Welcoming the Headless Commerce

Aleksandar Basara 10 min read
Welcoming the Headless Commerce
Photo by Mike Petrucci / Unsplash

Headless commerce architecture is a new approach to e-commerce website development, where the front-end and the back-end disconnect from offer the ability of smarter implementation of changes.

How is that important to your future business? Read on to find out!

We’re Living in the E-Commerce Era

Twenty years ago, people were only dreaming of the possibility of doing all their shopping online. Today, this dream is a reality we live in.

It’s been said many times before, and it will be said many times more: the world changes fast. Faster by each minute. And with implementation of new technologies in all things you get in touch with – and your everyday routines included – it is obvious that businesses of all scales and scopes need to stay in touch with new developments.

The year 2020 has pushed the button on e-commerce development, making it now (in 2022) the primary focus of all industries. Even brands that once swore of never selling (or marketing) their products or services online now realize how much they’ll be missing out if they stick to their preaching.

Yet, it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up today. We’ve moved from the times where all there was to online shopping – was to click on the "buy" button. Now, consumers are looking for brands that speak to them personally, that offer the chance to engage with the community, to explore, experiment and implement the brand into their lifestyle aesthetics.

Not to mention that, for the goodness of the brand, it is important to make sure that it speaks the same story however you approach it. From in-store shopping (posters, labels, price stickers…), through print, guest banners, accompanying videos, mobile apps, and the main e-commerce platform – the brand needs to be in unity with itself. To put things as simply as possible – if you use a price sticker of a green color for your shampoo on one of these channels, make sure it’s green everywhere else you look.

So, from the brand’s perspective – keeping in the loop is becoming excruciatingly timely and costly, not to mention confusing…

And then…

In Comes Headless Commerce.

Now, with headless, as an e-commerce owner, you have been given more freedom to adjust its front-end to suit the needs and preferences of your business and its consumers, without affecting the structure of the back-end code. And vice versa. This means that you can change the said price stickers on shampoos to green, without having to go back to the back-end code and putting your whole e-commerce on hold while the changes are being updated.

And now, with more money invested into headless technologies every minute, the importance of this model is beginning to grow rapidly with time. Everyone wants to go headless. So if you’ve not got yourself even on the e-commerce ride yet, it’s time to buy the ticket, or you’ll miss the train.

That being said, if you already own a business that makes its biggest profit off online sales, then you will find that the last few years have led things quite in your favor. With the expansion of e-commerce solutions, the ever-changing algorithms, trends and whatnot, the consumers have been naturally led to search for the products and services they need – online. And this path has led them to you.

With more sites responsive to suit all devices a consumer might use to reach the brands, and with the boom of small, private businesses managing their online presence, the communication between the seller and the shopper is getting more and more automated, while becoming more and more personal at the same time, giving space for the creation of the magical emotional connection – the essence of brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Thankfully, with the rise of headless commerce, as a brand owner, you can now gain more autonomy over your e-commerce, introducing changes to it without actually affecting the structures of a back-end code. Thus, making it more brand and consumer friendly.

Now, you must be wondering…

How Does Headless Commerce Work?

Before we describe the pros and cons of headless commerce, let’s dig deeper into this technology – architecture – system… However, you like to call it.

Headless e-commerce or headless commerce, as it is usually referred to, describes the new approach of web development where front-end and back-end are decoupled. This gives more freedom of applying changes and innovations to the front-end without interfering with the back-end code, to put it as simply as possible. Yet without removing either one of them.

To put it simpler – this means that the front-end can do whatever the front-end needs to do to make the e-commerce website as aesthetically appealing and as practical as possible, while the back-end can work on making things work (on all given devices), but without having each other compromise on the specifics of the others.

Not so long ago, traditional ecommerce consisted of a monolithic approach.

This meant that whatever happened in the front-end code (the graphical user interface of a website via a code, made such that users can interact with the e-commerce website) led to actions in the back-end code and vice versa. And this meant time and resources to keep all things in sync and updated to the smallest detail. And – to follow – this meant that it took quite a lot of time and effort to even kick-off an e-commerce with all its elements, which meant that not all businesses could afford to create something that would show off their brand in the best possible light.

In comes headless commerce, a term created by Dirk Hoerig (from Commercetools) in 2013. Slowly, but surely, with the implementation of headless ecommerce began changing the name of the game.

How Headless Commerce Does Your Business Good

Headless commerce model benefits your business – a lot. Even if you’ve spent countless days and money on your e-commerce, it would be worth thinking about switching to headless if you find that's what works for your brand. Even more so, if you’re only just starting.

Here’s why:

Enables Personalization

As headless commerce helps make changes to the look and functionalization of the e-commerce platform, as an e-commerce owner you are given the freedom to create a personalized brand experience, customized for your particular target audience, making them fall in love with the brand more easily.

This means no more look-alike templates that half the market is using, but rather a nice, memorable experience tailored to both the brand and the consumers of the brand, all via an e-commerce platform as their point of contact. With no delay in time (or budget) to bring the back-end in sync with these developments, the e-commerce can follow the steps of the progress of trends and needs in a manner expected from the brand. In short – no more “old school” functionalities that Gen-Z laughs at, or “illogical placement” of e-commerce components that confuse the Boomers.

Helps You Reach Your Consumers

… on whatever device or channel they’re on.

This means that you will not have to worry whenever a new platform emerges from the depths of the web (or a creative developer’s head). Your e-commerce brand will reach your consumers whatever they are using, and it will stay in line with its communication through all channels – in short, headless commerce helps you preserve an omnichannel presence. Be it a product, a video, a blog, or anything else – on a screen near your buyer – and you will be sure the connection has been made. Of course, this won’t be done automatically – but rather changes that will need to be made for the effect to take place will be done in a faster, more practical way.

Headless Commerce Gives You An Competitive Advantage

Headless commerce helps an e-commerce stay on top of new developments in both its design and/or functionality.

Whatever trends emerge, whatever changes or updates your customers or clients expect of you and your brand, will be much easier to implement into your e-commerce using a headless commerce architecture. Remember – updates will be much easier to deploy without having to work on the back-end code for them to take effect. In practice, this will mean that only parts of the overall e-commerce system will need upgrading, instead of putting everything on halt because of the new cool thing that you’ve decided to implement.

The idea-to-market timespan is by such shortened and made more efficient to serve the needs of the target audience. And, in turn, this will mean that, as a brand or e-commerce owner, you won’t feel a pulsating headache approaching whenever someone says something in the line of “have you seen what your competitor is doing?”! A side note to the back-end, for it not to seem left out of the picture completely. With front-end and back-end separated, new developments can be easily tested in the beck-end segment as well, without the worry of it affecting the beautifully prepared front-end of a website, while modernizing, optimizing and securing the code takes place.

Headless Commerce Assist Marketing

Whatever you’ve been told, the truth is that marketing helps the world go round – and brands require the space to play and experiment with their identity as they try to meet their target audience in the middle. Though mistakes are common in marketing (trial & error), they won’t be as obvious and as painful with the use of headless commerce, as you can now change things back more easily.

So, wrongly placed buy button? Never mind, you’ll change it. Need a new, temporary look for Halloween? No worries, give headless just a second! Thus, not only can you play more with headless commerce, you can also keep an eye on any possible error and make sure to reduce the chances of them occurring as you go. Another plus for the marketing team and the headless commerce architecture is the fact that, due to its ability to be versatile and customizable, the differentiation among a wide brand portfolio is as such made much, much easier. This makes every campaign launch easier, and every campaign support more true and close to the brand’s target audience.

Headless Commerce Enhances Security and Performance

With headless commerce architecture, monitoring the whole e-commerce’s security system prevents data breaching, as APIs are set to read-only mode and functionalities remain hidden. With each component functioning individually yet limited, there is also much less room for any eventual errors in the making. Plus – a headless e-commerce works faster and more responsively.

Headless Commerce Means Faster Idea to Market

Finally – and maybe more importantly – headless commerce means that whatever (almost) the idea comes to mind, the process of putting it out there (on your e-commerce) will be much less painful than it would be if you were to use a traditional architecture.

As the traditional approach seems to paralyze the whole system, sometimes bringing the e-commerce platform to a halt until the updates take place, the fact that you can play with the front-end independently means that the changes will take place in only one, small segment of the overall structure.

Are There Cons to Headless Commerce?

With all things said, it’s not all peachy in the world of headless commerce. And it might be so that headless commerce is not the perfect solution for just any brand, business, or e-commerce out there.

Here are some of the cons to consider before switching to this new architecture:

Headless Commerce Can Be Costly

The total cost of the e-commerce platform operation can be increased with the upkeep of both front-end and back-end – when done separately. Though small, fast updates might not break your wallet, those costs do add up over time and it just so might happen that you find out it doesn’t suit your budgeting to spend that much money on running your e-commerce platform.

Headless Commerce Doesn’t Guarantee Sales Increase

Before implementing any new solutions to your brand, ask yourself about your overall goals. Yes, it is important to stay on top of trends and consumer needs, but if your clients are more than happy with the way things are, and all those things work for you well (both ways!), then it might just not be necessary to implement a headless commerce approach.

  • Do your consumers require a personalized e-commerce platform?
  • Do you have a large portfolio of products?
  • Do your consumers belong to the newest, trendiest generation?

Maybe you offer a single product or two, targeted at an older audience who prefer things done in a simple, traditional way? Then headless commerce is just perhaps not worth your while. And though headless commerce does help out visibility and brand image alignment, it will not guarantee an increase in sales for every brand.

Headless Commerce Takes Effort

Even solutions that have been created to make things easier – require a little effort to begin with. And when talking about headless commerce – teams of people are needed to make things run smoothly in all segments of the e-commerce platform. Headless commerce requires frequent upkeep, thus requiring a helping hand and quite a bit of time to get things started and going.

Of course, not everyone has that kind of time, patience, or resources. Though the world can change in a day, headless commerce can’t be learned in 24 hours.

How to Start with Headless?

Before you decide to put it all on the red, make sure to weigh in if a headless commerce approach is the best for your e-commerce or your business. Consider all the pros and cons discussed in this (and other) articles. And then, only when you are truly ready, make the jump.

You can go two ways with headless – either buy an already existing headless commerce platform that will help you create a headless e-commerce, or dedicate time (and money) to build a headless commerce system of your own (with a team of people at your hand).

A headless CMS will help you organize your e-commerce platform for an omnichannel approach, so make sure to invest in that as well. This will help you make sure all details of your e-commerce are in sync, whatever the platform or the channel your target audience will be using.

Explore All Options

Whether you, as an e-commerce owner, decide to go for headless commerce and implement it into your platform’s architecture or not, it is important to stay in touch with the latest developments in all things concerning your business.

Brands like Nike, Target, United Airlines may be already using it – and maybe it’s good for you to just know that there are different approaches out there.

Or maybe – just maybe – you can contact me, a headless consultant, and have a little discussion on how to make your next step in e-commerce.

Thanks for reading and let’s stay in touch!


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