What is the headless commerce architecture?
Headless commerce refers to an eCommerce solution that stores, manages, and delivers content without a front-end delivery layer. In a headless commerce architecture, the front end (or the “head”) — includes items such as text colors and styles, images, graphs and tables, buttons, etc — has been decoupled and removed, leaving only the backend eCommerce functionality — pricing, infrastructure, security, checkout, etc.
This architecture makes it possible for developers to employ the frontend technology that they prefer to deliver high-quality content experiences and plug in an ecommerce solution on the backend that can handle all the commerce functionalities.
It allows developers to use APIs to deliver things like products, blog posts or customer reviews to any screen or device, while front-end developers can figure out the best way to present that content using whatever framework they fancy.
Essentially, it is possible to programmatically manage all functional elements like forms, blog, banners, and products of the system. This even includes the creation and management of content components.
This architecture is pretty much built for the IoT age. The headless commerce architecture delivers a platform via a RESTful API that is made up of a back-end data model and a cloud-based infrastructure. Due to the fact that the platform is not tightly coupled with the back-end, it is possible for eCommerce brand to deliver things like content, products and payment gateways to smartwatches, kiosk screens, Alexa Skills, and everything in between.
How is headless commerce different from traditional eCommerce?
The main difference between headless commerce and traditional eCommerce is that headless commerce is all about flexibility. A headless architecture would offer merchants more tools to reach, engage, and convert their growing customer base than their traditional, monolithic eCommerce platform could give them.
A monolithic platform would have design constraints on front-end development, take more time to edit the database, code, and platform and could only offer a predefined experience for users and administrators. Headless commerce does not have such design constraints, and it allows you to create your own custom experience for users and administrators.
What are the benefits of headless commerce?
Here are some of the advantages that headless commerce brings to the table:
Future-proofing your business
When new trends come up and customers want to shop on different platforms, headless technologies enable you to adjust your frontend without having to replatform on the backend. By making use of APIs, your front-end developers can add back-office functionality to your existing system and use frameworks as they deem necessary.
Rather than needing to build new websites or portals from scratch, you can use a headless commerce solution to treat each new functionality individually and integrate new features as your eCommerce portal grows and evolves.
Build faster websites
Having a fast page load speed is critical for online stores. 70% of consumers say page speed affects their decision to buy from an online retailer and a study conducted by Google has found that the probability of bounce increases very significantly with every couple seconds added to the page load time.
A headless ecommerce platform will house your content centrally and can deliver it anywhere through the use of APIs. This makes it possible for your websites to load up much faster than they could with traditional eCommerce solutions.
You get complete ownership over your site architecture
When you use a headless commerce platform, the content management application and content delivery application environments are separated so that you have a greater degree of control.
Most brands switch to headless commerce because they already have a frontend solution that they’re satisfied with, and they just want to get more from their backend system.
Headless commerce makes it possible for you to keep what you’re happy with and add, upgrade, or replace what you aren’t happy with.
Allows you to go truly omnichannel
Headless commerce makes it possible for you to embrace omnichannel retail in the truest sense. All your content and data is housed centrally, and you can modify your frontend without affecting your backend. You get to add several online and offline experiences while your commerce engine is consistently running on the backend.
Through the use of headless platforms, it is possible for merchants to craft omnichannel experiences by making products available in places other than your online storefront. And since all the data is housed centrally, it is possible to set things up in such a way that your customers can continue their shopping experiences across channels in a unified manner.
How does headless commerce work?
Headless commerce systems work by passing requests between the presentation and application layers through web services or application programming interface (API) calls.
For example, if a shopper clicks a “Buy Now” button on their smartphone, the presentation layer of the headless eCommerce system sends an API call to the application layer to process the order. The application layer sends another API call to the application layer to show the customer the status of their order.
You could say that the API is the secret sauce for the headless system. It is essentially a connection between the frontend and backend and sends information between the two in real time.
Customer-facing content gets managed on a back-end platform, like a CMS. When you have a headless storefront, you can make use of several backend systems according to your needs. Here are some examples of systems that you could use:
- Content management system (CMS)
- Progressive web app (PWA)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Digital experience platform (DXP)
Using these extra SaaS (software as a service) tools, you can create touchpoints for your customers, like mobile apps or vending machines. Whenever a customer has an interaction with your storefront over any touchpoint, an API call will send that information to your backend systems.
Your customers will not be able to see anything from your headless backend system - all they will see is the frontend user interface that you employ to deliver shopping experiences.