The Ultimate Headless E-commerce Platform Guide

headless ecommerce platform guide

As headless commerce and ecommerce platforms continue to gain traction, many online merchants wonder what exactly headless ecommerce is all about? The new post-coronavirus ecommerce accelerated the growth of online shopping, and whether consumers shift their behavior to regular shopping habits before the pandemic is still a mystery.

However, one thing is clear: brands must focus on building superior online experiences to beat the competition and maintain market share in their industry. Headless commerce is flexible, agile, and customizable and brands should shift to a headless commerce platform sooner rather than later.

Let’s discuss how a headless commerce platform works, the benefits of headless commerce software, and why it is essential for enterprise ecommerce businesses.

What is a Headless Commerce Platform and How Does It Work?

A headless eCommerce platform is a solution that separates the front-end systems (the “head”) from the backend, giving developers the flexibility to design and create custom experiences for users. A headless eCommerce solution can store and deliver content without front-end constraints, such as templates or themes. By separating the consumer-facing aspect (the “head”) from the commerce engine (the “body”), brands have the freedom to create unique shopping experiences tailored to their specific needs.

Backend developers can manage all content elements on a site, including product listings, blog posts, and customer reviews separately from front-end developers. Traditional ecommerce platforms have rigid constraints on front-end and back-end development. Headless ecommerce platforms have independent backend functionality, so brands can incorporate their commerce elements on any digital marketplace.

It forces ecommerce businesses to operate within the rules of the ecommerce platform they use which can lead to expensive workarounds. Many ecommerce businesses have to make changes to their site and even simple design shifts can cost a fortune in development manpower to get the job done.

A headless ecommerce platform uses Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on a cloud-based infrastructure to connect the front-end and back-end elements. Leveraging a headless ecommerce architecture, brands can incorporate their content on endless distribution channels, including smartwatches, Alexa platforms, kiosks, smart mirrors, vending machines, and any new emerging content distribution medium.

Best of all, content managers can easily update the layout, design, and copy from frontend applications without need for back-end modifications. On the other hand, developers can modify and upgrade backend elements without messing with frontend customer experiences. The content elements of your site are completely separate from the business processes like orders, payment processing, and shipping.

Perhaps the best way to describe headless ecommerce is that you have the flexibility to do what you want and create the online experience that matches your vision.

What’s the Difference Between Headless Commerce and Traditional Commerce?

A traditional ecommerce platform uses a rigidly coded database on a monolithic architecture that connects both the frontend and backend. Traditional ecommerce systems are great for small businesses and startups without the developer resources. They can create a storefront on traditional platforms easily but the fixed architecture limits their ability to integrate their content and reach on new shopping channels.

Headless commerce platforms, on the other hand, allow ecommerce businesses to adapt to new innovations in the online marketplace. They can speed up their ability to leverage on new avenues to reach customers. Merchants leveraging headless commerce platforms have a clear competitive advantage since traditional commerce platforms are slower to adapt since they do not have the flexible architecture. Also, headless systems are cloud-based to avoid single points of failure and reduce the risks of a data breach to access critical customer information.

Traditional commerce systems take considerable effort to revise content elements that do not fit within the core design of the templates. Developers trying to make upgrades and updates will take considerable time and effort, which will lead to expensive internal operating costs. Developers on headless systems can create their client’s ideal user experience from scratch without having to worry about messing up backend databases which is safer, faster, and more cost-effective.

Headless Ecommerce Framework and Architecture

Headless ecommerce architecture separates the frontend templates and themes from the backend. Merchants can use APIs to show their products and contents on any screen or framework while leaving the backend alone. As we move into the age of Internet of Things (IoT), headless commerce is the only architecture that makes sense.

As each year passes, rapid new advances in the functionality and capabilities of devices means that ecommerce merchants must be nimble, effient, and cost-effective to take advantage of the latest shopping trends. The restrictive and rigid capabilities of traditional ecommerce platforms will cripple merchants operating on their framework.

Also, most enterprise ecommerce brands must invest every couple of years to replatform their online storefront, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Nogin partners never have to replatform again, saving our partners a massive headache and bill.

Headless CMS will become essential to deliver content. The high development costs will cut into the profits of ecommerce merchants, restricting their ability to scale. Headless ecommerce architecture separates backend and frontend elements, so businesses can safely and securely manage their storefront.

How Headless Commerce Supports Omnichannel Retail

Omnichannel retail gives shoppers the opportunity to shop from ecommerce shops online or offline from any device connected to the internet. User experience is paramount for online retailers and creating a seamless and easy shopping environment for their potential shoppers to explore will not only increase conversions but also the value of your brand. To truly leverage omnichannel retail, headless commerce is the only option.

Omnichannel shopping is quickly becoming the norm. Brands that fail to create meaningful experience across digital channels, physical stores, and other devices will lose market share and revenue. Harvard Business Review conducted a study with 46,000 customers and analyzed their shopping behavior and results concluded:

  • 7% were online-only shoppers
  • 20% were store-only shoppers
  • 73% used multiple channels.

Using an omnichannel approach, businesses can engage with their audience continuously to create an effective customer retention strategy. Their ecommerce conversion funnel is much broader to capture more repeat transactions and new customers. experimented with a ‘try before you buy’ using touch screens and fabric samples. They were able to track consumer interactions to better understand how their audience interacted with their products. While customers created shopping lists in the high end London showroom, engaged with their audience through email with personalized recommendations based on their unique preferences. Needless to say, it was a very effective sales campaign that leveraged an omnichannel approach.

5 Benefits of Headless Ecommerce

We’ve already touched on some of the benefits of headless ecommerce business platforms. Let’s dive deeper into the many advantages merchants have using a headless ecommerce architecture and why it is the next evolution of ecommerce.

1. Customization

Traditional platforms have pre-existing themes and architectures that developers must work from. Headless commerce platforms allow developers to customize their storefront to create an ideal customer experience. Control the appearance and presentation of your store to entice your target audience the way you see fit.

2. Flexibility

Headless commerce platforms have separate frontends and backends to allow developers the flexibility to implement changes. Traditional commerce platforms have a tight coding infrastructure which limits how merchants can customize their online shopping experience. Merchants using headless commerce platforms can create custom checkout sequences and test endless product listing strategies and retail pricing strategies that fit within their custom online framework.

3. Maximize Content for Conversions

Headless commerce allows for merchants to create truly unique content experiences that flow seamlessly on their storefront. Shoppers have become more interested in brand stories and the fine details behind their product purchases.

82% of mobile shoppers research products on their phone that they intend to make in stores. Information and easily digestible content helps build rapport and trust with shoppers so they can make purchases with confidence.

Headless platforms not only can feature the most capable mobile responsive designs, but merchants can create an omnichannel content distribution network to engage customers from any possible touchpoint. Developers can add new frontend components efficiently without backend coding modifications. As new technologies continue to emerge, merchants can stay ahead of the competition and reach their audience.

4. Experimentation and Testing Capabilities

The ability to modify content elements on the front end leads to unrivaled testing capabilities not available on traditional commerce platforms. Experiment with content designs, text, and elements without interfering with backend processes. Best of all, the decoupled, modular architecture means your tests are not only responsive but secure and stable. The APIs used on headless commerce frameworks only use the data necessary to run the test to reduce variables that will interfere with the effectiveness of your test.

5. Better Security, Less Errors, Lower Ownership Costs

Separating the frontend and backend architecture allows for better data security and a reduction in the risk of data breaches. The use of modular coding and read-only APIs make it harder for hackers to employ malicious attacks.

The use of microservices also reduces errors by processes under the headless architecture. It also is easier to replatform and ecommerce merchants can quickly modify their shop to adapt to seasonal promotions without expensive migration expenses. Traditional ecommerce platforms are not only harder to replatform but they are costly and prone to errors.

Headless Ecommerce Solutions: Why You Need It

Brands can’t compete online with big retail. They have the resources, funding, and capabilities to steamroll brands online. Worst of all, brands that leverage big retail distribution lose control of their brand, profit margins, and access to data around their customers. Companies must rely on expensive outsourcing to support their endless development, fulfillment, and dozen other aspects of running an ecommerce business without the reassurance that they will deliver. Put simply, ecommerce brands can’t compete with big retail on their own.

Headless E-commerce Platform FAQ

What is a headless e-commerce platform?

A headless e-commerce platform separates the front-end (what customers see) from the back-end (where data is stored). This lets developers create custom shopping experiences without being limited by templates or themes.

What is an example of headless commerce?

An example of headless commerce is when a brand uses a content management system (CMS) like WordPress for their front-end and connects it to a back-end e-commerce engine like Shopify. This setup allows for more flexibility in design and functionality.

What are the benefits of headless Shopify?

Headless Shopify offers more customization, flexibility, and better performance. You can create unique shopping experiences, integrate with various channels, and update your site without affecting the back-end.

How does headless e-commerce work?

Headless e-commerce works by using APIs to connect the front-end and back-end systems. This setup lets you manage content and products separately, allowing for more creativity and faster updates.

Why are small businesses today choosing headless e-commerce?

Small businesses choose headless e-commerce for its flexibility and ability to create unique, customized shopping experiences. It helps them compete with larger brands by offering better performance and easier updates.

Free Guide: 6 Strategies for Effective Personalization

Learn how to craft an ideal experience for your customers by using AI-powered customer segmentation, algorithmic merchandising, smart promotions, and more.