How to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction through self-service
It seems everyone is hyper-aware of the challenging economic times we currently face. And as companies start feeling the effects of consumer and business spending retracting, it may be tempting to cut marketing and digital transformation budgets or put projects on hold. But only 6% of companies intend to cut their tech spending next year, so continuing to invest is essential if you don’t want to fall behind your competition.
If the pandemic taught us something, it’s the importance of technology. Stability, efficiency, speed, and optimisation will be the fundamentals of resilient business during an economic downturn. And instead of cutting budgets, it’s more sensible to look at ways to make your budget work harder for you.
According to Gartner, 80% of tech leaders consider automation to be a top tactic to achieve cost optimisation. DEPT® has seen first-hand how leveraging tech to automate processes and allow customers to self-serve helps companies to permanently reduce the cost of doing business, provide a next-level customer experience as well as increase customer loyalty and lifetime value.
Let’s explore this further…
Start with customer journey mapping
If you’re unsure what to prioritise when it comes to automating processes and self-service, customer journey mapping is the perfect place to start. Giving you the chance to really get under your customer’s skin and truly understand their unique needs.
This technique allows you to get a holistic understanding of the entire digital customer journey. Throughout a series of workshops, we look at the flow for different types of users to identify current pain points, understand how customers want to interact and identify opportunities.
We also map the different technology, tools and touchpoints that are being used to see how they can be streamlined. Producing a visual customer journey map is a great way to demonstrate to senior stakeholders where investments should be made.
For OMRON, DEPT® reviewed their entire digital customer journey with the goal to improve customer satisfaction and reduce call centre costs. We held a series of discovery workshops that explored the current user experience, OMRON’s business model, identified pain points and pinpointed areas where automation could increase efficiency. Three high-priority projects were identified to allow customers to self-serve which would ultimately drive cost and time efficiency for OMRON, while providing an enhanced experience for their customers.
Serving the cutomer on demand
In today’s world, customers are looking for convenience and this isn’t only in B2C, two thirds of B2B buyers opted for remote human interactions or digital self-service across the sales process last year.
Not to mention, loyalty amongst customers is dwindling. So, with this in mind, in uncertain times it is smart for brands to invest in enhancing the customer experience amongst their existing client base to stand out amongst competitors and decrease churn.
According to NICE, 81% of consumers want more self-service options, however, only 15% have a high level of satisfaction with the tools currently provided. So developing effective strategies and digital products that allow customers to self-serve not only gives them access to the services they’re looking for, but creates an opportunity to build stronger brand connections, as long as their experience using the tool is positive.
That’s where it can be valuable to work in partnership with digital experts like DEPT® to ensure you hit the nail on the head. Here are three possible ways to do just that…
1. Customer portals
Developing tools and apps for customers to manage their own accounts can help to reduce operational spending. It takes some pressure off customer service agents by giving customers the ability to find resolutions on their own, allowing agents to then focus on urgent issues and delivering tailored customer experiences elsewhere.
And it’s a customer expectation, with 70% expecting a company to have a self-service portal or content available to them. Customers head to their account/portal to be able to easily find information, request services and resolve their problems 24/7.
It’s, ultimately, the hub of a brand’s relationship with its customers. Some key features to include in a customer portal are a knowledge base, community forum and chatbot integration.
For Jotun’s trade site, DEPT® built a customer portal where dealers and distributors can access personalised tools, product and technical information, and dynamically display products, tools and content relevant to individual users.
The online portal is also an important section of OMRON’s site. Whether it be a distributor, employee, or a member of the press, users are served content that is relevant to them, so it is completely personalised depending on the user type. The data required to identify users is collected during the registration and can also be used to support and optimise marketing activities and processes.
Chatbots are a great way to take the strain off call lines by allowing customers to find a quick solution through a flow of automated responses. Gartner predicts that by 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for a quarter of organisations.
A strong live chat system brings together staffed and automated solutions to provide customers the optimal experience, starting with automation and then directing the visitor to the appropriate colleague depending on their requirements. This helps to create more meaningful experiences between brands and consumers as well as saving time.
Chatbots are now more advanced than ever. As a brand known for their in-store customer service, Ralph Lauren came to BYTE/DEPT® for help translating that experience into digital with a chatbot ready to help customers find the perfect gifts for the 2021 holiday season. As a result, only 0.4% of users required a handover to a live customer service agent, which is one of the lowest rates we’ve seen in the industry.
3. On-site search
Something so simple, but so effective, is on-site search. Although this is nothing new for most, it is often undervalued. It allows customers to self-serve by finding what they’re looking for on-demand and without the need to get in touch.
Not only does it help visitors, but a well-optimised on-site search tool provides brands with a wealth of new data. It gives insight into what customers are looking for and any roadblocks to purchase, showing demand or opportunity. Brands are then able to analyse the data to provide personalised help, offers and up-sell opportunities.
DEPT® implemented Optimizely Find for Jotun to deliver intelligent search results across its B2C and B2B sites. It enhances user experience by powering global search, the product finder, colour grids, related colours and products.
Invest now to stay ahead
Although we face a period of economic uncertainty, there are many opportunities for organisations to leverage technology to stay afloat, and even grow. Now is the time to invest in order to stay ahead and reap the rewards both in the short and long term.
DEPT® have all the skills in-house to be able to analyse points in the digital customer journey that are slow, expensive and causing their customers to be unhappy. We can then look at projects to automate existing parts of the journey or develop strategies and digital products which allow their customers to self-serve.
Get in touch today to find out how we can help you reduce operational costs while increasing customer satisfaction.
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
A CTO’s guide to maximising the value of tech investments
While the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it has left multiple economies in heavy debt. And subsequent global issues, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have resulted in a downturn of the global economy. In a July update, the World Economic Outlook predicted global growth to slow from 6.1% last year to 3.2% in 2022, and 2.9% in 2023.
With inflation reaching record levels, significant energy price increases and the rising cost of household items, consumers across the world face a cost of living crisis. And with a less than temporary reduction in household spending power, businesses can soon expect to see the impact on their bottom line.
We know from experience that in periods of economic uncertainty, digital projects are often canned or stalled. But during times of crisis, the opportunity for businesses to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of budgets – as well as the overall value of their technology investments – is actually huge.
We’ve outlined two of the best, easiest and efficient ways to do this, as well as the steps to take to get these types of projects over the line.
With the prospect of budget cuts looming, CTOs are being tasked with doing more with less. That might translate as automating processes, consolidating teams, sourcing new tech solutions, or getting more out of existing technology investments.
It will mean different things for different businesses, but the golden thread will most likely be to maximise efficiency and reduce costs. The pressure to continue to innovate and build out new propositions will likely remain in order to stay ahead of competitors and pursue new commercial opportunities, while keeping risk at a minimum.
It’s a big ask. But having worked with a range of B2B and B2C businesses to do just that, DEPT® can help you unlock unforeseen pockets of value that stretch budgets further while increasing sales.
Cloud platform review and optimisation
Cloud software is integral to future-ready business. So if you haven’t already migrated to the cloud, now is most certainly the time.
The focus needs to be on developing a scalable solution to create an agile framework that enables your business to adapt as your market develops and disrupts.
Not only will it go a long way to reducing the impact of rising energy costs, but connecting your teams through the right cloud-based software enables them to be more agile and harmoniously sing from the same sheet.
The key benefits of moving to the cloud are threefold. Geo-redundancy is number one, meaning that users in one market access the infrastructure in that location, and if one region goes down users are automatically routed to the other, forming the backbone of your disaster recovery strategy.
It also offers cost saving benefits, as similarly to mobile phones, there are fixed contracts or ‘pay as you go’ options available. A ‘pay as you go’ serverless approach allows businesses to only pay when the service is used, rather than paying to have a server running 24/7 in a physical location.
And finally, it provides greater flexibility as businesses can increase capacity when expecting higher traffic volumes, such as around planned sales, campaign or product launches. Plus, once a business understands their traffic volumes through the available data, they can fix their contract at a lower cost to scale capacity in line with business demand throughout the year.
DEPT® has a cloud first approach, and a cloud agnostic mindset. We are able to deliver consultants and engineers that can help you take your cloud platform hygiene to the next level to maximise efficiency.
Take Triumph Motorcycles as an example. We conducted a full review of its AWS setup, modernised old approaches, optimised configurations and removed unused components to facilitate a 30% reduction of its cloud hosting spend.
Outsource infrastructure management
With technology now serving as the backbone of modern business, even the shortest period of digital downtime can have a significant negative impact on operations and financial performance.
That’s why outsourcing infrastructure management through managed services may be the best option to expertly manage your online infrastructure.
Infrastructure management is less about maintaining your website or application content, but rather about the nuts and bolts that keep them running optimally.
This can involve managing servers and their performance as well as monitoring up and down time, being alerted to any issues and taking action – no matter the day or time.
But not all outsourcing solutions are optimum. For example, an offshore team may not work in unison or in alignment with the timezones that you operate across.
With local and nearshore teams working in a unified way across multiple physical locations, we have seen success in helping businesses reduce costs while upholding the expert standards of a global digital agency.
Our unique culture helps us recruit top talent across the world, which enables us to be ‘timezone aware’, giving clients peace of mind that their digital estate will be up, running and making money 24/7.
And we’ve seen success come from establishing teams consisting of members located in multiple physical locations, with differing staffing rates that reduces the overall cost to the client.
Such as for Just Eat Takeaway, for whom we provide ongoing support of their commerce platform; as well as for Jotun’s +5 websites, including proactive monitoring and reactive support, content editor helpdesk and application maintenance services.
Making the business case
It might be easy for an established tech leader to see the value in these suggested approaches. But getting said projects over the line can sometimes be a struggle with final decision makers, as they often require short-term investment before the long-term benefits can be reaped.
There are two distinct sides of the fence when it comes to making investments during global crises.
Frustratingly, the instinctive (and often more popular) reaction is to cut costs by postponing projects, reducing ‘non-essential’ spend on digital transformation, and scaling back headcount in order to bunker down and weather the storm.
But in reality, recessions and economic crises tend to be short lived, and are often succeeded by longer periods of growth. And businesses that seek out ways to maximise their existing investments (or continue to make new investments) can drive growth while competitors are cutting back.
During the 2009 financial crisis, according to McKinsey, organisations that maintained their innovation focus outperformed competitors by more than 30% and continued to grow over the subsequent three to five years.
Acting fast is imperative. The most successful technology leaders won’t wait for a confirmed recession to implement solutions, they will take immediate action to boost stability, efficiency and speed that is necessary for business resilience in this economic climate.
While the implementation of digital marketing systems, CRMs and big data projects have failure rates that exceed 50%, DEPT® has a strong track record of implementing and optimising technology platforms that have a clear return on investment for clients.
To find out how we can help your business maximise the value of its tech investments and accelerate digital resilience, get in touch with our experts today.
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Global SVP Technology & Engineering
Helping displaced individuals find their place in tech
When immigrants and refugees leave their home countries, they leave behind their jobs, networks, support systems, and oftentimes their credentials.
Their ability to find good jobs is stunted which can harm their confidence, happiness, and assimilation into society.
In 2018, Nick Broekema (Salesforce Partnership Lead at DEPT®) and his partners saw this problem firsthand, with many immigrants moving to the Netherlands unable to secure quality jobs. At the same time, the industry was dealing with another problem: a lack of Salesforce professionals.
So that year, with the desire to solve both problems with one solution, Blue Road Academy (formerly RefugeeForce) was born. Over the past few years, this program has helped over 180 individuals receive Salesforce training in a community-oriented atmosphere. From the initial cohorts, 60% of graduates have landed jobs at technology companies with positions in development, marketing, sales, and administration.
DEPT® is a proud recruitment partner, and has hired two individuals from Blue Road Academy since its opening! We also support with an annual monetary donation and use of our offices in Berlin for the training. Learn more about some of the impact this program has had by hearing from some of its graduates below.
Eyad Agha came to Germany in 2014 because of the instability in Syria. Beyond learning German, he enrolled at a university and received a master’s degree in information systems management.
He joined Blue Road Academy because “Salesforce was the clearest manifestation of my studies. Coding and programming were not for me, but I wanted to work in technology. Salesforce training seemed like a good fit.”
Talking about his experience with the training program, he said, “Martin (the instructor) is one of the brilliant minds in Salesforce. I was impressed and felt privileged for being instructed by someone like him. Martin was the most humble and nice person– always willing to help, answer questions, and have a conversation with the students.”
While he already had skills in information technology, they were sharpened during the boot camp. The other thing he learned was giving back. “The whole salesforce ecosystem depends on teamwork. You learn something and then you teach someone else. One arm to the throne, another arm to help someone else, a chain of people holding hands together and moving forward.”
Currently, Eyad is working as a Salesforce administrator for Luca. He is excited about the opportunity!
Originally from Afghanistan, Frahnaz studied Economics and had her own e-commerce business. But due to the fall of the government, she had to leave her country, business, and degree.
During her time at Blue Road Academy, she got another opportunity to go to a Salesforce Berlin Bootcamp which was a fantastic experience! The salesforce community around Europe came together (partners, actual salesforce professionals) and she was able to get to know people in the network. “I am really thankful for the opportunity to know an amazing community.”
While she doesn’t describe herself as “technical,” she likes Salesforce because, “The platform makes things easier for companies, which is valuable. I want to be in the technology and business space, so learning these skills is great.”
“During the program, we also learned how to interview and write a CV. This was useful because it gives real-life scenarios, how to answer questions, how to write a cover letter, and the different procedures in countries, like Germany vs the UK.”
When asked about her future goals, her first response was, “To share all the knowledge she is gaining and encourage Afghan women that don’t have the privilege of education.” Her wish is to give all that she can as an Afghan woman and eventually share it with other women.
“I believe that if you want to change the world, you have to change yourself and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. I wish every girl in my country had the chance to study and have the opportunity to go to university.”
Anna came to the Netherlands by way of Ukraine. She started to learn Salesforce by herself in 2021 because she had her own small business, but she wanted to learn more and get an official certification to expand her career opportunities.
She enjoyed the in-person classes because it was easy to communicate with other people in the program. “It was difficult and challenging because of the technical tasks required, but the program was smooth. My instructor, Gaspar Rodriguez, explained all the concepts, materials, and theories in simple words so you can understand them.”
For her, the Blue Road Academy ecosystem was supportive and gave opportunities to people without experience. Their way of learning was an environment with cool and intelligent people, which motivated her to take on the challenges.
Anna currently works at DEPT®. Talking about her experience so far, she says, “It’s amazing actually. The people are really supportive and answer questions. I had time to meet my team, and get onboarded and I’m excited to see where the opportunity takes me.”
“Anyone can transfer their knowledge into their work. And you can see where it takes you–the time you’ve dedicated is reflected in your work.”
The future of Blue Road Academy
By 2030, Blue Road Academy hopes to have trained 10,000 newcomers in its program with a 50/50 ratio of men to women. They hope to continue their 60% job placement success rate which would place 6,000 or more individuals in Salesforce roles, at all types of technology companies.
Learn more about how you can get involved at Blue Road Academy.
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Global Impact Manager
DEPT DASH™ is here to accelerate custom website development
Historically, custom websites can take a significant time to build. So we created DASH to accelerate the process.
For decades, brands have gone to agencies for help in design and development. And for decades, agencies have been kicking off projects from scratch.
The problem here is web design and development don’t always require starting from scratch. Project setup, technology selection, and the creative process are often similar across the board.
In other words, the digital world has reached a point where tools, platforms, technology expertise, and AI are so powerful, we don’t need to start from zero every time. We can come to the table with months of work already done, which cuts project time while delivering best-of-breed, process-proven, and completely custom technology solutions.
Introducing DASH, a website accelerator from DEPT®
DASH is a headless website and e-commerce accelerator that provides the building blocks for modern marketing and e-commerce sites. A composable approach impacts both the implementation of the front-end and influences the end-to-end process and methodology, from design through to deployment.
To understand it in action, consider the development of an e-commerce website. No matter your industry, size, or product offerings, every single e-commerce website will need hosting, shopping cart technology, payment processing, search capabilities, and a slew of other third-party integrations. Rather than let these necessities take up the first month of work, we have created IP that automates it.
The out-of-the-box design and development elements provided by DASH include:
- Design system
- DevOps and infrastructure
- Component library
- CMS integration
- Search integration
- e-commerce integration
- Automated testing
- Performance and accessibility testing
This enables you to use use the majority of your budget on impactful activities like
- UX/UI design
- Custom component and page templates
- CMS content modeling
- Front-end implementation
Who is DASH for?
DASH is for any marketing or e-commerce team that needs a completely custom website in an unconventional timeline–typically a few months. The core technology stack consists of the Contentful CMS, Shopify cart technology, and Algolia search engine, and new integrations are being created each month.
By leveraging DASH, DEPT® strategists, designers, and developers have more time and budget to create experiences that power your digital strategy.
DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool
DASH provides what we always complete in the first month or two of a project, for both design and engineering. This allows delivery timelines to be 1-2 months faster without sacrificing design quality and customisation.
Any pieces a project doesn’t require can be quickly and easily removed in full, so the project isn’t weighed down with unnecessary cruft.
DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool. Builder tools make some things easy and other things impossible, which isn’t viable for the custom projects we do. This IP covers the entire production workflow from Figma design files to Storybook design systems, full technology implementation, and automated test and deployment scripts, all integrated end-to-end and ready to spin up within minutes.
Learn more about DASH, our proprietary website accelerator.
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Sr. Content Marketing Manager
How to face the e-commerce challenges of today – without a head
E-commerce is booming. From 15% of total retail sales in 2019, global e-commerce surged to 21% in 2021 in response to the restrictions caused by COVID-19. Research companies like Morgan Stanley, Statista and McKinsey forecast further growth of up to 25%, despite an overall slowing of economic activity. But to continue thriving and staying ahead of the growth curve, organisations need to tick a growing number of checkboxes. From marketing and technology to data and creativity, there are key challenges to address to keep the e-commerce growth going.
Last year, global retail e-commerce sales reached $4.9 trillion and are expected to exceed $7.4 trillion by 2025. This year, B2B e-commerce adds $14.9 trillion on top of that. While many factors have contributed to this continued digital growth, the two leading factors are the emerging digital presence of companies and the accelerated consumers’ digital maturity. The way how companies sell and how people shop has changed permanently. However, this doesn’t mean that the e-commerce pie is shared equally.
Fiercer competition requires better experiences
The e-commerce landscape is getting more competitive as more companies pivot to launch or optimise their digital commerce operations. In the race to gain consumers’ attention, the cost of advertising has increased and the return on ad spend (ROAS) has reduced. CPMs on Facebook rose 47% in 2021 when compared to 2020, and Google, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat are demonstrating a dramatic increase in advertising costs year-over-year. Smaller players with less financial means find they cannot rely as heavily on advertising as before. Additionally, advertising data is becoming less valuable as privacy concerns lead to stronger regulations and restrictions on third-party data worldwide.
The best way to stand out from the crowd is by creating exceptional digital experiences that inspire and attract consumers:
The standard for a good customer experience is rising every year. So it is no small wonder that customer experience was named a CEO priority for all respondents in an IBM survey of 3000 CEOs across 50 countries and 26 industries. The big challenge to realising a differentiated customer experience is having the right technology architecture in place.
Technology drives e-commerce growth
Delivering optimal digital experiences is difficult when tools and technology are outdated, inflexible, and disconnected. Research by Gartner finds the CMO’s top concern for 2022 is, therefore, rebuilding the marketing engine for flexibility in a changing environment. Customer journeys today have become complex, spanning a proliferation of devices and touchpoints. This results in new marketing challenges like managing content, keeping branding and messaging consistent and connecting the marketing teams that work with their own systems. True omnichannel – integrating all the channels into one seamless customer experience that is both relevant and of high-quality – is difficult to pull off, despite the stakes. Meanwhile, new channels keep coming and gaining momentum, from podcasts, AR, VR and Metaverse, to voice assistants, smart home devices and car commerce.
Marketers also see more urgency to launch digital products and iterate in today’s rapidly changing digital world. The ability to experiment, analyse, pivot and deploy at the right time depends on agile solutions. All these developments lead to the need for a higher level of involvement from back-office technical roles. Because in today’s modern marketing environment, technology has become a cornerstone of doing business.
Every company is a tech company
The growing dependency on technology has led the marketing department to collaborate closely with the IT department. From data collection to personalisation, hypertargeting to focusing on high-value customers, technology enables it all. The IT department has seen its responsibilities grow to support a growing number of systems, including CMS, CRM, data warehouses and now CX platforms. The traditional gatekeeper role of the IT department has evolved to become a business driver. Every company is turning into a technology company, because, as Forbes puts it, “Today, no company can make, deliver or market its product efficiently without technology.”
Historically, the leading choice for numerous organisations has been ‘monolithic’ platforms that contain a general solution for their most frequent marketing and e-commerce needs. These suites provide an all-in-one answer that addresses prevailing challenges with out-of-the-box solutions that ‘fit all’. The monolithic architecture is also associated with various cons, such as slow go-to-market timelines, inflexibility and lack of agility, complexity and scaling issues. In response to these concerns, a new approach arose that decoupled the front end and the back end.
The rise of headless
The term “headless” comes from the analogy of chopping the “head” (the front end) from the “body” (the back end). By decoupling the presentation layer from the back-end processes, content can be easily served to whichever digital channel is connected. One head becomes many heads. This means that developers can build whatever they want and however they want, without having to worry about how it will be presented to the customers. The rigidity of a coupled system is replaced with the flexibility of having two or more systems, loosely coupled with APIs. By going headless, developers can also address the pain points that have appeared due to increased smartphone adoption and create a mobile-optimised shopping experience. The flourishing of mobile commerce is one of the key reasons why headless became so popular. When headless solutions entered the market, the available full-suite solutions proved inflexible to address the growing mobile traffic and the growing matrix of buyer touchpoints, unlike headless.
Other cited technical reasons for choosing a headless architecture are flexibility, faster time-to-market and stability. Additionally, companies prefer not to be too dependent on one system and one full-suite supplier. For essential marketing practices like loyalty, A/B testing and big data analytics, they want the solution that is best in its class. A headless architecture allows you to integrate these kinds of tools into an ecosystem. When a certain tool becomes inefficient or outdated, replacing it is relatively easy in a best-of-breed approach. This way, headless addresses a prime dilemma for organisations today: adapting to change without having to overhaul the whole architecture.
Headless comes with challenges
With all its pros, the headless architecture also comes with cons. You need to build what you want from scratch, which requires vision and ongoing development. This also means that marketing becomes IT dependent for making content changes and running campaigns. The biggest pitfall of going headless is doing it blindly and losing your head. Want to know more about these challenges? Read our other blogs The challenges of going headless and Controlling the digital experience with composable commerce to learn more about the approach or download the whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce. In this extensive guide, you will learn how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience.
Going headless with content and commerce
“The term headless typically refers to a headless CMS that organises and stores all the content data (images, text and videos). Popular headless CMSes are Sanity, Strapi, DatoCMS, Builder, Kontent.ai, Prismic and Contentful. The content is delivered via an API to a front end, which can be custom-coded to fit specific needs. In headless commerce, the body consists of an e-commerce platform, which can be a full-suite solution such as Magnolia or Salesforce or a specialised commerce platform such as BigCommerce, Shopify and commercetools. While full-suite platforms offer a native front end, this can come with the disadvantages of using a suite solution. That is why full-suite platforms are now moving towards developing front-end capacities that match better with the headless approach.” – Tim de Kamper, VP eCommerce DEPT®
Headless is booming – for enterprises
In 2016, there was only one headless vendor in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. The Magic Quadrant for 2021 now features eight vendors offering headless solutions. The adoption of headless is booming globally, and headless is often called the future of e-commerce. According to research by Vanson Bourne in 2021:
- 64% of enterprise organisations are now using a headless approach, a nearly 25% increase from 2019.
- 92% of respondents state that implementing headless technologies makes it easier to deliver a consistent content experience.
- 92% of respondents recognise digital experiences as essential to their organisation’s success.
Still, only 2% of all websites worldwide use headless, mostly enterprises. Why are midlevel and SMBses not embracing headless with the same fervour?
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VP eCommerce Europe
Tim de Kamper
Composable commerce for controlling the digital experience
Where headless commerce only separates the content from the commerce platform, composable commerce takes the best-of-breed approach to an atomic level. Every component of the commerce experience, from search to payment and everything in between, can be addressed by an independent solution or tool. While this approach may sound like a magnification of the challenges with headless, its focus on business functionality gives control over the customer experience back to the business.
The term composable commerce was first coined by Gartner in its 2020 research Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications. This paper explains that headless has become a buzzword that is not even a great name for this new approach, because it still needs a head or a UI. In fact, there are many heads that must provide a seamless digital experience. Early adopters of the headless approach experienced this problem first-hand, as their business was no longer able to manage aspects of the digital experience. So instead of a “headless” approach, the solution lies in adopting an incremental, modular approach with packaged business capabilities that retain control of presentation to the business user; composable commerce.
What is composable commerce?
Composable commerce is a development approach that uses packaged business capabilities (PBC) to create a modern commerce experience that is defined by the business. The resulting composable architecture is built from – or composed of – best-of-breed commerce components. Each component can be deployed and interchanged independently, which enables integration with any application available. This open character of composable commerce gives the freedom and flexibility to create a totally unique and tailored commerce experience. For this reason, Gartner sees composable as the future of applications and predicts that by 2023,organisations adopting an intelligent composable approach will outpace the competition by 80%.
In The Forrester Wave™ B2C Commerce Solutions for Q2 2022, Forrester states that modular, cloud-native commerce solutions are no longer just for the most digitally mature companies: “Modern commerce tech is more adaptive and provides resilience for the digital businesses that use it.”
Composable commerce puts the business first
The key difference between headless and composable commerce is the usage of packaged business capabilities (PBCs). Gartner defines PBCs as software components that represent a well-defined business capability that is functionally recognisable as such by a business user. PBCs address specific business needs such as search, payment, CRM, shipping, inventory management etc. Every PBC is pluggable, scalable and replaceable without affecting the rest. As such, composable commerce is business-oriented, whereas headless commerce is developer-oriented.
PBCs are composed of several smaller components called microservices. These are autonomous services that all work together. While they are often tiny, some microservices do match the standards for a PBC. Technically, a PBC includes a bounded set of a data schema and a set of services, APIs, and event channels. When talking about composable commerce, business users should focus on PBCs to keep the focus on business functionality.
The pros and cons of composable commerce
Any company struggling with headless commerce is probably not thrilled to hear another buzzword as the solution to all their problems. But for many e-commerce applications, using headless commerce is the first step to a composable architecture. The following list of pros and cons is aimed at helping you to better understand the impact of switching to a composable architecture and decide whether it is the right choice for you:
When is composable commerce the right choice?
The key considerations for choosing composable commerce are:
- How important are optimal commerce experiences in your market? Is your market competitive and rapidly changing?
- How complex is your current infrastructure? Do you need to freeze all deployments a month before Black Friday to prevent breaking the webshop for example?
- To which extent is the marketing department dependent on the IT department? Who controls the front-end experience?
- How flexible can your architecture scale as needed?
- How important is innovation for your long-term success? Does your current architecture offer the flexibility and time-to-market that you need?
- Can your IT department face the tech debt that comes with connecting and maintaining various tools?
How to start with composable commerce
The composable approach lets you pick the best solution for the specific business needs you have. Its starting point is the notion that there isn’t one best solution for everything that works for everybody.
In our whitepaper, The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce, we explore how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience. We interviewed five leading solution providers to give you a rich overview of the solid solutions available to companies struggling with headless.
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VP eCommerce Europe
Tim de Kamper
The challenges of going headless
The headless approach empowers organisations to create custom front-end experiences that differentiate and grow and accelerate e-commerce success. But it also comes with additional responsibilities. You need to build what you want from scratch, which requires vision and ongoing development. The biggest pitfall of going headless is doing it blindly and losing your head.
The headless approach has been around for some time, but its adoption only picked up momentum when BigCommerce in 2018 and Shopify in 2019 started promoting and educating excessively. These platforms showcased marketing benefits such as improved customer experience for all devices, rich visual merchandising, enabling multi-locale and increased page speed.
However, these benefits do not come out-of-the-box like a software product, they require development. Compared to a full-suite solution that covers the essential features, going headless sets you back about 30% in functionality. Integrating a headless CMS to a front-end application simply takes time to develop, which increases the overall solution time-to-market. It’s just not as quick as deploying a full-suite solution. And this is where going headless is causing headaches
Separation of expectations
For non-technical people, headless offers the creative freedom to create unique differentiating experiences and the ability to enter new markets and channels quickly. When marketers hear headless, they think CX, innovation, speed and scale. Technical people see in headless a separation of concerns that allows for a customised front-end and therefore, requires a lot of development work. Where marketing expects to be present on many exciting new channels quickly, the IT department has to point out all the resources required to get there. The front-end layer has to be built from scratch – and maintained. This requires either an in-house development team (a larger IT team) or a system integrator.
The complexity of going headless can be overwhelming, especially for smaller brands and retailers with fewer development capabilities. When the front end is customised, there is typically no WYSIWYG editor for the marketers. This lack of seeing how the content will appear to the customer negatively impacts the brand experience. Minor changes on dynamic pages, like changing a banner on a landing page, may require custom development. Some organisations are reported to need several months of preparation to run their seasonal campaigns due to IT dependency.
Developers get a lot of requests for managing the front end, which affects their IT roadmap. As the number of “heads” and “bodies” grows, so do the dependencies they rely upon. Without additional IT resources, all of the potential power and flexibility that headless can offer will be out of reach. This seriously impacts the company’s hard-sought ability to innovate. In 2021, 75% of executives ranked innovation as a top-three priority for their company. With a jump from 65% in 2020, this is the largest year-over-year shift seen in 15 years of BCG’s Most Innovative Companies survey.
Headless is not a solution, it’s a starting point
The choice of headless is an IT decision that should come from the IT department to address the challenges IT has in enabling e-commerce. In the following scenarios, headless is a solid choice to consider:
- A slow website. The speed of your website matters for SEO, the brand experience, conversion rates and, therefore, the revenue. When all the options for speeding up your current architecture are exhausted, headless becomes a serious candidate.
- Lack of differential options. An exceptional brand experience requires elements that are not readily available in full-suite storefronts. If you’re looking to customise the branding of your webshops beyond template themes, headless offers all the creative freedom you want.
- Need for a custom experience. Adding more checkout security, connecting to a specific payment provider or improving the search experience. The one-size-fits-all approach that comes with a full suite is unlikely to cover all your brand needs. When these additions become paramount to the success of your brand, going headless gives you the ability to build a custom experience with more complexity.
- Expanding touchpoints. Platforms such as smart home devices and smart TVs are expanding in adoption and maturity. To deliver content and process orders from these emerging touchpoints, organisations need a platform that can integrate effectively. The newer these touchpoints are, the more likely a headless platform is better suited than a full-suite solution.
- Cross-border e-commerce. Expanding your e-commerce across borders comes with new languages, currencies, warehouses and locations, payment options, regulations, channels and content. The headless approach makes it easier to expand internationally by easily connecting new functionalities and channels as needed.
- Rapid growth. Companies experiencing a rapid rate of growth search for the flexibility, speed and agility that only headless can bring. Headless offers a customisable solution that enables the streamlining and aligning of internal development that fast-growing companies need.
While these scenarios represent marketing challenges, note that most of these are typically faced by larger organisations with deep pockets and vast IT resources. Headless is foremost a developer-oriented architecture. However, mid-level organisations with fewer development capabilities are now also running into these challenges and are considering the headless approach. This coincides with the development of efficient solutions that help tackle the headless problem.
Front-end progressive web application (PWA)
Commonly known as a progressive web app, or PWA for short, this web application can work both as a website and a mobile app on any device, even offline. It’s an all-in-one solution that takes away the hassle of developing, distributing and installing separate mobile apps. PWA offers a user experience that is fast, reliable and engaging regardless of the device used – making it an ideal head for a headless architecture. From a tool to realise mobile storefronts, PWA evolved into a single codebase for mobile, desktop and tablet. When a PWA integrates with headless commerce, it’s called a headless PWA.
While the history of PWAs goes back to 2000, it was only in 2015 that they got their name when Google introduced PWAs as a new standard in web development. In the same year, the software company Mobify launched their first PWA for mobile. Desktop soon followed, which led to Mobify’s Front-End Platform as a Service for headless commerce architectures. At the same time, the software company Divante developed a PWA for Magento and later for commercetools.
From PWA to composable
In 2020, the Divante initiative split into a new company called Vue Storefront while Mobify got acquired by Salesforce and became the B2C Composable Storefront. This falls in line with the trend of commerce platforms expanding their offering with a headless solution, with Magento offering PWA Studio and commercetools acquiring Frontastic in 2021. All these solutions go beyond the original mobile premise of PWA and include the integration and orchestration of many tools and solutions. And that’s where headless commerce becomes composable commerce: the approach in which every component of the commerce experience can be defined on an atomic level.
Read our other blogs Composable commerce for controlling the digital experience and How to tackle the ‘head’ with Headless to learn more about the composable approach or download the whitepaper The Ultimate Guide to Headless and Composable Commerce. In this extensive guide, you will learn how the composable architecture builds on the headless approach and puts marketing back in control of the front-end experience.
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VP eCommerce Europe
Tim de Kamper
Are UK manufacturers leveraging the B2B e-commerce opportunity?
It’s nothing new that many manufacturing companies now have an e-commerce website. In the B2B space, 65% of businesses globally now have e-commerce capabilities. Particularly since 2020, with face-to-face selling out of the question, e-commerce shot up the priority list to become a key purchasing channel for B2B buyers.
But have companies managed to embrace B2B commerce and utilise it to its full potential? Or is digital transformation stagnating? We explore the state of the nation when it comes to adopting e-commerce in the manufacturing industry, and take a look at what companies need to be doing to stay ahead.
The big picture
While face-to-face was the primary sales channel for many manufacturing businesses before 2020, cue the pandemic, and everything changed. In-person sales were no longer an option, forcing manufacturing companies to explore digital avenues. Investing in digital transformation became a way for manufacturers to differentiate themselves in the market and better meet customers’ needs.
There’s no doubt about it, the pandemic sped up digital transformation across all industries and sectors. In manufacturing, 67% of senior manufacturing professionals claim to have accelerated digital projects after COVID-19.
Furthermore, the market for digital transformation in manufacturing is expected to grow more than 19% in coming years, reaching $767.82 billion by 2026, up from $263.93 billion in 2020.
And customers welcomed these new ways of buying. Mid-pandemic research by McKinsey showed that 60% of B2B customers found remote sales as effective as traditional sales, and that 62% would prefer to reorder products online. But at that point, only 13% of industrial companies offered digital solutions and only 10% offered self-service tools for reordering.
Let’s take Just Eat as an example, who decided to accelerate its digital transformation in order to remain a global leading player. The outcome was an innovative B2B marketplace that allows restaurant owners to purchase both food and non-food items from third-party sellers, all by leveraging the wealth of data it had at its disposal.
Spotlighting the UK landscape
Although great strides were made globally over the past two years, there’s still a way to go when we look closer to home. 94% of UK manufacturers believe the industry has fallen behind the US due to a lack of digital investment, which is impacting the bottom line, with 56% of businesses losing sales as a result.
In addition, 93% of manufacturers believe that underinvestment will lead to many of them going out of business over the next decade.
The lack of investment in digital technology is proving to be a huge blocker to productivity, but also to the customer experience. McKinsey reports that two thirds of B2B customers would rather engage through digital or remote in-person engagement, as well as that corporate decision makers are now using e-commerce at every stage of their buying journey.
And serving customers the way they want is paying off, with e-commerce driving 18% of all revenue for the average B2B company, tying it in top position as the top-producing revenue channels alongside in person sales.
It’s clear to see that the UK manufacturing industry has found it difficult to unlock the full potential of e-commerce due to the complexities of B2B operations and management. From lengthy buying procedures to large-scale product lines and bulk orders, there’s a lot to take into consideration, so we can understand why manufacturers could be hesitant to adopt e-commerce. However, new sophisticated technologies are here to help, it’s all about choosing the right fit for your business and goals.
Old business models and legacy technologies are holding businesses back. According to a recent report, Manufacturers in the UK still rely on paper for 35% of processes and manual spreadsheets are used for 49% of operations. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Digital transformation has the power to eliminate pain points – an investment manufacturing companies can’t afford to miss.
Taking action: why and how
It’s time for UK manufacturing companies to up their game when it comes to e-commerce. The stakes are high and the potential is huge. Implementing the right technology creates the opportunity to streamline operations, increase profitability and provide a seamless customer experience, as well as giving the ability to be agile to the ever-changing world.
Here’s a few technology trends that manufacturers need to be focusing on to accelerate their e-commerce operations and facilitate growth in the new digital reality:
Hybrid, omnichannel selling
Traditional selling is slowly being left in the past. Today’s B2B decision makers are interacting with suppliers in new ways, with a mix of interactions throughout the buying cycle. Ultimately they’re looking for convenience, whether that be e-commerce self-service, a video call or an in-person meeting. Hybrid selling is expected to be the dominant sales strategy in B2B industries by 2024 and is reported to drive 50% more revenue due to a deeper customer engagement.
Sales reps have always been a key characteristic of B2B marketing, giving tailored advice to customers. And this can still be done online. With the right tech architecture in place, all customer insights will be stored in a database rather than in a sales rep, helping with efficiencies and providing tailored excellent customer service.
But, there can be no hybrid selling without a strong omnichannel strategy. McKinsey reported that B2B decision makers are using more channels than ever before, doubling from 5 channels in 2016 to 10 in 2021. You need to be present at every stage of the customer’s often long, complex buying journey and provide them with the tools such as self-service ordering, ordering tracking or chatbots, to make their lives as easy as possible… and yours!
Getting a true understanding of your customers is critical to commerce success. For example, a common misconception is that B2B customers aren’t willing to spend at a high value through e-commerce, but that’s far from the case. 35% are willing to spend $500,000 more in a single transaction on digital channels and 15% are comfortable making purchases worth more than $1 million.
Not sure where to start? Map your customer journey. Customer journey mapping enables manufacturing businesses to understand the best route/s to guide buyers to purchase. By getting under your customer’s skin and truly understanding their unique needs, you can offer a tailored solution at every stage of the journey.
Leveraging data to understand your customers is also critical. And, customer data platforms (CDPs) are the perfect way to do just that. CDP software collates and analyses customer data from a range of sources in real-time. This allows you to gain a holistic view of your B2B buyer’s ever diversifying journey to then develop a tailored experience that will resonate most with them.
Hyva partnered with DEPT® to help it develop a new global website with three main goals at the heart of its success: lead generation, promote brand awareness and give exceptional service in every global location. The result? A new website that bridged the geographical divide between company and customer by developing a unique customer journey in every country Hyva operates.
Integrations are key to ensuring your e-commerce platform aids your customer experience while improving operational efficiency.
The ideal B2B commerce solution will have an architecture that allows integration with other systems, or itself be capable of integrating with them. That could be quotation systems, inventory management systems or manufacturing process management.
Seamlessly connecting these systems with your B2B commerce platform will allow information to be shared automatically, eliminating systems working in silo as well as optimising the customer experience. For example, providing real-time information on manufacturing, shipping and delivery times, as well as product availability, enabling the customer to plan and order accordingly.
Simple, but so effective. Site search is an often undervalued perk of e-commerce platforms. Not only does it boost user experience, it also helps to gather important data as it allows you to see the process visitors take when finding a product or information.
Yes, site search isn’t a new feature and is an expectation rather than a nice to have. But, how it’s implemented and the results executed which has the power to deliver an outstanding user experience and set you apart from the competition.
DEPT® implemented Optimizely Find for Jotun to deliver intelligent search results across its B2B and B2C sites. It powers global search, the product finder, colour grids, related colours and products, and various listing pages resulting in an enhanced user experience.
UK manufacturers are lagging behind other markets due to a slow down of digital investment, but as we can clearly see, the opportunity is huge. B2B commerce is only accelerating and it’s not stopping anytime soon. It’s time to make it a top priority or risk being left behind.
It’s a constant cycle, with continuous improvements and innovation required for manufacturing companies to constantly exceed customers’ ever-changing expectations and deploy business strategies to gain competitive advantage. But for those willing to invest, the possibilities are endless.
In the meantime, get in touch to find out how we can help you elevate your B2B commerce function.
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How Salesforce Commerce Cloud creates customised e-commerce experiences
This year, global e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $5 trillion.
This milestone speaks to the industry’s unique position at the intersection of rapid digital development and a renewed period of slower but sustained growth following the boom period spurred by a global pandemic.
If you’re looking for a platform to create (or level up) an e-commerce experience for a B2C brand, you’ll know that now, more than ever, is the time to stand out.
Here’s why Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) might be the solution you need.
The SFCC advantage
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the leading cloud-based SaaS e-commerce platforms. It’s known for being a robust product that can be taken out-of-the-box and leveraged to build & launch an immersive brand experience quickly.
One of the biggest advantages of SFCC is that, as an out-of-the-box solution, you only need the support of an engineering team to deploy it.
Once the storefront is live, managing the platform is easily done in-house, even if your brand doesn’t have a dedicated team of engineers.
Using SFCC also offers your brand the advantage of Salesforce’s suite of best-in-class integrations. Some of these come pre-built in, like SFCC’s AI-powered Einstein module, which delivers personalised recommendations to your customers.
Other integrations are sold separately but are well worth considering.
Mulesoft, Pardot, Salesforce CDP, and Salesforce OMS are just a few examples that can bolster your customer experience with a 360-degree view.
New customisation options for limitless innovation
Historically, SFCC depended on templates for storefronts to help brands deploy their e-commerce sites quickly.
Although SFCC offers numerous effective options for templates, the requirement posed a creative restriction for brands looking to build a custom storefront fully aligned with their identity and nuanced customer experience.
Following Salesforce’s acquisition of Mobify at the end of 2020, however, SFCC got an exciting upgrade: full customisation, powered by a headless architecture.
Headless architecture separates front-end and back-end software. Where a software update in a traditional architecture would require engineers to make changes to both the front- and back-ends, a headless architecture makes it possible to change—or even completely rebuild—one end independent of the other.
For brands using SFCC, this makes it easy to break out of a template and work with a team of engineers to build your own fully customised e-commerce storefront without compromising on the speed of deployment.
Most importantly, taking advantage of headless architecture positions your brand to innovate continuously. As digital evolves and new customer touchpoints emerge, you’re able to incorporate additional features and creative experiences quickly and affordably.
Bespoke SFCC in action
Over ten years of building upwards of 200 e-commerce sites with SFCC, we’ve seen the platform deliver customisation at speed time and time again.
This was our inspiration for creating DEPT® SFRA, an in-house storefront reference architecture for SFCC, which provides a highly capable foundation on which to build a bespoke storefront tailor fit to meet client needs.
As an out-of-the-box platform, SFCC can be launched fast.
But starting with a foundation like SFRA makes it possible to deliver modern, highly customised experiences at lightning speed. Sometimes in as little as five months, as was the case for GANT’s global e-commerce transformation, or even four, which was the timeline for the Dutch stroller company Bugaboo.
But SFCC’s customisation goes beyond meeting deadlines, too. As e-commerce undergoes a shift with new innovations in technology and a lower barrier for entry allows a plethora of new players to enter the market, providing a highly customised experience gives brands like yours a way of standing out against the noise.
Patagonia worked with us to incorporate a design system into the storefront architecture’s front end that created a balance between their world-renowned products and a purpose rooted in sustainability, taking advantage of SFCC’s headless customisation to create a flagship experience that future-proofs their brand against our rapidly changing digital world.
Providing a great e-commerce experience has been a requirement for B2C brands for some time. Now, however, is the time to use customisation to differentiate your experience from everyone else’s.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Salesforce Commerce Cloud can help your brand create a future-ready e-commerce experience, our team of SFCC pros are always ready to chat.
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VP eCommerce Europe
Tim de Kamper
Build vs buy: e-commerce platforms
Today’s most successful brands use robust e-commerce platforms and a slew of tools to optimise the buying process.
This complex ecosystem allows marketing and commerce teams to reach their users, create buying experiences, and improve conversions.
But this complex ecosystem is also–complex. Beyond e-commerce platform selection, a decision needs to be made on each and every tool that integrates with that platform. Of course, you can also create custom applications that serve a distinct purpose.
What should you buy? What should you build? And how should you integrate everything so you don’t get locked in?
Here’s how to build a resilient e-commerce website that delights your users and your internal team.
Build what’s unique to your business. Buy everything else.
Most e-commerce teams should buy every tool that assists in the online shopping experience. This includes
- E-commerce platform
- Customer support functionality
- Payment processing
- CRM and marketing automation
- Transactional emails/SMS
- Search functionality
- Inventory management
- Shipment tracking
It doesn’t make sense for a clothing brand to build custom applications. Rather, your teams should be focusing on your core capabilities—clothing.
What’s unique to a clothing brand might be the way that users experience and engage with your clothes online. This experience is what you should focus on differentiating via custom builds. For other businesses, there might be unique data used in a proprietary way (membership purchases, for example).
Always build your e-commerce frontend
In an e-commerce environment, you should always own your brand’s UX/UI logic, how users interact with your products, and user data.
The front end of your e-commerce store should be somewhat isolated from third-party platforms. Instead, it should be connected via API.
This ownership and flexibility is one reason headless e-commerce solutions are gaining popularity. By using an API instead of relying on an e-commerce platform’s design tools and database, you can better control vendors, and swap them out if you need to.
Image courtesy of Mach Alliance
By owning your own user experience, you untether yourself from the restraints of traditional e-commerce websites.
A traditional e-commerce website might be something like Amazon, featuring product images next to a product description, and then an “add to cart” button. This standard e-commerce experience is fine in some instances, but as online shopping becomes more important, brands have the opportunity to offer something better.
A perfect example is Google’s store. Check out Google’s Pixel 6a page. It’s so much more than an image-and-description interface.
An out-of-the-box platform cannot create this kind of e-commerce experience. It requires knowledge of the product itself, what users care about, exceptional UX/UI, and custom frontend development.
But it’s worth it. It immerses users in the functionality of its product. It shows–not tells–what makes a Pixel 6a unique.
By owning how your store interacts with users, you can easily swap vendors in and out, avoiding lock-in and having the flexibility to change/upgrade when needed.
Your marketing or e-commerce team can also conduct more testing and tweak the shopping experience for the user. This freedom doesn’t exist within e-commerce platforms alone.
Proactive teams with the ability to give users a better e-commerce experience? That’s the kind of resiliency top brands need in today’s digital landscape.
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Global SVP Technology & Engineering
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