Are Headless-Only Commerce Platforms a Good Choice?

Ready for your organization to go headless? 

The use of flexible headless commerce architecture is on the rise, so if you haven’t interacted with it yet, there’s a good chance you will in the future. 

And if you’ve already reached the conclusion that headless might be the right choice for your organization, it’s important to learn about the different choices available when it comes to headless commerce and what they offer.

In this post, we’ll help you understand where headless commerce options fit within the context of the eCommerce world so you feel comfortable making an educated decision for your company.

What Are Headless-Only Commerce Platforms?

Headless-only commerce platforms are applications and services where all front-end development is done entirely within an external content management system (CMS), which is then called via API. The commerce functionality managed and supported by the platform is delivered entirely through those API services. The headless platforms leave all of the display, layout and design to the content management system or mobile display format.

How is Headless-Only Commerce Different?

There are some key differences that you should be aware of when it comes to headless-only commerce platforms. 

At the beginning of any platform implementation, the development and marketing team may find it helpful to set up a storefront using a starter development kit or template. The starter kit allows the team to achieve some level of technical comfort with the platform, learn implementation tips and tricks and develop familiarity between the backend (commerce platform) and frontend interactions. With many headless-only platforms, there is no such thing as a “default theme” or “template” to work from, which makes it more or less inaccessible for your marketing department. Also, because your developers must perform the setup entirely in the CMS and deliver it using API, there’s a degree of technical proficiency required to modify or deliver frontend content.

In addition to the lack of starter templates or development kits, some headless platforms include a more limited set of functionality and commerce features. Many headless-only offerings have restrictions, such as limited sets of features, APIs, and/or support, so users may have to compromise on at least one of their needs.

For example, while solutions offered by providers such as Moltin, commercetools, and Commerce Layer encompass some of what companies need from a headless-only commerce platform, they also lack critical components necessary for a comprehensive experience, like full enterprise features—and only offer their customers a limited number of built-in integrations.

Another significant drawback of headless-only platforms is that there is a potential increased resource cost associated with their use. Starting from scratch means the development team needs to learn the integration points and platform. There’s a lot developers have to do in order to get the site ready for deployment, and adding the necessary delivery layers for the frontend increases the time it takes, which ultimately increases the project’s cost.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest consideration is whether or not there are alternatives to launching within a shorter time frame. Without quick-start kits or built-in CMS options, the self "design and launch" build process may be the only option. For a business or organization looking to scale over time, test new marketing initiatives or introduce multiple storefronts without significant investment, the lack of options for launching may be a challenge.

When Does a Headless-Only Approach Make Sense?

Even though there are situations in which a headless-only approach is beneficial, a headless-only approach isn’t always going to be the most appropriate choice for every company.

However, there are instances where it does make the most sense, including for companies that are already heavily invested in a CMS, require fast integration and early adoption, or have a particularly limited product offering.

  • Content management system invested: The more heavily invested your company is in an existing CMS, the more the single-source approach provided by a headless-only commerce platform could be the right solution.

  • Limited product offering, lower cost: When you want to test commerce integrations before making a major investment in a full enterprise platform, a headless-only approach gives you the freedom to quickly and easily integrate new APIs into your existing stack and to test their interactions before committing to an enterprise system if you don’t need advanced commerce product features (such as product filtering, search, or a customized checkout experience).

Another Option: Hybrid Headless Commerce Platforms

In general, the hybrid architecture is the best approach. This option offers the most flexibility in building your website alongside an internal CMS. It also allows you to easily manage content from the frontend while still drawing on the flexible headless framework, which constitutes a win for both content and commerce

With a hybrid headless commerce platform, you get more functionality in terms of rich editing. Your marketing team relies less on your IT department to update and manage content, making your company more agile and less interdependent.

Hybrid headless commerce platforms also support omnichannel delivery, giving customers a more consistent experience with your brand across all of their devices. And, as an added bonus, hybrid platforms are armored against technological advancements that might make less flexible platforms obsolete.

For a complete commerce platform with features that range from product management to promotion and merchandising to order management and fulfillment, there’s Slatwall. You can get Slatwall up and running quickly and easily, with no need to add on additional basic features—it’s all included and available as a hosted service. Plus: It’s a premium product with a competitive price; you’re getting enterprise-level functionality for the same price as limited functionality headless commerce platforms.

Is Headless-Only Commerce Right for Your Business?

Your business drives the right solution for you—and every business’s needs and goals are different.

Headless-only commerce platforms might not be suitable as a blanket solution for everyone, but knowing what it entails and how using it could impact your business, you have the information to make the right decision.

Ready to learn more about headless commerce and what it can do for your business? We’ve got the right resources just for you. Contact us here, check out our headless commerce guide, or visit our headless commerce solutions page to find out what it is that makes Slatwall’s flexible eCommerce solution more than just a platform.

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