So, what is Headless Commerce?
Simply put, headless commerce refers to adopting a ‘headless’ architecture for your ecommerce store (it’s all in the name, really). This entails decoupling the front-end and back-end of your ecommerce store, so that they can function (and more importantly, be changed) independently of one another.
In effect, you’re separating the presentation layer of your online store, from the functional layer which powers the commerce core of your digital business (usually through an application programming interface).
Why would you want to do that? There are various reasons behind this, but long story short it’s to enable you to marry up a fantastic commerce solution with even more fantastic content.
Headless commerce makes it easier for merchants to keep up with increasing customer expectations and complex sales journeys by enabling them to be agile and make the changes needed to the presentation layer of their commerce store, without having to worry about breaking the functional elements of it.
It’s also easier to connect the ecommerce platform your business uses with a variety of touch-points that users can use to complete their purchases (and therefore not relying just on your website).
Ultimately, if you want to be a successful retailer online, you need to be able to capture the attention of your target audience AND offer your customers the shopping experience they want. Otherwise, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.
Reasons for Choosing a Headless Commerce Solution
It’s no secret that in recent years the path to purchase has become increasingly more complex, as consumers use an ever-growing variety of devices and channels to complete their orders. Ever bought something from your smart TV, asked Alexa to order it for you, found it via a voice search on Google, a visual search on Pinterest, or through a suspiciously relevant social media ad? You’re not alone.
Add on top of that an incredibly crowded marketplace, decreasing attention spans and having to adapt to ever-changing user behaviours. The marketplace may be big, but finding the right customers can be tough. And once you’ve found them, there’s no guarantee that they’ll turn from visitor to buyer. This is where headless commerce can make a significant difference.
If you want to easily stand out in a very challenging and incredibly competitive market, or you want to have more than just an ecommerce store, being able to showcase your unique personality as a brand, then headless commerce can help you achieve all of this. You can tell your story AND sell your products.
It can be the perfect solution for retailers who want to have a content-led store, rather than a product-led one.
What are the Benefits of Headless Commerce?
Flexibility is one of the main benefits of headless commerce. Having your front-end and back-end decoupled means that you can easily change one without worrying about affecting the other (in most cases that means implementing changes to your presentation layer aka the front-end, without having to rely on complex changes being required in the back-end). You can also add new touch-points for interacting with your customers in novel ways, as well as having a customised experience across various devices, which leads us to the next benefit...
This is Personalisation. Headless commerce gives you the freedom to create truly bespoke, personalised experiences across various devices and channels, which puts UX at the core and takes it to the next level. If you have a content-led store, providing personalised content for your users can become a key differentiator between you and your competitors.
Not to mention the potential for launching exciting new digital marketing campaigns, conducting A/B split tests and implementing a Conversion Rate Optimisation programme which will help you make the most of your traffic, turning more visitors into buyers across all channels and devices. That means that you can make the most of your investments (both into your digital solutions, and marketing agenda), so you can enjoy better value for money.
Last, but not least, another worthwhile benefit is speed. With headless commerce, you can apply your own delivery methods and the way you want to host and serve up content, not being restricted by a single platform, which means that you could improve your website’s page speed. This in turn is not only great for user experience (nobody likes waiting for a site to load), but is also beneficial for SEO, with page speed being a fairly important ranking factor.
Are there any challenges?
As with any ecommerce solution, there’s pros and cons when it comes to headless commerce. While the benefits are significant, these are some of the challenges that should be taken into account if you’re considering adopting a headless approach.
Finding the right resources
As you’re working with more than just 1 platform or software, you need an experienced team who can help you develop the headless architecture you need, and then implement it. Undergoing UX workshops to help you develop the best strategy first, so you can see which systems you’ll need and what changes are required for various touch-points for your commerce store is also an important part of the process. Quite often this can be challenging to implement in-house, versus a traditional ecommerce approach, which is why getting an agency like Un.titled to help out will make your life easier.
From our experience, the total cost of adoption tends to be neutral when compared with traditional ecommerce solutions, but you do need to bear in mind other costs such as licenses (if applicable, if you opt for open-source platforms then you won’t have any), ongoing maintenance and development, which may be pricier as you’ll have two separate components to work with - the front-end and back-end.
Ease of managing your store
It can be harder to manage and learn your new headless architecture and the various systems involved, when compared to having to deal with just one, out-of-the-box platform.
What types of businesses have adopted Headless Commerce?
There are two main scenarios where headless commerce proves to be an attractive option and is adopted by retailers:
- Businesses that have a content website and want to start trading online, and therefore need ecommerce functionality
- Retailers who have an ecommerce store, but can’t showcase their brand or tell their story as well as they’d like to
Whilst businesses from all sorts of industries have adopted headless commerce, this tends to prove particularly popular within sectors which can easily merge content and commerce such as Arts and Cultural, Beauty and Fashion, and Food and Drink.
In terms of the platforms that can be adopted within a headless solution, we tend to see quite a lot of combinations between CMS platforms such as WordPress or Drupal and modern ecommerce solutions such as Shopify and BigCommerce which can be easier to integrate compared to other systems.
Should you consider headless commerce?
Which devices do your customers use throughout their path to purchase from your business? Do you have a strong brand and story you want to tell? How are your conversion rates looking across different devices and channels? How important is it to have a flexible, fast and customisable solution versus an all-in-one platform that is easier to manage?
These are just some of the questions to get you started when considering a headless commerce solution. We’re big advocates of data-driven decisions and what may work well for a different business, albeit in the same industry, may not be the best option for you.
That’s why our team of digital experts are here to give you an agnostic assessment of the best options available to help you continue growing online, as well as shaping the strategy you need to hit your next milestone(s).
Talk to Un.titled to get an independent view.