What is Headless eCommerce? The Future of Online Selling
With the rise in IoT (Internet of Things), consumers are using new gadgets. There is a shift from ecommerce websites to smartphones & voice assistants.
Consumers use smart devices in their cars & homes. There are many ways to explore products & place orders.
To keep up with the change in consumer behavior, you have to use new ways of online selling.
The headless ecommerce connects to users at many touchpoints. You can enhance the customer experience. It also lets you move from monolithic platforms to services and APIs.
In this article, we cover headless ecommerce. You can learn how it works and its benefits. We will also look at headless vs. traditional ecommerce.
Overview of Headless eCommerce
Headless ecommerce is the separation of the frontend & backend layers. It is the splitting of the ecommerce stack into two. The two parts interact via APIs.
The backend serves as the code body. You get the ecommerce software with functionality. It does all the processing.
The frontend is the head, where you can deliver user experiences. In headless ecommerce, you can build many frontends (or heads). You don’t have to disrupt the backend.
Consumers can access these user interfaces on phones, kiosks & smart TVs.
How does Headless eCommerce work?
A headless ecommerce system works by passing requests. You can pass requests between the frontend & backend layers. It is done using API calls.
Application Programming Interface (API) allows you to share & retrieve data. It helps interact between applications.
Let’s say the consumer makes an order from their smartphone. The presentation layer (frontend) will send an API call to the application layer (backend).
The backend layer may have many services:
- Product catalog
- Shopping cart
- Customer support
The processing will be done only in the application layer. It then responds to the front end that the order is successful.
The frontend layer only displays the information. It is removed from all the backend processing.
You can request content for a lot of devices. It is rendered differently for all the channels.
The two layers are not restricted by each other. The splitting of content presentation & business logic is how the process gets more efficient.
Benefits of Headless eCommerce
1. Fast Speed & Agility
Google data shows that 53% of visits are abandoned if the mobile site takes more than 3 seconds to load.
On a monolithic framework, site load can take up to 10+ seconds. That’s because it comprises many parts. The user interface and a server-side application. It also comes with a database.
A full-page load takes a lot more time. It often leads to higher cart abandonment rates.
A headless framework can offer sub-second load times on all channels. That is because all the heavy backend functions are separated from the frontend.
The API calls only pull the content and not the processes. As a result, you get high performance on all devices.
The headless system offers better agility & faster updates. You don’t have to work on many layers to make changes.
You can easily update the front-end experience without breaking anything on the backend.
2. Omnichannel Experience
The omnichannel experience provides a seamless buyer’s journey. It keeps your brand consistent on all devices & helps improve sales.
Harvard Business Review showed that 73% of consumers used multiple channels for online shopping.
The headless commerce systems are API-driven. It unifies all platforms for an integrated shopping experience.
You don’t have to re-architect the backend for all the channels. It has a central database, and you can manage the frontends easily.
Consumers do not have to go to a specific website to buy a product. They can use Alexa, Google Home, or their social media accounts.
A headless system helps brands to streamline omnichannel experiences. You can use the headless approach to drive innovation.
3. Flexibility for Developers
To make changes on a monolithic platform, the developer would have to know all the processes.
You cannot update the look & feel of a single channel easily. You also have to use a fixed tech stack.
With headless commerce, developers have the freedom to make changes on the frontends. They only have to know the interface to the backend and the APIs.
The systems are not dependent. That’s why you don’t have to wait for the backend functions to update. It is not broken in the updating process.
You can pick the ecommerce solution, tech stack & programming language of your choice.
You can add any customized solution such as:
- CMS: (Content Management System)
- DXP: (Digital Experience Platform)
- PWA: (Progressive Web Apps)
You get enhanced development efficiency. It also offers better control over the commerce experiences.
4. Customizing & Personalization
In traditional platforms, you had fewer ways to build the user experience.
With the headless solution, you get a lot more flexibility. You can quickly customize your storefronts.
It lets you design layouts that are specific to channels. You can create unique user interfaces from scratch.
You get the freedom to execute your store’s vision. Get consistency on all the channels. You also get more brand recognition & loyalty.
A survey says customers are 40% more likely to spend more on a highly personalized shopping experience.
A headless commerce solution ensures that you create personalized shops. It lets you gain insights from various datasets.
You can easily update your shop for global audiences. It lets you create styles & themes for channels. You can also update currencies & languages.
On traditional ecommerce platforms, you have to pick from the given themes. It lets you create a store, but you cannot maintain the on-brand look.
5. Better Conversion Rates
Optimize your storefronts with a headless framework. You can run multiple A/B tests on the channels. It lets you use different templates to see how consumers interact.
You can run marketing campaigns & add new features quickly. Developers can provide exciting ways to order the products.
Using promotions and discounts can lead to higher conversions. It lets you enable voice shopping or VR shopping on some of the channels.
You can use headless commerce architecture for many sales funnels.
6. Enhanced User Experience
The content elements are often shown incorrectly on mobile devices. There are large image sizes that do not fit the page. The navigation bars are hard to use. The buying experience is not smooth. It is because the content is not optimized for a specific device.
The headless approach ensures that your consumers get the best user experience regardless of the device. It is much easier to create responsive designs that work well for different screens.
The web, apps, social networks can all be individually styled based on consumer preferences. It will also enhance consumer satisfaction.
Headless vs. Traditional eCommerce
|Features||Traditional ecommerce||Headless ecommerce|
|Architecture||Monolithic architecture||It offers a decoupled frontend & backend.
Connected with API calls.
|Front-end development||Design & development limits.
Takes more time to make changes.
You have to update the database & backend code.
|No design constraints.
Get the freedom to build many front ends.
You don’t have to update the backend code.
You may have to build the frontends from scratch.
|Primary devices||Web-only. Unresponsive on many channels.||Many connected devices.
Highly responsive on touchpoints.
|Page load times||Slower page load times due to connected frontend & backend.||Faster page load time on many devices due to API calls. Separated frontend & backend allow more speed.|
|Customizing & personalization||Pre-installed templates. You get user experience based on the CMS platform.
No flexibility to create personalized frontends.
|Create unique user experiences based on consumer demands.
Gives a unified user experience.
|Third-party integrations||If the systems are not updated correctly, third-party apps can cause problems for the shop.||Better third-party integrations.
If there is a problem, it does not damage the entire system.
|Testing & experiments||Testing is slow & restrictive.
You cannot test on many channels quickly.
|Testing is faster. The changes are made more quickly.|
Headless eCommerce Platforms & Examples
Many ecommerce platforms offer modern APIs for going headless. Some of the top platforms are given below:
1. Magento 2
Magento offers many options to integrate headless elements into your existing eCommerce system.
• Customize the front end: Magento Commerce uses Adobe Experience Manager for headless commerce platform.
• Magento PWA Studio: The Magento PWA studio allows you to create immersive spaces for mobile users. You don’t have to update the back-end processes.
• REST and GraphQL APIs: Both the APIs come with Magento Commerce. You can use it for a lot of channels.
2. Shopify Plus
Shopify offers the Storefront API such as GraphiQL. You can use it for ecommerce experiences. You can optimize the cart and offer contextual pricing on many stores.
It lets you build storefronts for web pages and smart wearables. You have to use a CMS to build & scale the content. You can integrate your existing CMS.
Contentful is a cloud-native CMS platform. You get a decoupled framework. It allows digital asset management on web applications & smart TVs.
You can add third-party integrations such as Dropbox, Jira, and Google Analytics.
Examples of Businesses Using Headless Commerce
Nike is using the headless approach for its mobile user interface. The company uses React SPA combined with Node.js BFF (backend for frontend) for the mobile shopping experience.
The approach led to growing sales for mobile users. They have a successful direct to consumer selling strategy.
Target analyzed that consumers started their buying journey on one device. But they completed the process on another device.
To stay ahead of the competition like Amazon and Walmart, the company used a headless approach. It helped develop a multi-channel shopping experience.
Is Headless Right for Your eCommerce Business?
The headless system is helpful for companies that are growing fast.
You can make changes quickly and scale on many channels.
Creating so many frontends is difficult with traditional commerce. But you can create the best user experiences with the headless system.
Headless commerce helps in adopting a mobile-first approach.
You can organize projects with the decoupled architecture. It lets you work on many projects simultaneously.
Consider the following factors for your ecommerce business:
- Consistent branding & unique user experiences
- High mobile traffic
- Flexibility in front-end development
- Innovation & adopting new technologies
Many large-scale ecommerce businesses are using the headless approach. Check if the headless approach suits your business needs.
Adopting headless commerce is like having a digital transformation. Assess your team’s technical expertise and business objectives.
You have to consider security, operations, marketing, and so on. Have an organized plan before using headless systems.
Since the early 1990s, ecommerce has evolved to meet the demands of consumers. They went from monolithic systems to web services & micro services. You can see a decline in linear consumer journeys on web platforms.
Consumers now use internet enabled touchpoints. They expect same-day deliveries & social engagements. These expectations are being met with headless ecommerce.
The API-based headless approach allows for omnichannel selling. You can stay on-brand and customize many storefronts.
It reduces time in the development processes. You can quickly respond to consumer demands without damaging the store’s functions. You also get competitive benefits and improved marketing initiatives.
With the right ecommerce platform, headless commerce can expand your store globally. It is the future of ecommerce shopping.
To learn more about Magento 2 ecommerce hosting, check out the MGT Commerce blog.