What Is Headless eCommerce?
Updated · Mar 04, 2023
The digital marketplace is always growing. Every day it gets faster and faster, literally. That’s why those working online are always looking for the next speed boost to give them an edge over the competition. Nowhere is this more important than in ecommerce.
In this blog, we’ll be talking about the hot new way to speed up ecommerce development, rollout, and optimization, all with the goal of increasing conversion rates. Today we’ll be talking about headless commerce.
What Is Headless eCommerce?
It’s an increasingly used buzzword, but what is headless commerce exactly?
In a nutshell, it's a way of decoupling the frontend from the backend of an ecommerce site. The mechanics of the website and the storefront (what the customers see) are no longer locked together.
That means that you can use any number of different frameworks and platforms to build your frontend without being beholden to the limitations of your backend.
And because the frontend and backend are separate, you can make changes to one without affecting the other. Sounds pretty great, right?
Headless eCommerce vs Traditional eCommerce
That’s the basic description, but it’s a little deeper than that. The best way to explain it is through a comparison to “traditional” ecommerce.
In traditional ecommerce, as opposed to headless architecture, the setup is “monolithic”, a big block where all the components are intertwined. The front end is based on the back end.
This can also lead to some trouble when trying to render on both desktop and mobile, especially when it comes to website speed It also makes it difficult to work on one part of a site without affecting the other parts.
Headless ecommerce, on the other hand, is modular.
While the front end and back end are separate, everything that makes those two parts up are also separate from each other.
This makes it easier to work on and even swap out, individual parts, while the rest of the site continues to operate.
The Benefits of Headless Commerce
So, with that in mind, what are a few benefits that come with using headless ecommerce?
First of all, it's much more flexible than traditional ecommerce platforms.
You're not limited to a single platform or framework, which means that you can really tailor your site to meet your customers' needs.
Reduce Development Time
Another benefit of headless ecommerce is that it can reduce development time.
You can use whatever tools are best suited to your needs.
And because your frontend and backend aren't connected, developers don't need to spend as much time worrying about how changes they submit will affect the user experience.
Moreover, it’s easier to construct your site out of different existing SaaS solutions.
For example, you can use landing pages, with a headless platform, to connect with a customer, and then a payment gateway tool to help them checkout.
Rather than having a proprietary site, you can make one up at a reduced cost in terms of time, money, and labor.
This also makes it easier to optimize your site, because you can tweak individual segments as you experiment and see what’s working for you. It also means you can quickly take advantage of new developments in ecommerce.
When doing headless commerce through a solution like Shopify, you can be confident that new tools will be compatible with your site in the form of integrations.
Or, if you’re using something like WooCommerce, new tech will be sure to get a WordPress plugin soon after its invention.
Seamless Customer Experience
Finally, headless ecommerce makes it easy to create a seamless customer experience.
Because you don't have to worry about how different platforms will interact with one another, your customers can enjoy a smooth and consistent shopping journey no matter where they start or end up.
Creating a consistent experience across platforms is a challenge. This is because what works for one platform often doesn’t work for another. In a highly integrated system, this ultimately leads to compromise.
Did you know that as much as 25% of purchases done on desktop actually begin on a mobile?
People are constantly swapping devices throughout the day, and headless technology is better able to accommodate that because each module (i.e. the mobile page and the desktop page) is governed by separate tools. This means not having to compromise and maximizing the performance of each aspect.
This leads to…
Higher Conversion Rate
Given the wide reach that quick innovation and modular sites give, through things like easily customizable landing pages, you’ll increase your conversion rate by reaching more customers and making it easier for them to buy from you by getting them into your sales funnels fast.
Tools that Make Up Headless eCommerce
Headless ecommerce is a newer concept that many people, newbies, and veterans alike, are trying to wrap their heads around. You can’t point at one tool, or one website, and say “That’s headless ecommerce”.
The definition is as modular as the setup itself, and so, naturally, it’s made up of many tools.
Let’s look at a few.
Note that none of these is the only way to do it.
Headless ecommerce platforms are customizable to your needs, so your toolset will likely be unique and change over time.
One tool worth looking into is Shopify API, which lets you build custom apps and add-ons with the help of their open-source SDKs.
This makes it easy to create powerful integrations with your headless platform of choice, whether you're using a CMS like a Drupal solution or WordPress, a backend like Ruby on Rails, or something else entirely.
Another option is React, an open-source library and a frontend framework.
Plus since React is based on components, it's easy to develop your site piece by piece without worrying about how everything fits together.
One of the most popular tools available for headless ecommerce is Magento.
A powerful and flexible PHP-based platform, Magento is popular among companies of all sizes, but it really shines when you want to build a headless ecommerce site.
With its modular architecture, it's easy to scale your whole project piece by piece rather than dealing with a single, static platform that might not be the best fit for your needs.
Magento can quickly become complex, but the time spent into learning it is well-worth it, as it provides tremendous flexibility, control, and is generally future-proof.
There is also a range of Magento hosting solutions available to help you on your journey and boost your Magento store performance.
When working with a headless commerce platform, you can also leverage smaller-scale tools to your advantage. One such tool is landing pages.
There is a variety, and all the best ones integrate with other tools like Shopify API and React, so it's easy to create a seamless customer experience no matter where your customers reach you from.
These, and all the others, can be paired with other modular solutions like shopping cart software, or any other tool you have.
Examples of Headless eCommerce
To end off, let's take a look at some headless commerce examples in action.
- Bonobos - This clothing company uses Shopify as a headless ecommerce platform, and it's been very successful. Customers can browse their offerings on mobile apps or web browsers, and they've even introduced visual search to make finding the right clothes even easier.
- Nike - One of the most famous brands globally uses BigCommerce as its headless platform, and the site has been a hit with customers looking for everything from shoes to sports equipment.
- Staples - This UK seller of office supplies has made use of headless ecommerce solutions to great effect. Being a huge brand with a constantly expanding catalog, the modular setup has made it easy for them to continuously update and overhaul their inventory.
As you can see, there are a number of companies that are already using headless ecommerce to reach more customers, sell more products and stay ahead of their market’s needs.
Do you see now?
What is headless commerce eh?
It is a powerful way to reach more customers and sell more products.
In a world in which nearly a quarter of the population shops online, and things like social media play an increasing role, modular solutions and quick rollouts are a necessity.
Headless commerce is the style of ecommerce needed to adapt to this ever-changing environment.
Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.