The new era of eCommerce CMS - How to make it work for you

Contents

How can you make sure your content finds its audience? This is the essential issue in any online business where content management is the determining factor. When it comes to eCommerce, it is extremely important to be able to precisely know what your target audiences want, AND to be able to deliver it to them in time and as a simple/quick experience. Additionally, the current availability of internet on so many devices means that you have to deliver it to the right place too, what is often called omnichannel publishing. So how can you make sure that’s the case?

An ideal eCommerce CMS publishing content for all platforms and devices, simultaneously.

Where’s the Issue?

In the earlier days of the Internet, eCommerce usually meant having a single website work as a storefront. Today however, any online business must sustain its presence on many different fronts: the website, the phone app, the smartwatch app, the display in a shopping mall, the voice activated personal assistant, and so on. This omnichannel presence is going to be an even bigger issue in the near future, as a whopping 25% of all retail sales globally is predicted to be coming from eCommerce by 2025.

Each time a new product is introduced, the change has to be manually applied to each platform. This means a tremendous amount of resources have to be spent only to maintain the constant flow of content updates. This is also why keeping up with the target audience can be so hard and time consuming. Yet quick response to customers’ expectations is key in creating a personalized experience. According to Forbes, a total of 77% of businesses surveyed report increased sales and customer lifetime value through their customer personalization efforts.

RetaiA graph showing retail eCommerce sales worldwide from 2014 to 2023. The numbers show constant growth, and are projected to grow even faster in the future. Based on statistics from emarketer.com.

The traditional approach to content management (usually called “monolithic”) pioneered the technology in the last decades, however considering the modern issues in eCommerce, it has some serious flaws in a number of areas:

  • Responding to market trends and creating the appropriate content for them requires a lot of effort and is consequently slow (due to heavy reliance of marketers on the IT team in creating new landing pages, limited editing possibilities, etc.)
  • Inconsistencies in content due to the high number of manual inputs required
  • Standards and quality control are hard to implement
  • The interdependence of the front-end and the back-end means a limited programming framework, restricted content types, and often higher maintenance
  • Big scale changes and redesigns require immense effort
  • Extremely high rates of resource consumption
  • Targeting and personalization require complex and time consuming tasks (due to the aforementioned reasons)

Some eCommerce platforms have tried to mitigate the problems, by offering their own content management systems (CMS).

ecommerce platform:

an online platform that offers companies the requirements of running a store, including the shopping cart, inventory, payment, and shipping management. Bigcommerce and Shopware are ecommerce platforms.

CMS:

A system that allows users to create, customize, modify, publish, and manage all digital content (text, image, video, audio, etc.) in any form. Storyblok and Wordpress are CMSs.

However the results are always less than optimal, as a CMS and an ecommerce platform are inherently different. The administration of your company’s store and the creation (and maintenance) of your website and all your digital content are of course important, and should remain clearly defined. The core problem with merging the two together is that administration, customer experience, and marketing will all be deeply interconnected which is something you should always avoid. Creating a responsive and fast website with personalized user journeys, and managing payments and shipments should be done separately in order to avoid sacrifices to quality on either side.

Because of all these issues, many prominent businesses like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon have moved away from the monolithic approach. In fact Amazon was one of the early proponents of the change to a modern approach. In 2002 Amazon made the switch from the traditional monolithic system to one driven by APIs (Application Programming Interface).

API-first: The New Era of Ecommerce CMS

The most notable result of the API model, is the seamless integration of data and technology. Many companies have a tall stack of technologies and customer data which have to firstly work in perfect sync, and secondly be easily accessible in any moment to create successful targeted content.

Thanks to APIs, your CRM and CMS can function perfectly well together. It doesn’t matter what ecommerce platform you are using, as long as your CMS prioritizes APIs, you can easily make them work together. Using the API approach also means building and managing a network of customer touchpoints all based on the same foundational pillar of tools.

An API-first CMS providing content for different front-ends, including websites, eCommerce, android and iOS apps.

If a business decides to go the modern way, it makes sense to use a CMS which is built specifically with APIs as its core. These content management systems are known as “API first” or “Headless”. Headless in this context simply means that the front-end (the presentational end or the “head”) is separated from the back-end (the engine or the foundational pillar, the “body”). This way, you can fit as many different “heads” (websites, apps, etc.) as you want on the same “body”. Storyblok is a prime example of the new “Headless” movement.

A headless CMS providing content for different devices, with the same quality across platforms.

What are the Benefits of a Headless eCommerce CMS?

1. Faster User Experience

Due to the headless nature, any heavy traffic on the front-end side would not affect the back-end (and vice versa). For example, Storyblok has helped the major telecom company UPC decrease their website’s loading time by 81% by switching to a headless system. Additionally, in the case of eCommerce and because of the high number of images used (product images, banners, etc.), robust (lossless) image compression and optimization service is a must, which is not always the case with monolithic systems.

2. Omnichannel Presence

The headless approach’s greatest strength is its platform independence. By separating the front- and the back-end, omnichannel publishing becomes extremely simple and quick. In a monolithic approach, your team has to copy the same content into different systems for a website, an app, and all the other platforms you wish to be present on. However, the API-first approach means your content only has to be contained in a single hub, while APIs deliver it to different platforms. Couple that with using Content Blocks and Intelligent Content, and your eCommerce will be in perfect synchronization on all platforms while saving your team a considerable amount of time (by automating some of the repetitive tasks).

With a headless CMS, your marketers and content creators can publish on any platform without having to wait for developers. Additionally, Storyblok’s Visual Editor gives your team a flexible environment where every single change can be visually tracked before going live.

3. Personalization

Any customer related work (front-end) can be done independently from the back-end, meaning complete independence and freedom for your content creators to make the right move at the right time. The most obvious instance is product recommendations. It has been proven that recommendations not only directly increase the Average Order Value, but also contribute to higher numbers of returning customers with significantly higher add-to-cart rates. The second case to consider is the introduction of new products/product lines. If done right and quick, personalization makes sure your new products find their target immediately.

Unlike the monolithic systems, a headless CMS gives your marketers complete control over the way your front-end looks like. A unique page layout and store design with full customization options (instead of pre-built themes as in most monolithic systems) is a first step in establishing a business’ individual identity. Localization and internationalization capabilities also make sure that personalizing your customers’ journeys anywhere, on any device is even easier to attain.

In the case of Storyblok, by using modular content blocks Instead of creating full-fledged and finished single pieces of content every time, your marketers create smaller blocks of content which can be stacked on top of each other to form different finished products. These blocks can be used outside of their original context and be applied to many different situations. This drastically reduces the time needed to introduce new products or update old ones.

4. SEO

While having personalized customer journeys are important, they only come to fruition when the target audience can find your content/platform. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is thus essential for any eCommerce business. With a proper eCommerce CMS like Storyblok, you are able to:

  • Have complete control over your website’s navigation links and URLs
  • Add comprehensive metadata to your pages, images, tables, etc.
  • Reach higher on google’s search results by having a fast-loading website (thanks to the “API first” approach)
  • Provide “alt texts” for your visual content, resulting in your images showing up in proper search results
  • Guarantee security and link authority to ensure your website is trusted by search engines

5. Optimized Marketing and Analytics

In addition to better personalization and omnichannel presence, a modern eCommerce CMS can help your business with marketing issues and internal analysis. When it comes to user experience, a responsive and easy to reach customer service is a priority. An eCommerce CMS offers many possibilities for your business to be easily reachable by your customers.

For example, a live chat can be much more than a communication tool. It should also provide your marketers with essential and relevant metrics to help them further understand the market and the customers. These metrics can provide vital information for monthly reports, customer overviews, growth rates, and more.

Likewise your marketers must have easy access to their targets and a streamlined form of communication that can handle high numbers. An eCommerce CMS should be able to help your marketers with offering them seamless integration of communication tools with your eCommerce for automated email campaigns, targeted page banners, and personalized messages to registered users.

A modern eCommerce CMS also offers integration of external analytic tools and A/B testing capabilities.

6. Saving Resources

By implementing a headless system, your team can build customized landing pages and product detail sites in record time. The independence of your content creators means instead of working on bulky time consuming operations, they can dedicate their time to creative tasks.

Taking advantage of Intelligent Content also reduces your costs considerably, by helping you to automate different parts of the process.

In the case of Storyblok, since it is a SaaS (Software as a Service) product, it does all the heavy lifting for you when it comes to infrastructure and updates, which in turn means less maintenance on your side.

example:

Raleigh’s website was rebuilt by Storyblok and Shopware.

Usually when speaking of Headless CMSs, the major problem which is brought up is the lack of proper visual preview for the content creators. However Storyblok has solved this issue by creating a unique Visual Composer.

You can click here to see the Visual Composer in action.

Who Should Take This Approach?

Like any other issue, the choice depends on each individual case and there is no universal answer. The most important thing to remember is to consider your own goals and current needs of your business before making a decision.

Here you can find a quick comparison table to help you with having a structured overview:

Traditional CMSHeadless CMS
ApproachMonolithicHeadless through APIs
Targeted DevicesWeb-onlyAll devices
SetupBased on specific CMS rulesBased on your existing tech stack
CodingCo-existing content, CMS, and Front-end code creates dependency, making each addition a complex taskContent is independent and works with API calls. Any new "head" can be added with simplicity
Customer's InterfacePre-built templates with minor customization possibleAbsolute control over the presentation of content
Technology ChoiceDictated by the CMSFree Choice
RedesignChanges require modifying the whole systemChanges are isolated to cases
Platform independence -Yes
Cross Platform Support -Yes

Checklist: Taking the Headless Approach for Your Next eCommerce CMS

There are many different cases where a Headless approach may be preferable to a traditional CMS. These are some of the cases where a Headless CMS would be the better fit for an eCommerce business:

  • You want your content and products to stand out amongst the competition by giving your users an individually tailored experience that is unique to your brand.

  • Speed is a priority in your business. You want your customers to have a quick experience on your platform, but also you want them to receive their personalized content as fast as possible.

  • Your business requires omnichannel presence and cross platform support is a primary issue.

  • Your business produces a lot of content and/or needs to update its existing content regularly.

  • Flexibility and customization are high-importance concerns.

Keep a Traditional CMS for Your Business if:

  • Your business does not rely on publishing content on different platforms/channels/devices and is exclusively website-based.

  • Your website is simple and you prefer pre-built templates and themes.

  • You don’t publish or update content on a regular basis. In other words your business has a small set of products that stay unchanged.

Summary

With the ever-growing connectivity of different devices to the Internet and the rising popularity of eCommerce among consumers, moving towards omnichannel publication seems inevitable. For businesses who deal with larger amounts of content and/or prioritize personalized customer journeys, there is a modern solution to content management.

While there is no absolute answer, the headless approach fits perfectly for a diverse range of businesses, and addresses the usual shortcomings of the traditional systems.

If you want to get some hands-on experience with a Headless CMS, you can try Storyblok for free. If you want to know more about storyblok, you can contact us here.

Siavash Moazzami-Vahid

Author

Siavash Moazzami-Vahid

Siavash is a passionate content creator, academic researcher, and analyst who aims to build a bridge to his audience by creating a consistent stream of content of all kinds; blog posts, white-papers, checklists, and podcasts.