Ushering in the next generation of retail

Headless retail-as-a-service platforms provide retailers with the power and control they need to create unique customer experiences on demand

Linda Palanza
By Linda Palanza on 29 January 2020
Ushering in the next generation of retail

The race for frictionless customer engagement is on, but many retailers continue to find themselves restricted by legacy store technology that focuses on tasks, not customers. For retailers that are already under pressure, this presents a daunting challenge when they’re modernising their enterprise. Fast iteration, continuous feedback, innovation, adaptability and an enlightened attitude to both uncertainty and ‘failure’ are key attributes for retailers in the new world.  

To achieve a frictionless operating model, retailers must evolve from being consumers of applications (as they are in the legacy software world) to become contributors and owners of solutions who are empowered to imagine, build and deploy competitive differentiation in the new retail-as-a-service (RaaS) platform world. Headless RaaS (which stores, manages and delivers content without a front-end delivery layer) gives retailers the control to create unique digital experiences and move away from using traditional point of sale and commerce applications to complete tasks.

Given the structure of legacy applications, most retailers currently lack the control and flexibility over commerce experiences, which leads them to deliver one-off initiatives to fill gaps in customer expectations. The crux of the omnichannel challenge is an inability to scale these one-off initiatives into a holistic and integrated digital brand experience with the level of precision demanded today. This propagates a cycle of regret spend and missed customer expectations. 

But the power to build enhanced customer experiences as fast as consumers imagine new ways to interact with brands is what propels retail success. Therefore, retailers must add technology, innovation and agility to their list of core competencies, alongside merchandising, sales, service and traditional retail lines. And they must have the tools to design, build and manage these experiences across all customer touchpoints.

Headless RaaS platforms provide retailers with an engine to put critical transaction processing services, including complex store processing, into the cloud so they can build any commerce experience on demand. Since transaction processing is vital to efficient and long-lasting engagement, a RaaS platform based on a headless architecture also empowers retailers to take control of the development and deployment of their unique customer experiences iteratively. This gives them the keys to differentiation and the power to decide how to leverage it for their business.

RaaS is an efficient and scalable way to execute transaction processing without being tied to a software vendor’s user experience. It’s the approach taken by leading technology disruptors in retail, such as Amazon, because it allows them to continuously iterate on customer expectations using predictive analytics, machine learning and more. Meanwhile, retailers using legacy systems are forced to repetitively modify ­one-dimensional interaction points. 

The RaaS platform approach makes critical, commoditised store and commerce functions available as microservices on a cloud-native architecture, eliminating the complexity and duplicate development efforts that make it challenging to execute omnichannel retail. The platform puts retailers in full control of how they build, test, learn and deploy innovative digital experiences at scale. Plus, it gives them the tools and capabilities to build an application once and deploy it everywhere, without needing to rebuild back-end commerce functionality. 

In addition to paving the way to frictionless customer journeys with a channel-agnostic commerce engine, RaaS offers scalability and reliability for the high-volume transaction processing that is inherent in cloud-native architecture. The retailer’s control over experience development in the store and at every touchpoint supports rapid, purposeful transformation to facilitate its strategic growth initiatives and provide meaningful competitive differentiation. 

Staying relevant requires retailers to proactively and continuously reinvent and innovate to strengthen the connection between customers and their brand. Amazon returns at Kohl’s, Kroger pick-ups at Walgreens, and full-service banking at Australia Post are a few noteworthy examples of alignments that are enhancing the customer experience by extending the reach of valuable services and removing friction from omnichannel journeys. 

Headless RaaS brings this level of empowerment under retailer control so they can target their efforts to create disruptive, impactful experiences, rather than commoditised commerce functions that don’t differentiate or deliver value.   

Linda Palanza is CEO of OneView Commerce

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The RecordSubscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

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