Webinar recap: why Q4 is the best time to go headless

3 min read
November 8, 2021

If you missed our webinar, “Why Q4 is the Best Time to Go Headless,” fear not—the recording is available now on demand. If you’re waiting for the CliffsNotes, look no further.

Nacelle’s Evan Kravitz MC’d the virtual event with two CTOs who have experience in the headless commerce space: FTD.com’s Matt Powell and Zehner’s Noah Gedrich. FTD is a floral and gifting company that does 5.5 million transactions sales a year in eCommerce alone, and Zehner is a leading eCommerce agency with a proven record of headless build success, including working with FTD to launch its headless site in the near future.

So, why should merchants start the process of going headless in Q4? The short answer is this: “Every merchant is working in a competitive space, the sooner you get started the sooner you can launch,” says Gedrich. Budget, agency capacity, and time-to-market can all favor starting your headless build before the year ends.

The longer and more tactical answer begins by exploring what headless commerce is, and how it can make an impact. In the webinar, Powell explains what drove FTD to go headless. For Powell and his team, the power of choice, tech freedom, and total control over the online shopping experience topped the list of headless benefits.

What drew Powell to Nacelle specifically, as well as Zehner, was that much of the hassle of implementation could be absorbed.

Gedrich adds that most brands ready for headless commerce are motivated first and foremost by the elevated website performance that headless brings. Other drivers include prioritizing content and commerce, especially to share rich brand stories without limitations. Developer growth and retention can also be a factor, as innovators crave to work with React, Vue, and PWA builds.

That said, there will always be considerations before taking the plunge. Most prominently, is ensuring you have the right resources—and enough of them—to build a headless site while maintaining your current site. This is often where supplementing work with a vetted eCommerce agency can make going headless viable.

Planning also can’t be overstated. Powell explains that it’s crucial to understand what you’re trying to achieve and be able to quantify its value in commercial terms. The “what” is your business objective, not headless commerce itself. Headless is the solution to achieve those goals.

Next, he says it’s important to decide how you’ll do your headless build: internally, externally with partners, or a combination of both. Lastly, the question that needs to be answered is, “when?”

Many merchants shy away from Q4 development projects because of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness the quarter is traditionally known for. But Powell says this is a mistake. Priorities are priorities, regardless of what’s coming up on the calendar.

“Freezes for me are about when code goes into the market,” says Powell. “It has nothing to do with the code that you’re working on. If you run your software development lifecycle the right way, it’s a non-event.”

Gedrich adds that Q4 can actually be an opportunity to engage with leaders who are done making big architectural changes for the year and using the time to plan ahead.

According to Gedrich and Powell, one practice that’s hugely beneficial is splitting the development resources into two teams. One team manages the current website, promotions, and day-to-day merchandising in real time. The other, writes code, plans, and architects the headless site of tomorrow.

Gedrich says that eCommerce agencies typically see a massive rush in Q1 of merchants who are energized to hit the ground running in the new year. However, the pool of knowledgeable agencies with proven headless commerce success is limited.

There are only a few agencies that have the detailed experience of integrating React and Vue with an eCommerce platform. Once agencies are booked it’s harder to access their expertise, and agencies respect the pace and attention of the brands who contacted them first.

It’s important to remember that a good headless build is going to take time. If you want to be ready for Q3 and Q4 in 2022, you likely need to start sooner than Q1 if you want to have a confident, stress-free launch. Pushing up on the deadline too closely can put unnecessary strain on the build process.

Powell also mentioned that many teams have leftover budget at the end of the year, and de-risking the project by engaging professional services and starting the process early can be money well spent.

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