Headless Commerce in 2021

Over the last several years, we have seen how headless commerce platforms have changed the way commerce sites are designed, built, and supported. This method of separating the frontend presentation layer from the backend logic has been a game-changer for developers, marketers, and business users, and there continues to be big innovation in this space. Now that we’ve started a brand new year, we’ve been asking ourselves what’s next for headless commerce platforms. 

At Slatwall Commerce, we've definitely noticed a much more broad recognition of headless commerce functionality in general as well as heightened maturity in modular headless commerce platforms. We expect this momentum to continue in the following months ahead.

More and more of the conversations we're having with eCommerce-focused agencies, eCommerce teams and Slatwall clients involve headless commerce. The rapid growth and adoption of the term and approach are great for the eCommerce space (and our platform).

So, where will headless commerce go in 2021?

Platform Maturity & Continued Development

As development teams continue to build and launch headless commerce powered storefronts, the services that power them are going to continue to mature. From our perspective at Slatwall Commerce, we're focused on the continued development of helpful tools and services that make launching headless storefronts easier - from a business and technology perspective. We remain adamant that a platform has to include feature sets that are ready to go out of the box. 

Easing The Onboarding

From our conversations, we've identified three consistent challenges of eCommerce adoption and launching a storefront:

  1. The front end: design, implementation, and the nuances of launching can be a challenge 
  2. Integrations: back-office, CRM, ERP, PIM, etc.
  3. Product data: often overlooked, but nothing looks worse than a well-designed site with a weak product assortment and merchandising. 

For at least one of these historical challenges, the growth of solid front end focused services and headless content management has meant that we expect more control, while structured, will become available for full-stack developers and marketing users to create better storefronts, faster. 

Storefront Build Options

We hear this question each time we talk to a marketing team that loves the idea of headless commerce: “What do you recommend for building out our storefront?” With all the flexibility to build exactly what you want from a design and experience perspective, the question becomes how do you want to build? Leveraging the experience and knowledge of your team should have some impact, of course, but what are the best options out there?

In addition to integrations with traditional CMS platforms like WordPress, there has been significant growth of headless CMS services that offer a more custom development experience for digitally-savvy firms. 

Finally, there continue to be new services and offerings around front-end-as-service. We think that each “flavor” of storefront can work depending on the maturity and expertise of the organization. Within a company, pairing best-of-breed headless commerce services, like Slatwall Commerce, with any of the CMS options can work for an organization and help move the company forward.

More (and better) Tools

Much of the earlier headless commerce platform adoption has been focused around making the development and build experience better for technology teams (developers, designers, etc.). We think that while the experience that technology teams have with a platform is critical (especially for the actual storefront), the platform needs to provide a baseline of tools and services for the marketing team as well. You might be thinking; But doesn't that go against the core philosophy of headless commerce?; We don't think so. Being forced to find a third-party app or service for all but the most basic of platform functionality doesn't make sense - it's super expensive and eats up vast amounts of development resources. Instead, wouldn't it be better to rely on the core platform to deliver the functionality you need to launch or replatform for better speed, stability, or features and add additional services where there is the biggest priority. For example, depending on the storefront and business, complex search may be a requirement, however, for a lot of storefronts with smaller or less complex catalogs - it won't be. Relying completely on outside vendors to deliver that search service isn't efficient and shouldn't be necessary. We think a business should find and connect commerce services when they need to, not because everything is missing from the core.

Wrapping Up

As the new breed of commerce platforms and services continue to mature, we think there will continue to be a need for services that speak to both audiences. That means technical flexibility and creative freedom for developers paired with a set of enterprise business tools for marketing teams. With old-school, full-suite, or monolithic commerce services becoming a relic of the past, new services that are both headless, modular, and marketing-friendly should continue to be the preferred solution path for companies who want to drive digital commerce.

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