There has been a massive increase in e-commerce sales across the world with sales increasing from $4.9 billion in 2021 to $6.4 billion in 2024, which represents 18% of total global retail sales. This boost in e-commerce sales has been largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a digital transformation toward progressive digital experiences.
However, today consumers personalized shopping experiences that are well-aided by superior customer service. To deliver on these expectations, brands need to rethink their approach to e-commerce, and turning to headless commerce can be a viable solution.
This guide will introduce you to the concept of headless commerce and take you through its various nitty-gritty, focusing on its benefits, drawbacks, overall functioning, and recommending whether or not it’s suited to your business.
So, What Is Headless Commerce?
Headless commerce refers to separating front-end layers of a platform from its back-end layers. The front-end layers involve elements that customers directly engage with like presentation and a site’s layout. The functionality of the site is part of the site’s back-end layers. This dissociation of consumer experiences, collectively known as the “head”, from back-end processes is called headless commerce.
But How Does Headless Commerce Work?
Headless commerce involves the elimination of the traditional pre-defined front-end frameworks and pulling the essential elements from the back-end by using API calls. Since there is no strict framework any longer, it allows platforms to try endless customization.
An increasingly high number of platforms require headless commerce these days. A few such examples include the introduction of buttons to reorder products or devices that rely exclusively on audio such as Google Home or Alexa. The flexibility of headless commerce allows you to not only change and customize the front-end of your platform easily but also deploy one e-commerce backend across various sites and platforms.
How Does Headless Commerce Differ From Traditional Commerce?
Headless commerce architecture shares quite a few similarities with traditional commerce, albeit a few differences. While headless commerce includes the technical aspects of a product or service purchase, it also facilitates a more customizable user experience. Moreover, updates can be easily and quickly accomplished, and the integration of the back-end across different platforms can be easily achieved.
Advantages of A Headless Commerce Architecture
1. Headless Commerce Makes It Easier to Go Truly Omnichannel
The headless architecture allows retailers to leverage all the currently available channels from Alexa skills to refrigerators with screens and also take advantage of new channels that are yet to emerge.
2. Headless Commerce Makes Customization & Personalization Easier
The flexibility of headless commerce allows retailers to quickly make changes to the front end as and when needed, without requiring their backend team to carry out those changes.
3. Headless Commerce Facilitates Faster Time to Market
In a headless architecture, content and product information are located at the center and can be pushed via API to any platform, thereby, reducing the time taken to push a new product in a market.
4. Headless Commerce Can Boost Your Conversions and Reduce Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC)
Since the headless commerce architecture is much more agile, it allows retailers to run A/B tests to check how they can achieve maximum conversions. Also, it brings down CAC significantly since content-based strategies fetch more organic traffic and decrease the reliance of retailers on paid adverts.
Limitations of A Headless Commerce Architecture
1. Headless Commerce Doesn’t Eliminate Ongoing Costs
Since a front end is no longer available, retailers will need developers to create one for them, which would take a lot of time and money. This can quickly pile up costs if the retailer’s development team is developing front ends for individual channels.
2. The Implementation of A Headless Architecture Is Time Consuming
Implementing a headless architecture is time-consuming because it requires the developers to build a front end. However, you can still scale this issue if you can find suppliers of headless solutions, who can quickly customize the existing UI to fit your needs.
3. Headless Commerce is Often Complicated
Despite their high flexibility and adaptability, headless systems can be highly complex. You may find yourself in a situation where you have to rely heavily on front-end developers to introduce changes to the existing system.
So, Should You Also Go Headless?
As an e-commerce retailer, knowing whether a headless architecture is suited to your business or not can often be a challenge. But you can gauge its necessity for your business based on certain parameters given below.
1. Better Omnichannel Strategy
If your brand uses a lot of content or is based on customer experiences, you can consider implementing a headless commerce architecture in your business. It can help you immensely if you are looking for a way to expand seamlessly and quickly into other channels.
2. Selling Across Multiple Sites
If you own multiple platforms or have a presence in multiple countries, you can implement a headless commerce architecture that will let you cater to different front ends from one centralized back end where all your content and product information is located.
3. Prior Investment In A CMS
In case you already have a CMS setup and are merely looking to introduce commerce to your site, you can opt for a headless system to build a decoupled front end to go with the CMS.
4. Merging Commerce And Content
You can consider a headless commerce architecture if you own an e-commerce platform but create content on another site. This will help you merge the two, centralizing data in the back end and dishing it out in a customized front end.
How You Can Go Headless
1. Know What You Are Aiming For
Adopting a headless commerce architecture would require you to take a step back and see your business from a customer’s perspective. Note down the things that your business currently offers your customers and the things that are missing. Knowing this will give you enough clarity on what you want to build.
2. Choose Your Front-End Solution
You can either build your front-end solution or you can purchase it. Choosing the one which is better suited to your business boils down to a couple of factors i.e., your expertise and your business needs. If your development team has the technical know-how to run a system that’s been made from scratch, you can build a front-end solution. If you wish to quickly implement a system, then purchasing it would be a better call.
3. Have In Place a Product Information Management Solution In Place
Having a robust product information management strategy in place would be essential in your business’ transition to a headless commerce architecture. A PIM would help you with the centralization, optimization, distribution, and analysis of the product data. After your headless commerce architecture has been set up, your PIM will let you quickly push product information to your new front end and other channels via API, thereby, giving you an ideal omnichannel strategy.
E-commerce retailers need to think out of the box to access the different channels without compromising on the high-quality experiences that they have been offering to their consumers. This can be easily done by introducing a headless commerce architecture into their businesses to enhance the overall customer experience. If you have been skeptical about introducing a headless commerce architecture into your business, hopefully, this blog will have given you some clarity on how it can benefit your e-commerce business. It’s high time you see what exactly you’ve been missing and why this e-commerce innovation is for the ages.
If you are still wondering whether or not headless commerce is meant for you, take Wigzo’s Free Trial to see if you can adapt your business to a headless commerce architecture.