Over the last few months, our world has been turned upside down. While some industries – like hospitality, entertainment and sports – are taking a harder hit than others, it’s clear that a massive shift to online channels has been the most practical, or in many cases the only solution keeping businesses up and running during this time.

Being a headless commerce SaaS vendor, we’re in a unique position in the market to help companies across all industries modernize and ramp up their digital strategy. If you’ve tuned into our new modern commerce webinar series, From Shoptalk to Desktop, you’ve probably heard some of the questions we get asked by brands, retailers and manufacturers about what they need to do to make sure their digital strategy is aligned with online shopping trends, and how they can best plan for the future.

In this blog post, we will answer the most frequently asked questions we get from companies undergoing digital transformation that have had to pivot during this time, or who simply want to launch a new business model while it’s still relevant to their consumers. We also want to stress that with the right modern commerce strategy in place, your business can benefit from speed and agility not just during unexpected spikes, but post-pandemic as well.

Q1:  How quickly can I build “Buy Online Pickup In Store” (BOPIS) and “Contactless Pickup” into my platform?

It’s hard to put an exact timeframe on these projects, depending on the size of your development team and the technology you’re currently using. However, if you work with the commercetools Accelerator you’re able to add new channels and interactions – such as BOPIS – to your platform in a matter of days. If you’re still on a legacy platform, the Accelerator can also help you migrate to modern commerce in weeks, rather than months.

If you’re curious how modern retailers like Target, Walmart and Home Depot can quickly enable omnichannel experiences like BOPIS and Contactless Pickup, it’s because they’re microservices-based. According to this article in DigitalCommerce 360, “Walmart, Target and Home Depot not only provided a smooth buy online pick up in store experience in both locations, but also scored points for offering innovative omnichannel features, such as curbside pickup and in-app directions. These three top retail chains have also made investments in changing their stores to better cater to digital shoppers, such as modifying store layouts to make order pickup easier, adding giant towers to retrieve orders or piloting pickup lockers.” Read more here.

Q2: What is the most important technology component(s) to have in a commerce platform in order to respond faster to unexpected spikes in traffic?

The four most important components in a commerce platform that enable speed, agility and scalability are found in commercetools’ MACH Architecture – which stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless.

Using a modern, MACH commerce platform you can gain the agility to deliver faster time-to-market, scale in real time, and respond quickly to changing consumer demands with personalized, engaging digital experiences. Learn more about the latest ecommerce tech trends of 2020 in this blog post.

Q3: Since commercetools is a headless solution, do we need to replace our front end in order to use commercetools?

Good news! commercetools does not require you to replace your frontend because with our APIs, you can choose any front end that works for you a full DXP suite, Front-end as a Service (FaaS), a headless Content Management System (CMS) or your own custom front-end.

Q4: Is now the right time to be adding new functions or features to my online store, or is it better to keep things as they are so business remains stable and reliable?

This question is a bit tricky because “now” inevitably leads to “when”. On the one hand, it is important to keep your systems up and running at a reliable speed and innovating with your technology does open the possibility to minor disruption. However, what you should be taking into consideration is the type of experience your customers are getting now, and whether that’s enough to keep them coming back when more and more brands and retailers are moving online.

For many businesses pre-pandemic, online might not have been their primary sales channel, so they’re offering what they can but it’s probably not the most ideal experience for their customers. Typical frustrations include: having to enter the same information multiple times, not being able to find products or navigate interfaces easily, slow or static pages, and not getting support through convenient methods like chatbots.

These are important factors to think about as online shopping becomes the “new normal”. In order to engage customers along their entire shopping journey, you need a fast, agile commerce platform that enables your marketing team to make quick updates to product catalogs, use big data to personalize profiles, offer Buy Online PIckup In-Store, etc. Keep reading below to learn more about the solution to these challenges!

Q5: Since consumers are becoming more comfortable shopping online, is this temporary shift going to become a permanent change? And if so, how will it affect my business when brick-and-mortar opens again?

We love this question because it really highlights how much shopping has changed and the effect it’s having on businesses – especially seeing older generations shopping online as much as Millennials and Gen Z.

The short answer is, yes you can expect to see a residual change in shopping habits, which for brands and retailers means making sure that you’re offering a true omnichannel experience. Before we go on, it is important to note that the “new omnichannel” is not just being accessible on all devices, but also offering personalized, engaging experiences from the very first touchpoint all the way to a completed transaction, and even in follow-up communication.

One of our global partners who has mastered the art of digital content and delivery is Contentstack, a headless CMS solution that aligns business and technology teams harmoniously to bring new experiences to life in a matter of days.

On May 26th, join experts from Contentstack and commercetools for a brand new webinar, Popping the Hood on Modern Commerce, where they will explore the secrets to creating a modern retail experience, including which content and commerce technology you need. If you attend the webinar, you will also get an inside look at 3 real-life transformations of top retail leaders. Sign up here.

Q6: What are some of the tools or offerings available to help us get started on a new prototype and launch it quickly?

Along with several of our partners, commercetools is offering a new Fast Forward program to help accelerate the launch of enterprise commerce projects and business models from months to weeks. Visit our website to learn more about the commercetools Accelerator and talk to one of our experts about your particular use case.

We’d also like to let you know that many of our partners are offering special programs for faster migrations. One of these partners, Photon Interactive, is currently hosting The New Normal Workshop, designed to virtually help businesses strategize rapid consumer-centric solutions. Through a series of questions and guided discovery, their team will help develop your vision of a new project into a set of deliverables and a plan of execution.