At Cocoon, we speak with many businesses who are looking to re-strategize their web implementations in order to gain a competitive edge in the evolving digital landscape.
With many businesses at a crossroads between traditional implementations and the appeal of modern, headless-enabled approaches such as MACH—a key concern often arises around internal marketing teams.
Headless approaches are sometimes dismissed, with stakeholders concerned that frontends will be difficult to control and augment by internal marketing and content teams. In actuality, headless solutions can provide far-stronger tooling for these departments. We believe that this myth has been perpetuated by poor implementation or incorrect technology selection, compounded by a lack of attention from development teams on the desired outcomes for all stakeholders, marketing included.
For each headless project that we take on, marketing teams form a pivotal component to the success of the project's objectives. For frontend implementations, it's our belief that this is the only correct way that Headless should be.
Marketing-enablement through headless web and application implementations is a core element of any MACH-based frontend or multi/omnichannel setup, and it's imperative to the lifelong success of such a digital transformation.
After cost, we find that the biggest potential challenge to adoption of headless strategies is the fear of loss of control, particularly for rich content and marketing teams.
1. It doesn't have to be that way (if it's recognized early as a potential pitfall);
2. It shouldn't be that way (if key stakeholders are aware and care strongly enough to avoid it);
3. It won't be that way (if stakeholders and the software development team are on the same page at the outset and throughout the duration of the project, and the appropriate tooling is implemented in order to avoid "code lock-in")
How can this concern be addressed in a way to maximize results, and in fact achieve the opposite outcome?
Conduct deep assessment of organizational needs
Modernization of an existing tech stack is great, and headless approaches can act to supercharge revolution in an organization's existing digital implementations. However, sight should not be lost about the most critical element of business: people. The solution should meet the needs of each of the stakeholders at every touchpoint, so as to be truly successful. This kind of multi-faceted strategization is essential for any digital transformation project.
Work the tech: don't let the tech work you
A headless approach involves the decoupling of legacy implementation methods, and the subsequent marrying of best-in-class, performant technologies. This creates a collective application implementation that redefines customer experience (CX), enables greater personalization of experiences, and utilizes modern digital techniques to form stronger outcomes for the business.
Appropriate technology selection
Through the selection of best-in-class, appropriate technology from the outset, a host of issues can be avoided. This process involves a deep level of understanding for requirements and key performance indicators for project success. Crucially, introduction of only the correct technologies into the stack will better ensure that project specifications are met, and issues with scale can be mitigated.
Availability of great talent
We truly believe that a digital implementation is only as good as the talent who is responsible for architecting it. With headless and MACH implementations, this is incredibly important due to the time investment required. Development and implementation teams should have ample experience in the conception of headless builds, and—perhaps just as crucially—knowledge of the various hybrid approaches available in order to maximize long-term efficiency and scalability of the solution for the business' specific use cases.
Thought-out implementation methods
Headless builds can be developed and implemented in a variety of ways. There are multiple data fetching and rendering methods available, and any digital-first business is likely to be utilizing a range of technology in their current stack already. It's key that a new headless implementation provides a way to ease existing challenges without creating additional workflows or impeding operations. This refers back to the previous point about talent. Utilizing continuous delivery pipelines, automated testing, the correct rendering methods are all examples of how a headless build can be architected to work for an organization rather than against it.
- Using headless as a form of digital transformation to clear existing technical debt
Technical debt, while well-understood, is notoriously challenging to mitigate even for digital-first businesses. The re-implementation of a frontend or distribution channel to headless can act as a vital stepping stone toward the elimination of preexisting and long-standing technical debt. Stakeholders and development teams should work jointly to outline existing bottlenecks and identify ways to alleviate them in a new headless build.
Define clear goals for each stake-holding team, right from the outset of the project.
- Marketing departments are keen to offer a significant contribution to the success of the business. Headless implementations should be architected around this goal.
- Sales teams will additionally rely on the implementation to deliver on key performance indicators that make a difference to their processes, ability to engage prospects, and the overall efficacy of the tech to support their efforts.
- It's vital for content teams to retain publishing and authorship control, in a way that they are able to deliver powerful multimedia-based messages on a continual and impactful basis.
- In a commerce environment, fulfillment and warehousing teams will be expectant of the headless solution to deliver reliable, up-to-date, and synchronized data in a way that enhances their operational ability, rather than hindering it.
- Technical departments will undoubtably experience thrill at the prospect of a more streamlined, high-performance headless implementation to solve existing bottlenecks within the business, and it's imperative that DX (Developer Experience) experiences a significant enhancement as a result of a shift to headless architecture.
Winning for Marketing Teams with Headless
At Cocoon, we've worked on a variety of Headless CMS implementations, from end-to-end solutions to small-scale refactors with the objective of improving accessibility for marketing teams. We believe that in order for a headless build to be effective, it must serve marketing teams as a key modality to reach existing customers as well as prospects in an efficient way that is easy to operate and sustain. This is imperative in order that marketing teams can maximize their efforts to continue their utilization of digital as the first-line solution for targeted marketing efforts.
- Headless should be flexible;
- Headless should be scalable;
- Headless should be lovable (by all involved).
Technical checklist to ensure that the headless build works for the marketing team, and not against it
- Provide ways for marketing and content teams to prototype
- Afford the highest level of acceptable customization to the relevant departments, so that the frontend can be augmented on-the-fly, as content needs change
- Draw implementation strategies from the pioneers of yesteryear: Many monolithic, legacy applications provide a deep level of control for marketers, independent of their plentiful pitfalls. There's no conceivable barrier to implementing headless solutions using similar system design techniques, especially with the extensive tooling available today for development teams.
- Leverage the appropriate technologies according to the wider technical and marketing-enablement specifications
As with any digital transformation strategy, identify what currently works and what's broken. Don't lose sight of what works, and ensure a smooth transition into a new headless architecture.
Building a long-term, scalable solution powered by headless technologies that enable and empower marketing teams
Review with all key stakeholders during development but also a period of time after project completion to ensure that all organization-wide requirements have and continue to be met. Repeat at intervals where required in order to identify potential blockages in the implementation and how these can be improved.
- Iterate. Revise, and reinvent where necessary
Tweak and tailor the solution as the landscape changes.
- Adapt, agile
Adopt faster, more proficient technology and integrations where they become available.
- Continuous delivery, continuous innovation
- Hybrid data fetching and rendering approaches