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10 Nov 2021
Headless Commerce

What is Headless Commerce?

Thanks to the web and the Internet of Things (IoT), today’s digital world is more user-centric than ever before. Nowadays, consumers expect complete control over…

Thanks to the web and the Internet of Things (IoT), today’s digital world is more user-centric than ever before. Nowadays, consumers expect complete control over when and how they buy goods.

If you’re familiar with e-commerce, you’ve probably heard of retailers going ‘headless’, or building a headless commerce storefront. It’s one of the most discussed and misunderstood terms in the e-commerce space.

Consumers are increasingly shopping outside of traditional e-commerce platforms, and many businesses aren’t fast enough to respond to these new touchpoints. This has ushered in a new era of digital delivery known as headless commerce.

But what exactly does that mean? What makes it different from a single platform? And, more importantly, why should you care about it?

What Is Headless Commerce?

The term ‘headless commerce’ refers to the separation of an e-commerce application’s frontend (the head) and backend. Brands can develop what they want and when they want, due to this architecture.

Since the frontend is the head, the backend of the store becomes “headless”. With a headless store, the two separated sides operate independently of one another and communicate via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Despite not being connected to a frontend delivery platform, the backend manages all of an e-commerce platform’s important functions.

This ‘headlessness’ gives companies more flexibility in terms of creating distinctive user experiences. They can personalise the features and functions of their frontend, where traditional e-commerce platforms are limited in terms of design and functionality. The separation of the two results in a speedier, more agile, and seamless shopping experience.

Headless Commerce vs Traditional Commerce

After identifying what exactly headless commerce is, let’s take a closer look at how a headless commerce model varies from a traditional commerce approach.Traditional VS Headless Commerce

Online purchases have traditionally been made possible by an eCommerce solution with a monolithic architecture. This is where there is a single database and the backend and frontend are tightly integrated through coding. Monolithic platforms, which are usually used for websites, provide developers complete control over how they are coded and customised.

When commerce was mostly web-based, this strategy worked well for businesses. Traditional platforms are simple to build, which is ideal for start-ups with small in-house teams to go online with a server-side application and manage their products.

However, since elements like CMS, cart checkout and site design are all interconnected, changes to one element of a store necessitate changes elsewhere, making updates slow and inconvenient. When launching new consumer experiences, developers may be forced to rebuild both ends of the platform rather than simply attaching new frontends. Businesses are thus restricted to using the framework’s built-in capabilities, limiting their innovation as they expand their content and shopping channels.

7 benefits of Headless Commerce

Retailers are under more pressure than ever to create a personalised user experience, respond swiftly to consumer trends and new technologies, and support more devices than ever before. To achieve those needs, a headless architecture provides several advantages over a traditional platform. This includes:

  1. Personalization and customized platform development
  2. Omnichannel presence
  3. Speed to market and flexibility
  4. Greater security
  5. Lower costs
  6. Error reduction and improved website performance
  7. Employee adoption

Personalization and customized platform development

Developers can create personalised experiences for customers using headless platforms, which increases conversions and customer loyalty. Developers are also able to choose the best tools and programming languages for each business function, then integrate them to create a unified architecture. This results in an ideal platform with easier module swapping.

Omnichannel presence

Retailers can leverage APIs to create branded content that is consistent across channels, as well as add frontend experiences to every consumer touchpoint or channel in reaction to market developments.

Speed to market and flexibility

Headless architecture enables developers to introduce new frontend experiences and touchpoints efficiently and simply without having to code modifications in the backend. Instead of having to upgrade or replace the entire platform, this helps them to keep up with demand and technological advancements.

Greater security

Separating functions makes system monitoring easier and lowers the danger of data breaches. Functionalities are concealed under modular coding and APIs are made read-only to defend against malicious attacks.

Lower Costs

Headless systems eliminate the need for expensive platform redeployment.  The flexibility of the solution allows it to be scaled up and down in response to demand, preventing performance volatility and lost sales while minimising excessive capacity investment.

Error reduction and improved website performance

Microservices have a limited set of capabilities, which reduces the risk of version conflicts or errors produced by other processes. Since APIs only call the data needed to conduct a specific activity, the decoupled architecture is also faster and more responsive than a traditional architecture improving the website’s speed and performance.

Employee adoption

Unlike the limits of a traditional platform, separating the backend from the storefront allows employees to focus on their area of expertise. Developers have more freedom when it comes to utilising programming tools and marketers can focus on content creation without harming or relying on the backend.

Why Headless Commerce?

According to data, 64% of large businesses are working on a custom solution to help them progress their eCommerce plans. A further 76% intend to use headless technology in the next 12 months.

So how can you tell if going headless is the best route for you? If you value content and prioritise site speed and efficiency, headless could be the right option.

Businesses that go headless typically need to account for a significant amount of mobile traffic and transactions, pride themselves on providing exceptional customer experiences, have complex content management requirements and have a consumer base that is prone to impulse purchases.

Headless commerce is not without flaws, the majority of which may be found in the architecture. Decoupling essentially provides you with two choices. Retailers can create a completely customised headless solution or use a frontend-as-a-service model.

The customised option consists of several complicated, modular choices that add to the complexity of your e-commerce stack and can make accomplishing your vision difficult. Without a huge team of specialized developers, you can struggle when undertaking a fully custom build.

Despite its shortcomings, the versatility of headless commerce allows your developers to build rapidly while maintaining complete control over tools, code, APIs, and all third-party integrations. Consider headless commerce to stay ahead of the innovation curve and outperform competitors by making it easier to create engaging consumer experiences.

The Future of Commerce

Customers don’t care if you employ headless technology or not; what matters is how they interact with your brand and providing a speedier site with seamless navigation is likely to enhance conversion and decrease cart abandonment.

Some argue that the future of commerce is not headless but decoupled. A decoupled CMS, unlike a headless CMS, does not completely remove the frontend delivery layer from the equation. This architecture gives control back to marketers over content writing and previewing while simultaneously providing the brand with the headless freedom to send content to various devices, applications, and touchpoints via APIs.

A decoupled CMS, in a sense, provides you with the best of both worlds. So, eCommerce has still lost its head, but a decoupled commerce system combines the simplicity of a traditional commerce system with the flexibility of a headless system for those that are less tech-savvy.

A world of possibilities opens up when it comes to decoupled and headless commerce. In the digital retail and e-commerce environment, the personalisation possibilities are virtually unlimited. As e-commerce recruiters, we feel it’s critical to collaborate with the world’s most innovative RetailTechs and E-commerce companies that wish to break the mould. If you want to do the same, contact our team of e-commerce professionals, who are eager to hear from you. Do you have a job vacancy you’d like to discuss? Get in touch and one of our specialists will assist you through the process.

We’ve helped some of the most successful RetailTech startups grow.

— now it’s your turn.