With the development of technology and smart devices, the way we shop online is changing, and eCommerce platforms are changing along. This leads us to today’s topic – Headless eCommerce Solutions.
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You see, traditional eCommerce systems have been initially designed for desktop applications, but today Internet of Things devices (IoT) and progressive web apps are becoming an integral part of our online shopping experience.
Every day more and more products are offered to us through a variety of different digital touchpoints and purchases via smart devices or inside of other applications are no longer a surprise to anyone.
Consumers are accepting the new era of IoT, although most retailers are not ready for that (yet). But is headless eCommerce platforms a solution? Let’s find out.
What is headless eCommerce platform?
In a nutshell, headless eCommerce is a system when the product and order management is separated from any customer-facing front-end.
Here is a simple illustration. For instance, you have a device at home from a very particular brand that you can talk to. You can order something just with your voice through this device, which means you will not go over the web front end and put your order there. You are benefiting from headless eCommerce system.
Headless eCommerce platform vs. Traditional eCommerce platforms
Traditional or legacy eCommerce systems have two parts – “presentation layer” (Front end), the part that customers see, and the administration part (Back end), which is seen only by site owners.
With a headless commerce platform, the front end is removed, leaving only the back end.
This separation enables merchants to develop several separate presentation layers for each digital touchpoint individually via Application Programming Interface or API for short.
A modern headless eCommerce project could be squeezing product data anywhere: traditional screens, smart screens, mobile, IoT, POS, etc.
How headless eCommerce platforms works?
A headless eCommerce system works by passing requests between the presentation and application layers through API calls.
For instance, when the customer makes a voice purchase via Amazon Alexa device, the voice purchase system’s presentation layer sends an API call to the back end layer to process the order.
With a headless CMS, tools to create and edit content are present on back end layer, but instead of “publishing” content, you can only make it available via an API. It means that you just have to have a nerdy front-end development team that will handle the rest.
What does decoupled eCommerce system means?
Very often, the terms “Headless Commerce” or “headless Content management systems” have been used as a generic umbrella term to denote all systems where front-end is detached from the back end.
Therefore, the terms decoupled and headless are frequently used interchangeably, but actually, there are two different approaches to headless concept – true headless system and decoupled system.
True headless eCommerce platform is built from the ground up to be an API-first CMS. In other words, it is created without any front-end layer.
Decoupled eCommerce platform is also built with API approach in mind, but it still has a front-end delivery layer.
So, you can still use decoupled platform as a standalone eCommerce platform similar to traditional eCommerce platforms.
An excellent example of this is Shopware or Magento 2.
Traditional eCommerce Platform vs Headless eCommerce Platform
|Traditional eCommerce||Headless eCommerce|
|Front end||Design limitations. Users are limited to existing themes.|
Impossible make core changes without editing a code of the whole system.
|No design limitations. It is possible to make any changes in Front end without|
touching back end.
|Customization and Flexibility||Strictly predefined experience for both back end and Front end users.|
Front end is coupled with back end, little room for core customization.
|Endless customization of both front end and back end.|
Why use Headless eCommerce?
When doing eCommerce, a business often needs to publish content across multiple sales channels. With traditional eCommerce platforms, often it is impossible to push the sales in all possible channels, so merchants have to create different solutions with separate databases for those “hard to impliment” channels.
Sine API gives you seamless integration options; with headless eCommerce platforms, it is possible to connect all sales channels with one single back-end. It means, all information will be stored in one database and managed through a single back-end interface.
Customization and Integration
Here is a real-life example. An omnichannel retailer with more than a dozen regular offline stores, a wholesale department, and an online store wants to unify all outlets in the single platform, which will:
- work on the company’s cash registers;
- work as a mobile application for smartphones;
- work as a control system for online commerce;
- integrated with the company back end management software;
- integrated with marketing automation platform;
- integrated with systems of dozens of different suppliers.
Only Headless Commerce platform will cope with all these tasks.
Traditional eCommerce platforms can not be customized to this degree.
It’s often easy for developers to know what is familiar. Headless CMS uses industry-standard technology, so it can be much easier for developers than it sounds. This simplicity, in turn, can lead to shorter development times and, therefore, lower costs.
Headless eCommerce platforms are much faster compared to traditional ones.
A slow-loading webpage or mobile app can kill conversions. For this reason, many companies are trying to improve the performance of their systems, which may be another reason to consider Headless CMS.
The API is often used to deliver content through the Headless CMS with read-only access. This provides a level of security that is not possible with a regular CMS.
Moreover, this API can be placed behind one or more layers of code, making it less vulnerable to attacks. And the administration of Headless eCommerce platform can be located on another server or in another domain.
Thus, Headless eCommerce is more secure than any traditional eCommerce platform.
Pros of Headless eCommerce
- Truly multichannel
- Portable back end data, and data structure
- Ready for seamless integrations
- The high degree of customization & flexibility
- Better multi-platform shopping experiences
A headless eCommerce will help to push your content anywhere and everywhere because it can support new technology immediately as they arise. For an eCommerce brand, that means delivering your products to any channel that exist already or will emerge in the future.
Besides, a headless eCommerce platform enables you to distribute quick front-end updates without impacting back-end system because you don’t have to roll out an update to the entire system.
It means you can remain competitive and deliver what your consumers want quicker than your competition with traditional eCommerce systems.
If you wanna see the true value of a headless eCommerce platform, just look at Amazon.com.
Cons of Headless eCommerce
- There are too many options.
- Technical skills.
- Manual integration.
When using a regular CMS, you have many ready-made options for business – with an installed programming language, a certain number of theme options and templates, with customized basic workflows. Headless CMS is like a blank canvas. A business may have too many options to meet its objectives.
Almost any entrepreneur can manage WooCommerce or Shopify, but you need a developer to work with Headless eCommerce.
Headless CMS integrates with most of any systems. But even for popular software, you may end up programming the integration manually.
eCommerce platforms that support Headless Commerce approach
In the latest generation of eCommerce systems, there is an evident trend towards headless solutions. As a result, the number of eCommerce platforms offering APIs that facilitate a headless or decoupled approach to eCommerce increases. Here are some names to consider:
BigCommerce has decoupled the presentation layer from back end commerce engine. That gives you the freedom simultaneously run multiple stores across various digital touchpoints with a single BigCommerce account.
So advanced BigCommerce users can use CMS, DXP, application, device, or custom front-end — with BigCommerce powering the commerce engine.
Here is an example of K2 sports. They chose BigCommerce for their and used Contentstack as their CMS to deliver the content-rich experiences that make each of their sites adapted for the desired audience.
Magento 2 users can benefit from an unparalleled set of robust APIs, ease of use on the back end, and quick time to go live, but will need to rely on a third-party web content management system to handle large quantities of content at scale. For example, Zadig & Voltaire shop uses Magento 2 and Vue Storefront PWA framework.
The Shopware 6 is the perfect basis for headless eCommerce. Its flexible core is geared towards API first approach enabling it to be used as a headless application. Shopware6 is highly friendly for PWAs and mobile applications with fully functional APIs available for front end and backend.
For example, overclockers.co.uk uses Shopware 6.
Similarly, Shopify Plus users have access to APIs that can be connected with third-party systems, thought, a CMS will be needed to handle additional content at scale, like clare.com for example, uses Shopify Plus + Contentful.
They claim to be the only all-in-one SaaS digital platform that fully integrates Web Content Management, eCommerce, Intranet & Marketing on one managed platform.
Basically, Core dna is a digital experience platform (DXP) with all-in-one eCommerce functionality. It provides APIs and web content management functionality. Companies such as audio technology brand Tivoli Audio uses Core dna to power their eCommerce sites.
SAP Commerce Cloud
SAP Commerce Cloud (also known as SAP Hybris) is a cloud-native omnichannel eCommerce solution designed for you to take charge of your communication, sales, and customer support practices across all platforms. The British Home Store (formally known as BHS) is an SAP Hybris Commerce website.
Undoubtedly, Headless eCommerce platforms are a rising trend. eCommerce brands, such as Amazon, following this trend are snatching rewards, while others are feverishly looking for opportunities to bite their part of the pie without their own IoT device. The answer to those searches is headless content management with a headless eCommerce solution.
Many experts agree that with the further development of digital products, Headless CMS’s deployment is likely to increase.
However, In my opinion, headless eCommerce will not replace traditional eCommerce platforms. At least not in the nearest future
There will always be small and media-sized online businesses, and for those, a headless eCommerce is simply too expensive and probably too complicated. But that is just my opinion.
And what do you think?