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September 2, 2022

[Step by Step] What Exactly Is the Value in Headless Commerce?

Welcome to the LAST episode of Step by Step Season 8! We’re wrapping up the series with Tyson Graham, and will be covering the nuts and bolts of what makes headless interesting. Listen now!

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this episode sponsored by

Headless Needs a Real Head

  • What you want is optionality, but there is another level that isn’t just a first-party option in your eCommerce tech stack. there is an entire level we haven't thought about as an option.
  • “People don’t buy protocols, they buy products.” – Phillip
  • There are some advantages of headless in a world where legacy technology is really just slowing down in a sense, and the world is speeding up.
  • “We realized that there needs to be a head for headless that everyone can use, so the agnostic sort of storefront really is the head for headless. The advantages with optionality means that you can switch things in and out as you need them.” –Tyson 
  • Like a myth or ghost story, headless is very similar. There can be a lot of misinformation spread.
  • “The unique aspect of your brand as a merchant is that experience. The thing you own is the experience. You're not different because you have a subscription to X-provider. You're not different because you're using a certain CMS, you're different and memorable and ultimately creating value for yourself and shareholders and customers because of that experience.” –Tyson
  • If you have the right setup, you can zig when others are zagging, but you can’t do that without the right technologies in place.

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Phillip: [00:00:11] Step by Step is brought to you by fabric. fabric is a leading modular and headless enterpriseCommerce platform, helping brands and retailers to innovate and scale. Learn more about fabric today at Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by FutureCommerce presented by fabric. I am Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:43] And I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:44] And this is Season 8 of Step by Step. And you are listening to the fifth episode. This is it, the end of our week here on this eighth season, and it's been a wild ride. I'm learning so much, but the learnings are not over. This is the biggest, baddest, most awesomest episode of the bunch. So buckle up. And if you are tuning in here, just at the very end on a Friday, I'm going to suggest go back and listen from the very beginning. This is a five-part series and we're going to break down exactly what you need to do to make a sound investment in differentiated online experiences. And we're going to bring it all to you Step by Step.

Brian: [00:01:23] In this season, we're asking the question, or really we're answering the question, how can I make the business case for my brand to invest in experience? And so I think this is huge because I bet you're pretty excited about the opportunities that are ahead in commerce right now, or maybe you're a little bit confused by them. There's a lot going on. There's headless, there's composable, there's mock. There's all of this stuff, acronyms upon acronyms upon software, upon sales pitch, upon sales pitch. {laughter} There are so many choices to go build your experience and it just feels likeCommerce can be kind of endless and it's really difficult to know what the right path for it is if you're feeling overwhelmed with what to do with all of this, with all of this technology at your fingertips and all these sales pitches that keep getting thrown at you, then I am glad you're here to listen to this podcast and you'll learn about how to make good investments in digital commerce experiences. This is the podcast for you.

Phillip: [00:02:38] Yeah. And I think this is the one we've been building up to where we're going to really get into the nuts and bolts of what makes headless interesting. And you mentioned the acronyms. I mean, there are so many of them. There's CRM, OMS, WMS, ERP, OMG.

Brian: [00:03:01] Are you just making up things now?

Phillip: [00:03:03] {laughter} I could be, and you wouldn't even know.

Brian: [00:03:05] You could keep going, you know, really. PIM.

Phillip: [00:03:09] Yeah. Is that a thing? I think that's the thing.

Brian: [00:03:11] That's the thing.

Phillip: [00:03:12] When you're starting out in this journey, it definitely feels like the stack gets taller and taller these days. And now we have this concept that we're going to actually learn about here even the front end of your eCommerce experiences these days might need its own platform that's dedicated just to itself, too. The way that you adopt that sort of software and that approach really has a lot to do with the needs of your business, the architecture of your team, and where you are in your commerce journey. And we're going to help you make that decision here today and help arm you with the knowledge you need to be able to make a qualified decision around Headless today with our very last guest on this eighth season of Step by Step. So today, without any further adieu, we are going to listen to our interview with Tyson Graham, who is the Head of Sales for Vue Storefront. And we're going to answer the question, where is the value in the headless ecosystem and how can I qualify if it's the right investment for our customers and our brand? Let's listen to the interview. Today we have Tyson Graham from Vue Storefront. He's the Head of Sales, he's going to help us understand what experience means in 2022 and beyond. Welcome to the show, Tyson.

Tyson Graham: [00:04:35] Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.

Phillip: [00:04:38] This whole series and this season of Step by Step is really trying to uncover a big, thorny topic, which is why should we make an investment in experiences? We've been covering that here along the course of this season. I wanted to just, you know, we're setting out today to answer a very specific question, which has two parts. One, where is the value in the headless ecosystem? And then two how do you, if you're an operator at a brand or if you're a retailer, how do you qualify if that's the right investment for your brand and for your customers? So let's start off there. First of all, what solution do you have in the ecosystem, and why are you best qualified to be able to help answer these questions today?

Tyson Graham: [00:05:26] Yeah, thanks a lot. So here at Vue Storefront, and some people may know us from our open source community version, which is where our company was born out of, the enterprise product, which is really what we're going to focus on today and where all of my time is invested is really a sort of a more robust solution that also includes hosting, middleware and storefront UI, all combined into a sort of done for you service in a sense. And it is a software as a service but has a lot of attention to the customer: code audits, and hands-on things with our engineering team to really make sure those experiences get fine-tuned. And so I get a lot of opportunity to kind of look at what you're talking about and saying, okay, we come to a lot of customer conversations where they're saying, "Hey, we're looking at headless. We're trying to get our head around headless," you know, all these types of things. Headless is sort of the elephant in the room, but you're going from this one vendor monolithic reality where you say, "Okay, yeah, we have one invoice, one contract, one rep, one person that we deal with over there," and now we're going into these conversations and maybe there are nine solutions we're pulling. And if we get really granular around search and merch and all these other additional things. And so the reason I mention this is it tends to be the problem that everyone's facing when they're trying to modernize the stack because it's like, where do we start? And so Vue Storefront is an agnostic front end. So it's a platform agnostic front end. And so back to your question of why does that uniquely position me to sort of understand where the value is at in that shift to a headless architecture? And so I see a lot of people kind of following their old habits, which was okay well, we used to have Magento in our monolithic reality. Who's kind of like that in the headless reality? And so a lot of times they find their way to say Commercetools or someone who's a big commerce backend. It could be anybody. It could be they're starting to think about maybe headless with Salesforce or headless with Elastic Path or all these different things. But most of them are still kind of going to the platform first and then saying, okay, well now what do we do? Because they'll get through a certain amount of process and evaluation with them and then they'll say, "Well, wait a minute, but what about the experience?" Because it's headless. There's no customer experience yet with that. So you're buying each Lego block that used to be inside of one nicely contained box. And so there's a lot of anxiety of like, how do we get started? And over time, what I've realized because we are a platform agnostic storefront, you can kind of flip it on its end from the old way of thinking, which is you start with search and storefront, start with the customer experience, work backward to the technology that makes it happen. And so that's really the kind of the shift in the sense and it's also our value proposition, so of course, I'm biased. Of course, I'm saying this right in a sense, because obviously we have an agnostic storefront and so that's where our value ad is. But the truth is, if you're moving to headless and you're making the shift, what you really want is optionality. You want optionality.

Phillip: [00:08:55] So let's actually jump in right there. Because I think that that's such a great place to take the conversation where there's certainly at least two movements that I can think of that use the word composable somewhere in it where there's this idea that we're building both our organizations and our technology stack with best in breed parts of an ecosystem. So we have very specific point solutions. Sure, we have many hands to shake, but we have optionality, to your point. What you're describing, it sounds like, is that there's another level of optionality that isn't just some of those first-party features that you might have found in your eCommerce tech stack in the past that have all sort of been point solutioned away. It's that there's an entire part of the presentation layer that we haven't thought of as being optional as well. So maybe you can react to that a little bit because I'd love to hear, well, or view to that because I think view versus react... That's a nerdy developer joke for you.

Tyson Graham: [00:09:51] Yeah, I like it. I think it's a really interesting point from what you're saying is like, okay yeah, where does that optionality come in? And so what's fascinating is if you think about the fact that we basically have UI, API, and hosting, when you start with Storefront, essentially you get an out-of-the-box mobile-optimized experience that you could just kind of override some of the variables and probably be selling something if you just wanted a really lean minimum viable product. Why though? Because you have the integrations already pre-built for you. And so the optionality of our storefront, if you are approaching things in a composable way, is that most of those top leaders in the areas of CMS, payment, search and merch, and commerce already have integrations. So the optionality comes right away out of that part because the alternative is, of course, go get a custom front end, spend a year and change building all of these processes, reinventing the wheel, and then actually getting all of the integrations that you need with those different providers and then maintaining them, ensuring they're updated. And so basically what prevents optionality, I think in sort of the other reality is you spend those 18 months or whatever it is building a custom front end, you do all this stuff and then you get to the end of 18 months and you go, "Well, we can't ever switch anything out because we've spent millions of dollars to do the integration for X," right? Whatever X is. And so the optionality comes in that if you start with, say, one CMS, you could leave the customer experience untouched or the presentation layer untouched and just swap out a CMS or just swap out payment because you don't like them anymore. And it's plug-and-play. And so just to kind of say where does that optionality come from? I think it's really from the existing experience out of the box that's very close to being able to launch right when you get it. And then the pre-build integrations. You don't have to spend all that time.

Brian: [00:12:10] I like your angular on this.

Phillip: [00:12:14] {laughter} You have been waiting for that joke. That's such a terrible joke. We're going to edit all of this out.

Tyson Graham: [00:12:19] I love it.

Brian: [00:12:20] Because that was my not-so-smooth transition to say it's basically the same case we've been making around build versus buy forever, which is like, yes, there's actually an ecosystem of pre-built integrations here. All the things you would have to go do yourself. We've already done. Why would you build this custom when there's already a way to get there with all of like the base level, minimum viable product type features you need, and a community that's already integrated in that way. It's the same case that has been made by eCommerce platforms and eCommerce technology and business solutions forever.

Phillip: [00:13:04] This has been my chief complaint recently. I didn't have the language for it until I wrote the newsletter today, and now I have the language for it. So I'm going to use a turn of phrase. People don't buy protocols, they buy products. And when you establish a protocol, and again, a protocol can mean a lot of different things especially if you're a developer, it can mean something, but headless as like a terminology has become sort of it's a protocol. It is a way of communicating an idea that you have optionality with your front end stack. But it itself is layered and nuanced, Tyson. Right? With all these decisions that you teased out earlier. It's there's a hosting decision, a tech stack decision. And the maintainability and the supportability of that really comes down to every single organization, depending on its skill level and its assessment. And maybe it's vendor agreements that are already in place and the AWS or Azure. So you have millions of decisions to make just to enforce the protocol. People don't buy protocols, typically. They buy products. And so that kind of brings us to what you solve for, and I think we can get to that. That might be one blocker is all this decision fatigue around why people might not choose headless, but why might people choose headless if they were willing to go through the decision fatigue? What is this potential upside that we keep hearing about?

Brian: [00:14:32] Well, so now I just want to differentiate. We're not talking about headless versus sort of custom headless. We're talking about headless versus say using...

Tyson Graham: [00:14:43] Monolithic approach.

Brian: [00:14:44] Exactly, yes.

Tyson Graham: [00:14:46] Yeah. So it's interesting that I have realized sort of accidentally in a lot of proof of concepts of late, because we co-sell with everybody pretty much in the MACH Alliance, so we don't attempt to be a CMS. We don't attempt to be search. We don't attempt to be a commerce engine at any point in the future either. And so we only sell in a partner arrangement because there's always a different sort of provider that's targeting search, CMS, whatever those elements are that they want to pull in to that headless strategy. And so back to your question of the decision fatigue and all of that, one of the things we started doing because it's really easy for us to build proofs of concept, is we start with Storefront in order for them to not have to make so many tough decisions. Because it's sort of this decision-making mechanism in a sense when you get to see all of the different options at each level of the stack, which is what we allow people to do and the pre-purchase reality as well. So they don't have to necessarily even make the decisions. It's almost like the menu and the framework of storefronts says, "Okay, well you got these five or six options for CMS, check them all out, experience them all." And so it becomes the evaluation actually becomes kind of moving them through that decision fatigue, but with more of sort of a framework and existing context so it's not so daunting. And so I think that was kind of the first part of the question. And then you said, I believe why or once someone does get past decision fatigue in a sense, and they say, "Yeah, I do want to do headless," was the question, what are the advantages of it?

Phillip: [00:16:27] Yeah. What are some of the... I mean we hear speed a lot but I think that speed, there's a lot of people telling a lot of stories now about other ways you can achieve speed that don't require you to now have to opt into an entirely or what some might some certainly not now on this podcast with you present some might say is an exotic sort of an approach to building an eCommerce store in 2022. So what are some of the upsides? And I'll let you extoll the virtues of speed as well.

Tyson Graham: [00:16:58] Yeah, I mean, speed is there. It's, of course, kind of if I had to pick one word to define our value proposition, it would be speed, but it's on multiple layers. It's fast to market, but it's also fast loading experiences that are mobile-first. And so kind of the places we see people lose out and this is kind of a backward way of answering your question is they get to market too slow. Then that experience that they get to market is slow loading and it's not mobile optimized. And so those three kinds of components as the counter to speed, however, you can overcome those. I mean, if you could overcome them without headless, I mean, God bless. I think we would love to see someone do that. So the advantages, really, of headless in a world where legacy technology is really just slowing down in a sense, and the world is speeding up. So I think it's key to understand that. And so most of your monolithic platforms, what they've done is they've just cut off the head. It doesn't mean you don't need a head. They just said, "Hey, we're not going to do that. We're not going to do the head. We're not going to do the front." So you got freedom, but you still have to solve it, and so you can do what you want with it. And so what we realized is that there needs to be a head for headless in a sense that everyone can use. And so the agnostic sort of storefront really is the head for headless. And so to the advantage of that, we've talked about optionality, but what is optionality even really mean? Optionality means that you can switch things in and out as you need them. We give you an ecosystem of really tools to build first-class front end experiences. So everything that touches your customer happens on the front end. And I think, I never really drew that line until I joined this group. I always would sort of just think about sort of eCommerce, hey, there's our stack. But at the end of the day, there's sort of this waterline, if you will, where, hey, this is everything the customer or the experience layer, but to put it into sort of real, tangible terms, if it touches the customer, it's the front end. And so conversion happens on the front end, not on the back end. Experience drives all of that. So the only thing your customers know about is the experience layer. And so I think what it is, is it's a move towards customer centricity when you choose to go headless because you're saying start with the customer experience, make an ideal customer experience that actually compels people to engage and convert and buy our products over a lifetime journey. And then let's figure out how to make that happen. I think the other way, the monolithic way was, "Hey, here's a box of tools. Make something with those limitations. And hopefully, your customers can sort of suffer through that experience and maybe not get rid of you, but they'll just have to live with it. Color within the line."

Brian: [00:20:50] I think there's actually kind of a direct metaphor in this world right now, though, with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Because if you think about the story of Ichabod, he's like a merchant who's coming to town to win the woman that he loves. And he does. But there's sort of the jealous Abraham, whatever his last name was, the Brom character.

Phillip: [00:21:13] And this is how, you know, this is off the cuff and not planned.

Tyson Graham: [00:21:16] I love it.

Brian: [00:21:17] You have these stories, these horror stories, about this headless horseman, and I think in the merchant community if you sort of take the role of the merchant as Ichabod and sort of the customer as the love interest, I think there's a lot of danger out there right now in like there are a lot of stories about implementing headless and how painful it can be, almost ghost stories that are told right now in the industry.

Tyson Graham: [00:21:45] They're true.

Brian: [00:21:46] Yes. Oh, they are true. Yes. I love what you said. They need to have a real head because the Ichabod story is, you know, Abraham deceives him with this pumpkin head. It's almost like there are monolith stories, monoliths out there telling stories about what happens with headless. And they've created this false head.

Tyson Graham: [00:22:06] One hundred percent.

Phillip: [00:22:06] I love this so much. I cannot wait to have this conversation with you outside of this podcast because I have so many things to say. But Tyson needs to be the star of the show today.

Brian: [00:22:17] Debunk. Save Ichabod.

Tyson Graham: [00:22:20] But it's true, man. And like a good myth or a ghost story, there's always a lot of missing information to make it sort of work. And I think that's the truth about a lot of these ghost stories you hear about headless. They didn't tell you the part about how they decided on a backend commerce tool and spent nine and a half months evaluating and digging around in the weeds before they even realized they needed a headless CMS and a front end and they needed to do all these other things. So like we see it all the time where companies come to us and they're like, "Listen, we tried and failed in a sense. We've spun our wheels for nine months trying to figure this out back to the point of we don't know how to pull it all together. We're trying to manage all these different vendors. We can't get our senior leadership," this is the big one is like, how do you as a product manager, even a VP, whatever, go up to the C-suite and say, "Hey, man, remember that one invoice and that one thing we were doing? I'm thinking about maybe doing like nine things, and I don't even really know who all the vendors are and kind of can't really show it to you either. But sign off on it," right? Like it's an impossible conversation to have because of your reality of living in this headless, undefined realm when in reality it's not an undefined realm if you use, for example, an agnostic storefront that just pulls that all together. So now the conversation is very different. If you started with a storefront because instead of saying, "Hey, imagine a world where we had all these things working in harmony to create a great customer experience," you can actually just go, "Hey, look at this." You know what's delivering content there? Oh, that's, you know, X CMS. Oh, you know what's running on payment there? That's Y, however, here's the other seven. We can switch them in and out. You want to run a demo on all of those, and see what the best total experience is? That's why it's a big shift, I think because everybody else is going about it in the Ichabod Crane kind of approach in general until they find a front end. Because if you had a custom front end approach, what are you going to do? Wait until they build it and then evaluate sort of, okay, now the custom front end, so you're never going to get there. And so that's why the decisions are so difficult because you're not seeing the experience that you're investing in unless you use an already built front end.

Phillip: [00:24:48] All right. So we've set the stage of sort of the decision matrix that might go into sort of this modern stack. We've set some expectations around there is a lot of gotchas that most people hadn't really considered. We talked about like a potential solution, which is there was a lack of maturity in the space that caused no one to set realistic expectations about all the decisions they would have to make. So the buying centers were misaligned. Let's talk a little bit about how you go about that today, because I've heard you say something a couple of times now, and it's intriguing to me that there's this capability of rapid iteration and MVP over RFP. So rather than evaluating to death, you actually get in and play around like a sandbox. Tell me more about that methodology and if corporations are really starting to buy into that as a means of like demoing software and making educated purchasing decisions.

Tyson Graham: [00:25:47] Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up. So our evaluation process, and some of this is borne out of the type of product we are, because we're actually a product for developers, so our core users are development teams. However, they tend to need the support of their business colleagues to get it through. So we always kind of started in our early days with, "Hey, let's do some work with developers. We'll do some workshops. We'll get hands-on stuff." And then we realized that that quickly kind of paved the way to proof of concept, where people were saying, "Wait a minute, you already have this front end. Could we kind of configure it with some of the other solutions that you already have pre-built integrations with and then show it to our boss and then also have digital marketing come in and see how quickly they can make a landing page and then also have our engineering lead who really likes React more than Vue or vice versa or whatever, put his hands on it because he doesn't think that he might be able to live with it and then work with them in one on one session? So we set up a Slack channel and sometimes it's a few weeks, but other times it's a few months. I mean, we're doing some bigger evaluations with Fortune 500 companies and they want to do months and months and months of, "Hey, we built this proof of concept. We handed it over to your team. They've got access to our developers," and then we're meeting up every couple of weeks and going, "Hey, what did you guys find? Did you try out that integration? Is it going to be a snag? Is it aligned with your compliance and security approach? Kind of getting all that stuff hashed out. And then what's cool, back to your point, it's very iterative in the sense that if they do sign off and go, "You know what, yeah, let's do it," they just take that working thing that we've been working on and they are far down the road in a sense. They don't just start back from zero. And so a lot of times the go-live period after is much reduced, not only because of the fact that it's a cloud-native solution that has an out-of-the-box experience. But for the fact that they've been working on it for a couple of months with our team in the proof of concept. So I think, yes, they're becoming more and more open to it. And if it's a bigger company, it's a big lift in education. It's not as much the other stuff, it's more like, "Hey, we've got 200 people who've been living a monolithic reality and you got to shift them," versus, you know, some smaller groups. It's maybe one or two people need to get their head around it. And so it kind of tends to go that way. How long the education cycle has to be is how long those proof of concepts tend to go.

Phillip: [00:28:28] It's so interesting to me because in a certain kind of business where you have to go through the evaluation of the software or the evaluation of the evaluation tool and instrument to buy software. So it's like we're creating an RFP. There are so many people that are in the mix. I have seen and tangentially been part of people buying massive enterprise software investments and not a single person in the buying process has ever seen what it is they're buying. They have no clue what they're buying. And when you start asking a lot of questions, it's like, how are you this far down the road and you've never even seen the product? There is no other kind. I mean, aside from a bridge that I might try to sell you, there's nothing else in this world that you might buy without having seen it first. So it's I think the layers of complexity and the way that we purchase legacy types of software have certainly been tried to like been layered over top of the way we're buying modern software and I think a lot of coming around to this approach of MVP over RFP, it's really encouraging to hear that at the highest levels, they're beginning to invest in that process. Brian, I'm curious...

Tyson Graham: [00:29:49] I think that buying has changed, right?

Brian: [00:29:52] Well, yeah, it's going to say it's like, do you think the buyer has changed as well?

Tyson Graham: [00:30:00] They are changing.

Brian: [00:30:01] Ah ha.

Tyson Graham: [00:30:01] Are they done changing? I don't think. But I think it also depends. You see pockets of people and it's not even necessarily industry-specific. Kind of back to our pre-recording discussions around the early days of eCommerce you see it's always interesting who's the sort of innovative person when there's new technologies coming to market. It's not necessarily only the person you expect, but I would say people who understood conversion and overall just conversion rate optimization prior, this is like a very natural way of thinking that they would have wanted to sort of leverage in the past. And what I mean by that is I remember there was an old Steve Jobs scenario and a lot of people have probably heard it. It's a bigger speech. But there's this moment where a guy stands up and asked him a question about whether they should use this technology or one programing language or another from one of the early sort of Apple products. And he thinks for a minute and then he goes,

"Well, you know, I think what you should do is start with the customer experience and then work backward to the technology that makes it happen." So it shouldn't be about, "Hey, we've got this technology. How do we make someone else go buy it? How do we make someone else use it with the limitations it has?" And so that's what's so cool about this shift, is it actually makes that a reality. Before you had to be like Jeff Bezos because they were the first headless commerce, really, and you had to have that level of a team to even begin to consider decoupling the front end. And there was still no real straight path. But the philosophy which anybody here who has zero idea about code, zero idea about technology, people who are great business people understand to start with the customer psychology and the experience you're delivering them and then do whatever you got to do to make that happen.

Brian: [00:31:52] Which seems almost directly contradictory to the habits and purchasing that we've seen over the past five years in commerce technology, where it seems more like... We've kind of identified this in our Visions 2022 report. This idea of keeping up with the Joneses and how purchasing as we were talking about in the pre show like it's sort of the whole you don't get fired for hiring big blue has filtered its way down to every type of organization and now it's no longer you don't get fired for hiring big blue, you don't get fired for hiring the best practice Shopify stack. And so, I think as we're looking at the environment we're in right now and cost cutting initiatives that are happening due to the economy that we're in, it feels like this sort of thinking could really take hold. What's the antidote to this? I mean, I feel like you're sort of saying the opposite, which is start with the customer. Don't start with the technology. How are those, like what we're seeing as far as purchasing habits in the market go, how does that juxtapose with what you're saying?

Tyson Graham: [00:33:14] Let's see. I mean, I think it depends where you look because I think a lot of people are coming online and realizing that and making decisions and making investments in that direction of starting with the customer. I think the opposite is starting with the technology. And I think growth happens from human psychology, not from technology. So I mean, the technology has to be there, but if the psychology, we're not aligning with the psychology of the human who has to endure that thing, we put them through. So I think the other sort of a tech-first or a human-first kind of dichotomy, but in reality, they're both necessary. It's just that if you drive the decisions based on technology as opposed to, say, the experience that's going to be relating with your human psychology of the buyer going through that or the user, it's a different way of thinking. And ultimately, there's no way you're going to optimize for speed, optimize for mobile if you're starting your priority list from the back end.

Brian: [00:34:15] The other thing that I think has happened is sort of like best practices. A lot of them are driven by user behavior. But everyone's... We've talked about this in other parts of the series and other places in Future Commerce. all of the brands and companies that are creating these experiences are all using the same data. So we're getting these same-y same-y type experiences that are being put out as a result of everyone going to the same data pool. What does it look like for someone to start with the customer, but say, "We want to look beyond conventional stats? And is that necessary to create an experience that actually does start with the customer? Or do you have to lead the customer a little bit? Because you talked about Apple. I mean, Steve Jobs is also very famous for having led the customer.

Tyson Graham: [00:35:12] I mean, yeah, the customers don't always know what they want. I think the old Henry Ford is like they would have asked for faster horses or something. And so I think, can you leverage alternate data sources? For sure. We can integrate with anything with an endpoint. So I think that's exciting as well if you do have some more cutting edge, maybe some machine learning, maybe some AI, maybe some other things that are capturing data points that aren't your classic sort of commerce data points, I think that could drive that. However, I do believe 80% of companies out there could probably double or triple their results by leveraging the same kind of basic data, but just executing well and delivering a fast experience. Because I think it's easy to get lost in the weeds here about all these different factors. But the real simplicity of it all is saying experience drives revenue. That's the real fact. So what do we have to do to make an experience that drives revenue? And so interestingly enough, like you said, to your point, there are all these different tools. They're all customer sort of driven. There's data there. But if you're going to orchestrate the experience across all of those providers, and you're going to pull in all of those providers into one unified experience that the customer doesn't know is being provided by seven providers. They're just having a seamless experience that happens to be really good at each touchpoint. It sort of forces you to say, "Wait a minute, we don't even really own those other technologies in a sense." Those other technologies are commodity sense. I mean, they're powerful and they can, but they all kind of can do the same thing. The unique aspect of your brand as a merchant is that experience. The thing you own is the experience. You're not different because you have a subscription to X provider. You're not different because you're using a certain CMS, you're different and memorable and ultimately creating value for yourself and shareholders and customers because of that experience. And so when you own that layer, as opposed to having it buried deep down inside of a monolithic box, you can continue to pull in new components to that, but you never lose that unique experience that's yours. You own that. And so I think just remembering that, how are you going to not only create but own and iterate and experience into the future when you're mostly pulling in functionality from third-party vendors?

Brian: [00:37:46] Right. I think the takeaway here is if you have the right setup, you can zig when others are zagging.

Phillip: [00:37:56] Yeah. That's the key.

Brian: [00:37:56] You can't do that without having the right flexible technologies in place. If you don't have the ability to make those changes, then when the opportunity does arise because there will be data that tells you that you should do this.

Tyson Graham: [00:38:15] Yep.

Brian: [00:38:15] If you don't have the power to make that change, you're just going to get stuck. It's going to be too expensive or too time intensive to make that change.

Tyson Graham: [00:38:24] Correct.

Phillip: [00:38:25] We're coming up on time. I want to put a big bow on this at the end. I think we set out to answer really a two-sided question. And that was, where's the value in headless? I feel like we definitely covered that. The other one was, how do we qualify if it's the right investment for our customers and for our brand? And I think we've covered that in detail in a couple of different ways. One, where is your value system? Are you putting the customer first and are you working backward from that? Two, how are you actually making these purchasing decisions? How are you making investments to make that purchase decision? And three, are you prepared for all of the decisions that are going to be made along the way? And do you have the right instruments to do so? If that instrument is in RFP, buckle up. If that instrument is having a culture of experimentation and driving hypotheses and minimum viable products and partnering with the products that allow you to work that way, it seems like you're more geared for modernization and modern expressions. And then finally, something, Brian, that you just brought up and this is to put the big bow on the very end of it, a lot of legacy software investments are not ones that are terribly easy to replace and they just kind of chug along. And one way to look at modernizing your tech stack is to make small, insular changes that give you flexibility to make the big investment to rip and replace later on. And so how do you get more life out of that aging investment? It sounds like for a lot of companies in the 2020s they're going to be looking at let's modernize the front end while we deal with the legacy nature of our back end because they don't have to be the same thing. They can be two separate experiences. And I think that that really just captures and really summarizes this amazing conversation we've had here today. Tyson, I got to ask you, where do people find out more about Vue Storefront online?

Tyson Graham: [00:40:19] Come to You can shoot me an email as well. I would love to hear from you. And just to sort of clarify at the end, too, I mean, some people approach these transformations from top to bottom, but many of our customers approach them by simply decoupling the front end, getting a new front end, maybe a new CMS in place, and still chugging along for many years with the legacy commerce engine on the back end and see great gains with conversion and revenue that way. So it's not only for people who are looking to replace the commerce engine as well. So you can stay home on that if you need to.

Phillip: [00:41:00] Thank you so much for listening to this season of Step by Step. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties at You can sign up too to get invited to any of our events that we have coming up. We have so many amazing events, everything from happy hours and get-togethers around conferences to our salons. You can get on the list and you'll get our newsletter that comes out twice a week, The Senses, that's everything that you need to know about how brands and people intersect and how commerce happens. It's called The Senses. Comes out twice a week. You can get that and more, including your invitation to all of our events at Thank you so much for listening. Remember the future of commerce is what you make of it. Commerce will shape the future and we can shape commerce.

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