Headless Commerce: Innovation for Customer Experiences

Headless commerce – decoupling what customers experience during shopping from the back-end commerce platform – allows for flexible, customized experiences.

The way we’ve traditionally thought about eCommerce is changing. Consumers expect more, and they now decide the experience they want to have with a brand.

New channels like IoT, conversational devices, and chatbots are giving consumers alternative ways to learn about brands, compare products, read reviews, and ultimately, buy. Some brands have already embraced these new technologies, while others are still figuring out how to best do so without having to build, reconfigure and maintain.

The solution is a headless commerce architecture.

But First, Some History ...

When eCommerce first came to light, the majority of shopping traffic was desktop oriented – brands didn’t need to worry about visits and sales from other touchpoints like mobile, social commerce, and now these new emerging channels. Legacy eCommerce platforms were made to be full-stack and all-inclusive, coupling the front-end presentation layer with the back-end commerce system. Now however, these traditional eCommerce systems are struggling to keep up with the omnichannel experiences consumers expect across all of these touchpoints.

Traditional systems inversely create silos between the online store and other channels because the front end and back end are coupled – meaning that making any change requires making updates to both. Creating any new front-end experience typically requires extremely skilled developers in working with the back-end code – slowing down development time, introducing risk, and driving up costs.

‘Headless’ Flexibility Pays Off for Online Commerce

What is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is all the buzz as of late, and for good reason. With a headless commerce approach, you decouple the front end of your shopping experience from the back end –  presentation is separated from the commerce stack. You have greater flexibility as the front-end presentation layer (also called “the head” or “the glass”) that the end user interacts with can be served by the content management system or the e-commerce system, or even side by side.  

Marketers and merchants can be agile, experiment and make changes to the front end without worrying about disrupting the back-end commerce engine.


Why Should You Consider a Headless Strategy?

For those organizations that prefer a best-of-breed approach, a headless commerce strategy is a great fit. In addition to greater flexibility, a headless architecture allows for faster integrations and increased innovation.

Developers can simply use APIs to deliver things like new content or payment gateways to any device or channel (e.g. mobile, digital signage, Alexa etc). Then, they can just focus on the presentation using the framework of their choice.  

Moreover, organizations should consider headless if they have a lot of content and a desire to personalize and innovate their end user’s experience across touchpoints. As previously mentioned, merchants or marketers can quickly and easily make updates to content and publish it across channels, without disrupting the back end that continues to supports complex transactions.

Because presentation is separate from the back-end commerce system, brands don’t have to worry about slowing down their end user’s experience anytime they invest in new channels, integrations or strategies like personalization.

Who is a Good Fit for Headless Commerce?

A headless commerce strategy is a great fit for organizations that are redefining the customer experience and going beyond web to explore new channels. Teams that have desire to be more flexible, agile and innovative with their digital strategy, or those organizations with multiple brands or sites that have a lot of content and need make updates quickly, are also great candidates.

Organizations that have complex business logic, governance, or workflow could also see the immediate benefits of going headless.

Going headless is a great path for some, but may not make sense for others. Acquia can help your team navigate the best path forward to delivering the optimal experience for your customers.  

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This blog post is just the beginning. To dive deeper into “Unlocking the Path to Experiential Commerce,” check out this webinar.

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