Testing Payment Integrations in Ecommerce SFCC

Nowadays it is impossible to imagine our lives without the Internet and it is not just about social networks, messengers or online services that we use. Thanks to the World Wide Web, now we can get almost anything from anywhere in the world by making a purchase online in a few clicks. Provided the store's website is convenient, secure, and includes various payment and delivery options.

The growing popularity of online stores stimulates businesses not only to operate successfully, but also to grow at the speed of light. This also applies to online payment methods, which are evolving along with the market. Just a few decades ago trade was possible only in real life and payments were accepted only in cash, and today customers have a variety of payment options to choose from while shopping either online or offline.

Here’s the Table of Contents for you to skip to the part you’re most curious about:

Online Payment Options for Ecommerce

Thanks to the continuous development of digital and banking services, there are different ways to pay for goods and services in ecommerce stores nowadays. All of them may vary in different parts of the world, but one remains immensely popular - the online payments take 41.8% of all transactions (Statista data).

Online payment systems can be divided into the following categories according to the type of payment: 

In response to the increasing popularity of online payments, the ecommerce business tries to provide as many opportunities as possible for end customers by integrating various payment services into their online stores. Each service, in its turn, has its own functionality and features of development, which must be taken into account at the stages of development and testing.

Let’s consider the aspects of testing payment services on the example of one of the world’s leading ecommerce platforms - Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC).

Info. Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) - cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce solution previously known as Demandware.The global brands such as Carter's, Columbia, Converse, Crocs, Ecco, Fila, GoPro, HP, Hugo Boss, L'Oreal, Lacoste, Liebherr, Marks & Spencer, Mercedes-Benz, Mothercare, New Balance, Pandora, PUMA and many others operate on the basis of the SFCC. The platform is characterized by its reliability, flexibility, scalability and customization capabilities of individual components in accordance to business requirements.

Basics About Payment Systems and Their Integration with SFCC

Payment is a complex process that connects several services into one system to transfer payments from the buyer’s to the seller’s side securely. Nonetheless, it takes merely a few seconds while the system has time to process the transaction and send the result to the user. For better understanding, the payment flow and interaction between SFCC and payment services are illustrated on the scheme below.

Confirmation of the coherent work of the entire payment mechanism is the primary purpose of testing for a QA engineer.

So, the development of the integration starts with its connection. Although the development of the payment functionality is the main task for developers, it is important for the QA engineer to understand how services can be connected and how they interact with SFCC to build an optimal approach to testing.

There are the following ways to connect third-party services at the level of SFCC:

  1. applying a ready-made cartridge (so called “out of the box” solution);
  2. developing a cartridge from scratch.

Usually the need to build a cartridge from scratch appears very rarely. This method is quite expensive and requires extra time and money, which is not always a desirable option for business. In addition, a large number of payment services already have some ready-made cartridges, which are available on the SFCC Marketplace - developers just need to customize them according to the project requirements.

Worth to note. Using a ready-made cartridge does not mean that there will be fewer defects during the testing stage in comparison to the one developed from scratch. There are situations when a significant part of the cartridge needs to be developed or even redesigned to increase efficiency. Therefore, the QA engineer must carefully look for defects in the interaction of the SFCC and a third-party service. In addition, it is worth remembering that any problems that arise on the side of the service (for example, the broken login form on the provider's website) are the responsibility of the service, not the project team.

What concerns the operating features, the payment services may function as follows:

Let’s take, for instance, a well-known service PayPal. It can function as a separate integration and this means that all payments will be processed on the PayPal side. Another option of implementation - PayPal can work through the PSP (for example, Adyen) and, accordingly, payments will be processed by this third-party service.

At the first glance, it might seem that managing all website payments in one place, especially if there is a variety of options, is the most convenient method. However, the final choice between the direct integration or PSP lies solely on the business side as it is based on many factors including financial benefits, personal arrangements, convenience and so on.

Payment Integration Testing From The Perspective of The Website User

There are two ways to embed payment services into ecommerce solutions based on the place of payment:

  1. on-site payments - payment is made directly on the website of an online store without going to the service page (for example, payment by a credit card);
  2. off-site payments - the user is redirected to the page of the selected service to complete the payment (for example, PayPal).

On-site payments are the best choice for businesses with a high amount of transactions. From the point of marketing psychology, a user that stays on the site is more likely to complete the payment having no distractions, while redirection to the other sites can be a little alarming. However, this method of integration forces the business to take care of all payment data security on their side, and make sure to install an SSL certificate.

The simplest example of the on-site payment is a payment by a bank card. Typically, a web page contains necessary inputs for a credit card, the data of which is then sent for processing to the provider. Another way to implement it is to integrate payment service widgets into the website pages using the iFrame technology. As a rule, the form of widgets is provided by the third-party service, and the development team needs to insert them into the proper website parts. The example of such a development in the SFCC is Amazon Pay. When a user authorises on the ecommerce website with Amazon Pay service during checkout, regular shipping and payment blocks are replaced with widgets that show user information stored in their Amazon account to complete the order payment.

What concerns the off-site payments, they possess the next advantages for companies:

The pattern of work for the off-site payments is quite simple: the site displays the checkboxes with an ability to choose a specific payment method on checkout pages. The user confirms the choice and is then redirected to the payment service page to complete the payment, and after this the user returns back to the store - to the order confirmation page.

Worth to note. Regardless of the integration method, it is worth remembering that payment services are directly accessible by the users of the online store. Everything related to the Frontend part of the website must be tested on all browsers and devices from the approved scope of the project. The visual aspects of payment methods are usually provided in the design or described in the functional specification of the project.
Additionally, you should not forget about the validation of the fields, if the chosen payment type requires data entry (for example, credit card inputs), as well as to check the behavior of the website in case of a transaction error, broken service, return, failure etc. It is better to have its own script for each case and display the appropriate message if applicable - common courtesy in user experience.

The Main Areas of Payment Integration Testing Outside of The Website

The task of the QA engineer does not end with testing the successful order placement on the website from the perspective of a regular user. It is also important to ensure that all the required order data is displayed correctly in the SFCC Business manager and on the payment service side.

SFCC Business manager is, perhaps, one of the most important tools for storing and processing the data of all website orders. That is why it is extremely important to make sure that each successfully processed order has the appropriate order statuses, product data, order total, delivery and billing addresses, and other personal data of a user.

Among all the order data it is important to emphasize the correct calculation of the order total, because there are many factors that can affect it. The total cost usually consists of the total amount of all products in the order, taxes, delivery, packaging and may include other extra services of the company. In addition, the cost of delivery and taxation largely depends on the region. Some payment services, such as PayPal and ApplePay, allow customers to change the delivery address on the service side, so taxes and delivery cost should be adjusted accordingly. All these aspects make it incredibly important to check that subsequent costs are included in the order price correctly. 

Apart from the factors that increase the total cost, you need to consider the factors that can reduce it: sale prices, promo discounts or loyalty program bonuses. The standard promotions “out of the box” in the SFCC are:

Applying each type of the discount to the order allows you to make sure that the final payment amount is sent correctly, and the user is charged the exact payment, especially if there are hundredths in a price (for example, such prices as 9.99). The same applies to the orders partially or fully covered by the loyalty bonuses.

Simultaneously with the creation of the order in the Business manager, the above mentioned data is sent to the payment service provider for payment processing. In fact, it depends on the status of payment, whether the order is considered successful or not. If all data is entered correctly and there is a sufficient amount in the user's account, the payment will be deducted. If any problems occur (for example, insufficient funds or suspected fraud), the transaction will not take place and the order in Business manager will be marked as Failed.

Along with payments, it is usually possible to perform other transactions with funds, such as cancellation, partial or full refund from the admin panel of the payment service. Such situations arise quite often in case of product return or absence of goods in a warehouse. Although payments are mostly managed out of the SFCC (sometimes the cancellation feature may also be available to the users in their personal accounts), data synchronization and its relevance are important for business continuity, as the SFCC is closely linked to other company services (for example, shipping prodivers, order management systems, etc.).

To provide synchronization, the payment service sends the notification in case of a change in payment status or a transaction, which allows to update the order data in the SFCC correspondingly. Each operation can cause its own behavior scenario, that should be described in the project documentation. Therefore, it is necessary to test the correctness of the processing of all possible events according to the project requirements. Lack of a well-established connection with the payment service can cause incorrect data transmission while placing an order, which in its turn increases the time to eliminate such errors. Lost time is lost money. 

The Most Common Testing Challenges and Some Useful Tips

In general, testing the third-party integrations is not always easy, but it is definitely interesting. The QA engineer should track many aspects of work of a payment system to provide a stable operation of the service in future. Regardless of the project complexity, one might encounter such challenges while testing:

The challenges on the list are just some of the highlights that you often have to work with while payment integration testing. Many more unforeseen situations may occur during the active phase of development, but everything is possible to solve.

Finally, here are some tips that will be of use in any payment service testing:

It is always exciting to work with payment integrations and it doesn't matter if you are testing them for the first time or for the hundredth time. Each time you may discover something new, improve your technical knowledge or develop a more optimal approach to testing. Although most of the functionality remains the same from project to project, there may be some situations which will require a quick response. The more experience you have, the better decisions you take.

SFCC Myths Debunked

My name is Yaroslav; I’ve been in development for nine years, with more than one year as a Web Development Lead at Astound Commerce. If you are a developer and are hesitant whether to work with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) or not, this article is just what you need. We’ll try to debunk some heated rumors about this platform

Ecommerce is currently growing at a high pace and offers a vast abundance of commerce solutions, but not all of them can boast of flexible scalability and proper control over the online commerce process.

Choosing the right platform can increase the growth rate of sales across all online commerce channels. However, sometimes the client may have doubts about a particular platform because they found negative reviews on the internet and do not know that they are just myths.

Myth #1: SFCC is an obsolete platform, and modern businesses don't use it.

Frankly, it is one of my favorite legends. Just imagine for a second that more than 17 years have passed since SFCC (at that time Demandware) came into existence. Over those years, the platform has accumulated enough experience in the ecommerce marketplace, based on ever-evolving customer demands and requirements, that it earned the B2C and B2B Commerce Suite leadership position at the end of 2020, according to Forrester Research*, an independent research firm. SFCC was scored the highest in terms of criteria such as artificial intelligence and machine learning ecosystem, product vision and customer capabilities scaling, order management, and revenue leveraging.

Giant brands like Under Armour, Puma, Adidas, Calvin Klein, L’Oreal, Philipp Plein, and Boohoo have already chosen and are using Salesforce Commerce Cloud, to give just a few examples of SFCC customers.

For Under Armour, for example, the SFCC platform set a whole new standard for mobile shopping. Reduced page download times resulted in a 65 percent reduction in bounce rate, and the introduction of a user-friendly progressive web app (PWA)** interface improved site navigation and tripled the click-through rate.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s innovative solutions enable companies to personalize the consumer experience and thus drive sales growth, launch advertising campaigns, use traffic splitting and A/B testing without technical support. Einstein artificial intelligence, built into the platform, provides personalized product recommendations to all site visitors, collects data on customers, and orders and displays items that are frequently purchased together.

Salesforce also provides a number of related customer relationship management system (CRM) and marketing software-as-a-service (SaaS) services that can be integrated into a customer’s solution set. This is where the next common myth about SFCC is rooted.

Myth #2: SaaS solution is not the best choice for running an online business

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is driven by a scalable cloud-based SaaS solution, which often scares away potential customers due to rumors about the risk of data loss. Let’s take a look at the benefits and debunk the myth keeping brands from migrating to the platform.

As a cloud-based product, this system is able to handle huge demand and traffic spikes without prior planning. In the event of a sudden spike in demand, the platform is scaled up in the background without any intervention. The SaaS model is device-independent because it uses cloud technology, providing access to functionality through a web-based application. Consequently, neither partial or complete device replacement nor outages affect your data, because it is kept in a cloud storage.

Instead of buying an expensive software license, users subscribe to a cloud solution as a service. This option of implementation and maintenance is less expensive than the alternative, is open source, and lowers the entry barrier for development and project start-up, especially in the initial stages. Today, both small and large entities are increasingly choosing SaaS because of its flexibility and innovation.

An IBM blog in 2014 predicted that more and more companies would take a SaaS-focused approach to business applications, and it worked, especially in ecommerce.

Another benefit is “seamless” updates, as Salesforce continuously introduces and expands many new features in the background. These are available through the administration panel, often with little or no technical intervention on your part. Consequently, the product owner can focus on business strategy and not constantly worry about the platform–a huge benefit for the customer because technical maintenance and uptime issues are the software provider’s responsibility.

Myth #3: SFCC cannot compete in the same market as Shopify and Magento

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the most in-demand and highly regarded online commerce platforms and has been ranked in the top 15 for the past few years, according to Gartner’s research on the digital market segment***.

The platform was named a Leader in the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Digital Commerce**** report for 2020, having completed more than two trillion B2B and B2C transactions and allowing customers to purchase goods and services online and in self-service mode.

According to this Gartner report, “leaders” in the space demonstrate the following capabilities:

  1. Depth of solutions and scale of commercial opportunities (for B2C and B2B)
  2. Support for large transaction volumes and high revenue levels
  3. High-quality sales and support services both directly and through an ecosystem of applications, services, and certified integration partners
  4. Integration of third-party services compatible with the core trading platform
  5. Cutting-edge innovation, typically in the form of technological updates to trading platforms and product functionality, investments inside and outside of core digital trading platforms, and customer programs enhancing the customers’ ability to succeed 
  6. Distinguished by financial, technical, and organizational viability; continuous development, and customer assessments; often set a competitive benchmark

Myth #4: Ecommerce will not be in demand after the pandemic (shopping habits)

With the advent of COVID-19, the way consumers make retail purchases changed. The standard user experience started transforming immediately, with the usual shopping mall experience changing to online shopping as one of the most important alternatives to the old purchasing format. For example, according to Salesforce’s first-quarter shopping index, in April 2021, the number of unique customers nearly doubled (up 40 percent) vs. the previous year. BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) revenue was 27 percent up in the first quarter. In July, Salesforce released its Buying Index for the second quarter of 2020, showing that the number of online shoppers remained consistently high, even though offline locations had gradually resumed operations by that time.

According to another report by Activate Consulting, last year, the volume of global ecommerce has already reached $3.4 trillion, and its further rapid growth is predicted, so by 2024, the world’s ecommerce will grow from $3.4 trillion to $6.5 trillion.

This tremendous momentum was made possible by global isolation. The fact that this was the first purchase online for many consumers and that it was made during the quarantine period is surprising and astounding.

Myth #5: The expert community is poorly represented in the ecommerce services market

This may have been true 10-15 years ago, but now given SFCC’s leading position in the ecommerce market, the number of certified professionals and developers who are just starting their journey is also growing. This is an area where this platform really excels, because there are hundreds of skilled agencies and a huge number of certified and experienced developers.

The SFCC, on its TRAILHEAD platform, provides anyone with access to documentation, the opportunity to prepare for certification, and the opportunity to join a community that will help explore the intricacies of the platform.

I will also share a few useful links:

  1. Documentation – https://documentation.b2c.commercecloud.salesforce.com/DOC1/index.jsp 
  2. Developer center – developer.commercecloud.com/s
  3. Github – github.com/SalesforceCommerceCloud
  4. Salesforce AppExchange – appexchange.salesforce.com

To sum up

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a product that is improving, getting smarter, and giving developers flexibility on an ongoing basis. A variety of templates and commercial APIs for creating customized implementations and a community of more than 2.3 million people will never leave you alone with a difficult task.

Consequently, if you chose SFCC as your platform for implementing both B2C and B2B ecommerce solutions, you made a smart move.

* Forrester Research is an independent research and advisory firm founded in 1983 providing its clients with data on the impact of information technology on businesses and customers. Reports are based on annual surveys of more than 675,000 consumers, business and technology leaders worldwide; rigorous and objective methodologies, including Forrester Wave™ assessments.

** PWA (progressive web app) is a technology in web development that visually and functionally transforms a website into an app. A mobile app in the browser.

*** Gartner is a research and consulting firm specialized in information technology markets. It is best known for introducing the concept of ERP and for its regular “Magic Quadrant” and “HYPE Cycle” research reports. Gartner research is regularly featured in such publications as the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Register and ZDNet. Along with IDC and Forrester, it is considered a key researcher of IT markets.

**** A market segment analysis report, which includes an image with the distribution of suppliers by specified quadrants. Every year, the company produces several dozen “magic quadrants” on a regular basis.

References:

https://business.adobe.com/resources/reports/Gartner-Magic-Quadrant-for-Digital-Commerce-2020.html

https://www.gartner.com/reviews/market/digital-commerce/compare/adobe-magento-vs-salesforce-vs-shopify

https://astoundcommerce.com/work/

https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2020/Salesforce-Commerce-Cloud-Named-a-Leader-in-B2C-and-B2B-Commerce-Suites-Evaluations-by-Independent-Research-Firm/default.aspx

https://www.ibm.com/blogs/cloud-computing/2014/03/18/what-is-software-as-a-service-saas/

https://enlyft.com/tech/products/demandware

https://trends.builtwith.com/websitelist/Demandware

https://www.featuredcustomers.com/vendor/salesforce-commerce-cloud/customers

https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2020/10/22/58-of-global-online-sales-are-made-from-just-6-companies-4-of-which-are-chinese/

https://customerthink.com/how-is-coronavirus-evolving-e-commerce-businesses/

Headless for Storefront

Ivan Khartov has been working as a front-end developer at Astound Commerce for four years and in the overall sphere of front-end development for around nine years. In his article, Ivan will introduce you to the core differences between traditional Salesforce Reference Architecture (SFRA) and headless architecture, the benefits and key advantages of headless implementation, and the necessary knowledge to implement a storefront head.

Before proceeding, it is important to understand the definition of storefront in the framework of headless architecture. Storefront is an ecommerce service, allowing brands to advertise their products and generate transactions. In traditional architecture, an ecommerce storefront is inseparable from the platform; changes cannot be made without affecting the back-end. In other words, a change made on the front-end also requires a change to be made on the back-end and vice versa. The back and forth consultation is done to ensure a well-functioning service in accordance with the product requirements. From the perspective of a front-end developer, this creates certain challenges and restrictions, not allowing one to use all the available modern solutions.

A storefront for headless commerce is a self-contained web storefront that’s completely separate from the ecommerce platform and any other back-end application. The independence of a headless storefront provides more flexible and innovative solutions, where all communication with the back-end happens via API.

Table of Contents

Storefront in Traditional and Headless Architecture

Currently, there are three main approaches during solutions development: commerce-led, experience-led, and API-led. API-led can also be referred to as “the new way” or “headless ecommerce.”

The commerce-led model provides solutions for effective order management; however, it cannot react quickly to any dynamic changes or to consumer behavior. Aside from that, the inner interfaces’ functions are limited, preventing improved experience with the content.

The experience-led model separates the platform from the presentational layer. In this case, the content management system maintains accessibility, playing a major role. Both of these approaches cause limitations. Since the back-end and front-end are bound to each other, implementing any changes in your solution is difficult and slow. This limits opportunities and causes unnecessary challenges for any upcoming initiatives.

The API-led model, or headless model, allows the ecommerce platform and the content management system to cooperate with the user interface, or storefront, via API. This grants far more flexibility and freedom to implement innovative solutions faster and with higher quality.

When directly comparing the traditional storefront to the headless storefront, Ivan says there are three key differences:

Core Technologies

Now that we’ve discovered the key differences between traditional and headless ecommerce, we can focus on the technologies required for implementation. The structure of the technological stack for the development of a new product might add additional work within the frame due to the abundance of factors and variables, which should be considered.

Here’s an overview of the three main frameworks: React, Vue.js, and Angular. The graph below displays demand for these frameworks over a five year span, as reported by Google Trends.

It is preferable to work with the framework you are already familiar with. If you are not familiar with any of them, you could select one by observing the information in the diagram below. From the presented chart, it is apparent that the preference for React has been greater than Angular; however, Vue.js is gaining popularity.

React has the lightest production size, which shall increase the speed of any solution; Angular weights the most since it is a robust framework by itself, while React is simply a library. Vue.js is balanced between the two (and proves to be quite easy to learn) while providing the benefits of Angular, which is far more challenging to adapt to.

There is no “correct” option here; however, it is important to consider the indicated data. Select the framework you are most comfortable with, yet if you are unfamiliar with any, begin with the easiest. Even though Angular is a fully functional framework, it is quite difficult when Vue.js is easier to understand and yields the same useful tools.

Keeping the following abbreviations in mind will also be helpful for front-end development. What is SPA, PWA, CSR, or SSR?

How an SPA Works

A single-page application is a site with a page that updates dynamically instead of downloading the data from the server. In such cases, all the necessary code for the web application (HTML, CSS, JS) needs to be uploaded once. After that, all the contents and elements of the web application update automatically, without any further requirements to restart the browser. This allows a faster load of the web application, reducing the traffic between the server and the browser. Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Gmail are all examples of a good SPA.

How a PWA Works

A Progressive Web App is more like a set of guidelines and checklists, rather than a specific architecture. A PWA is famous for and differs from a SPA via the following characteristics:

How CSR Works

Among these basic concepts, it is also important to understand the rendering process. Client-side rendering (CSR) is the rendering of specific pages on the browser with the use of JavaScript (JS). All logic, data, templates, and routing are generated on the client side, not on the server (SPA). The avoidance of frequent updates of the page, compared to regular websites, and faster download of visual elements after the initial load are definitely advantageous here. However, the initial slow load, negative influence on SEO, and higher requirements for memory capacity on the users’ devices prove to be a disadvantage.

How SSR Works

Server-side rendering (SSR) generates the entire HTML for the page on the server in response to the navigation. This allows smoother processing of the templates and contents for the client. Benefits include a faster initial loading time of the page compared to SPA or CSR applications, no negative effects on SEO, and elimination of additional loading requests that occur during the initial load of the page to the server. However, the higher requirement of resources during each page’s load is a drawback.

In the context of developing ecommerce storefront solutions connected to SEO and the interface, it is necessary to use SSR. But what can be done if the application (SPA) is written on React or Vue and only uses CSR? In such a case, the universal SSR framework comes in handy.

Universal SSR Framework

What is a universal JS framework? Nuxt and Next are described as the “universal JS frameworks,” meaning they simply support universal rendering.

Nuxt is a framework for universal applications that is based on Vue. It handles all of the configurations to set up a server-side rendered Vue application.

Next does what Nuxt does, but for React applications. It is a framework for building universal applications that leverage React.

So what about Nest? As it turns out, Nest is where we see a departure. Nest is not an analog of Next and Nuxt at all. As noted above, those two technologies are focused on bringing the front-end server side. Moreover, they support specific front-end frameworks, Vue and React, respectively. The goal of Nest is to help you rapidly develop your back-end. It supports both JavaScript and TypeScript.

Instead of an out-of-the-box node application, Nest introduces annotations, best practices folder structures, and associated concepts. All additions that you may be familiar with if you’ve used technologies like Spring for Java.

To summarize:

But what is TypeScript? It’s a programming language developed and maintained by Microsoft and functions as an extension of JavaScript options. Knowing TypeScript gives an advantage because it is such a powerful language and provides faster reactions and flexibility in the framework; typisation also helps create better code documentation, allowing for a higher quality output overall. Some frameworks, such as Angular or Next, already use it, though it is recommended that TypeScript is used in general as well.

The next tool, which is very useful for successful headless implementation, is Storybook, the tool that allows you to work without a backend. It will enable you to test and document every required component. Storybook will document all changes as they are made, allowing for far smoother cooperation between front-end and back-end developers, quality assurance engineers, and other teams. The tool also allows you to add any preferred add-ons, for example, the one on accessibility which runs on specific parameters and roles, detecting any errors or sections requiring adjustments. This will allow you to build a site entirely independent from the back-end.

Design Methodology

The main concept is that the storefront design and all its components can be dissected down to atomic bases. In this case, an atom is a button; a molecule is a button with either a label or an animation; an organism is a larger body of the page, either a header, while the menu is a completely separate organism.

What are the benefits of Atomic Design? Atomic Design can require a lot more thought and planning, but it’s often worth the extra effort. Here are some of the benefits of using this type of design:

This tactic and approach work optimally with Storybook, especially when constructing a headless storefront. Overall, this results in a more efficient timeline, where more effort is invested in improving the front-end content, and you as a developer are freer to make all the necessary changes right away. Sometimes it can take weeks to see the effect of your work on the content, which could also affect motivation. With headless architecture and the tools and approaches mentioned above, you can develop all sorts of solutions comfortably and in the way you prefer.

Final Considerations

When should you consider going headless? The headless approach requires specific changes. It is important to answer the following questions before taking action:

Once you have established solid answers to the above questions, you may then consider going headless, finding more adaptable and flexible frameworks for your front-end developers, benefitting the performance of your solutions, and providing higher quality products to the consumers.

Astound Expands Funding

Global digital commerce expert Astound Commerce, with engineering centers and a team of 850-plus IT specialists in five Ukrainian cities has announced strategic investments from the California-based firm RLH Equity Partners, with additional participation from Salesforce’s corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures. This funding is aimed at accelerating the expansion of Astound’s capabilities and footprint into new commercial and technology markets, as well as fueling the company’s growth and the attraction of top-notch engineering talent in key business locations.

Since its founding in 2000, Astound Commerce has achieved rapid organic development, and today with a team of 1,300 professionals worldwide the company is delivering exceptional digital commerce experiences for global brands such as Puma, L’Oréal, Under Armour, FLOR, TOMS, and Crocs. The RLH investment comes on the heels of exponential growth for Astound, and the company will use these funds to achieve its strategic plan, launched in the beginning of 2020 with the aim of making Astound the global market leader in digital commerce.

“As we came to recognize RLH’s people-focused philosophy and its deep commitment to preserving the culture and operations of the businesses it supports, prioritizing talent acquisition and retention, the choice was clear,” — said Michael Kahn, Global CEO at Astound Commerce. “For the past three decades, RLH has invested in technology business services, healthcare, and government services, in particular seeking out superlative leadership teams with a clear plan for exponential growth,” — he continued.

“We welcome RLH Equity Partners as a strategic investor in Astound Commerce, and are delighted with Salesforce Ventures’ continued support. I believe this partnership will strengthen Astound’s position as the world-class digital commerce expert and boost our development in existing and new markets. With these funds we expect to add new technologies to our portfolio and hire more talents to our team,” — noted Ilya Vinogradsky, co-founder and COO/CIO at Astound Commerce.

“This investment is a key indicator of trust in our business and an important signal for our team and the market in general. RLH funding will enable Astound Commerce to scale new heights and create the jobs of the future in all countries of our presence. We believe this agreement helps our trajectory to become a global market leader in digital commerce and enhance our positions as an attractive employer,” — added Darja Gornitska, Director of Global Delivery Operations at Astound Commerce.

RLH Equity Partners has a long history of helping promising businesses capitalize on their potential, offering seasoned guidance as its team focuses on strengthening existing infrastructure and supporting new initiatives. Other RLH investments include Salesforce cloud consultancy Bluewolf (since acquired by IBM), Salesforce B2B agency Shift 7 Digital, financial and technology consultancy CrossCountry Consulting, and pharmaceutical industry consulting firm Clearview Healthcare Partners.

Before this major investment from RLH Equity Partners, in 2019 Astound Commerce received funds from Salesforce Ventures to expand the company’s presence in priority markets and increase the share of its projects in the overall Salesforce ecosystem. Since that time Astound Commerce introduced new engineering centers in Turkey and India, and its team of tech experts increased by a third.

From Bookseller to E-Powerhouse

Year 2000 was when USB flash drive first hit the stores, Microsoft released Windows 2000, and the first draft of Human Genome was announced. But, most importantly, year 2000 was when Astound Commerce, ecommerce pioneer, had emerged. This is the story of our company.

It’s a story of how dreaming big, when it goes hand-in-hand with continuous learning, good teamwork, and commitment to each other and to clients, can entail great success.

A boutique local business back in 2000, Astound Commerce has since evolved into a multinational ecommerce agency, launched more than 2000 sites, and worked with over 1000 clients worldwide. Like with any compelling story, it’s always intriguing to learn how it all started.

San Francisco, US, early 1990s, Ilya Vynogradsky, Igor Gorin and Roman Martynenko met and became friends while in college. It was then that their entrepreneurial idea had emerged. Student textbooks were expensive at the time, and they came up with a solution – build a website to connect students and book distributors. Little did they know, this solution would be the foundation for the company Astound is today.

Later, in 2000, the three friends ventured to bring their idea into life, registered their company, and opened their first office with a team of five in San Francisco. When the dot-com bubble burst, lots of businesses shut down. The clients of those businesses needed digital solutions, so the team captured the opportunity and moved from selling books to developing ecommerce websites for multiple new clients, establishing our company as an ecommerce pioneer.

The team set out to actively build relationships with new clients, so they often worked after hours. Ilya recollected how in 2002 for uBid company, they had to finish the project in less than two months, with a team of four developers, including him. That year, in fact, the small team managed to deliver over 20 ecommerce websites to various US direct marketers within three months.

In 2006, the development team no longer consisted of four people, with the opening of the first Delivery office in Kyiv, Ukraine. Due to the time difference, Ilya had to interview candidates and train new team members at night. That’s when one of the core values of Astound – shared success – had been born. Sharing knowledge and experience with the colleagues proved essential to the success of the company, and, therefore, to the success of our clients.

Over time, it turned out that word of mouth worked best when it came to acquiring new clients. By nurturing a solid relationship, and delivering the promised solution in time, the team built trust with a customer. If an employee of that customer switched companies, they recommended our services to their new management. Demandware (Salesforce Commerce Cloud at the time) and Intershop platforms were another source of new clients. And so, gradually our company picked up steam, expanded, and opened new Delivery offices.

Some of our colleagues witnessed the early days of those offices, and like to reminisce about those times. Cozy rooms, a small and friendly team willing to lend a hand with any issue you come across – the family-like atmosphere propelled the willingness to work and commit to projects. Moreover, they agree that not much has changed – teammates are still their main source of inspiration.

Our company has undergone two major crises. In 2008, due to the financial crisis, a number of clients went bankrupt. Luckily, there was still demand for ecommerce solutions, so new clients were signed. And, in 2014, the company was forced to close two Delivery offices in the Eastern Ukraine. But the team saw it as an opportunity to expand geographically, and opened two new engineering centers in Varna and Kosice.

Twenty years ago Astound was just a bookselling solution. Look at how far we’ve come. With more than twenty offices around the globe, and over 1200 team members, Astound has evolved into a digital powerhouse, now delivering ecommerce solutions and strategic, design and online marketing services to clients all over the world.

With Astound Way Solution Framework, we are now flexible enough to execute any idea, and deliver projects with various levels of complexity.

Now, in the current volatile economic climate, like with the previous crises, we are planning to seek out opportunities. Already, through surveying global consumers, we have found out that during quarantine shopping habits have shifted towards increased online spendings. Hopefully, these habits will take root and create new favorable conditions for ecommerce. We are also seeing some new industry verticals taking interest in ecommerce. So there are actually lots of opportunities waiting ahead. And where there are plenty of opportunities, there are plenty of new stories to be written.

Entering a new decade, our company is now turning a page of a new story. With commitment to each other, desire to improve and share knowledge, by being passionate about our work, we are not afraid to keep dreaming big and face new challenges. We are ready to head out into our astounding future!