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Guide | April 21, 2022

How headless commerce allows hospitality businesses to adapt

The rise of headless commerce has been hard to miss in recent years as all sorts of industries have benefited from the technology’s ability to allow them to adapt, and hospitality businesses are no different.

In case you did somehow avoid running into the term ‘headless commerce’ in the eCommerce space, our partners Magnolia have a handy definition:

“In headless commerce, the storefront frontend and the eCommerce platform backend are separated. This allows brands to manage the eCommerce capabilities and alter the presentation layer as they see fit, providing a shopping experience on desktop, mobile, or any internet-connected device.”

There are all sorts of benefits to be enjoyed when headless is employed correctly but for hospitality businesses, the technology’s power to make an organization more adaptable is huge. The hospitality sector has borne the brunt of the impact of the pandemic over the last couple of years, and the radical changes COVID-19 has brought to the industry are perhaps the best example of why it pays to be adaptable.

4 ways headless commerce makes for adaptable hospitality

Let’s dive into the unique features of a headless platform and how they allow hospitality businesses to adapt to whatever is thrown at them.

1. Flexibility

Flexibility is baked into a headless approach to commerce as the very nature of being able to alter the frontend of a website without having to fiddle around with the backend means the platform can be anything a business wants it to be.

Every business in every sector needs flexibility, but i’s become an especially acute need in the hospitality world. While mass COVID-19 lockdowns are thankfully a thing of the past in most parts of the world, the rapid onset of targeted restrictions to normal life could be part of life for a while. Over the last couple of years, hospitality businesses had to suddenly pivot from one target market to another. For example, Vietnamese tourism companies had to do without foreign customers for a full two years with borders closed up until very recently. Businesses that focused on the foreign visitor market either needed the flexibility to adapt to the domestic market, or they faced closure. Thousands did indeed close.

Hospitality businesses using a headless approach to their business would have had the flexible website and commerce set-up necessary to pivot in whatever direction they needed, without laborious development efforts on the backend.

Magnolia CMS’s work with Thomas Cook Cruises is one such example of a headless approach bringing much-needed flexibility. Magnolia’s headless CMS has 80% more features than pure SaaS systems and allowed Thomas Cook to have a platform “through which content could be collated into a single content app, rather than sitting on individual landing pages”. This meant the travel company could build a brand new template and page structure to better reflect their brand with “minimal manual intervention”.

2. Speed

Similar to the first benefit mentioned above, operating your eCommerce site in a headless environment allows you to roll out changes with more speed, and being first to market can be crucial to success in hospitality.

Being first to market and changing how you do business at speed can make or break a hospitality business, for several reasons. For one it’s very competitive, as everyone and their mother loves the idea of owning their own restaurant or bar. For another, consumer tastes change quickly and loyalty is hard to come by. Don’t take our word for it though, instead listen to 30+ year hospitality veteran Tony Eldred:

“You are in an industry that is subject to the fickle whims of fashion and your customers view what you do in their own irrational, idiosyncratic way. Likewise, new technology and useful services are coming thick and fast and if you don’t take advantage of them, and your competitors do, you’ll fall behind. To prosper, you have to keep a close eye on the world around you and be prepared to react quickly.”

Headless commerce has the power to not only allow you to make changes at speed, but it also ensures your site is running quickly and allows consumers to interact with it at speed. Remember, almost half of customers expect a website to load in two seconds or less. To use another example from Magnolia CMS, their headless CMS allowed Viking Cruises to launch an online booking platform in a mere six weeks, and as we all know time is money.

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Restaurants can't just provide speedy drinks service, they need to be rapid in all sorts of aspects.

3. Personalization

Personalization is the goal for many eCommerce businesses and hospitality outlets are no different; it’s the Holy Grail. It can also be as elusive as that mystical cup, as to truly deliver a great personalized experience, you need to have a lot of factors in place.

This is yet another area where a headless approach can really shine. If you’re using something like the Antsomi CDP 365 customer data platform to gather data and build customer personas, you can then use your headless CMS or a headless eCommerce platform to really make the most of all the lovely data you’ve gathered. A headless CMS, for example, can be used to deliver your content to the website via APIs which deliver said content in a personalized manner. When done right, this should mean your customers and prospects see messaging far more likely to turn them into conversions than if your content was delivered in a one-size-fits-all way.

Brad Gustavesen, CMO at Ultra Commerce, states, “Personalization is critical in the hospitality industry and for it to be utilized well, you need the right data at the right time. The ability of your eCommerce platform to unlock, access a complete data profile, and leverage critical APIs allows businesses to drive intelligent personalization to optimize customer experiences.”

It should go without saying but we’ll say it anyway: personalization can be huge in hospitality. Gone are the days when a mint on the pillow and a handwritten note is enough, now customers want their online booking and browsing experience to be personal. Remember, some studies have found that 74% of customers feel frustrated when a website’s content isn’t personalized.

4. Scalability

If you’re successful with personalization, moving with trends flexibly, and doing it at speed to boot, then things are probably going pretty well for your hospitality business. Scaling up is the next step and that’s good news for the most part, as who doesn’t want to have more customers to serve and revenue to count?

However, if your online presence isn’t able to keep up with the number of punters coming in the door or boarding the ship, you could be in trouble. Website downtime, broken features or overwhelmed internal systems can await all those without the technological infrastructure in place to keep up with demand.

Have no fear though, as scalability is baked into a headless approach. With the backend and frontend of a headless eCommerce site decoupled your site can be optimized for scaling, as headless is able to handle large amounts of data without compromising on the speed of web page delivery.

Scalability is important for all businesses with ambition but especially so for hospitality. Depending on the type of business, it can be crucial. For example, a restaurant chain targeted at the lower end of the price spectrum needs to sell a lot of meals to turn a profit. If the internal systems aren’t up to high traffic volumes, this could be a disaster waiting to happen.

For instance, a scalable platform is also key to ensuring a restaurant can deal with peak periods and still provide the service they're known for. Our partners at Ultra Commerce understand this all too well given their experience building commerce applications and architecture that connect in real-time to point-of-sale systems that can keep up with peak demand.

Last orders

Matt Boland, Director of Global Partnerships at Ultra Commerce, adds, “A comprehensive eCommerce platform must be in place to execute the 'perfect order' across all these touchpoints to deliver on the customer promise.”

Headless commerce is no silver bullet to all the problems that a business may face, but with the right approach, it can really help a hospitality operation stay on its toes. And anyone who’s spent any time in a professional kitchen knows being able to adapt to whatever a customer may throw at you is key to survival.

To learn more about how we can help your hospitality business be ready for anything, get in touch with SmartOSC here.

You can also contact Ultra Commerce here, get expert advice from Antsomi here and get connected with Magnolia CMS here.

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