How the Olympics Set the Pace for Headless Commerce

Harry Chemko

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As Vancouver celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics, I can’t help but reflect on how the Games were the catalyst of something big for our organization - something that changed the game for the entire e-commerce industry. 

While internally, Elastic Path was busy running the official Olympic Store (including over 7,000 different SKUs, a 75+ person, bilingual 24/7 call center, a 40,000 sq. ft warehouse and shipping well over 10,000 orders per day), it’s what was happening on the streets of Vancouver that inspired what we know today as headless commerce. 

Surrounded by massive screens and screaming fans, all using smartphones to interact with live scores, with each other, with brands and athletes and everything surrounding the Games, it became clear that to compete and win, brands and retailers needed to be everywhere, connected to everything and have the ability to engage across any device and touchpoint. 

The deeply experiential and immersive Games and sponsor activations inspired the thinking that brands need to go way beyond web and mobile stores for commerce and start to think about the dozens or hundreds of ways they could engage with their customers on their buying journeys. Our team became highly motivated to bring that vision to life.  The mantra had to be API first.  Cortex was the first e-commerce hypermedia API that supported this vision and ripping the “head” off our platform to enable any front-end or touchpoint to consume commerce capabilities ushered in a new era of digital experience opportunity. 

Igniting E-Commerce Competition

A funny thing happens with Olympic competition though, especially in sports where technical elements increase in difficulty. Once an athlete lands a trick or beats a record, it’s not long before others follow because they see what’s possible.  

It’s human nature. Once we as a collective see what’s possible, with human achievement, technology, or digital experiences, it’s only a matter of time before it trends and others are following in a leader’s footsteps. 

When we launched headless commerce in 2012, it was changing the rules of how commerce technology could be created. Today, headless commerce has become a broadly accepted approach to enabling the most innovative commerce experiences. Most progressive retailers and manufacturers know the value of rich, innovative commerce experiences across touchpoints. What they need is a technology that, like in Olympic sprint competition, lets them run faster and more efficiently to surpass their competitors. The technology that will help them break records and push into the space of what’s possible.

We believe that API-driven headless commerce is still the backbone for digital Gold. But it goes beyond PWAs (progressive web apps) and getting buy buttons into rich content. Today’s brands and retailers are pushing the limits, integrating digital with physical retail beyond the mall and high street, to power pop-up shops, "unmanned retail", conversational commerce and chatbots, AR and VR and more.

That’s why I’m excited to be part of the team that’s still, ten years on, carrying the Torch into the future of commerce and bringing some amazing partners and customers with us.  

Want to be on that team? Get in touch.

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Harry Chemko

Harry Chemko is CEO of Elastic Path Software, a leading provider of commerce software designed to maximize revenue from the next generation of digital experiences.