Bold Commerce has become a great business by building apps that work inside the Shopify e-commerce platform, but it has long had a vision that goes beyond that, including creating tools that would allow brands to sell to their customers in any kind of digital environment.
That sort of experience is referred to as "headless commerce" and this week Bold announced that it is partnering with German-based company Commercetools, which is credited by some for having invented the concept of headless commerce.
It puts Bold in good company as the pandemic has helped spawn the beginning of a movement away from monolithic e-commerce platforms towards best-in-class niche solutions that allow retailers to have more flexibility than just the ability to order and pay off the website.
Bold has worked with the iconic men’s clothier, Harry Rosen for some time. That company has had to suffer through a terrible disruption to its business with fashion-forward executives not needing to refresh their wardrobes with so many office workers staying home.
But Ian Rosen, Harry Rosen’s executive vice-president of digital and strategy and grandson of the founder, said the company has "tripled" down on its digital experience through the pandemic that has left Toronto, where its main retail presence is, locked down for 230 days and counting.
Rosen said the online store is now outperforming even its flagship on Bloor Street in Toronto.
"We relaunched our digital properties with Bold in August 2020 and pretty much every major metric you’d track from an online perspective is up," he said.
Using tools from Bold and others — its online sales tripled in 2020 — Harry Rosen’s clothing advisers are now able to send curated collections to their clients, with sizing already pre-populated, through mobile or social channels that the clients can click and buy in whatever social or digital platform they’re on.
"I think a lot of our competitors are recognizing that putting product up online with prices and the ability to add to the cart and check-out is not going to be enough," Rosen said.
He figures if Harry Rosen is on the right track it’s because they already knew the best partner to get them over the hump.
"We’re lucky to have figured that out already," he said. "Now we are busy dreaming about new experiences we want to build."
Yvan Boisjoli, Bold’s CEO, said partnering with Commercetools means working with a like-minded company in terms of the way they both approach solving commerce for their retailing customers.
While Bold’s Shopify customers are mostly small and medium-sized operations, the headless commerce play is targeted at the large enterprise brands that have more complex needs and the resources to expand into different channels.
The partnership with Commercetools — which just raised US$145 million in the fall — allows Bold to leverage Commercetools’ platform of best-in-class technologies that allows the flexibility the changing market requires.
Kelly Goetsch, the U.S.-based chief product officer at Commercetools, said Bold’s specialties — in the check-out function and subscriptions and special pricing — fits in with its model.
"There are lots of vendors out there that do one thing really well,’ he said. "We at Commercetools provide the base commerce platform, the foundation layer. But what we don’t do is a lot of things Bold does, like great user interfaces, check-out and subscription functionality. It is our view that it is best to partner with best-in-breed vendors, like Bold, who can complete our solutions."
Commercetools’ clients are large enterprises including AT&T and Rogers and it rarely even encounters Shopify. Many of those players are finding it constraining to be locked down inside a large suite of software services from the likes of Oracle or Salesforce or SAP.
The headless commerce that Commercetools and Bold are championing is made possible by combining a number of separate tools whose technology platforms allow them to work together.
Bold and Commercetools will work together to win business.
"We will be able to elevate the offering as opposed to winning the work separately," Boisjoli said. "There is going to be a big transition from the legacy monolithic e-commerce platforms. That is what we want to be able to capture."
They will do that by adding one piece at a time, a much less stressful approach than the multi-million investment to commit to the big platforms.
"We will be able to help elevate the experience, show returns along the way and help those enterprises get off (those other platforms) in smaller bites," Boisjoli said.
In addition to the direct partnership with Commercetools, Bold is also a member of a 32-company consortium started by Commercetools, that has brought together like-minded technology suppliers to be thought leaders and educators in the headless commerce space.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.