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What Is Headless Ecommerce and What Are the Benefits?
Last Updated:  
November 3, 2022

What Is Headless Ecommerce and What Are the Benefits?

Businesses in the eCommerce sector are facing some tough challenges. As customer expectations rise, online revenue competition also continues to grow. 86% of business leaders say their customer acquisition costs (CAC) rise. Therefore, having a digital marketing strategy to attract organic traffic is essential for eCommerce businesses. 

It also means having a site that provides a positive customer experience. Retailers are increasingly embracing the concept of headless eCommerce in their online stores. But what is headless eCommerce? 

The following sections of this post will define headless eCommerce, how it works, its benefits over traditional methods, and some examples. So, let’s get started. 

What is Headless Ecommerce?

Headless eCommerce involves separating the front end of your online shop-the visually appealing interface that customers see from the backend, which facilitates transactions behind the scenes. 

Headless stores use Application Programmer Interfaces (APIs) to communicate between the two sides that work independently. It enables the business to edit a page’s visual appearance without affecting the actual data and products on the page.

Because of the separation of the two platforms-frontend and backend, the shopping experience becomes faster, more agile, and more adaptable. 

Despite the lack of a front-end delivery platform (or ‘head’), the backend can still perform an eCommerce solution's critical functions.

What are the Benefits of Headless Ecommerce?

Consider switching to headless commerce if you want your business to grow faster. The following benefits can help you achieve the results you want:

Improved Employee Adoption

There may be a reluctance in some organizations to implement new technologies due to steep learning curves. With the simplicity of headless commerce and a modern commerce platform, you can solve this problem because your entire team can access and change the front end with no specialized skills.

Right Tools for the Job

Headless eCommerce allows brands to create unique and customized experiences for shoppers. APIs are essential to this, helping marketers provide a consistent brand experience across all channels by integrating commerce services like promotions, inventory, and product information.

Better Customer Experience

Your site offers can adapt quickly and consistently to your customers’ changing needs and wants. 73% of consumers consider customer experience a crucial factor in their purchases. Of those, 43% will pay a premium for greater convenience. 

You can leverage that data by implementing a headless eCommerce solution to create more engaging shopping experiences to boost sales.

Long-Term Cost Savings

While it’s true that front-end development costs will probably increase to create new and unique digital sales channels, one must consider the power that these special tools have regarding both customer acquisition and customer retention. 

If developers build more opportunities and customization into the front end of eCommerce platforms, they will spend less money on sales and marketing campaigns.

Conversion Optimization

You can drive more conversions with a headless eCommerce solution than with a traditional one. For example, you can personalize call-to-actions, product placements, and recommendations to provide customers with a better experience. 

According to a Segment study, almost half of the buyers made impulse purchases following personalized recommendations.

How Does a Headless Ecommerce Site Work?

Like a headless content management system-CMS, a headless eCommerce system operates by relaying requests between the application and the presentation layers through an application programming interface (API) calls or web services.

For example, when a customer clicks the buying option on their mobile device, the presentation-front end layer of the headless eCommerce system initiates an API request to the application layer to execute the order. 

The application layer then sends another API request to the application layer, informing the customer about their order status.

What Are the Benefits of Headless Ecommerce Over Traditional Ecommerce?

The headless eCommerce solution offers many benefits and possibilities for delighting your customers and achieving your goals. To illustrate, here are the benefits of headless eCommerce over traditional eCommerce:

Frontend Design Process

Platforms traditionally used in eCommerce confine frontend developers within their architecture and development process. With Headless, they can create an experience tailored to the needs of your business.

Security

A smaller surface area of security attack surface is an advantage of headless platforms because of their separate front and back ends and single access point. Thus, they become less vulnerable to distributed denial-of-service-DDoS attacks. 

In contrast, traditional media rely on databases and are more susceptible to security threats.

Digital Experiences

Websites are the typical content delivery platform for traditional platforms. Headless gives you more ways to engage with your audience, create new digital experiences, and stay relevant. 

Besides reaching them through multiple devices, Headless provides limitless interactive digital experiences.

Personalization and Customization

Using headless eCommerce, you can design your own eCommerce experience for buyers and administrators. A traditional eCommerce platform provides a predefined experience for both administrators and users.

Tips for Using a Headless Ecommerce Platform

It can intimidate using a headless commerce approach. The following is a list of tips to get you started:

Assess Whether Headless Commerce Suits You

There are two key points to consider: do you want to create differentiated eCommerce experiences, or are you satisfied with traditional pre-built experiences? Would you be interested in being agile and optimizing on demand? 

Would you be open to working with a systems integrator or prefer having a dedicated technical team?

Analyze the Cost and Establish Your Budget

There are upfront costs to a solution. Further factors that can affect the price are the experience or theme of the reference website, fees for transactions, implementation support and credit cards, third-party integrations, and hosting.

Choose a Frontend Implementation Strategy

Depending on your team’s skillset and experience, you may partner with an agency or a system integrator or use your in-house team. Who is your partner of record? Do you plan to integrate any technologies? How much are you budgeting?

What Are the Drawbacks of Headless Ecommerce?

With this architecture, you will have to work around some issues, and it may not be the right choice for all businesses. Here are two critical concerns with headless commerce platforms.

Recurring Costs

It is cumbersome and costly to build user interfaces and templates from scratch. Developers will troubleshoot their frontend creations, resulting in ongoing costs after the initial build. 

Besides the increased costs, the marketing team will become isolated and rely on the IT department to create landing pages and content across various devices.

Many eCommerce Plugins Break

Plugins often include codes that run both on the front and backend. When you go headless, this connection breaks. The frontend code runs in the wrong domain and fails to work. When this happens, the entire plugin typically stops working.

What Are Headless Ecommerce Examples?

Using headless approaches is becoming more and more popular, and Amazon is leading the way in providing this value. However, you cannot offer an Amazon Prime-like service via traditional eCommerce - you must use headless eCommerce. 

The following brands will give you some inspiration.

Babylist

You cannot always find the functionality and flexibility that brands require on out-of-the-box commerce platforms. Consider the case of Babylist- a platform allowing expecting parents and gift-givers to share wish lists. 

The site uses product listings from third-party vendors. Customers can check item quality and size, see recommendations based on their age, and compare prices - all in one place.

Monolithic eCommerce platforms would do a project like Babylist almost impossible. One site has two customer experiences to create: the wish lists created by expectant parents and the purchases made by gift-givers. 

The company went headless and integrated several platforms into its technology stack, such as Shopify order management system, Contentful CMS, and Shopify Plus checkout.

This shows what the results mean:

  • Orders placed on the new headless website grew by 145%
  • Checkouts for iOS apps rose by 300% after the first month
  • Online gift-giving increased by 102%

Nike

While Nike is the world’s most famous footwear retailer, many people do not know that Nike has also gone headless. As a part of the corporation’s overall strategy to increase mobile sales, they wanted a mobile-first approach.

The logical next step seemed to be the Node.js backend for the frontend, combined with the React SPA, and it certainly did not disappoint. 

Nike gained market share from Adidas, which made their Headless campaign more successful than expected.

Should You Use a Headless Ecommerce Platform?

Businesses seeking a faster, more flexible, and more fitting eCommerce solution should consider headless eCommerce. 

Organizations can separate their marketing activities from their websites through Headless eCommerce and automatically update marketing data. Marketers can update websites themselves instead of waiting for developers to correct them because of imagery or copy.

For most eCommerce businesses, monolithic stores are typically the better option. Despite this, companies are going headless in an undeniable trend. In today’s world, customers expect fast, seamless, mobile-friendly experiences, and going headless provides tangible benefits if they can afford it.

Sources:

What is Marketing? — The Definition of Marketing | AMA

Electronic Commerce (Ecommerce) Definition | Investopedia

Five Examples of Marketing Activities | Chron

About the Author

Rabah Rahil

Live in Austin. Ride a @BoostedBoards. CMO at @TryTripleWhale. Marketing, Tech, Outdoors, Photography, Webdev and Stoicism.

Rabah Rahil

Live in Austin. Ride a @BoostedBoards. CMO at @TryTripleWhale. Marketing, Tech, Outdoors, Photography, Webdev and Stoicism.

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