Uniform for Headless Commerce
adam conn

Adam Conn

Co-founder, Uniform

7 min read

Headless commerce isn’t coming. It’s already here.

A recent report found that of those companies surveyed, more than three-quarters had adopted a headless approach or planned to do so within the next 12 months. Headless commerce opens up a new world for developers by allowing them to build digital commerce shops without the constraints imposed by traditional commerce systems. Like headless CMS, headless commerce systems store data without any regard to how it will eventually be presented. As a result, you have the potential to sell on any page or channel you choose. Or, as one site put it, “the world is your storefront.”

Unfortunately, some of the very same factors that can make headless commerce seem so powerful and promising can also cause significant problems. By providing brands with the freedom to build storefronts any way they want, headless commerce takes a big step in the right direction. But it falls short of the goal of transforming online commerce from a simple catalog and ordering system into a full-fledged digital shopping experience.

By default, headless commerce shifts control away from marketers and merchandisers and onto developers instead. After all, these experiences don't build themselves. They require integration and orchestration between the commerce system, content sources, customer data sources, and marketing systems. As tools have proliferated, it's become harder and harder for business users to take direct control of the shopping experience without support from developer teams. This means business users cannot react to changing business conditions as quickly as they need to. And of course, developers are in short supply.

In addition, headless commerce makes personalizing and previewing content far more challenging. For business users accustomed to designing, refining, and customizing their own pages, this can be a rude awakening, not just for them but for customers as well. In fact, according to a recent survey, 74 percent of customers feel frustrated when their Web site content is not personalized.

Uniform empowerment

For brands that seek the flexibility and speed of headless commerce while retaining the control they enjoyed with legacy monoliths, the answer is Uniform. Uniform realizes the full potential of digital commerce by restoring some of the key features and controls that often get lost in a headless architecture. And it does it all without sacrificing the scalability, security, and speed that makes headless appealing in the first place.

For marketers & merchandisers

Uniform provides a no-code interface for marketers and merchandisers that enables them to build digital experiences constructed from components created by front-end developers. In addition, it adds back the flexibility for personalizing and previewing that the market demands and that they’ve long grown accustomed to.

Developers lay the groundwork. Developers provide the foundation, the bricks, and a basic framework. They have the freedom to use the front-end frameworks, libraries, and tools they want to create the “head” for their headless commerce system. The “head” consists of components the developers create, which are used to display content. Developers have access to content from all systems connected to Uniform, including headless commerce, digital asset managers (DAM), legacy systems, and any other content sources that merchandising teams may need.

Business users can combine commerce and content. Uniform Canvas is a no-code tool that enables business users to assemble the front-end components created by developers into digital experiences for their web shop. It doesn’t matter whether those components use commerce content, marketing content, or a combination of both. Uniform is content agnostic. Commerce content and marketing content are treated the same way. That means merchandisers can include marketing content on commerce pages, and marketers can create landing pages that include commerce content.

Personalization can be added to any component. According to a recent survey, “80 percent of shoppers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences.” In the past, if you wanted to add personalization, you were limited to a monolithic digital experience platform that was tightly coupled with the vendor’s own commerce application. Now, a superior experience is available for headless commerce systems. With Uniform, the same no-code interface for building experiences can enable merchandisers and marketers to add personalization.

Unlike traditional origin-based, rules-oriented personalization, which can be unnecessarily complex for business users and difficult to maintain over time, Uniform’s simplified and intuitive personalization solution rests on just two concepts: intents and signals: Intents are the goals visitors have when they come to your site, and signals are the real-time behaviors that make those intents clearer. The purpose of personalization is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to realize their intents.

Uniform’s innovative personalization interface blends seamlessly with your chosen commerce tool, enabling marketers and merchandisers to easily tag components and content with intents and define the signals that determine them. Using these intents and their real-time behavior as indicators, Uniform’s personalization determines the site content that is most relevant to your visitors, not just on the product detail page, but anywhere you choose. In addition, it enables A/B testing to be added to any component and allows business users to preview personalization in real-time.

This ease of use for marketers and merchandisers and enhanced experience for your visitors can spell increased profits for your brand. In fact, according to one forecast, “Smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 percent.”

For developers

At the same time, Uniform’s solution grants developers the freedom to choose and to focus on what they do best and on what matters most, instead of getting bogged down by unwelcome constraints, components that resist integration, and performance that falls far below expectations.

Developers have full front-end control. Uniform liberates developers from any constraints or restrictions imposed by proprietary commerce tools, allowing them to work with the libraries and frameworks of their choice and to devote all their attention to creating speedy and reliable components.

Jamstack and MACH provide performance, scalability, and security. Uniform is a member of the MACH alliance, and its product is compatible with the Jamstack architecture. Although their roles are slightly different, both Jamstack and MACH share a similar appeal: they’re flexible, modular, efficient, and compatible with modern tools. Neither depends on proprietary technologies or non-standard frameworks, and both emphasize ease of integration. Tools built according to either principle will fit well with Uniform.

Jamstack is a Web architecture designed for speed, security, and scalability by decoupling delivery from an application server and moving it to a CDN. However, this approach often eliminates personalization altogether or forces it to run on the client, which reduces speed and increases complexity. Uniform enables edge-side personalization on commerce sites, while preserving all of the architecture’s advantages.

What Jamstack does for the Web, MACH can do for enterprise applications. Like Jamstack, MACH is a decoupled, “swappable” architecture, where every component is pluggable, scalable, and potentially replaceable in order to adapt to rapidly changing business requirements. Businesses reluctant to adopt personalization cite lingering concerns about performance and scalability as their principal obstacles. MACH addresses both directly. In fact, performance and scalability are baked into the MACH architecture.

In addition, MACH reduces the risk of product lock-in by enabling companies to adopt those technologies that are best suited for their specific needs. With MACH as your architecture, you can select the products you want from the vendors you want to buy from. That means if you buy a MACH-certified commerce component, you can be confident that it can be plugged into a MACH architecture. Uniform provides orchestration across all of the products in your MACH architecture.

Uniform takes personalization right to the edge. Unlike slow-paced, origin-based personalization, which can lead to more bounces than a basketball game, Uniform picks up the pace by putting personalization as close to your customers as possible. You get to build your shop with the technology you want while leveraging the power of the CDN to achieve speed and scalability unmatched by server-side solutions. The results will be borne out in measurable boosts to SEO and Lighthouse scores.

By all indications, headless commerce is here to stay. It provides the speed and agility that a fast-changing business climate requires and that most monolithic architectures are unable to deliver. But a powerful commerce engine isn't enough. The best digital shopping experiences are personalized and individualized. Shoppers demand them and so do merchandisers. Uniform helps you to realize the full potential of headless commerce. It enables merchandisers to create the most engaging digital shopping experiences, allows developers to build the front-end their way, and does it all on a modern architecture that ensures the fastest possible experiences for your customers.

Posted on 10/5/2021 in
JamstackHeadless Commerce

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Startup Uniform looks to fill in the gaps with its composable DXP