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Headless commerce, with its modern approach & technology, is often referred to as the future of e-commerce. Well, the future is here.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the consumer journey and served as an accelerant for digital commerce. Businesses that weren’t online have had no choice but to invest in a digital store, and those that were already online have had to rethink their digital strategy in order to allow them to meet new needs and scale their online sales channel.

Read on to learn more about Headless commerce: what it is, how it works and everything in between. 

Headless commerce made easy

Headless Commerce is an e-commerce architecture where the frontend and backend are separated so they can function independently from one another. They are decoupled. This allows an e-commerce brand to build a custom e-commerce platform that matches its customer and business needs, that can then be updated or evolved  without heavy development cycles.

The difference between the frontend and the backend:
  • The front-end is the presentation layer of a website or user interface. It’s what we see when we are on a web page and the technology behind it.
  • The back-end is the e-commerce solution that manages the functions and the data via servers.

Example of a headless commerce architecture

The red highlights the frontend and the grey represents the backend and associated services.

Front Commerce Architecture Headless Ecommerce

The Importance of Headless Commerce

Headless commerce encompasses a wide range of topics. So, why exactly is it so valuable and popular? In its most basic form, headless commerce is the separation of an ecommerce application’s frontend and backend. This architecture allows brands to develop whatever they want, whenever they want. Above all, it allows businesses to improve the consumer experience.

The use of APIs, experience managers, as well as the importance of IT partners, are all hallmarks of headless commerce. These resources are an essential component of any company’s innovation strategy, delivering new functionality and experiences that engage customers and keep them ahead of expectations.

With the health-care crisis hastening the pace of change in the corporate world, brands must embrace innovation like never before. Because time-to-market is frequently a factor, every hour of developer time is crucial. Month-long development queues are common for any e-commerce, with eager creative and marketing teams ready to test new designs, text, and templates on the front-end as soon as possible. The headless approach speeds up a retailer’s time to market up to 4 times faster, allowing new demands from creative teams to be taken on board without interrupting the technical roadmap.

Advantages

If you’re considering switching to headless commerce, these four major advantages are usually worth the effort and can help you grow your organisation.

  1. Employee adoption is better
    Due to steep learning curves, some businesses may be hesitant to adopt new technology. Because everyone on your team can quickly access and update the front end without advanced knowledge, having a modern commerce platform combined with the simplicity of headless commerce overcomes this problem.
  2. The proper equipment for the job
    Brands may use headless commerce to create unique experiences for their customers that they won’t find anywhere else. APIs are essential for ensuring coordinated, brand-consistent experiences across channels, which are powered by common commerce services like promotions, inventories, product information, and more.
  3. Time saving in the IT field
    Developers save time on user interface changes since updates to the front end may be implemented quickly. In addition, with partner solutions and headless templates, developers can kick-start commerce projects with just a few clicks or some light coding.
  4. Faster time to market
    Businesses can swiftly develop new front end experiences with headless commerce. Reacting quickly to a new market trend can be accomplished with minimal back end effort.
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These are some of the reasons why companies may desire to move away from traditional e-commerce and toward headless commerce. At the same time, businesses looking to improve their user experience should be aware of how becoming headless can help them achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

There are many ways in which customers and their brands benefit from headless applications and websites. These include instantaneous changes and optimization; this means, when a company adds new material to its front-end, the changes are nearly immediately reflected. Traditional commerce architecture sites, on the other hand, can take minutes, if not hours, before all users can see a brand’s most recent interface changes.

As well as a richer user experience this means that brands may get more creative with the content they publish on their websites. Experimental design  is easier. 

Furthermore, headless commerce’s almost universal compatibility ensures that your website operates as intended across all devices and viewing formats. Traditional ecommerce website managers, on the other hand, must care for responsive design to avoid missing elements or an incorrect display on different devices.

Disadvantages

Whilst there are many benefits to using headless commerce, there are also disadvantages such as: maintenance hurdles, a complex system, development time for custom features.

Unlike legacy systems, headless platforms are fragmented tech stacks and are therefore not “plug and play”. As with any custom coded system, it requires frequent technical maintenance. 

A separate CMS module is necessary for marketing teams to be able to preview and implement new content as there is no built-in WYSIWYG preview and editing functionality. However, being able to choose the best fit CMS is definitely an advantage, and many headless platforms are now proposing a page builder feature.

Applying Headless Commerce

Thanks to the decoupled nature of headless commerce, actions can be executed on the front-end without disturbing or influencing the back-end — and the other way round. This means swifter organizations that are more flexible to make the most of their e-commerce improvements, without a workload or maintenance headache.

Larger companies with larger development and IT teams, as well as a do-it-yourself attitude, are more likely to adopt headless commerce. This makes sense, given that the specific programming necessary to successfully produce and build a distinct front end and back end reliably can take a major investment in terms of development hours.

There are many examples of headless commerce. Koala is an Australian furniture brand positioning themselves as the smartest way to buy furniture. 

Launched in 2015, they hit an impressive $13 MILLION in sales within their first 12 months. They had the challenge of being constrained by their own impressive growth. Koala needs a powerful backend infrastructure to support the continuous expansion and scaling up, they also need to be able to deploy tailored experiences and microservices for their customers and have the much-needed flexibility to work on its front-end and back-end simultaneously. 

Their solution was to use Shopify Plus’s Headless Commerce. Once Koala was empowered by Shopify Plus, they were able to build a headless progressive web app, or a PWA, which allowed them the flexibility to offer the right experience at the right time to different customer segments across any device. Although decoupled, the progressive web app integrates with the content management system, shopping cart, and other mission-critical systems.

That’s it!

Headless commerce features and capabilities are evolving everyday. The goal always being a customer led experience. Today a retailer that wishes to continue to grow cannot avoid putting its customer first. So clearly the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. 

There are many different ways to get started with headless commerce. The truth is that the majority of developers aren’t designers, and the majority of designers aren’t developers. Developers can use APIs and capabilities provided by commerce platforms to create coordinated, brand-consistent experiences across channels using a single view of data. Meanwhile, creative teams concentrate on what they do best: improving consumer engagement and conversions by optimising the user experience and interface.

A headless commerce platform’s flexibility ensures that your developers can build quickly while maintaining complete control over tools, code, APIs, and all third-party integrations. Consider headless commerce to get ahead of the innovation curve and overtake the competition by making it easier to build interesting consumer experiences.

We would love to hear about your experience with a traditional or headless commerce platform. Have you or would you use headless commerce? Let us know what works for you.

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