Headless Commerce Platforms - Powering up the Future eCommerce Platforms

Headless Commerce Platforms – Powering up the Future eCommerce Platforms

The modern customer uses multiple touchpoints while making purchases.  They may use Mobile Apps, Voice Assistants, in-shop kiosks and even the web browser. To improve customer experience and ensure that buyers can make purchases across touchpoints their customers frequent, businesses need modern technology. Headless commerce platforms are a new paradigm for delivering multi-channel customer experiences across different touchpoints. In this blog, we will discuss what headless commerce is and what you should know about it.

What are headless eCommerce platforms?

Traditional eCommerce platforms usually have a user interface which is their first point of interaction with the business. The interface usually consists of elements such as the catalog, the search field, product visuals, company branding and more. This aspect of the platform is usually called the front end or the presentation layer; these days it is also referred to as the head.

Headless commerce platforms

Typically eCommerce websites have a storefront that is tied to the entire eCommerce application.  The backend and the front end meaning the database that serves the website and the presentation layer are tightly coupled together. 

The backend eCommerce functionality usually coordinates the maintenance of the product catalog and inventory while managing user credentials and payment processing. The tightly coupled nature of the frontend with the backend makes it very difficult to personalize legacy eCommerce platforms as dynamic behavior is challenging to code. In addition, real-time behavior is also difficult to include on typical eCommerce platforms.

The headless commerce architecture decouples the presentation layer, or the head, from the eCommerce functionality, essentially making the solution headless.

The decoupling of the frontend from the backend allows developers to deliver personalized content and a bevy of benefits. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to deliver content and interactivity across different devices, sometimes this capability is also referred to as multi-channel. This is a necessity in today’s world as the digital era mandates that you engage customers with personalized content across every step of their buying journey. Businesses need the ability to create seamless digital experiences.

What’s wrong with monolithic platforms?

In the past, the closely coupled nature of e-commerce platforms with the presentation and functional layers being single applications was not a problem. Dedicated all-in-one solutions were considered robust. With time, eCommerce businesses began to see increasing inefficiencies as a result of using legacy monolithic eCommerce platforms. Vendor lock-in was just one of the problems. Full-stack solutions led to spiraling maintenance costs and modernization challenges. Meeting the new demands of the market became sluggish at best while customization became overly complex.

Once new consumer touchpoints appeared, these all-in-one platforms needed costly re-architecting to support every customer interaction channel. Despite this, they will eventually prove inadequate when it came to streamlined omnichannel customer experience.

How a headless eCommerce system works

On headless digital commerce platforms, the backend and frontend management of the website is separated. Content and its presentation are divorced from the backend. The storefronts are delivered through web services and APIs that enable them to interact with any chosen interface or device.

For instance, when a customer initiates an action in a store, like, clicking the ‘Buy Now’ button, the system sends an API request from the presentation layer to the application layer. The application layer returns an API response, charge and order confirmation.

Business benefits of headless commerce

In headless commerce, the backend and frontend layers of the E-Commerce application are separate microservices. Headless commerce abstracts them using APIs to enable communication. This approach leads to several advantages over conventional solutions. The most important of these implications are:

  • Faster innovation

Most eCommerce platforms still use predefined templates, proprietary tooling and frameworks. This puts considerable constraints on the developers and what they can do with the platforms when they are implementing features. In addition, these legacy platforms also require the maintenance of databases and codebases, which slow down the speed of delivering new features. Each update requires complex changes at multiple levels that further slow down the business. These factors negatively impact product innovation.

Headless commerce allows developers to enjoy greater freedom since their code is separated from the backend, allowing for unlimited modifications to be made quickly without the need for redeployment.

This developer autonomy ignites creativity, allowing teams to create user experiences from scratch, without restrictions. Complex dependencies don’t hinder developers allowing them to start working on iterations immediately after implementing a feature.

  • Cost reduction with scalability

Peak season traffic can lead to enormous losses at an eCommerce business. It can turn into a massive PR crisis while also affecting revenues. It is not uncommon for websites to be unable to handle abnormally high traffic because of an event or festive occasion.

eCommerce platforms should be able to scale at a moment’s notice. Traffic spikes are common and the ability to be agile when servicing customers is a make-or-break requirement in today’s demanding eCommerce ecosystem.

Headless Commerce - Scalability

Headless commerce is premised on a microservices-based architecture and digital retailers can greatly benefit from the dynamic scaling abilities that this paradigm offers. It can help ensure your uninterrupted and flawless services even when the traffic surges to an enormous level. Probably the biggest advantage of headless commerce is that it provides you with unmatched elasticity since every component of your business is a separate microservice that can scale independently.

  • Personalization and the multichannel buyer experience

According to a survey from Epsilon, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.

Most legacy eCommerce platforms usually come with a set of predefined user experience components. More often than not it is not possible to customize these experiential elements on an E-commerce website. Even with systems that offer feature-rich, extensive libraries, creating highly unique user experiences can be ineffective. The other downside is that they deliver content to one or two channels such as a web store or a mobile app.

Headless Commerce - Personalization

Headless commerce systems allow developers to break free from these constraints. teams can create highly customized customer Journeys based on touchpoints that are being used. Because there are multiple front ends attached to the backend, theoretically headless commerce systems can support an unlimited number of screens or devices. This kind of flexibility enables a deeper model of customer engagement and facilitates closer brand interaction.

  • Faster time to market

Customer needs are evolving at an immense speed. Headless commerce opens up new ways for experimentation as changes don’t affect the presentation layer. New personalization features can be tested safely, without disrupting the customer experience.

Headless Commerce - Faster Time to Market

The ability to run experiments without disrupting customer experience allows businesses to respond to market demands instantaneously. Teams can set up a new store within days instead of months. Roll out for a new location can be reduced compared to traditional eCommerce systems.

  • Enhanced security and resilience

The greatest benefit of headless commerce is enhanced security as it is much more resilient to cyber threats. In traditional systems, all components are packed together. A small change in one component may reduce the entire system’s security posture.

Additionally, the APIs used in a headless system is mostly read-only, further reducing cyber risks.

Headless Commerce -  Enhanced Security

As a headless system is decoupled, issues with one microservice won’t affect the continuity of the rest of the application.

The future of eCommerce is headless 

A headless digital commerce platform ensures a consistent and optimized brand experience across all delivery channels. This is a great way to gain a competitive edge. Businesses will also be able to roll out updates quicker than competitors. This helps them become innovative by removing development constraints. Design and development teams get more creative freedom that empowers them to build new features and capabilities quickly. In addition to all this, eCommerce merchants will be able to bolster platform performance while making it more secure.

Go beyond legacy platforms, break free from the chains of slavery to outdated technology. To gain a competitive advantage, you need to be able to embrace the latest technology. At Concord Commerce, we are at the cutting edge of what is possible with the combination of Microservices, APIs, Headless and Cloud-native technologies. Get in touch with us to know more.

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