The flexibility of “headless,” API-driven ecommerce platforms can help B2B companies meet the complex needs of customers, but companies need to get their data in order and carefully plan their technology buyers, experts said in a B2B Next workshop today.

Deploying a “headless commerce” technology platform—where the ecommerce transaction engine is headless because it has no built-in website or other type of customer-facing interface—is becoming more important as an option for connecting with today’s business buyers who want the flexibility of connecting with sellers in many ways, experts said today at a B2B Next 2019 workshop.

Gregor Ruthren

Gregor Ruthven, director of product management, TruGreen

A so-called headless commerce platform, by providing an extensive arrangement of APIs to connect its ecommerce transaction engine with a customized set of interfaces—such as mobile apps, search ads or internet-of-things applications as well as websites—can go a long way toward helping manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers connect with today’s online B2B buyers any way they prefer to order online. B2B companies that don’t meet their customers’ needs to interact online in multiple ways stand to fall behind, experts say. “Innovations are happening, whether we like or not,” said Gregor Ruthven, director of product management at TruGreen, a supplier of lawn-maintenance products, during the workshop, “Headless Commerce for B2B: Why Losing Your Head is a Good Thing.” Ruthven added: “If you don’t have a system running on APIs, it can be a real problem for your business buyers—“they just don’t want to wait” to connect in their preferred way.

The workshop was sponsored by Elastic Path, a provider of “headless,” API-driven ecommerce technology. (APIs, or application programming interfaces, are sets of software instructions that enable disparate software applications to automatically exchange information.)

Ruthven, who until a month ago was the global digital product manager for sewing machine distributor SVP Worldwide, participated on a panel during the workshop with Carla Gonzales, ecommerce business manager for Wurth Louis & Co., a supplier of woodworking products among other lines of business, and two industry experts, Brian Walker of Bloomreach and Brian Beck of Beck Commerce.


The ‘headless’ value proposition

Carla Gonzales, ecommerce business manager, Wurth Louis & Co.

Gonzales cautioned that “headless is expensive” in many cases to build out all of the APIs a company may need, and that companies need to carefully think through how they need to connect with their customers and how they need to build out their ecommerce platform accordingly.

At Wurth, which relies heavily on its sales teams, the company is getting plenty of input from its sales and customer service reps to better understand how it needs to better connect with its customers as well as provide its agents with new ways to help customers, Gonzales said.

With digital technology changing at an increasing rate, headless and API-driven commerce platforms are becoming more important as technology options for companies to consider, Beck and Walker said. “The world is changing,” and as a result headless commerce is offering a “value proposition,” Beck noted.


Panelists also noted the headless, API route gives companies the option to build new ways to connect with customers without having to rebuild their complete ecommerce software platforms. A company can focus on the particular service it wants to add onto its commerce engine without “piling code on top of code” and “pray that it all works,” Walker said.

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