If you have made your way to this blog, it’s likely you’ve heard the phrase headless commerce flying around, and want to find out more about what it is and why it’s become such a buzzword.
With the forecast of the ecommerce market growing to $11 trillion by 2025, companies need more agile solutions in order to meet their customers' expectations. It’s time for marketers to get creative and provide streamlined omnichannel experiences to not only convert customers but retain the relationships too.
Headless commerce is still considered to be very much at the growth stage currently only representing a small percentage of the ecommerce market. With plenty of industry excitement and platform growth to look forward to. It begs the question: is it time to explore whether your business should move to a headless commerce structure.
The article below is designed to give you a glimpse of headless commerce and the benefits that it can provide. If you are looking for a more extensive look, then our ebook: The essential guide to headless commerce will walk you through top-to-bottom so you can make an informed decision.
If you need a refresher on headless commerce acronyms and terms, our quick cheat sheet will help you along the way.
Becoming headless is not as scary as it seems. In the realm of commerce, it refers to the decoupling of the front-end of your online store from the back-end.
Simplified even further, the customer facing side of your application and the behind the scenes mechanics are now working independently of each other. They do, however, still ‘talk’ to each other through the use of Application Programmer Interfaces (API’s).
The result? A faster, more agile and consistent shopping experience for your customers. The backend is still able to perform all of its crucial functionality, but without being tied down to the delivery of the front-end.
"Headless generates sites the way the internet used to be built when we were accessing it through dial-up modems. Now with so much bandwidth through broadband connections, headless sites load virtually instantly making the internet a more efficient beast."
Brands with a content-lead or experience-led strategy, for example direct-to-consumer brands, are more suited to the headless commerce structure, as they are given the freedom to create remarkable shopping experiences without the constraints of design or development.
Headless commerce benefits
Headless commerce could be the innovation your business is looking for. Please bear in mind that pivoting to a headless set-up is not finger-snapping, bam and it’s done process. But once you commit to it, your company will see that it’s worth the effort not just internally, but for the customer experience you can deliver. Here, we highlight 7 benefits of becoming a headless commerce.
1. More choice
Who doesn’t love to have the option of choice? Especially when it comes to your website, whether you're building it from scratch or changing things up to keep up with the ever-changing landscape.
You can implement a front-end of your choice that works independently from your ecommerce platform with a headless commerce set up. It gives you the choice from a variety of options including custom built applications, pre-built front-ends or front-end service providers.
This increase in choice means that you can choose the front-end best suited to your business needs and resources. And that’s just the beginning, other benefits include more agility and flexibility to operate outside the restrictions enforced by the ecommerce platform.
By choosing a headless setup you are able to create the best front-end and integration ensemble to suit your needs.
2. Remain competitive
With the freedom, flexibility and speed in which updates can be made in your headless commerce platform, you are able to remain competitive. You can keep on top of the constant customer behavior changes, technology upgrades or acquisition trends.
Australian ecommerce beauty retailer, Adore Beauty is a great example, as they were really early adopters of headless technology, long before it was cool. Their move into a headless structure was their strategic aim to improve their site speed. Within half a year, they were able to reduce the speed of their site down to 2.4 seconds. Once that goal was achieved their next step was going for headless carts.
Adore Beauty’s speed and agility are factors in keeping the brand competitive, as they are able to pivot and adapt as the ecommerce industry changes.
3. Improved page load times
This is one of the more popular advantages of a headless commerce platform, as your page load time and customer drop-off rate are directly related. According to a study by Google, as your page load moves from one second to three seconds, the chances of your customer leaving increases by 32%.
Your page load time should sit around 2 seconds, to ensure your customers' attention remains on your page.
When building or customizing the front-end of a headless structure, many companies will use a combination of a single page application (SPA), a CMS like Jamstack and a static site generation. The result of this build helps achieve the goal of a faster and improved page load time, so your customers don’t make a quick exit.
While the technologies integrated with the headless commerce are the ones more likely to improve page load times, it's the ease of leveraging these through a headless structure which is why it’s marked #3 in our benefits list.
4. Simple scalability
If you’re expecting a high volume of traffic to come through your site, or future forecasting when website visitation will exponentially grow then embracing a structure like headless commerce will help.
Scalability and performance can be improved by leveraging CDN-based static sites that otherwise would not be available when using a traditional all-in-one solution.
It’s important to note that headless commerce in itself does not improve scalability or performance. It does, however, give you the flexibility to control them outside any restrictions enforced by the choice of ecommerce platform.
5. Customizable storefront
Is your website sticking out from the crowd or, more importantly, from your competitors? No one has time for those cookie-cutter website pages any more, customers are all about a well branded, original website.
With headless commerce your company can use the technologies it likes to create and build custom experiences designed specifically for your shoppers. You’re not confined to the rules of a CMS, so you’re free to create and test the customer experience you envisioned.
Providing your customers with a consistent brand experience builds confidence and loyalty for your company.
6. Reduced internal wait times
Expedite changes immediately. The classic case of projects hitting a bottleneck, or upgrades being held back due to other team priorities will be a thing of the past.
Having a headless platform allows any front-end or customer-facing work to be done independently, without the need to wait on work to be done at the back-end. And vice versa.
Teams can keep moving on their tasks without the need to wait on the other to finish first.
7. Increase in conversion, decrease in acquisition costs.
It’s no secret that across the board, the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is rising due to the increase in paid advertising costs and a highly-competitive market making it harder and harder to win over new customers. What does this mean for you? It’s time to work smart, not hard when it comes to acquiring new customers.
By implementing a content-led or experience-led strategy, your headless commerce application makes it much easier to pull organic traffic in rather than relying on paid.
This use of dynamic customer experiences will also assist in increasing your conversion rate and winning customer loyalty.
Is it time for your business to go headless?
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to going headless, but that doesn’t mean that your business structure is necessarily suited. If you are kicking goals with your traditional commerce architecture, then it may not be worth the time and resources required to make the switch. You’ll have to evaluate your business objectives and whether headless commerce can help you achieve this.
Below we go through a few use cases where implementing a headless commerce can solve certain business barriers.
One of the biggest draw cards to turning to headless commerce, is the ability of creating the seamless omnichannel experience your customers deserve.
Many retailers face the issue of siloed systems forming between platforms with their current ecommerce solutions, impeding on their ability to create the best omnichannel experience for their customers.
The headless architecture provides you with the tools to integrate all your channels plus deliver content seamlessly to each and every one. The best bit? It’s all done within the same application.
Need for speed, flexibility, customization
If the three characteristics mentioned in the above title are business critical, then moving to a headless commerce platform will be a step in the right direction.
The power and sophistication of modern tools used in building websites is always evolving, as customers want their digital experience to be concise, and as fast as possible. In fact, from 2021, Google changed their algorithm to include page experience as part of the ranking system, meaning the slower your page load speed is the lower your SERP ranking will be.
Using a headless setup, organizations are able to combine modern high-performing tools that work to prioritize performance on every level, allowing teams to build faster websites compared to a traditional monolithic structure.
We’ve touched on it above, but to reiterate — the ability to customize your front-end with what you want, personalize your user's experience, or make updates in the matter of minutes, will be a game changer for your customer experience.
Headless commerce best practice examples
Now you know the ins and outs of headless commerce, let’s take some time to look at the well known brands who have made the switch or simply started headless and never looked back.
ILIA is a beauty and cosmetics company. They found their website was feeling clunky and slow when they started incorporating sophisticated tools into their website. ‘Compare shades’ and ‘find my shade’ were added as customer experience functionality, however it had detrimental effects on their page.
Using the headless solution on Shopify plus, they were able to transform their website into a fast and seamless experience, while also allowing the developers to experiment with new formats of content.
Feeling limited with what they could achieve on their current website, K2 Sports needed a refresh. With several factors proving to be a barrier in their plans for international expansion, such as the ecommerce store feeling dated, plus facing some massive development and maintenance costs, a cost-effective, customer friendly solution was needed.
The move to a headless architecture that could deliver the creative shopping experience they envisioned, along with improving their API performance. For the back-end, K2 sports use BigCommerce, and on the front-end, K2 Sports used ContentStack to develop and build content-rich customer experiences designed to resonate with their desired segments and potential customers.
This French luxury perfume and cosmetics icon simply saw the value of implementing a headless commerce structure, recognizing the potential and the customer experience they could deliver.
With the foresight to see the growth in mobile commerce and the increased customer engagement on the device, the aim was to enhance the user experience on all their channels. The brand saw an increase in their conversion rate, with their customers able to now make purchases easier, on the go.
The final word
There is plenty more to discover with headless commerce, if his article has sparked your interest then we do recommend reading Ortto’s ebook: The essential guide to headless commerce which provides extra commentary from an ecommerce and ecomm technologies expert with 25 years in the field. Plus plenty more insight into how it all works.