Partner ecosystem is at the heart of eCommerce evolution  

Alison Williams, Business Development Director at Amplience talks to PCR about its partner networks and the importance of streamlining your ecommerce platform at a time when retailers can really make a difference.

 The past year has been both a blessing and a curse for eCommerce. Retailers and brands have had to step up and become a substitute for the absence of physical stores, the expertise found within them, and the shopping experience. Demand for goods has never been so high and retailers equipped to meet those demands with a plethora of content are reaping dividends. But despite investing in responsive online storefronts that are supposedly mobile-optimised, many retailers are struggling to convert sales, and this is having a negative impact.

Consumer buying habits have changed. As many as 20% are incorporating social media such as Pinterest and Instagram in their shopping routines to seek out trends, discover products and find inspiration. When they land on an eCommerce site, they are breaking the traditional eCommerce conversion funnel by going straight to the product-detail-page. This is traditionally the end of the shopping journey, not the beginning, and they’re missing a whole storefront’s worth of content, offers and promotions and spending less.

If consumers do go straight to the storefront too many are experiencing poor page load performance, incomprehensible navigation, opaque taxonomies, missing product information, and generic content that lacks personalisation and/or relevance. When the results are filtered for mobile-first interactions, these challenges are magnified, with page load performance being the stand-out issue.

The spotlight is on eCommerce. There’s nowhere else to go right now, and the fact is that dealing with these problems requires changes at the front, and at the backend. Retailers too often rely on decades-old platforms and content management technologies that are not designed to enable simple changes. Retail technology teams have worked miracles, frankly, in extending these legacy systems to accommodate omnichannel demands, but they are fighting a losing battle with complexity and cost and shopper frustration grows by the day.

Enter headless commerce
To gain control of how they build and manage digital experiences across every customer-facing touchpoint, headless commerce has the solution. It decouples the front-end presentation layer (the head) from the back-end eCommerce capabilities (which coordinate tasks like maintaining and updating a product catalogue, processing payments, handling orders and more). Headless platforms expose functionality delivered from the cloud enabling them to support lightning-fast mobile-optimised storefronts and solve the problems of monolithic back-end complexity.

But getting this message across needs integration partners that share a headless vision for content, commerce, and marketing and who can accelerate the shift to headless that retailers and brands need. The biggest challenge is that while retailer IT teams promote headless, their business teams have a hard time adopting the technical direction because they can’t ‘see’ it. The value of our partner relationships comes from their ability to develop complex solutions strategies with us, the retailer or brand and themselves, which make sense and allow progress to be made. We are not an add-on to the existing tech stack, but instead the core element in the digital entity which incorporates the storefront, kiosk, web app, etc. Our partners have made us central to retailers’ overall solutions and that is transforming the eCommerce experience those retailers offer to their customers.

Working with the integrator network
We aim to evolve eCommerce technologies and with development happening at a rapid pace, success depends on a collective of industry-leading capabilities that can deliver results for retailers. So, we partner with solution implementors, marketing agencies and consultants as well as independent software vendors whose vision aligns with ours. This is mutually beneficial because while our partners champion our products with clients and prospects, they also bring back invaluable product suggestions and enhancements that support real-world customer scenarios.

To us, the size of the partner doesn’t matter. We power more than 350 of the world’s leading eCommerce brands, and any partner who can help them create engaging, dynamic, bespoke stories that reflect their diverse customer base is welcome in our ecosystem. All partners receive the same level of support. This includes free training, joint marketing initiatives and a free development environment so they can touch and feel the product suite and integrate it into other technologies, eCommerce platforms, reference applications and Proof of Concept builds.

Partners and the MACH Alliance
There’s no rigorous application process to be an Amplience partner. Historically, our partner network comprised top implementors and consultants that supported the leading eCommerce platforms but as eCommerce has evolved into omnichannel connected experiences and headless commerce has become the de facto technology of omnichannel, we’ve seen broader interest across technologies and integrators. This has also led to the creation of the MACH Alliance, of which we are founding members.

The MACH Alliance is a non-profit co-operation of technology companies that advocate for microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless architectures in commerce. There are clear business advantages for adopting this approach, and collectively we advocate for open tech systems that help enterprises navigate the complex modern technology landscape. By providing a single resource for businesses to understand this best-of-breed architecture, organisations get better answers, more quickly, so they can transform their commerce experience.

Since the inception of the MACH Alliance, we’ve witnessed a shift in the level of engagement with our partners, particularly in positioning our digital experience platform at the heart of the headless commerce systems they are building for retailers and brands.

Partnerships are moving the dial for eCommerce
2020 proved that digital commerce is not only here to stay but is now table stakes. With restrictions put on physical retail and customers going straight to digital, we’ve seen success with retailers and brands that continue to engage with their customers through unified stories across all channels. They recognise the importance of tracking customer journey changes with new technology that supports rapid changes. As the lines continue to blur between content and commerce, they want the freedom to choose the best-of-breed SaaS solutions to fit their needs and the ability to create outstanding, bespoke customer experiences, rather than a one-size-fits all “traditional” approach to eCommerce.

The headless commerce trend has been largely led by IT teams, due to its flexible architecture and ability to power unique digital experiences. However, without having a tangible experience (be that a digital website, a mobile app, or store kiosk) headless is hard to conceptualise for business, merchandise and marketing teams. Integrators, such as our own partners, can break through this barrier, bringing headless commerce to life and demonstrating how a retailer’s window on the world can marry content, commerce, and digital.

Previously, Amplience was seen as an extension of an eCommerce platform’s content management capability, but our partners have shifted the dial and are building digital storefronts and omnichannel experiences powered by us. We will always advocate headless, but the real proof is in gaining customer hearts and minds, and for those retailers and brands who have adopted this agile, microservices-based approach to commerce, our customer’s speed and agility in an ever-shifting market make them the most successful keeping and capitalising on engaged buyers.

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