How the Headless Approach Can Redefine Your E-Commerce Platform
How customers transact online is continuing to evolve. Nowadays, consumers have various devices and multichannel methods to interact with a brand, whether it’s through voice-controlled technology, a mobile phone, the TV or even a car. In fact, mobile e-commerce is forecast to account for 72 percent of e-commerce sales in 2021.
As such, the way that brands interact with the consumer is changing. They’re no longer just browsing on a big computer screen, using a mouse and keyboard to add a product to a cart. Rather, consumers use a variety of channels to place orders, engage with customer service, or request a status update on an item. These various methods of purchase are redefining the user machine interaction and the traditional way brands do e-commerce.
Because of this, the need for headless e-commerce is becoming stronger and stronger.
What is Headless E-Commerce?
Given that consumers continue to make online purchases through multiple devices and the importance of the user experience when shopping online, the need for brands to offer the same exact experiences across various touchpoints has become the driving force behind headless e-commerce adoption.
Headless e-commerce is a growing trend that decouples the back end and the front end of an e-commerce platform. While the back end processes and fulfills orders, customers browsing an online shop interact with the presentation layer of the front end, known as the content management system (CMS).
Many brands are turning to headless e-commerce because of its flexibility to make changes when needed, whereas the traditional monolithic approach doesn’t. For example, brands can quickly apply and test out different CMS interfaces personalized to each individual customer without having to redeploy their entire system.
The back end is always going to be the same — i.e., brands will still need to process orders and payments, and know what consumers are going to buy in order to fulfill the product. However, headless e-commerce allows brands to leverage the backbone of their e-commerce engine to provide a more personalized online shopping experience, like retrieving a repeat customer’s information (e.g., their shipping address, loyalty points, payment methods, and redeemable points).
Benefits of Headless E-Commerce
Whether you’re a startup setting up an online shop for the first time or a large enterprise starting to sell direct-to-consumer (D-to-C), there are a number of benefits of adopting headless e-commerce.
One of the primary benefits is the flexibility it provides when creating a personalized customer experience. For example, if a brand wants to launch a new promotion that requires modifications to the presentation layer, headless allows front-end developers to quickly make adjustments without disrupting the entire system.
The headless approach also allows brands transitioning to D-to-C sales for the first time to seamlessly add new e-commerce functionalities and capabilities to their websites without having to start from scratch.
Headless Approach Drawbacks
Like many architectures, the headless approach also has its drawbacks. Compared to legacy e-commerce systems that come equipped with platforms instantly ready to deploy, the headless approach is a significant project on its own. Despite the flexibility it offers, headless requires developers to build their own front-end frameworks (e.g., customer accounts, loyalty points, mini carts, etc.) that need to be integrated with the API provided by the headless engine. This can be time consuming and costly to manage as it entails ongoing maintenance.
In conclusion, there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to finding the right e-commerce solution for a brand’s e-commerce platform. Whether it’s providing a consistent brand experience throughout the entire shopping journey or streamlining processes for IT teams, brands looking to adopt headless e-commerce must ask themselves if this is the right solution to help redefine their e-commerce platform while keeping their business goals top of mind.
Nicolas Pagès is chief operating officer of Scalefast, a global digital commerce platform.
Related story: Headless Commerce and the Future of Retail