Is Headless Commerce Really More Expensive Than Traditional?

What if “you get what you pay for” was a myth?

We've already pointed out that headless commerce is a subject rife with myths. But one of the most pervasive myths is the idea that headless eCommerce must be more expensive.

The reality, however, isn't so cut and dry. Headless eCommerce can include down-the-road cost savings that add up to a better ROI.

This happens via:

  • Missed opportunities. Can you put a price on the opportunities you don't receive by avoiding headless eCommerce? As we previously explained, avoiding headless eCommerce may mean “missing out on new opportunities because your commerce engine isn't up to the challenge.”

  • Future savings. If you're already headless, you can roll out new changes one at a time. That results in fewer developer hours for each new change. This isn't factored into basic cost vs. benefit comparisons for headless eCommerce. And when you have a smooth eCommerce store built on a headless structure, it won't be easy to record the money you're saving.

  • Less-visible benefits. Want to deploy a new site? By going headless, it may take you days rather than months. Speed to market is another variable not measured when calculating ROI. That's only one of many less-visible benefits to switching over.

The net result? In the long run, headless eCommerce isn't always more expensive than the alternative. Redundancies and slower rollouts may cost you more than you imagined. 

Let's explore the true bottom line of going headless.

Efficiency: Built-in Cost Savings

Workarounds, hacks, plugins, the mire of development--it all costs money. Headless implementations can be more streamlined, making any rollout or update far more efficient. The result is in built-in, long-term cost savings. Any increase in whole-business productivity won't show up in the cost-benefit analysis.

But let's get specific. How does headless eCommerce lead to more efficiency?

  • Reducing redundancies. Creating a patchwork collection of add-ons can result in redundancies. Redundancies cost money. One benefit of headless eCommerce is reducing the redundant layers that connect front and backend systems. The result is a leaner system and fewer costly redundancies.

  • Tighter integration. Headless eCommerce removes the complicated intermediary layers between front and backend systems. Without these layers, you don't have to rely on extra steps for each layer to communicate with the other.

  • Mobile simplicity. As we previously explained, the rise of mobile use is tightly linked to the need for headless eCommerce. Creating an omnichannel experience between your mobile and web presence without headless eCommerce can require expensive and time-consuming workarounds. Headless eCommerce helps reduce the need for future costs.

The bottom line: The cost of inefficiency is difficult to calculate. You might not even be aware of the current redundancies that headless eCommerce might solve for you. Resolving these inefficiencies can save money in the long-term.

Less Support: More Time for Other Priorities

Developers working with APIs and data integrations are doing valuable work. It's work you'll gladly invest in. But what if they didn't have to bother in the first place? Those resources could be better spent on back-office IT or developmental support for vendors.

Sticking to an outdated eCommerce platform might only delay an inevitable platform upgrade. By avoiding headless eCommerce, you may ironically incur more costs than if you were to go headless as soon as possible.

We see this in the data. A survey by Internet Retailer found that 17% of eCommerce respondents were currently re-platforming and 72% were planning on changing platforms within the next two years. The more time developers spend on that, the less time they have for critical support functions.

This is especially hard on growing companies. As your eCommerce needs grow, so will the need for developmental support. Any complications during your growth can distract from your developers' core work.

Bottom line: The less time your developers are stitching together the tangled knots of your multi-platform solutions, the more time they'll have to work on your key eCommerce processes. There is no way to estimate this hidden cost of sticking to old platforms.

Hosting & Infrastructure: Effective Scaling

We've documented all it can take to scale up a business: CMS, ordering systems, payment processing, marketing systems. But headless platforms are designed to scale. They provide the infrastructure necessary to grow along with your business. And they can reduce the growing pains associated with ballooning development costs.

With headless eCommerce, you can pay only for the infrastructure you use, so when traffic spikes occur, you can be certain the site design can handle it. That's thanks to a single hosted structure, which you can manage with the CMS and front-end system. The eCommerce service handles the rest. You'll end up reducing liabilities and expenses that come with hands-on management.

There's another advantage to this structure: speed. A simpler infrastructure means simplicity when rolling out new content and new products. That creates more speed for site updates and more speed for simple additions. And in eCommerce--as in any business--time is money.

Bottom line: An intuitive infrastructure creates more opportunities to save time. With a flexible system for handling traffic, you'll have the independence to add your own customizations on an ad hoc basis. You'll improve at cost management, allowing the platform to grow with the business.

Design: Exercising Options for Reducing Cost

With a headless platform, your design team has the option of starting from scratch. But they don't have to. Not if you want to reduce costs.

To reduce costs, you can buy a pre-existing theme from a choice of thousands. Or you can utilize the frontend code as a starting point for your platform. The design team will have options for reducing costs along the way. And if you have the budget, you still have the option of starting from scratch.

The key here is that you'll have the flexibility to choose. While many enterprise frontends start from scratch, many will start with a front-end / CMS design from a prebuilt template. What you do is ultimately up to you--and up to your budget.

Bottom line: It's hard to say headless eCommerce is more expensive when there are multiple options for reducing cost. From relying on pre-existing themes to building your own infrastructure, you'll have control over the process. You'll get to choose how you move to headless eCommerce. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Headless eCommerce Doesn't Cost What You Think It Does

Headless eCommerce sometimes costs more and sometimes costs less than traditional platforms. As the old myth says, “good things cost money.” But that doesn't mean every business's story is going to be the same. 

Because the cost of headless eCommerce implementation is itself customizable, no one can say for certain that headless eCommerce is always going to cost more than the old way of doing things. It's a choose-your-own-adventure story, and you're the one holding the book.

Our conclusion? Headless eCommerce costs can be offset by the improvement in speed, efficiency, and business management that result. It's hard to put a number on the cost benefits that come from years of running on a headless commerce platform.

Want to know more? Thinking about the next steps? We invite you to contact us or visit our headless eCommerce guide for a thorough introduction.

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