4: A Starting Point is Better Than a Menu

With the growth of modular SaaS services, including content and commerce platforms, the opportunity to build storefronts that leverage connections is easier than ever.

Think of sitting down with an a la carte menu at a restaurant and choosing any combination of dishes you want – sounds great, right? But when you consider that the average adult makes thousands of choices a day, that open-ended number of options can create bottlenecks, slowing down the development process whenever there is overlap. “Well, we could build our checkout process in these two ways…”

The opportunity to start from a blank slate sounds great until you actually have to start planning and building. Without a clear starting point, generating the traction to get moving and begin to show results takes time. We suggest starting with an accelerator or base starter kit offered by either a content or commerce service (we’ve got one and it’s a great developer resource) to begin to prove the integration and solve the early traction problem.

With a starting point and an integration in place, teams will now have the opportunity to begin designing and building solutions for key business challenges.

Wrapping Up

A well-designed and implemented integration between content and eCommerce services eliminates traditional bottlenecks and conflicts between the technology and business teams at any organization. Without platform-based constraints and restrictions, the opportunity to get the best outcome from each platform is attainable. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get started connecting content and commerce, get in touch, we’re happy to chat!

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