Headless eCommerce is the way the world is moving. It’s a logical concept that any business can get behind, regardless of size, industry, or platform needs. But to really illustrate the value of a headless commerce integration, we’ll need to review the benefits one by one.
This is the primary feature of headless eCommerce that drives all other benefits. Traditional, full-stack platforms have tightly integrated front and backends, meaning that the content presentation layer can’t be separated from the business logic side of things. This prevents companies from building out their eCommerce experiences as they like, particularly when their customers’ needs change. Headless separates the two to create complete flexibility in eCommerce presentation.
Simply put, does your website’s commerce platform dictate how the website looks and acts? If so, you aren’t getting the most out of your eCommerce experience. Many platforms have a rigid set of guidelines and templates that control layout, design and more. This might seem like an attractive option for getting started, however, the process of making simple changes and customizing a user experience that makes the most sense for your business will require significant effort and more specialized development. This ends up being very expensive in the long run.
In addition to these specialized development resources, you’re going to run the risk of being outside of the “upgrade-safe” zone. As a result, future updates (major or minor) will either not be possible or require significant investment.
Selecting a platform that anticipates an organization needs to build and present a unique identity and experience for their customers, as well as minimize long term investment, is critical for long-term success.
The headless approach gives you control — meaning less time spent corralling your IT infrastructure and more time spent on value-generating activities. We often see companies struggle with this when they’ve built proprietary IT systems in-house that don’t scale well or when they’ve grown to the point where juggling add-ons and integrations becomes a full-time job. Headless offers a more hands-off strategy that saves you the hassle of constant IT management.
In addition to benefiting time-management, a headless eCommerce infrastructure is likely to require secure (SaaS) external hosting, which reduces reliance on internal IT support. The very nature of headless eCommerce means that the platform is delivered as software-as-a-service and can both scale and grow on-demand.
Modern eCommerce means delivering a seamless and consistent experience wherever your customers are — across all channels or touchpoints. Sure, you’re selling through your website, but you might also be selling through online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay and managing landing pages, microsites, or dealer portals. For all of the business conducted through these channels, you’ll want a single system to power those experiences and eliminate manual entry of data or importing and exporting data from one system to the other. Omnichannel eCommerce doesn’t have to mean multi-platform — the underlying architecture of headless commerce platforms allow brands to build robust omnichannel strategies that flexibly offer commerce wherever their customers are shopping and still run everything on a single platform.
Going headless means making flexibility an inseparable part of your eCommerce infrastructure. This, in turn, means that your platform will be agile enough to handle any future developments, eCommerce trends, or integrations that come your way. This is a great point to consider when you think about how fast the eCommerce world is moving. Issues like mobile commerce used to be luxuries for brands to invest in, but today, they’re standard practice. Headless eCommerce is similar, preparing companies to accept the changing commerce landscape without the need for complicated integrations and separate platforms.
Replatforming is often a grudge purchase. You know you need new features, but the cost and downtime of migrating to an entirely new platform gives you pause. This is all-too-common for businesses that outgrow their eCommerce platforms, but the good news is that you no longer have to re-platform to upgrade your system. Headless commerce isn’t a re-platforming project; it’s a data migration that involves creating a new backend layer and moving existing assets to the decoupled interface. It’s a simple and effective solution with a fraction of the downtime inherent to replatforming projects.
Headless eCommerce platforms are built for integration! Given how easy it is to integrate new applications into the headless interface, it stands to reason that a headless migration would open the doors to some new possibilities.
One important use case is the way you manage your supply chain. We’re willing to bet that you have plenty of vendors and touchpoints spread across your system — and lots of value tied up in your in-transit inventory. It’s hard to get visibility into these processes, but a headless interface gives you the means to integrate any inventory management system you need to get the job done.
If you think of your eCommerce platform as part of a flow of constant data rather than a selling tool alone, your team can begin to grasp what else is possible with an API driven environment.
One of the best things about having complete platform flexibility is having total control over your customers’ UX. Under traditional frameworks, some compromise is inevitable. You can’t always integrate your favorite CMS or APIs due to platform limitations, thus reducing your ability to give your customers what they need. Headless commerce subverts this with its adaptable approach, guaranteeing that you can provide any type of experience that encourages customers to purchase.
Under the headless umbrella, there are actually three types of headless commerce integrations: headless only, hybrid, and exclusive CMS. Each of these options offers different advantages, based on your existing architecture, but the point is that headless isn’t a one-size-fits-all process.
The flavor of headless implementation you choose has its own advantages and disadvantages. Ideally, the platform you select should be able to support at least two of the above installation types. There may be instances where you want the tight integration between a platform and a CMS (hybrid), but know that down the road, there may be a marketing need for a headless-only implementation. The choice can be complex so make sure you do your research and plan ahead of time.
Above all, headless represents an emerging truth in the eCommerce world: You don’t need to compromise on your web experience for the sake of your commerce engine. The days of being limited by tight front/back integrations are over. Now, companies can design their eCommerce infrastructure to create whatever types of shopping experiences they want.
Hopefully, this provides a good overview of what headless commerce is, how it differs from the conventional approach and the advantages it offers. It’s a push that’ll require a bit of planning, but a little effort now will put your business in a great position in the years to come.