Customers have become accustomed to the highly curated experience provided by rich online shopping experiences. – Guy Yehiav, Forbes
The COVID pandemic has brought a radical change in consumer behavior and buying patterns. While they can promptly buy anything they want online, they don’t make any purchase unless you offer them a highly personal, engaging, and seamless experience.
Hence, if you want to survive the competition and deliver on customer expectations – you must rethink the way you approach your ecommerce strategy. Headless commerce can be one way to go.
What is Headless Commerce?
If you’re wondering what is Headless commerce, here’s how we can define it:
Headless commerce is an eCommerce approach in which we separate the front-end and backend of your eCommerce platform. As a result, they both work independently.
Headless commerce is also called API-based commerce as the communication between Frontend and the backend happens through application programming interface (API) calls.
The independence of the front-end from the back-end is the primary reason why Headless commerce is amassing massive popularity. It allows retailers to offer highly targeted and customized content to customers without having to make any radical changes in the backend.
Why Do We Need Headless Commerce?
Traditional commerce follows a monolithic approach in which a single solution combines both the frontend user experience with the functional backend unit.
While it works for many brands, traditional commerce may become challenging to manage and update as the complexity grows. Also, every time a new technology arrives, you will have to update both the frontend and the backend. It will further lead to waste of both time and resources.
By disconnecting the frontend layer from the backend, Headless commerce ensures that you can easily manage and update your ecommerce platform, and provide highly personalized content to customers.
Difference between Headless Commerce & Traditional Commerce
|Headless Commerce||Traditional Commerce|
|1. Front-end and backend are loosely-coupled. Also, there are no design constraints in headless commerce. It means you can use the design you want in your platform.||1. Front-end and back-end are tightly-coupled. Design constraints exist in the traditional commerce approach. It means you can use only those designs that are compatible with your backend.|
|2. In headless commerce, we follow the micro service approach and hence technology lock-in and code management are not an issue.
|2. In traditional commerce, we remain constrained to one framework. Also, the code is usually long and difficult to manage.|
|3. It’s easy to customize and introduce new technologies through API calls in headless commerce.||3. Customization is a challenge in traditional commerce. It often takes long and adds extra workload on developers.|
|4. Loading time is less in headless commerce as API calls are easy to manage and we can scale components based on our requirements.
|4. Since you have to compile long and complicated code, loading time often increases in traditional commerce.|
|5. No design constraints exist in headless commerce. Although, you’ll have to build the frontend from scratch.||5. Templates and themes exist. Although, there are limited options with what you can do with design.|
|6. Since both frontend and backend are loosely coupled, you can make changes in frontend without having to update the backend.||6. Since both frontend and backend are tightly coupled, you have to make changes to both if you’re updating either.|
Headless Commerce Architecture
A headless commerce architecture has three layers: Frontend, backend, and the API layer.
- Also known as the user experience or the head, the frontend layer showcases the products/features a customer sees when they open the website on their preferred device. We can customize it for each channel.
- Backend, a commerce platform supporting all the features that facilitates the online shopping experience. It includes functionalities like payment processing, user authentication, promotions, PCI compliance, SSL, user authentication, etc.
- An API layer that acts as a bridge between the frontend and the backend. It passes information between both the layers. Developers can build APIs without having to disturb the back-end.
How Does Headless Commerce Work?
In headless commerce, retailers store all their website information in the backend instead of operating the entire website as one chunk of technology. Then they use APIs to deliver the desired content, products, and payments to customers. It helps in delivering an omnichannel experience to them.
Benefits of Headless Commerce
Headless commerce offers competitive advantage and helps brands speed up their retail digital transformation. Here are most prominent benefits the headless commerce approach offers:
1. Build Highly Customized Customer Experiences
Since the front-end and back-end of a platform is loosely coupled in headless commerce, it is easier to roll out changes. You no longer have to worry about interrupting the existing infrastructure with each update.
That’s why the popular headless commerce platform Amazon releases updates every 11.7 seconds on average. Another headless commerce platform Netflix deploys code several times a day.
Headless commerce is essential more than ever as the modern landscape demands you to listen to your customers’ demands and deliver them a personalized experience.
Remember that word-of-mouth influences over 91% of B2B buyers when making their buying decisions. They will favor your brand only if you deliver them experience based on their demands.
By not confining you to what we call the right user experience, headless commerce lets you build personalized experiences right from the start and make customizations without disturbing the underlying technology supporting it.
2. Improve Your Time to Value
The biggest concern of each ecommerce business is that it has to spend an insane amount of time and resources to develop comprehensive business logic and back end services.
In fact, 85% of the software development process accounts for back business logic capabilities and functionalities.
With headless commerce, you can save yourself from the pain of having to update the backend every time you want to make a change in the front-end. Instead, you can focus on the user experience and deliver a desired solution for less time, cost, and efforts.
3. Make Integrations Faster
Headless commerce uses integrations for connecting and exposing assets via APIs. With these APIs, software platforms can communicate, foster connections, and transfer data seamlessly.
As a result, there are no constraints and we have unlimited possibilities on how we can utilize the data models.
In simple words, if you want something to improve the user experience, you look for APIs to solve the problem. Also, since the user experience is decoupled from the back-end, there’s nothing you need to worry about how it may impact the backend.
4. Go Truly Omnichannel
Omnichannel is the key to succeed in the modern landscape. However, contrary to what many traditional e-commerce platforms claim, they don’t offer omnichannel experiences.
That’s when headless commerce comes into play. It allows you to build a front end for a new digital sales channel whenever you want without having to wait for it. Given the advancement in the ecommerce landscape, it can be a great move.
5. Increased conversion rates
Ecommerce platforms should instill a sense of excitement to ensure there are lesser website bounches and less people abandon the shopping carts.
However, the problem with traditional commerce platforms is that they have only a limited number of ways of building excitement around the products/services they’re selling. Whenever they think of an out of the box way, they have this fear that it might disrupt their backend functionality.
However, building excitement around products/services is at the center of headless commerce. In this approach, in-house developers can think of endless possibilities to build excitement like interactive user experiences, individualized promotions, or quizzes to receive discounts. This ultimately leads to increased conversion across all channels.
6. Improve Time to Market
Expanding to new channels takes a lot of time in traditional commerce platforms. Time increases even more when you are scaling your existing platform.
Headless architecture on the other hand uses APIs to push the content and product information that we have stored locally. This way we can easily share more content in less time and ultimately improve the time to market.
Drawbacks of Headless Commerce
Like other eCommerce trends, headless commerce also brings along a couple of downsides. Following are some drawbacks of the approach:
- Since the Frontend is decoupled from the backend and is no longer a provider, you will have to create it from scratch. It will further boost your ongoing costs.
- Going headless takes time. Even if you may find suppliers of headless solutions, you will have to spend time to tailor it to your needs.
- Despite bringing many strengths to the table, headless commerce can be complex. At times, you may have to rely on front-end developers to make changes to the system.
When Should You Go Headless?
Just because headless commerce is popular doesn’t mean it is also right for your business. Here are a couple of ways to decide where you should go headless with your brand or not:
- If you create a lot of content and customer experience matters the most for you, headless commerce is right for you. It is also a great choice if you want to expand your omnichannel strategy.
- Headless commerce is also best if you sell across different countries and websites. It will help you sever different front ends from a central backend.
- Headless commerce can be a great way to go if you already have a CMS and want to add commerce to your platform.
- Headless commerce is also best if you have an ecommerce site but create content that exists on another website. Using the approach, you can merge the both and deliver customized content to the frontend.
How to Go Headless: A Few Simple Steps
Step 1: Carefully analyze your existing ecommerce platform to see what it is missing. This way you can have a clear overview of what you want to build before you proceed to building it.
Step 2: Decide on your frontend solution. You can also build it from scratch if you want.
Step 3: Once you have the right frontend solution in place, it’s time to tweak your backend based on your business needs. However, make sure you make these changes without affecting your target customers.
Note: You must also work on building a strong product information management solution in place. It will help you ensure you can seamlessly push the information customers desire on their website through APIs.
In a Nutshell
Headless commerce is not the future. It’s something you need now. Ecommerce channel is ever expanding and connected devices are taking over the ecommerce world. Hence, it’s time businesses rethink their strategy and adopt the headless commerce approach. By not adopting the approach, you are missing a lot. So, it’s time you adapt the approach now.
If you need any guidance, please let me know in the comments. I would be happy to help.