From global giants like Netflix to niche brands like The Grass Roots Farmers’ Collective, the ecommerce world seems keen to lose its head. But with so much hype around headless commerce, how do you know what the benefits and potential pitfalls are of adopting this exciting technology?
Here, we’ll explore what makes headless commerce a good option for many ecommerce brands and businesses. We’ll also look at some of the possible downsides to help you evaluate if a headless setup is right for you.
More and more ecommerce brands are adopting headless commerce because it meets the sophisticated requirements of those operating in today’s online retail environment. Headless’ flexibility in front-end applications makes it perfectly suited to an omnichannel world. So whether on desktop, mobile, in-store kiosk, or the digital channels of the future, a headless platform can provide customers with an exceptional, seamless digital experience.
Advantages of headless commerce
Whether the front-end of your online store (the part that delivers your digital experience to your customers) is written in Vue, Angular, React, or a completely different programming language, a headless backend platform can integrate with it. It does this by using APIs to communicate rather than being hardcoded to front-end delivery software.
It’s this innovation that makes headless so versatile. The act of cutting off its front-end’ head’ is also what gives the technology its name.
Architecting an ecommerce platform in this way has several advantages over traditional, monolithic commerce platforms, where the backend and front-end layers are welded together:
Faster site speed
Storing and organizing all your content in one place and then delivering this content to your front-end (or multiple front-ends like mobile, IoT devices, etc.) makes the process much more streamlined. There is no sharing of resources between the two parts of the ecommerce system, which can drag on speed and performance. With APIs making the hard yards of content delivery and relaying instructions like ‘add to cart’ or ‘checkout’ back to the supporting commerce platform, your customers enjoy instantaneous order processing and transitions between pages.
This extra speed pays off particularly well on mobile, where sluggish site speeds are still common, and a fast site will mark you out from the crowd.
The separation of functions inherent in headless also makes it relatively easy to experiment and make changes. If you have multiple versions of a product page that you want to try out on your customers, you can test combinations in a frontend-only environment without having to make alterations to the underlying codebase that controls your site.
Built for omnichannel
A comprehensive omnichannel strategy is important for ecommerce businesses. A large-scale survey of 46,000 shoppers found that omnichannel customers “spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers.” So getting it right is essential to maximizing value. The frontend-agnostic nature of headless commerce means it’s perfect for delivering content consistently across multiple touchpoints.
This flexibility also means that regional differences like currency and language can be swapped in and out of your site without disrupting the overall consistency of the digital experience. It makes your ecommerce operation more adaptable, removing obstacles on the path to scaling your business.
Simpler to manage
With the separation of backend and front-end functions, behind-the-scenes services can be hosted by your ecommerce platform provider. It means that dedicated teams can deal with technically complex and time-consuming tasks like expanding capacity to cope with traffic-heavy periods. It leaves you free to focus on content, messaging, and other things that will maximize returns during such periods.
Lower customer acquisition costs and higher conversion rates
Social media ads are expensive, and the fight for attention online is ruthless. If you want a way to cut the cost of driving traffic to your site and engaging visitors in a way that will make them want to return, then providing rich and unique customer experiences is a great way to do it. A report by PWC found that 73% of consumers say CX is an important factor in making purchasing decisions.
Service orchestration is a phrase you may have heard associated with headless commerce. Put simply, this refers to the ability to design and control all aspects of your sales channel. Headless platforms that offer microservices (services like cart and catalog on an individual, discrete basis) give you the ability to build out a bespoke ecommerce solution, taking the best-in-class of each service and orchestrating your tech stack.
A microservices architecture also allows you to swap services in and out without completely re-route your ecommerce plumbing. You can extend, customize, and upgrade as the technology and your business evolve.
Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
Having someone else host and manage your backend functions can significantly reduce costs. Using a SaaS model to fund your ecommerce platform can reduce your overall IT costs.
A few notes of caution regarding headless commerce
We believe the benefits of headless commerce far outweigh any drawbacks. But switching to a new commerce platform is a big undertaking and not without its challenges.
Headless can be complicated
The flexibility and versatility that separate the front and backend are not without a few consequences. One of the main knock-on effects is that the total tech solution can get quite complicated with different platforms and applications linked together by APIs.
As long as you do your due diligence and choose a headless provider that offers a range of services out-of-the-box and will give you comprehensive, ongoing support, the complexity can be managed.
Beware the hype
With all the technical language, buzzwords, and general hype around headless, it can be tricky to make a level-headed evaluation about whether it’s right for your business.
There are several different headless platform providers, all offering systems configured in ways that achieve a particular outcome. Some platforms will be a good fit for your business, with features that dovetail with your business goals, and others will be less compatible. Thorough research to find the right one is important when making this kind of investment of resources.
Download our free eBook “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Headless Commerce” to learn why the future of digital commerce is headless.
Free eBook: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Headless Commerce
New to headless commerce? Download to learn why the future of digital commerce is headless.