Headless Commerce- ah yes, the term which keeps coming up in the ecommerce industry these days. Not to mention, even more so ever since the pandemic hit the globe in 2019 and pretty much everything had to be done online.
But what exactly is Headless Commerce?
Well, here’s a definition that we’ve borrowed from BigCommerce, which defines it as follows:
“Headless commerce architecture is the decoupling of the front-end presentation layer of a website from the back-end ecommerce functionality.”
In other words, this means that experience management, and the more dense, technical side of things are divided into distinct areas and treated as separate departments, as opposed to being grouped together into one unified jumble.
This approach lies in sharp contrast to the traditional, monolithic approach, in which everything was dealt with together and in bulk. While a minority of people today do still believe that there are some advantages to this traditional strategy, most experts today believe otherwise.
Benefits of Traditional Approach
Back when enterprise e-commerce platforms were first created, the assumption was that users would only access the storefront using the desktop website. Few people, therefore, bothered with a mobile solution. And those who did, did not exactly have the best ‘mobile-friendly’ sites.
So, it made sense to have a monolithic approach to things. I mean, if only one digital solution had to be provided, why not do it all in a single stepped manner?
Today, however, the landscape has changed completely.
With a drastic increase in touch points, consumers no longer stick to the website alone. On the contrary, most people today access e-commerce storefronts directly from their mobile phones and hardly bother visiting the website, unless they want to do thorough research before making a purchase. At the same time, however, it is worth noting that even today, the monolithic strategy still has its use. That is, it can be used when massive, or complete transformation of a setup is needed.
In this case, if the IT department does indeed possess complete control, then that might make it easier to allow vast changes to made in customization in a shorter amount of time.
Why Headless Commerce Is Better
However, unless things are really bad, such massive uprooting is hardly ever needed.
To run things more efficiently, it now seems wiser to finally detach the front-end from the back-end.
For starters, doing so keeps administrative procedures from becoming the nightmare which the risk becoming with a traditional approach. Think of it this way, if everyone is working on everything, then no one really has a clue about who is working on what.
Separating the two areas lets other departments take back more creative control which, in turn, allows the front end to receive a greater amount of focused attention than what it might have been receiving previously.
At the same time, the technical side of things receives greater care as well. And even with heavy front-end optimizations, the back end remains safe.
In addition to increasing focus, headless commerce also acts to move things along with a greater speed than what was ever possible with the traditional approach.
That is, content changes, design changes etc. can be made within a few seconds tops- without having any damaging effect on critical things like payment processes etc.
Also, this model enables everyone to focus on doing what they do best.
That is, designers can focus on designing and developers on developing. Which means that because the two can work independently, and not have to worry about things that don’t fall in their domain to begin with, tasks can be carried out at a much faster pace.
Benefits the Brand
Greater speed functions not only to provide the business with greater efficiency in terms of operations, but it also means that the brand gets to benefit from such fast-paced processes on the whole.
Truth be told, the modern-day consumer has far greater expectations than people did in the brick-and-mortar days. People today want to enjoy seamless online shopping experiences. Which in turn means that they want to get the feel of the product without ever having to visit a traditional storefront. To allow this to happen, companies need to constantly stay ahead of the curve. That is, updates need to be made continuously to ensure a steady stream of customer engagement.
To put this in perspective, Amazon updates every 11.7 seconds. Not so surprisingly, it also happens to be the biggest industry leader in the world of ecommerce!
Instantaneously visible changes in optimization can lead to better interfaces, not to mention, an overall richer user experience. None of this is possible with the traditional architecture where, since things need to be done all the way from the back-end, updates can take upto several minutes if not hours.
While such a time period may sound short, it really isn’t.
Consumers who visit your storefront will likely take a few seconds to visit your site, and less than ten minutes to peruse through it. So really, if we talk about the monolithic approach, by the time the update is live and visible, the customer is already long gone.
This, in turn, means that instead of achieving a greater conversion rate, the business experiences loss- and even more so if the desired front end changes had to be made close to or at peak visiting hours.
On the contrary, if everything runs smoothly- as it does in the headless commerce model, then brands are more likely to have increased customer outreach and greater brand visibility.
The headless model, simply put, is a model based on division of labor where everyone gets the chance to fulfill their roles to the maximum.
With greater time to spend on back-end systems, developers can have the opportunity to build with full speed, use different APIs and third-party integrations etc. and basically, play around with the set up to turn it into its best possible version. And all that, without damaging anything which is directly related to customer experience on the front end.
While headless commerce comes with more than one benefit, the major reason for its usage was in fact, the increase in touch points.
To put it simply, a monolithic model would take upto weeks, if not months, to integrate properly on different devices. With the latter model, however, since everything is already divided, and making alterations in the back end is not going to affect the front end, integration can be done seamlessly and all changes can be made swiftly, without causing any harm to the overall product.
The ultimate goal of a business, at the end of the day, is to generate revenue streams. And to do so, it needs to ensure that all its processes are efficient and cost effective.
The traditional approach to doing things is rusted, yes. But it is also, inefficient, and costly- both in terms of time, and money. The formation of silos and bulk handling of things takes time and prevents updates from going live when needed, thereby making the company suffer from unnecessary losses which could have been avoided just as easily.
Summing It Up
So really, when you look at it, the question today is not whether headless commerce is right for you or not, but rather, when you should be implementing it.