Headless Commerce: The Future of Ecommerce?
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With increasingly more stores showing up to market and consumers craving personalized, omnichannel experiences, headless commerce is becoming more than just a buzzword.
In fact, some say headless commerce will one day become the new norm in the ecommerce world.
And it’s not hard to see why.
With its incredible scalability potential, both consumers and online stores can benefit from headless commerce.
What exactly is headless commerce? And, is it really the future of ecommerce?
In today’s article, we’ll answer both of those questions and dig into some of the benefits, pros, and cons of headless commerce.
Ready to discover more?
Table of Contents
- What is headless commerce?
- Is headless commerce the future of ecommerce?
- What are the benefits of headless commerce?
- 6 pros and cons of headless commerce
- Wrap up
What is headless commerce?
Put simply, headless commerce helps brands create customized and tailored shopping experiences by separating the front-end system — or the “head” — from the back-end.
Hence, the name, “headless”.
With headless commerce, retailers can customize, build, and update anything they want without touching the back end. As a result, they can enjoy more flexibility to create the kind of personalized buyer experiences shoppers crave — more on this in a bit.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the front end and the back end.
The front end
Also known as the presentation layer, the front end of a headless commerce set-up often includes much more than just a website. It might also include channels, such as IoT devices (think wearables and self-serve kiosks), social media, mobile apps, and more.
The back end
The back end refers to the tech stack used to run background systems, workflows, tools, and other processes needed to run store operations smoothly. This might include managing activities, such as checkout, fulfillment, merchandising, data storage, and integrations.
So, how can the front end and back end stay separate … yet still communicate?
The secret is in the Application Program Interface — or the API — which sends information back and forth between the front end and the back end in real time.
Is headless commerce the future of ecommerce?
Yes, headless commerce is the future of ecommerce. At least for brands that have the money to invest in it.
Headless commerce could also be a go-to strategy for all online stores in the future if development and investment costs decrease enough to become more economical for a variety of sellers.
Why the future looks headless
With the death of the third-party cookie and a demand for faster and better shopping experiences, the future of headless commerce is looking bright.
From eliminating information silos to supporting faster development updates to meeting shoppers along every individual touchpoint in the buyer’s journey, headless commerce is the answer to an ever-increasing demand for personalization. Real-world headless commerce use cases Customizing the customer experience can and should look different for every store.
Luckily, with headless commerce, stores can show up to meet their customers where they are and create custom day-to-day shopping experiences.
Here are just a few examples of brands capitalizing on headless commerce:
Off-Limits created a vending machine inspired buying experience, leading shoppers to a fun, gamified checkout process.
Complex Networks developed a first-of-its-kind experience using 3D and augmented reality to immerse digital event attendees into a digital landscape where they could shop, explore, play games, and enjoy entertainment.
Zsa made a user-friendly customization approach letting shoppers personalize their ergonomic Moonlander keyboard.
What are the benefits of headless commerce?
Now that we’ve laid the foundation, let’s take a closer look into the benefits of headless commerce.
1. Enjoy personalization at it’s finest
By now you know that people love headless commerce because of its powerful personalization capabilities.
Let’s discover two key reasons that’s important.
From a design point of view
While relying on design templates works for most everyday brands, online stores craving complete image customization will appreciate how flexible headless commerce is.
Want to create a gamified opt-in button to promote your newsletter? With headless commerce, you can.
Want to integrate a documentary style video with custom GIFs and interactive web elements? With headless commerce, you can.
From a customer experience point of view
Customers’ attention spans are short and flighty. But if you can capture their attention with a custom site and tailored offers built on the insights from user research, you’ll not only tempt them to stay on the page longer, you’ll also encourage them to like and trust you more.
One simple reason: A custom site demonstrates that you know them, see them, and just “get them”.
Let’s paint a picture.
Let’s say, for example, your store specializes in creating financial solutions and products for consumers.
Let’s also imagine that you serve three audience segments:
- Parents, kids and teens
- Single adults
In this case, you can set up your website to cater to each audience segment so they can see custom solutions relevant to their needs.
For instance, if your “parents” audience segment comes across your website after a Google search, then your site can automatically offer financial solutions you’ve created for kids and teens, like your most popular debit cards for kids, teen budgeting classes, and free savings tutorial ebooks.
Or, if the “couples” segment comes across your site, your site can automatically share offers like new joint checking account bonuses and higher interest deals on joint savings accounts.
2. Say goodbye to information silos and complex team collaboration platforms
Work with your marketing team to build a custom tech stack and streamline processes so your cross-functional teams can work together seamlessly. Later, as you choose to work on a customer referral program, email marketing, or social media, it will be easier to track and manage processes.
Get rid of information silos and complicated team collaboration platforms once and for all.
3. Once set up, IT tasks are a breeze
Can you recall how many dreadful hours you’ve spent going back and forth with your IT department to resolve issues?
With headless commerce, IT tasks just got a whole lot quicker and simpler.
4. Boost the multi-channel customer experience
Do you sell on multiple platforms, like Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, social media Shops, and others?
If so, you’ll love the multi-channel customer experience that headless architecture has to offer.
In fact, with headless commerce, you can integrate completely different channels and deliver content to each one, without using separate tools or processes.
In other words, you can power multiple frontend online storefronts from a single engine! Amazing, right?
5. Give your customers peace of mind with enhanced checkout security
Let SaaS providers take on the risk of managing your PCI compliance, checkout security, and fraud protection.
By integrating a SaaS provider with your headless architecture, you can reduce unnecessary burdens off your IT team and streamline compliance and security processes.
Your customers will also benefit from fast and secure checkout processes without ever having to leave your site. Win-win!
6 pros and cons of headless commerce
Although we’ve spent a while talking up headless commerce, the truth is, every store needs to consider its unique needs and long-term goals before investing in a headless commerce system.
While headless commerce has many benefits, you should still watch out for some things.
In fact, you might already be asking questions, like:
- How expensive is headless commerce … really?
- Do I actually need a headless commerce system?
- Can I expect a high ROI?
- What other benefits can I enjoy?
Let’s explore your questions further by looking at some of the top pros and cons of implementing a headless commerce system.
Pro: Heightened customization
Take website visitors on a custom sensory tour of your eco-friendly farm, walk shoppers through interactive skincare quizzes tailored to each audience segment, or let prospects “spin the wheel” to win a prize when they opt-in to your email newsletter. With headless commerce, the sky’s the limit.
With headless commerce, you can customize anything from colors to design to product offers to website copy to retargeting ads, and more!
Con: Expensive developer costs
Those high customization perks come at a pretty penny, though, with some ecommerce sites spending as low as $50,000 and some as high as $500,000 in development costs.
That doesn’t include other costs, though, such as SaaS subscriptions, your CMS platform, or your annual maintenance fees — among other potential costs, like ongoing design and agency fees.
The good news? If you use an app to build your custom storefront, you can create other channels — think video games, audio streams, or even mobile apps — to build on your headless platform for as low as $99 a month.
At the end of the day, you’ll need to factor in just how custom you’d like your build to be before developers can estimate your final costs.
Pro: Faster page loading times
With increasingly shortening attention spans, shoppers expect to see who you are, what you offer, and how you can help them within seconds of landing on your website.
With headless commerce, you can provide shoppers with laser-fast page loads so they can enjoy the pristine customer experiences they crave.
Con: Incorporating app varieties slows down site speed
While you can use headless commerce to incorporate a variety of apps, using too many varieties can actually slow down your site speed.
With headless commerce as expensive as it is, you’ll need to be choosy with the apps you choose and test your site speed before finalizing them.
Find out how your site speed stacks up to industry benchmarks by checking out this quick article by Think with Google.
When in doubt, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this app a need or a want?
- Would this app add tremendous value to my brand, my customers, and/or my bottom line?
- Is this app worth the cost? Why or why not?
- How much website speed am I willing to sacrifice to keep this app?
- What would my customers think of this app?
- Can my website be a huge success without this app?
- Can this app make my website better or more engaging? How so?
- Can this app encourage more sales? How so?
Pro: Instantaneous updates
Those four-hour tech affairs are long gone. With headless commerce, you can update anything on the front or back end in a pinch.
Con: Significant time investment up front
After you set up your headless architecture, everything becomes significantly quicker and easier to manage.
But, the road to getting there isn’t fast or easy.
Setting up a solid headless architecture can take months, if not longer, if you’re not clear on what you want. It’s also essential to work with the right developers, so make sure to lock arms with ones that have ample experience creating headless architecture systems before getting started.
Headless commerce is a revolutionary solution to an ever-increasing demand for personalization, streamlined tech updates, and multi-channel sales strategies and experiences.
But still, headless commerce may not be right for every store.
Headless architecture can take months to set up and tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to create, not including annual costs and apps, among other fees.
Take a hard look at your store’s long term goals, current resources, cash flow, and your customers’ needs before determining if headless commerce is a good fit for your brand.
Here are some other questions worth asking if you’re still considering if headless commerce is right for you.
If you answer “yes” to two or more of the following scenarios, you might consider looking into headless architecture:
- I long to deliver fast and secure site and shopping experiences to my customers.
- I crave fast and instant tech updates.
- I’ve been meaning to commit to a total website revamp, and I have the budget to do so.
- I find it difficult to re-platform other tools into our existing technology.
- I feel frustrated when I can’t make front-end and back-end adjustments simultaneously.
- I want to offer super safe and secure payment options.
- I’d like an extremely customizable storefront, but my theme or template isn’t as customizable as I’d hoped it’d be.
- I wish my mobile shopping app was more user-friendly.
- I want to integrate hybrid shopping experiences into my current platform, such as wearable tech and smart mirrors.
- I’m tired of wasting time on long tech issues that need hours to be resolved.
And that’s it for now, friends!
To your store’s success!
Author Bio: Ioana Wilkinson Ioana is a freelance content writer and SEO strategist for B2B and B2C brands specializing in Business, Digital Marketing, SaaS, Tech, and Mental Health. Born in Transylvania, raised in Texas, and transplanted to Barcelona and Mexico, Ioana’s most recent move has taken her to windy Oklahoma City.
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