The Use of Headless Commerce Has Skyrocketed: Here’s Everything you Need to Know
Last updated on September 20th, 2023 at 05:44 pm
Whether you’re a business owner or a web developer, the idea behind establishing profitable ecommerce operations is the same – find a way to provide customers with a seamless, engaging shopping experience in one easy-to-use platform. The great thing is that there are many ecommerce platforms out there that can easily help you achieve this.
However, as customers become more tech-savvy and demand for better user experience grows, companies are under the gun to keep their ecommerce solutions fast, agile, and tailored to the unique needs of their customers, stretching the capabilities of traditional ecommerce platforms.
This is where headless commerce comes in.
What Is Headless Commerce?
The imagery of “headless” commerce probably doesn’t sound very promising, but the concept is quite appealing. In a nutshell, headless commerce means that you separate the front-end user interface from the back-end commerce platform. While both elements have been closely integrated into traditional ecommerce settings, a headless commerce setup allows for more flexibility in design, customization, and scalability.
Headless commerce architectures are much more agile and responsive than traditional ecommerce platforms, which can be rigid and difficult to modify or upgrade. This makes it easier for businesses to quickly adapt to changing customer needs, introduce new website features, or keep up with the latest trends in web design.
What Is Headless Commerce Architecture?
Headless commerce architecture involves the decoupling of the presentation layer (the “head”) from the business logic and application layer (the “body”). This allows businesses to provide customers with a more personalized shopping experience while improving their ability to interact with customers across multiple channels.
The headless approach doesn’t replace the front-end interface but gives businesses more control over it. With headless commerce architecture, companies can create more tailored experiences for their specific customer base. Businesses can quickly adjust their website design and features based on customer feedback or evolving trends.
The architecture of headless commerce is broken down into three components:
- CMS (content management system)
- Web Framework
- API (application programming interface)
The CMS manages the presentation layer, while the web framework provides a platform for developing and customizing the user interface. The API enables businesses to integrate their ecommerce platform with other services or applications, expanding their reach and delivering a more comprehensive solution to customers.
Headless commerce also allows businesses to leverage the power of microservices, small, independent services that can be used to build more complex applications. This makes it easier for companies to add new features or make changes without having to rewrite code or disrupt their existing services.
How Does Headless Commerce Work?
Headless commerce works by allowing businesses to control the presentation layer of their ecommerce platform while leaving the back-end operations to be handled by a third-party provider. Companies can design and customize their website without worrying about managing the underlying infrastructure.
There are a couple of different ways that businesses can use headless commerce. They can use a third-party service provider to manage the back-end operations or build their own custom solution using an API.
The real magic behind a headless commerce operation is how data is handled. By using an API, businesses can connect their ecommerce platform to other services and applications, reducing the manual work required to manage their systems. For example, a company could use an API to integrate data from its customer relationship management (CRM) system and its ecommerce platform, allowing them to track customer behavior across multiple channels.
Since these channels operate independently with isolated databases, the bandwidth and computing power required to process the data is significantly reduced. And because great user experiences are a significant factor in the success of an ecommerce platform, headless commerce architecture allows businesses to improve their website performance with better scalability and faster loading times.
Traditional Commerce vs. Headless Commerce
Traditional commerce is the more widely accepted approach to ecommerce, where the presentation layer and back-end operations are tightly coupled. This type of architecture has been around for many years and is still considered the most popular option among businesses due to its relatively low cost and ease of use.
The downside of this method is that it limits businesses in terms of flexibility and customization. For example, companies cannot quickly adjust their website design or features based on customer feedback since they must completely rebuild the front-end interface if they want to make any changes. Another problem is that these platforms are not built well to integrate with other services or applications unless built on open-source platforms.
Headless commerce, conversely, makes it much easier for businesses to customize their website design and features. Using an API, companies can quickly connect their ecommerce platform to other services or applications and leverage other microservices’ power. This makes it much easier to scale up operations without disrupting their existing systems.
Disconnecting the presentation layer from the back-end operations makes it easier for businesses to test different features and adjust their website design to better meet customer needs. When a single change is made, it only affects the presentation layer and not the underlying infrastructure. This eliminates the need to manually tweak codes or reconfigure databases, which can be time-consuming and lead to development bottlenecks.
Advantages of Headless Commerce
Headless commerce is the future of ecommerce, offering many advantages over the traditional approach. Here are some of the benefits that businesses can expect when adopting a headless commerce approach:
Consistent Customer Experience
Leveraging APIs to control the presentation layer makes it easier for businesses to provide a consistent customer experience (CX) across multiple channels. Omnichannel commerce has become increasingly important for better customer engagement, diversification of sales, improved customer loyalty, and a higher return on investment. However, branding inconsistency across different channels can lead to market confusion, quality control issues, and an overall decrease in customer satisfaction. With headless commerce, brand consistency can easily be maintained through a single API connection.
Headless commerce makes it easier for businesses to quickly launch new services and add innovative features that can give them a competitive edge. For example, a company could use an API to integrate its online store with a third-party product recommendation engine, allowing it to provide personalized recommendations to customers based on their purchasing history. This helps increase customer loyalty and lifetime value for the brand and provides opportunities to distinguish itself from its competitors.
Faster Time to Market
For companies that produce their own products or services, having a faster time to market is essential to gain a vital marketing position and stay ahead of the competition. Since headless commerce doesn’t require a complete redesign of the website when launching new products or services, it can be a more efficient way to launch something new. And since there is front- and back-end separation, the development team can work on both sides simultaneously without waiting for changes to be made, leading to a faster time to market.
With headless commerce, businesses can easily create content-rich experiences on their websites or apps. This is a great way to engage customers and build relationships by providing additional value through helpful resources such as blog posts, tutorials, how-to guides, and other informational content. This can help to increase customer engagement and open up new revenue opportunities, such as sponsored content or affiliate partnerships.
Along with consistency in branding, headless commerce can help customers easily identify and interact with a company’s brand. This happens because the company has complete control over how its content is presented on different channels, ensuring customers can easily associate products offered from one channel with another. Headless commerce also makes it possible to seamlessly integrate and leverage existing marketing tools, like email campaigns or social media promotions, all of which play a vital role in helping businesses build brand recognition and maintain credibility.
Customizable Tech Stack
When developing an ecommerce solution, businesses can choose from a wide range of technologies and services to build their custom tech stack. This gives them the freedom to tailor their solutions better to meet the specific needs of their customers without sacrificing agility or scalability. By using headless commerce, companies can quickly pivot and adjust to changes in the market without having to redevelop the entire system from scratch. They can also add new features, allowing them to grow their online store with advanced capabilities like voice search or AI-driven product recommendations.
By far, one of the most attractive benefits of headless commerce is the ability to optimize for different channels and devices. Headless commerce eliminates the need to develop separate website versions for different devices or make changes to the entire site when launching new products, saving time and resources. Additionally, businesses can easily test different features on different channels and measure the success of each one to optimize their overall strategy.
A headless commerce architecture is primed for long-term scalability. This makes it a perfect solution for businesses looking to stay on the cutting edge of ecommerce technology and maintain a competitive advantage. With a headless approach, businesses can continuously add new features or technologies without worrying about their existing system becoming outdated. Plus, since there is a separation between the front-end and back-end of the website, upgrades are much less time-consuming and easier to integrate.
Headless Commerce Use Cases
Headless commerce suits any business looking to take its ecommerce experience to the next level. From large enterprises to small businesses, this technology offers something for everyone. Here are a few examples of different use cases where headless commerce could be put into action:
Retailers that sell products to end customers can use headless commerce to create a unique and engaging online shopping experience. This technology allows them to create advanced product discovery tools, personalize the customer journey, and integrate with modern marketing channels.
Headless commerce can help B2B businesses build out their ecommerce platforms, streamline the ordering process, and manage customer data. With this technology, they can offer customers custom product catalogs, automated order management systems, and flexible payment options to encourage regular purchases and better relationships.
Publishers can leverage headless commerce to create content-rich experiences for their readers by integrating their CMS with a headless commerce platform. This integration allows them to offer products related to their content or provide subscription-based services directly from their website.
Marketplaces can use headless commerce to provide personalized product recommendations, manage complex pricing structures, and enable multiple buyer payment options. It also makes it easier for them to integrate with third-party services like accounting software or shipping companies in order to simplify the checkout process.
Software developers can easily integrate payment processing capabilities into their applications using a headless ecommerce solution while staying compliant with industry regulations. This integration can also facilitate automated billing processes to help software companies improve their recurring revenue streams and give customers more flexibility when it comes to accepting payments on their websites.
Best Headless Commerce Platforms
For businesses that want to take advantage of headless commerce, there are a variety of options to choose from. Here are a few of the top platforms that offer headless commerce solutions:
One of the most popular solutions for headless ecommerce, Magento 2’s platform is powered by an open-source core that allows businesses to customize their websites to fit their needs. It offers various features such as product search and sorting, customer segmentation, and analytics tools. Magento 2’s platform is highly scalable and can be integrated with third-party services such as ERP, payment gateways, CRM, and many more.
Shopify Plus is an enterprise ecommerce platform that also offers headless commerce capabilities. Much like Magento 2, Shopify Plus is highly customizable and integrates with various third-party services. It has advanced features such as automated abandoned cart recovery, customer insights, comprehensive inventory management, order processing features, and multi-currency support.
BigCommerce has been around since 2009 and is a leading platform for headless commerce. It offers extensive customization options, built-in SEO features, and comprehensive analytics tools. With BigCommerce’s platform, businesses can easily build custom websites using its powerful APIs and integrations to enable a seamless customer journey.
Unlock the Benefits of Headless Commerce
Headless commerce is a powerful technology that can help businesses take their ecommerce capabilities to the next level. With a highly scalable platform that reduces development time and integrates easily with third-party services, businesses can quickly create unique customer experiences that will improve their bottom line and build stronger customer relationships long-term.
Ville Houttu is the Founder and CEO of Vincit USA. He helped Vincit’s parent company in Finland go public on Nasdaq First North marketplace. Ville has an M.Sc. in Engineering and focuses on a lean working model while scaling operations that prizes development and design innovation. With Ville’s leadership, Vincit USA has been recognized as one of Inc 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies. In 2020, it ranked in the top 50 on the FAST Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators. He is also one of the few Ironman triathletes who plays pedal steel guitar on several albums on Spotify.
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