Headless has been an important evolution in user experience over the last few years. It’s a natural progression of the continued specialization of different services. Having a great backend transactional management system that can be bolted onto any amazing front end experience has liberated brands to take advantage of a greater range of design experiences.
But does headless take things far enough? What about building experiences that are off site?
The promise of “headless” is that user experience can be developed separately and with more flexibility. Rather than bolted to a clunky backend, it’s sort of tethered to the back end via an API. Most of the expressions of headless capability are combinations like having WordPress as the front of the site and Shopify as the back of the site. Not terribly exciting, but certainly a jump forward in user experience and performance.
The future will take this much farther.
There are some new pressures pushing the industry towards offsite experiences. 3rd party sellers like Amazon, Wayfair, Overstock, Walmart, Target, and a hundred more, are owning more of the customer experience. Privacy initiatives and cookie deprecation have made it less desirable to drive people to a single point of contact for the purposes of behavioral tracking. Large ad platforms like Facebook and Google are doing more to keep people within the walled garden by allowing them to shop in platform and creating more robust product detail experiences.
Perhaps even more importantly, the places where people experience the brand are changing. Just as things moved away from brick and mortar, brand experiences are happening where the creators are: Tiktok, Snap, Pinterest, Twitch, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, and increasingly in VR experiences. Forcing someone to go from a fully immersive experience to a traditional website to accomplish something is a big downgrade. It can kill the momentum for the user and the emotional associations of the brand.
Where does this leave marketing in the future? Marketers will be tasked with syndicating brand assets in and out to creators and platforms that can use them to build experiences for the products. We’ll all be digital asset managers. Someone will have the title: “Addressable Resource Allocation Analyst.” The job will be sending creative assets to where they can be best used.
Dynamic Creative Optimization tools like Waterbucket.com which can transform assets based on specific rules and syndicate them to platforms like programmatic, social platforms, video, and email will play an important role in marketing.
The creative catalog is already being used by Facebook to create shops, ads, instant experiences, stories, marketplaces and more. Catalog ads in Facebook routinely get the best ROI.
The more marketers can push the boundaries of headless into individual experiences on and off the site the better the experience will be for the business and the customer.