Headless Commerce: A Complete Guide For Ecommerce Merchants

Headless commerce has quickly become a hot topic among eCommerce merchants and is now the talk of the town. Find out what going headless means, how it works, and how it can benefit businesses in the long run.

What Is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is an approach that separates the front-end section of an eCommerce platform from its back-end. So you decouple the body (backend) where content is stored from the head (front-end) where it is presented. In business terms, the customer-facing front is not directly attached to the processes, tools, and applications that run in the background. 

As a result, you can make changes and offer a better customer experience without affecting the other end of your eCommerce store.

Since the backend is not coupled with the front-end (or the head) and acts as an independent layer, hence the term headless. These two sides work autonomously and use APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) to communicate with each other.

headless commerce backend and frontend

Such a headless commerce architecture enables online retailers to develop features however they want. They can build and add functionalities that they deem fit for their business.

Thus, brands can employ a backend solution of their choice that allows them to manage commerce functionalities with ease. Whereas on the front-end, they can use a technology that provides a high-quality content experience to their users.

A Little About Headless Commerce Architecture

Headless architecture commerce, like monolithic commerce, consists of two layers,  front-end and back-end. However, these two layers are not combined but separate from each other.

Front-end is the presentation layer of your business which is shown to customers. This is the storefront of your website that users see and where they browse products. It can be your own website, mobile app, third-party marketplaces, social media platforms, etc.

Front-end lets you customize your store theme, text color, buttons, and images to offer a better user experience. 

The back-end is the place where the real magic happens and operations are managed to ensure your business runs smoothly. This is where brands handle all the processes and workflows through tools and programming. All these technologies help you integrate different operations and third-party technologies. You get to manage inventory, orders, digital payments, and checkout activities.

Below is a clear picture of the headless commerce architecture. This will help you understand what features are managed by the front-end and what functionalities are controlled by the back-end.

headless commerce architecture

How Headless Commerce Works

Headless commerce works with the help of APIs that connect the front-end and back-end layers. These APIs send information in real-time and customer-facing content is managed on the back-end.

Thanks to headless architecture, you can connect multiple storefronts and similarly can leverage multiple backend systems. This, however, depends on your business needs and the number of marketplaces. The most common back-end platforms are:

  • Content management system (CMS)
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Progressive web app (PWA)
  • Digital experience platform (DXP)

You can also attach SaaS technologies such as an inventory and order management system. Online stores can also attach a hyper-local business platform to engage customers within their local area or an omnichannel payment solution for a better customer experience.

When a customer connects with the storefront, information is sent through an API to your backend. The process is quick and delivers an ultimate shopping experience.

Headless Commerce Vs Traditional Commerce

We hope you are now fully aware of the concept behind headless commerce. We have also elaborated on the difference between traditional commerce and headless commerce.

Traditional Commerce

In the digital world, traditional commerce is synonymous with customary eCommerce. This represents a traditional website with coupled front-end and back-end layers which is easy to set up. However, such eCommerce platforms are difficult to build from a design perspective. These come with template designs and offer limited options for interaction with customers.

Since both the front-end and back-end are interdependent, most functionalities are also interconnected. As a result, a minor change in website layout, CMS, or cart page can affect other features as well. Changing design for a better user experience is further harder on traditional commerce platforms.

Headless Commerce

Compared to traditional commerce, headless architecture offers more freedom. Setting up a headless commerce platform is a breeze. Moreover, you can integrate desired front-end or back-end solutions and technologies as per your business requirements. The big upside is again the customization as you quickly update your storefront without changing the back-end layer. 

The key difference between traditional and headless commerce is that it:

  • Delivers a more personalized experience
  • Offers limitless customization
  • Does not limit front-end developers
  • Improves interaction and reduces response time

Headless Commerce Is the Future

Many online businesses are following the full-stack or monolithic eCommerce approach. It’s good for desktop buyers, but the world has gone mobile now. Today’s customers are now longer hooked on computers and do shopping using smartphones or apps. In fact, in the US alone mobile retail e-commerce sales will surpass 431 billion USD in 2022.

That’s why tech giants, eCommerce brands and retailers are all eager to invest in this new type of commerce architecture. In 2020-21, headless technologies raised over 1.65 billion USD in funding. Because in its true essence, headless commerce is a tool that offers online retailers an advantage over competitors.

Headless commerce allows retailers to offer customized user experiences across all channels. Brands can ensure a seamless experience across desktops, mobiles, and other devices while ensuring brand consistency. This is why headless commerce is considered the future of eCommerce because it offers a true omnichannel commerce experience.

What Is The Biggest Challenge With Headless Commerce?

The biggest challenge with headless commerce is perhaps the lack of out-of-the-box functionalities. Headless commerce provides retailers with customized solutions needs but it falls short in terms of built-in features. This can be overwhelming for companies that need an all-in-one commerce solution for their business needs.

But you can inquire about features and can let the service provider know about the built-in functionalities that your business needs. The right headless commerce platform will cover your needs beforehand.

Benefits of Headless Commerce Strategy

The benefits of headless commerce are plenty and beat the traditional commerce approach in almost all fields. Be it agility and speed or customization and integration, headless commerce is the way forward.

Below are some key benefits that it provides across various departments within your business.

Complete Customization Control

Unlike traditional commerce, the headless approach allows businesses to build their websites the way they want. Retailers can achieve the exact look and feel they want their brand to represent. This allows them to control the customization process and offer an on-brand experience to online consumers.

Another good thing is that you don’t have to make design sacrifices. You can customize everything and make changes the way you want without listening to how much time it’ll take. Since the back-end architecture is separated, there’s no risk involved when you are making changes on the front-end side.

Not only can you make changes quickly but can also test them in real-time. With headless commerce, you can instantly do split testing to optimize customer experience and analyze your conversion rates.

Faster Page Loading Times

Online stores need fast page speed to engage users and increase their sales. Customers don’t like to wait and research has shown that loading time affects the decision of 70% of consumers. With headless commerce, you can ensure that your website loads faster. Since fast loading is an SEO factor, your eCommerce website will also achieve a higher ranking on Google.

According to Crazy Egg, faster page loading also improves sales and conversion rates.

second makes in ecommerce - shopify

You can generate 7% more revenue by only making your website load one second faster. And this is where headless commerce can help you out.

Flexibility for Developers

Since front-end and back-end are not coupled, your business can choose the best technological platforms. You can choose a CMS or build a custom solution to manage the front-end of your website. This provides flexibility for developers to ensure a more customized experience for the customers.

Developers can manage different sales channels and integrate them with a headless backend. This allows businesses to handle all storefronts from a single platform. Also, you can save resources as your development team won’t have to worry about technicalities. Developers can work with the programming language or technology they are comfortable with.

Testing and Integrating New Technologies

Having headless architecture commerce means you can integrate new technologies without affecting the rest of your website. You can try new solutions and tools at the back-end to improve website performance and management. Similarly, you can easily change colors and buttons to test customers’ feedback. 

Scalability with Less Management Costs

Another benefit of headless commerce for brands is that it makes your business future-proof. You can add new technologies or upgrade to new solutions without affecting user experience. New features and functionalities can be added using APIs to your existing architecture. So you won’t have to rebuild the whole website every time you want to update it.

Since changes can be made easily, you won’t have to pay much to developers. You can make changes and add new features without hiring extra hands for programming.

Effective Marketing

Headless commerce allows retailers and eCommerce brands to take advantage of new marketing trends. You can sell across multiple channels and can do experiments through changes in user experiences. Above all, your marketing team can segment the audience on the sales platform to offer a better customer experience and run campaigns.

You can manage customer records and segment your audience based on their buying behavior and demographic details. You can target the right audience using third-party apps with respect to their location, gender, age, and/or income.

Below are some marketing tools that you can use after integrating them with a headless commerce solution. 

  • Email marketing
  • Abandoned shopping cart saver.
  • Social media sharing
  • Built-in blog
  • Customer loyalty program

Examples of Headless Commerce Platforms

With the rise in popularity, we are seeing new headless commerce platforms popping up. It’s true that each headless architecture has a unique set of features but not all are the same. Below are the top three headless commerce back-end platforms that offer the best functionalities to their users.

Headless With XStak 

XStak is a headless commerce platform that provides businesses with a complete back-end solution. This is an all-in-one retail operating system that offers omnichannel solutions for commerce, payments, marketing, and business intelligence operations.

Its technology stack includes an inventory and order management system, a cloud-based point of sales (POS) system, a hyper-local (quick commerce) management system, and a loyalty management system. The headless commerce platform also comes with over 50+ integrations that you can add whenever needed. All in all, this is a complete package for mid to large enterprises that want to establish a strong online presence in less time.

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