Headless Commerce: A Primer
In today’s marketplace, companies can be overwhelmed by the feeling that there’s always a new cutting-edge platform they need in order to reach customers. Since this rapid platform evolution seems to be the trend for the foreseeable future, how can companies keep up?
Enter headless commerce.
What Is Headless Commerce?
In simplest terms, headless commerce is the detachment of the front-end user interface (website, iOS app, Android App, traditional desktop) from the back-end application logic (content platforms like WordPress, Magento, Contentful, etc.)
Don’t panic - far from the two systems having no interaction, you can actually improve the quality & quantity of information between them through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Similar to the way truck drivers deliver goods stored in a distribution center to any given city, a headless commerce system uses APIs to distribute data from your E-commerce platform to a variety of other platforms.
Headless for B2C Products
To stay competitive, e-commerce or product distribution companies need to be able to make product descriptions, launches, & updates available to customers in real time. Headless commerce makes this an accessible & streamlined process. It empowers marketers and content managers by getting out of their way, using familiar tools and frameworks where they matter the most - content creation.
Have a website, but need to up your social media game? No problem.
Want customers to be able to purchase an item through Alexa? No code rewrite needed.
Simply add an API that transcribes your content effortlessly to the platform, & you’ve got an entirely new channel for brand awareness.
Headless CMS is less like the horseman of Sleepy Hollow & more like the 9-headed hydra of mythology. Companies are free to remove or attach any platform “head” to any application “body” - like the neighbor kid in Toy Story (but in a less sadistic way).
Headless for Services
Subscription-based companies want to stand out from the noise in a saturated market vying for customer loyalty. Brands need to create a user experience that is unique & personalized. With a headless system, the customer-facing end can be customized & adapted to expand into new markets in a short amount of time - even a few days.
Creating Truly Up-To-Date Online Stores
Traditional CMS meant content was limited to just one output. If you wanted content to be viewed on a new platform, the whole system would have to be rewritten from scratch. It was built for the age when e-commerce was exclusively through a single website on a desktop.
Now, the internet of things makes it possible for consumers to purchase almost anything from a variety of sources with a wide range of payment options.
- Pay for groceries with a credit card on Amazon
- Add a fitness app to your smartwatch with ApplePay
- Charge the soundtrack for the VR game you just beat to your Paypal account
The possibilities continue to increase. By moving to a headless system, you can add new & unique e-commerce systems at will while maintaining branding consistency across multiple channels.
How Companies Can Use Headless Commerce to Their Advantage
Four significant advantages make a headless system ideal:
- Flexibility - Track customer behaviour & adapt strategies in real-time to increase sales conversions
- Speed - Instantly make changes that improve performance
- Ease of use - Keep your platform managers (front-end) using the platforms they know & trust (Shopify, Wordpress, etc) to optimize their time creating an excellent user experience.
- Cost efficiency. Build a commerce “engine” by connecting to an existing CMS, removing the need for time-& money-consuming overhaul. A headless system also increases the efficiency of a development team by removing bottlenecks in the launch system. Front-end can focus on what they do best: create great content for customers while the back-end avoids repetitive code work, affecting your bottom line.
Platforms With Robust Headless Commerce Solutions
While there are certainly others, these platforms currently offer the most comprehensive solutions. We’ve played in the Magento playground, but we have a hard time recommending it. Magento is long in the tooth, and both from a community and platform standpoint, difficult to work with.
What It Takes to Develop a Truly Unique Headless Product
One of the key benefits of headless commerce is that the front-end technology doesn’t really matter. Use whatever your developers are comfortable with, or whatever has good traction within the community of developers you want to attract, & you can have a multi-faceted business ecosystem in no time.
Long-Term Benefits of Headless Commerce
Your data is portable. As technology continues to adapt in the future, you have the flexibility to re-use the content on whatever platform your users need to find you. This makes it sustainable long-term as you may never have to rebuild your website again.
If you determine that an overhaul of either the customer experience or back-end processes is necessary, either of these can be replaced without affecting the other. Roll out a new front-end using existing data, or switch out the backend to a newer, better version for your platform managers without fear of profit losses due to a maintenance shutdown.
Headless Commerce and the Future of Online Shopping
With headless e-commerce, your platform & technology decisions are only limited by your budget - but the best thing about having separate constructs is that, should something come along that better fits your business needs, whether that’s the backend, or the newest shiny front-end platform, your team can take their time to evolve each piece separately.
On the same token - you’re not strictly limited to the web. Want an iOS/android app? Build one that connects to the same backend systems as your webapp. Want to integrate a custom messaging storefront for Facebook Messenger? Alexa? Some bespoke frontend? Build it all to that same backend.
Our Approach to Headless Commerce and Marketing
Eightfold leverages the agility of headless commerce by producing multi-brand, independent stores, built from one central store backend. Your customers get the mind-blowing experience of interacting with a complex, powerful front-end built using modern tools. You get the peace of mind having created something sustainable, dynamic and cost-efficient.
Content will always be king, so make sure whatever platform you’re using for commerce supports content efforts or augment that platform with another content specific platform, keeping your developers and your content team happy.