Headless Commerce 101: All You Need to Know (In Plain English)

When Burrow, an online furniture store adapted headless commerce, they saw extensive results like these within a short period: 

This is the power of integrating headless commerce. 

To find out how it can drive the same results for your store, go through this 101 guide written in plain English.

Headless Commerce – Getting Familiar with the Term

All eCommerce apps have 2 parts – a frontend and a backend. Whenever we separate these 2 parts, headless commerce comes into the picture.

But why do companies prefer separating the front and the back end? 

Well, that’s because of the flexibility one gets in building their eCommerce business.

Let me give you an example:

You choose a theme for your shoe store. But when you check the loading speed of your store’s mobile version, it appears to be in the poor category due to various unnecessary loading elements. 

What do you do?

You can resolve and optimize it with traditional eCommerce. 

But the fact that traditional eCommerce platforms don’t allow the decoupling of the frontend from the backend, the changes you can do are limited.

With headless commerce, you can decouple the frontend from the backend and push data and content to the frontend of any platform with APIs.

So in the example stated above, there are some elements that can be combined, some that can be optimized, and others that can simply be deleted as you don’t need them.

With traditional commerce, you need to edit source code for even minor changes. And customizing at this pace might bring your whole site down. 

When you leverage headless commerce, the source code in the backend remains intact. 

All you have to do is make separate blocks for separate functions in the backend and use an API to send these blocks in the frontend.

This technique is called Backend for Frontend (BFF).

To understand even more about it, read how headless commerce works in the next section.

The Working of Headless Commerce

Headless commerce has 3 parts:

  1. Frontend
  2. Headless API
  3. Backend

In traditional eCommerce, you don’t have a headless API. 

A headless API (Application programmer interface) helps all the elements of headless eCommerce combine into 1 store.

Headless API receives information from the backend and gives it to the frontend framework.

This might be a bit complicated to understand, but let me show this to you with an example:

Suppose you have an eCommerce store:

You launch the store on Shopify.

You like the product page and transaction process of Shopify but aren’t quite happy with its content customization. 

With headless API, you can use a different application/platform for different purposes. If you like WordPress for content customization, you can integrate it with your store.

With the help of headless API and coding, you can use WordPress for your store’s content and integrate with the frontend.

In the same way, you can create different blocks for different functions of your store.

Once you’re done creating, integrate them with the help of Headless API to get a fully customizable front end.

Here’s an image that demonstrates this better: 

How Does Headless Commerce Benefit Merchants? 

  1. Decrease Store Loading Speed & Gain More Customers

While shopping, no one likes to see a loading icon. 

According to an Infographic designed by Smart Insights, 57% of shoppers worldwide leave a site if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds.

The percentage of shoppers will increase even more in the future. So, the store’s loading speed is a major factor in the profitability of an eCommerce store.

With headless eCommerce, you can have your frontend, backend, and the API on different servers. 

As a result, this will decrease the load on each server.

  1. Go Omnichannel

Going omnichannel might be a great option to increase your sales.

According to Omnisend, store owners who use 3 or more channels to sell their product earn 287% more than those using a single channel.

  1. With Headless Commerce Personalization Becomes Easy

Personalization gives your customer a sense of being an insider. With headless commerce, developers and coders get full flexibility to create a personalized frontend for each visitor. 

Whether it’s text, colors, or navigation, it brings personalization to your frontend. 

In fact, in one of Epsilon’s surveys, it’s discovered that 80% of customers buy from a brand that feels more personalized to them.

When you show customers things they like, why wouldn’t they buy from you?

Drawbacks of Headless Commerce

  1. Headless Commerce Can Be Expensive

Separating the front and back end requires 2 separate environments. 

To make the best of headless eCommerce, you have to manage and host the front end, backend, as well as API individually. 

Although investment would be quite heavy in the beginning, it’s a one-time thing. But when you see the bigger picture, the conversion you get will be quite phenomenal.

Why Headless Commerce is Better than Traditional eCommerce

  1. Better Frontend Development & Customization

The front-end development has a limit in traditional eCommerce.

You can’t keep customizing the way you want as it’s risky because modification requires changes in the source code. 

One wrong line of code has the potential to bring your whole site down! 

This gives you less room for A/B testing.

Headless commerce gives you an opportunity to create a store where each and every element can be as per your choice. 

More importantly, the frontend database takes away the risk of getting your website crashed. 

To master the design of your store, you can go with a hit-and-trial approach. After all, it won’t affect the front end. More importantly, there’s no risk of errors or crashes. 

When it comes to traditional eCommerce, one small change in the database costs a lot of time and money!

  1. Your Store Loads Faster

Sites that leverage traditional eCommerce are slow. The front and the back end of traditional sites are managed and hosted on the same platform

When you have a lot of elements, this increases the site’s loading speed even more. 

But when you make your store with headless commerce, you can separate the frontend and backend to manage them on different hosting.

This decreases the store loading time drastically.

  1. Better Security Than Traditional eCommerce

Security breaches have been a major problem in the modern era. 

A study from Identify Force revealed that on January 22, 2020, the data of 280 Million Microsoft users were left unprotected online.

If such sensitive information gets in the wrong hands, the results can be catastrophic.

When we compare traditional eCommerce security with headless commerce, the latter has an upper hand. 

All the customer information in headless commerce is stored inside the platform. It’s a safe environment that only authorized personnel can access.

Not only this, but you can also limit the permission access for all the integrations via the headless API.

  1. Any Changes Made Are Quicker than Traditional eCommerce

Headless commerce allows you to quickly inculcate upgrades to your store. If we talk about traditional eCommerce, we see 2 major limitations

  1. There’s a limit to things and platforms you can integrate you store to
  2. Due to the risk involved in modifying the database, you have to be extra cautious as this process is a slow one

Both drawbacks slow down the process of making changes. 

Platform You Can Leverage to Use Headless Commerce in Your Business

Magento 2 – Build A UI that Your Customers Deserve

Magento 2, an Adobe Company, was launched on November 17, 2015.

Let’s have a look at what features you get when you go headless with Magento 2.

Features of Magento 2 Headless Commerce Platform

  1. You get 4 storefront options to launch your store
  • PWA Studio
  • Adobe Exchange Manager
  • Cross-Channel
  • Third-Party Integrations
  1. The platform gives you high efficiency, high performance, and low latency that improves the overall scalability of the store
  1. Test new customer touchpoints immediately 

Shopify Plus – Bring Creative Ideas to Life

Shopify is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms.The advance plan of Shopify, i.e. Shopify Plus gives you the option to go headless.

Features of Shopify Plus Headless Commerce

  1. Build your storefront in any language you want
  2. Preview any virtual screen into a store and see if fits your needs before going live
  3. Integrate your already existing CMS with Shopify plus 
  4. Go omnichannel and increase your conversion rates

Core DNA – Grown, Manage & Earn

Core DNA was found in the year 2015. The platform lets you combine your digital experience management, eCommerce, and content in one place.

Features of Core DNA Headless Commerce

  1. Manage all of your integrations and storefront in one place
  2. Create unlimited segments for your customers with a memorable user experience
  3. Tap into the Core DNA API and build your dream frontend

How K2 Sports Launched 8 Brands & 16 Sites with Headless Commerce? 

K2 Sports is an American company that sells skis and snowboards.

With traditional eCommerce, the company wasn’t able to achieve much. So they decided to leverage headless commerce and scale their business.

3 Challenges They Faced with Their Earlier Cloud Hosting 

Although K2 Sports had Demandware hosting, it wasn’t good for them. Here are some challenges they faced: 

  1. Customization options they had were limited
  2. The designers of the company were not impressed by the store’s UI due to the lack of APIs
  3. Demandware was not a SaaS platform and this made it expensive as well as time-consuming

With 8 brands and 16 websites, they found it extremely challenging to scale their business.

They came up with a decision of exploring a new hosting, which turned out to be more cost-effective, feature-rich, and customer-friendly.

Solution – Opting for Headless Commerce

For their front end, the company went with Contentstack’s headless commerce solution.

For all of their store’s backend, they decided to go with BigCommerce

With this decision, they could customize their store as they wanted and deliver a seamless user experience.

Here’s what Nicole Fugere, the Director of Web Services for K2 Sports has to say about the decision of option Contentstack: 

Results – How Headless Commerce Banked Money for K2 Sports

The results for K2 Sports were jaw-dropping:

  1. Websites became 75% faster
  2. Publishing content 90% faster brought them more organic traffic
  3. Observed a 50% increase in productivity

Leveraging headless commerce might not be an ideal solution for every business, but if done right, it has a lot of potential.

After all, creating a store that’s faster and better is a dream every eCommerce site owner dreams of.

About the Author