Headless commerce is an eCommerce architecture where the frontend layer, or presentation layer, is decoupled from the backend commerce functionality.
Before we continue, let’s review the key differences between the frontend and backend:
Frontend: This is the user interface. Customers see and interact with the frontend, whether they’re accessing your eCommerce site, shopping app, digital kiosk or other shopping channels.
Backend: The backend is the behind-the-scenes, technical side of an eCommerce store the customer doesn’t see. The backend includes the technologies and tools that run in the background to ensure customers can shop and have smooth checkouts.
In headless commerce, the frontend and backend systems communicate via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This approach allows you to update the frontend, the customer-facing part of your site, independently of the backend and even use different development frameworks. This separation of concerns offers several benefits which we’ll explore below.
4 benefits of headless commerce
Platforms that adopt a headless architecture offer several benefits compared to monolithic, or so-called traditional eCommerce platforms. Here are the top four advantages.
1. Omnichannel capabilities
In an omnichannel eCommerce experience, customers can start shopping on one channel or device and transition seamlessly to a different channel while the brand retains key information: common examples are a customer completing their purchase online, but selecting in-store pickup, or a customer buying something in-store and having the order show up their online order history.
Headless commerce makes it easy to serve the 74% of shoppers who use multiple channels to shop: because the same backend system can serve multiple storefronts, you can easily adapt customer touchpoints and shopping experiences to serve your eCommerce website, your mobile app, social media pages, and even physical locations. All will be completely integrated and feel seamless for your customers to interact with.
2. Technical flexibility
By decoupling backend and frontend, headless platforms allow your development team to pick the frontend stack, including third-party providers, that they’re most productive with. A headless architecture allows you to adopt your favorite content management system (CMS) to create rich editorial experiences, or elevate your storefront through progressive web apps (PWAs). This enables you to create engaging digital experiences that don’t face the limitations of traditional monolithic frontends.
When done right, headless architectures even allow you to refactor or completely replace entire parts of your backend with little to no impact on your frontend experience(s), which allows you to move and experiment much more quickly.
3. Superior personalization
Most monolithic eCommerce platforms severely limit your ability to personalize the customer experience by forcing you to work with proprietary templating language and preventing you from accessing customer data. With 80% of customers indicating they prefer brands that offer tailored experiences, eCommerce personalization is now table stakes for modern brands.
Headless platforms allow you to not only leverage basic eCommerce data, such as a customer’s profile and order history, but even augment it with brand-specific data points of your own. This allows you to create shopping experiences that feel built for your customer, boosting customer engagement, conversion rates and AOV.
4. Blazing fast performance
Storefronts that leverage a headless eCommerce platform can typically be deployed as static sites and put behind a global content delivery network (CDN) such as Cloudflare. In the hands of a capable development team, this can lead to incredible performance that would be hard to achieve with a monolithic platform.
A 2019 study by Portent has found that improving your loading speeds can boost your conversion rates anywhere from 1.5X to 2.5X! If your eCommerce site loads slowly, you are leaving lots of money on the table—literally.
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