Due to the explosion of eCommerce-based businesses, commerce-based businesses, consumer behavior has changed drastically over the years. Now, with a few clicks, you can order an item and have it delivered to your door in 24 hours or less. Among online retailers, this has created a highly competitive environment that is customer-focused. As on-demand delivery continues to evolve, it’s crucial to ensure your eCommerce platform can keep up. Headless commerce is a very effective way to accomplish this.
Headless commerce refers to separating the front-end presentation layer (your website or mobile app) from the back-end commerce management layer, allowing API integration with any platform. By contrast, headless commerce enables businesses to enjoy technological and creative freedom. Retailers can use headless commerce to develop new features that enhance customer experience and boost sales, all in real-time.
What is Headless Commerce?
The widespread adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is driving a new approach to e-commerce where retail platforms go headless. So what is headless commerce architecture? Headless commerce involves the separation of a store’s frontend content from its backend commerce capabilities. Separating the commerce engine body from the consumer-facing “head” gives businesses more flexibility to choose the technology they want to use and customize the features they want to enhance shopping experiences.
The architecture no longer constrains businesses in building branded content and commerce experiences, thanks to the backend functioning independently. Several frontends can be integrated into the same commerce engine, including digital marketplaces, social media apps, mobile devices, and connected home appliances (to name a few).
Using an API, developers connect the two ends, utilizing content management, payment processing, order management, and other systems to deliver customized content to any platform.
Developers don’t have to modify the backend of frontend applications for content creators to update and scale the design and layout. The backend functionality can be upgraded without disrupting the user experience.
Comparing Headless Commerce With Traditional Commerce
Here is a closer look at how headless e-commerce differs from traditional e-commerce. Ecommerce platforms traditionally have a monolithic architecture where a single database and the backend and frontend are tightly integrated. Monolithic platforms are mainly used to build websites and give developers full control over designing and coding.
When commerce was largely electronic, this approach worked well for businesses. Traditional platforms are straightforward to design, allowing startups that don’t have large development teams to create a server-side application and manage their products with tools like Shopify or WooCommerce.
With an “”all-in-one” architecture, launching new customer experiences can require developers to upgrade both ends of the platform, rather than simply adding new front ends. Businesses are restricted from expanding their content and sales channels due to the fixed architecture, which constrains their creativity.
A headless system provides a major development benefit. In fact, Headless allows brands to experiment with new experiences and channels much more quickly, increasing their revenue and time-to-market for new products. There are no single points of failure with cloud-based headless systems, which is their second technical benefit. The fact that developers and content creators work on separate platforms reduces the risk of unauthorized access to customer data.
The Popularity of Headless Commerce
By blending content and commerce, headless commerce delivers seamless digital experiences that drive conversion.
More changes are occurring in the e-commerce landscape than ever before. Consumer behavior is rapidly changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to change for good. As consumers turn to online channels for everything from groceries to entertainment, traditional brands with a limited online presence struggle to keep up as Amazon’s revenues soar. Big box retailers have been launching direct-to-consumer storefronts due to increased reliance on e-commerce, home delivery, and hybrid models such as “buy online, pick up in-store”.
According to Google, 60% of Internet users started shopping on one device but continued on another, and 82% of mobile phone users used their phones to research purchases they planned to make in stores before the pandemic. For businesses to provide an integrated shopping experience across channels, this behavior demands an omnichannel approach.
Amazon is changing the way customers interact with companies. In its evolution from an online bookseller to a global marketplace, Amazon adds new touchpoints in its evolution from a web-based bookseller to a connected home and car marketplace. Online retail has been raised to a new level, and customer expectations have been raised for the buying experience.
With an increasing number of devices requiring unique content, the effectiveness of full-stack platforms designed when consumer traffic was predominantly desktop is being challenged. Marketers can take full control over the user experience in a headless system, while developers can focus on managing processes.
Working Structure of Headless Commerce
The term headless commerce refers to commerce that works everywhere by providing brands with a new level of agility. Content is delivered from the decoupled backend to the storefront as data through the APIs of a headless approach.
It is merely adding an API call for a retailer to launch checkout options through an automobile, wearable device, or home speaker system. Plugins can be attached to the existing platform instead of breaking the coding or switching to a new platform to incorporate the new features. Headless commerce enables seamless omnichannel delivery to consumers.
The headless commerce platform sends an API call to the commerce engine when a customer makes a purchase. Data is collected from multiple systems during the call, including the order management system, payment processing infrastructure, and product information manager, among others.
By accessing these data sources, content creation is also made easier. DXPs create personalized content using the API data to build customer loyalty, causing them to purchase more repeatedly.
Benefits of Headless Commerce
Providing a tailored user experience, responding quickly to customer trends and new technologies, and supporting more devices are more important than ever. To meet those demands, a headless e-commerce platform has many advantages over a traditional platform.
- Personalization: Through headless platforms, developers can provide tailored shopping experiences for shoppers that boost conversions and increase customer loyalty.
- Omnichannel presence: APIs enable retailers to create consistent branded content across channels, providing front-end experiences to any customer touchpoint or channel according to market trends.
- Customized platform development: Developers can choose the programming languages and tools that make sense for each functional need the business has and integrate them to build a seamless architecture. This creates a platform that is best-in-class and enables easy module swapping.
- Speed to market: The advantage of a decoupled architecture is that developers can easily add new touchpoints and experiences to the front-end without changing the backend code.
- Flexibility: The developer no longer has to upgrade or replace an entire platform to keep up with the demands and technological changes.
- Experimentation: With A/B testing, developers can run multiple tests to find the most effective content design without interrupting the user experience, and marketers can experiment with new content without affecting the backend.
- Enhanced security: Separating functionalities ensures that the system can be monitored more easily, and data breaches are less likely. Module coding hides functionality, while APIs are set to read-only mode to prevent malicious attacks.
- Error reduction: Since individual microservices are limited in functionality, a version conflict or error caused by another process is less likely.
- Lower total ownership costs: Headless systems eliminate the need for expensive platform re-deployment. By scaling up and down according to demand, for example during and after seasonal promotions, performance instability can be avoided, along with overinvestment in capacity being minimized.
- Improved website performance: As APIs only call the data they need to run a specific process, a decoupled, modular architecture is faster and more responsive than traditional architecture.
- Employee adoption: Having the storefront and backend separate allows employees to focus on their strengths rather than being constrained by prepackaged platforms. Developers and marketers can use their preferred programming languages and tools without having to learn backend code.
Myths Surrounding Headless Commerce
The implementation of a headless architecture might make some businesses reluctant because they hold certain assumptions about it. Among the most common objections are:
- Moving from a monolithic to a headless architecture will require ripping out the existing platform.
Headless systems can be gradually layered on top of a full-stack commerce engine, integrating modules over time to ensure a seamless migration without impacting store operations.
- The platform is slowed down by a decoupled structure with multiple modules.
With a modular structure, data will only be delivered to each function as needed, making it faster and more efficient.
- Headless platforms are expensive to switch to.
Although the initial development of a headless architecture is more intensive, it saves on future platform development and creates more profitable opportunities for accelerating the rollout of new features that increase conversion rates.
- Headless is inflexible because of the complex integration of microservices and APIs.
Businesses can become more agile by using headless systems, which allow them to add and replace micro-services and write or adjust APIs to meet their needs, thereby becoming more flexible.
By implementing a hybrid ecommerce architecture, businesses can address some of these challenges. Hybrid platforms combine the simplicity of a traditional monolithic platform with the flexibility of adding multiple modules and storefronts, even though they are less flexible than a fully headless setup.