Headless commerce is an innovative e-commerce architecture approach, set to revolutionize internet commerce as a whole. The headless approach stands in opposition to the traditional, monolithic model, where website architecture relies both on front-end and back-end designed and created to work together.
In headless commerce, instead, retailers gain a lot more freedom in preparing the presentation layer, which is decoupled from the back-end and implemented via APIs. This introduces several key benefits for e-commerce businesses, including improved performance and scalability.
What is Headless Commerce?
While headless commerce is a buzzword that’s been very frequently used in the last couple of years, the concept itself dates back to 2013. A report by Forrester from 2013 was the first to offer a solution to the problem of e-commerce vendors not keeping up with the requirements to achieve flawless digital user experience. In the report, it was proposed that the content management system, or CMS, should be decoupled from the e-commerce system itself, becoming loosely connected through APIs instead.
This approach, however, didn’t become immediately popular, since CMS providers usually offered a whole-package deal, and alternative means of achieving a headless e-commerce were time-consuming and expensive. Nowadays, however, there are tons of systems and solutions that help create and integrate a headless commerce system, allowing retailers to switch to a more future-proof technology.
The benefits and drawbacks of Headless Commerce
When compared with traditional commerce, headless commerce presents a range of possibilities that were previously very limited in the old, monolithic approach.
Many package deals come with front-end and back-end inseparable, which limits the capabilities of both. By disconnecting the presentation layer from the application layer, each can be fully built to support the features it was meant to support - you gain a lot of flexibility and freedom in creating the presentation layer, while the back-end is reduced in complexity improving performance in the process. This provides for much greater scalability, since new servers can be added separately and maintenance requires no downtime.
Since the front-end is no longer dependent on the back-end, presentation changes can be introduced on the go without having to worry how they’ll implement the application layer. This significantly reduces time to market, and creates a developer-friendly work environment. Furthermore, disconnecting front-end and back-end introduces many security benefits, since the back-end cannot be easily accessed by regular users.
When it comes to drawbacks, there are certain development costs that come with implementing headless e-commerce - those, however, are only an initial investment, and the costs down the line will be most likely lower than in traditional commerce. There is also more work involved in creating two separate systems, but the overhead is much reduced when the initial work is finished and the systems are connected using APIs.
Solutions that can help implement a Headless approach
Thankfully, headless commerce isn’t a niche approach requiring tons of development work to prepare anymore - with ready-made solutions for e-commerce retailers, implementing a headless approach has never been easier.
Developers utilizing the Jamstack approach to website and web app development can make use of API-driven headless CMS platforms like Strapi or Contentful, providing instant REST API for developers to use. There are also dozens of Progressive Web App (PWA) frameworks for building UX-driven front-end, including Gatsby and Next.js, which are both based on the React library, or Vue Storefront that’s based on Vue.js.
Using PWAs for development can make development faster, cleaner, and the resulting websites provide a much better browser-based experience from a variety of devices. Improving the performance and device compatibility are essential to achieving a high Core Web Vitals score, which is not only an indicator of the overall user experience, but also contributes to the SERP ranking.
Conclusion - is Headless e-commerce worth all the work?
Creating a headless e-commerce system has never been easier. With a range of tools, frameworks, and libraries created specifically to make developing headless web services more approachable, the benefits seem to far outweigh the few drawbacks.
E-commerce businesses looking to redevelop your website should definitely consider a headless approach - it offers a significant improvement on user experience, website performance, and, in turn, helps increase your conversion rates.
If you're interested in discussing whether a headless commerce solution could work for you, please feel free to contact us, and we’ll be happy to guide you through the process. We can help with creating a full solution, or advise you in building a front-end for an already existing CMS.