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Headless Commerce: A Mini Guide


There has been a drastic and dramatic change in the world of eCommerce in the last decade. The advent of mobile commerce followed by social media commerce, eCommerce giant Amazon dominating the market, and the constantly changing consumer behavior, have contributed immensely to the revolutionising of the eCommerce world.

Now, the question here is how do online retailers match pace with the latest trends and respond to technological advancements? How do modern-day eCommerce platforms satiate customer needs? The answer is ‘headless commerce’.

A recent report from a leading platform read that “over $1.65 billion in funding was raised for headless technologies in 2020-2021 alone – and as more eCommerce businesses race to keep up with current trends, this number is bound to grow”.

So, what is headless commerce?

Headless commerce architecture is simply decoupling the front-end presentation layer (that comprises items like text colours and styles, images, graphs, tables, buttons, etc.) from the back-end commerce functionality (such as pricing, infrastructure, security, checkout, etc.). Developers can implement frontend technology as per their preference to deliver high-quality content experiences and plug in an eCommerce solution on the backend to manage all the commerce aspects.

Related Post: Exploring Headless eCommerce with Magento 2

Let us find out

How headless commerce is different from traditional commerce?

Traditional Commerce Vs. Headless Commerce

The driving force behind the shift to the latest eCommerce models is flexibility. Since the customer side of the website is separate from the technical side, headless commerce allows businesses an unparalleled level of flexibility, which is crucial in today’s market. Having such flexibility allows brands to create a unique customer experience on the front end.

  • Traditional Commerce: The all-in-one monolithic model is the most traditional eCommerce model that was quite popular for a long time. Prior to the introduction of headless commerce, multiple brands implemented a monolithic strategy, including enterprise businesses too. The advantage of a monolithic model is the full platform control for the IT department which is beneficial should you require amending the front-end experience immensely. Also, legacy eCommerce platforms offer everything in a single package, making it easier to set up systems and use pre-installed tools. Monolithic models are characterised by slow go-to-market timelines and high development costs which delay innovation. Besides, there isn’t enough space for rich merchandising, customisation, and design opportunities, making it difficult to integrate the current systems.
  • Headless Commerce: Headless commerce is the key to a business that requires commerce functionality. With CMS, DXP, application, device, or custom front-end, brands can deliver API-driven experiences. Brands can integrate the most complex commerce requirements without compromising their content to combine with a flexible eCommerce. Commerce-led models use API for data orchestration and provide relative control to IT Teams for infrastructure connectivity. The number of API calls available is essential to ensure that this functions properly, especially on a SaaS platform.

Note: Open SaaS platform architecture includes:

  1. Unlimited or high API call volumes
  2. Multiple endpoints
  3. Articulate developer documents
  4. Focus on API Development in a product roadmap

As stated, in monolith platforms, the front-end and the back-end are packaged together into an all-in-one solution. Even though it is simple and makes setting up an online store easy and straightforward, it can get complicated for enterprise-level businesses. This is why businesses are switching from a monolith model to MACH.

MACH: Microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, and headless, abbreviated to MACH is a type of composable architecture. Unlike monolith architecture, MACH allows users to choose the technology that suits their business needs and future goals perfectly.

How is headless commerce beneficial?

Using a commerce-led or content-led eCommerce strategy is beneficial in numerous ways. Content and experience-led strategies that use headless commerce can provide brands with

  • Advanced technologies that help in creating fast websites
  • Flexibility for front-end developers
  • Site architecture’s complete ownership
  • Marketing effectiveness without affecting back-end processes
  • Efficiency to market for international and omnichannel GTMs
  • Better conversion rates and lower customer acquisition costs

Headless commerce also introduces numerous possibilities to brands that are looking for a content-led strategy and there is no limit to customisations in the digital eCommerce space.

That said, let us look into the noteworthy

Advantages of headless commerce

Headless Commerce Advantages
  • Offers Flexibility and Familiarity to Developers: Headless commerce allows brands to pick the eCommerce platform that works as the engine for the online stores and the front-end they choose. When the development team chooses a particular technology they are comfortable working with, they can choose to keep the one that suits their workflow, streamlining their processes and developing efficiencies.
  • Scalability: Every company needs to adapt to emerging trends. With headless technologies, companies can future-proof their brands, thereby adjusting the front-end without re-platforming the back-end. Headless commerce also allows front-end developers to add back-office functionality to the existing system and implement frameworks using APIs according to their preferences.
  • Latest Technologies: Testing new technology in a headless environment is easy. By decoupling the front-end from the back-end, developers can create freely. The front-end, also referred to as the head, is the theme or template that controls what the customer sees. Also, headless commerce allows enhanced flexibilities in content delivery since users are given the freedom of connecting a CMS, DXP, or the Internet of Things (IoT), designed specifically for creating content-led commerce.
  • Fast Websites: The success of an online shopping website depends hugely on maintaining a fast page load speed. With a slow-loading page, the bounce rate increases. The page load speed also determines the website’s rank on SERP. Since headless commerce houses content centrally which can be delivered anywhere using APIs, this allows for an expedited delivery compared to traditional platforms.
  • Complete Ownership over Website’s Architecture: Both the content management and content delivery environments are separated in a headless commerce platform that provides better control. Also, brands switch to headless commerce because they already have a front-end and need their back-end to be more effective. With headless technologies, brands can choose to keep what works for them and upgrade what doesn’t.
  • Effective Marketing: Traditional monolithic systems come with limited options in terms of developing new experiences on the front-end. But with headless technology, users can integrate new technologies and adapt to the latest trends as they arise, This gives your marketing team the full freedom to innovate and build multiple user experiences across different channels without impacting the back-end processes.
  • Speedy Market for International and Omnichannel GTMs: Headless technologies can easily be replicated across the board, optimised for any multi-region SEO, and connected to the overall data infrastructure. The developers can work on customer-facing experiences separately from the commerce engine, which means, both teams can continue innovating without having to wait for the other to finish.
  • Boost Conversion Rates and Lower Customer Acquisition Costs: The increase in paid advertising leads to an increase in customer acquisition costs. Headless solutions are an effective means to reduce these costs since your brand can implement a content-led strategy to drive organic traffic and not rely on paid advertising.
  • Omnichannel: Headless commerce allows you to promote your content across different channels including the ones that you add in the future. Since you can edit the front-end without impacting the back-end, you can add multiple online and offline experiences. Headless platforms allow merchants to create omnichannel experiences by making products available in multiple places other than their online storefront.
  •  Cases: Headless commerce works in any use case whether it is WordPress, Drupa, Boomreach, Adobe Experience Manager, or your own customised solution. The API connection decouples the platform’s presentation layer and plugs the platform to where you need to work.
  •  Custom Solutions: Headless commerce provides you with the customisation you need to work. It also provides you with an open SaaS experience.
  •  Content Management System (CMS): Headless commerce teamed with a customer management system (CMS) is a powerful combination. Here, the eCommerce platform gets decoupled with the presentation layers so that the brand can use popular CMS solutions such as Magento, Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, WordPress, DXPs or custom front-end solutions for enhanced customer experiences that allow increasing conversion.
  •  Digital Experience Platform (DXP): This type of software allows companies to quickly digitise and provide an enhanced customer experience. Combining a DXP and headless CMS solution helps build a strong foundation. This combination allows developers and marketers to work separately without impacting the workflow.
  •  Progressive Web App (PWA): Progressive web apps use advanced web capabilities to deliver a native app-like experience to users. These regular web pages or websites appear to the user like traditional applications or native mobile applications. Here, the capabilities of both websites and mobile software are combined to create an immersive user experience that leads to higher conversion rates.

Wrapping Up,

Since developers are not designers and designers are not developers, the APIs, and tools of the commerce platforms help the developers create a coordinated, brand-consistent experience across channels. Similarly, the designers can focus on optimising the user experience and interface to enhance customer engagement and conversions. A flexible commerce platform ensures that your developers can create with speed and with full autonomy of tools, code, APIs, and all third-party integrations.

For a more detailed understanding of headless commerce, get in touch with an expert at 18th DigiTech to re-confirm why you need headless commerce for your business.