Headless Commerce

Headless Commerce

Headless ommerce is becoming popular because it offers shop operators new ways to create their shops. Whether search function, product presentation or payment process – everything can be combined. API interfaces connect the individual functions with each other.

Table of contents

  1. What is Headless Commerce?

  2. Traditional ecommerce platforms

  3. How flexible is Headless Commerce? 

  4. Requirements for a headless architecture

  5. The advantages of Headless Commerce platforms

    1. Adressing the right target group

    2. Competitive advantage

    3. Agile marketing

    4. Customer experience

    5. Seamless integration

    6. Performance increase

  6. The downside of the headless approach

  7. Headless software 

  8. FAQ

What is Headless Commerce? 

Headless Commerce (a term from IT architecture) is an approach to e-commerce that gives online merchants the flexibility to customize their own content. It involves a separation of backend and frontend, allowing potential customers to have a positive shopping experience on different devices. 

Traditional ecommerce platforms

Until now, shop operators have only known content management systems (CMS) where everything works from a single source (monolithic). With growing challenges, the UX needs to be adaptable, because that's where a business's sales come from. Short-term changes are becoming more and more important for customers, so the old, rigid system is a barrier for the customer journey. 

Firmly anchored front- and backends are among the traditional approaches for a shop. If the website operator enters information into the backend, it is displayed in the frontend after it has been successfully saved. Accordingly, one software is responsible for everything: saving, processing and displaying. Although all this is practical, it has a limiting effect in terms of the scope of functions and integrated third-party systems. If, for example, certain modules are not available for a corresponding shop, this quickly leads to frustration for the user, as a lot of work has to be put into the development of new modules. 

How flexible is headless commerce?

With the headless approach (also called composable commerce), communication runs via interfaces (APIs) of software and system. Shop operators collect the custom options they would like to implement from various providers. The whole thing can be understood like a functional construction kit with independent, individual components. Exchanging different building blocks is easy – only the interfaces have to be compatible. The big challenge in e-commerce: Sales are made via different channels and the user experience varies as a result. Whether smartwatches, augmented reality or voice commerce – different channels without a comprehensive solution lead to a less customer-specific focus. 

Businesses want to address specific target groups and stand out from the competition. With headless solutions, they can address different channels and customer groups with ease and remain flexible. Thus, with the help of microservices, sales channels can be set up and tested. This makes the changeover less costly than a normal relaunch as the API-first approach is mostly compatible with existing data and content. 

Requirements for a headless architecture

Headless commerce is on everyone's lips: It is meant to increase the challenges in the ecommerce world in terms of customer and target group expectations. In addition, the demand for quick changes in the online shop when requirements change over time is high. For example, with social commerce (shopping on social media platforms), the challenges increase. A traditional system, where everything comes from a single source, is faced with challenges of implementation. The evolution: Split everything up and thus achieve a high degree of flexibility. 

Now that apps and mobile sites are becoming more and more the focus of attention, hurdles have to be overcome to share content on mobile platforms without a diversion. That's why it's important to store content agnostically so that any device – whether it's a smartphone, tablet, smartwatch or PC – can access it. Headless architecture is the solution to the problem for many shop operators at this point.  

Regular shop systems and CMS deliver a complete package of frontend and backend. This is not the case with headless commerce solutions, which separates the backend from the frontend. The design thus no longer influences the backend, which gives users more freedom to implement their ideas and wishes. 

The advantages of Headless Commerce platforms

CMS systems are often bogged down and severely restrict shop operators. With headless, a modern customer journey is possible and content can be distributed barrier-free on different platforms. User-friendliness is the focus here. Shop operators can set all functions in the beginning and then try out what works well and what does not (content management).  In this way, the separation of form and content becomes real and offers the following advantages: 

Addressing the right target group

The right target group is addressed: Whether on mobile devices, smartwatches, desktops, social media or augmented reality – a better connection with the customers' touchpoints is reached while maintaining the same quality.

Competitive advantage 

With microservices, sales channels can be tested quickly and efficiently. As a result, the implementation of new market trends also works faster. Checkouts, for example, are set up and standardized by headless and discount promotions can be integrated individually by the shop operator. 

Agile marketing

Content is delivered to the target groups independently of the platform and does not have to be created from scratch for each format. Both a time-saver for companies and an advantage over competitors. 

Customer experience

The focus is on the customer experience! On mobile devices, the use is made more comfortable. More satisfied customers = more sales! 

Seamless integration 

Different data sources for a unified overall concept without having to rely on a single platform. APIs and frontend applications make it possible. They pull content through frontend applications from interfaces and integrate it – even from third-party systems such as blogs and forums – so editors can play out content without barriers.

Performance increase

Super flexible when building your own online shop. Front- and backend can be scaled without any loss of performance. 

The downside of the headless approach

If there is a desire to expand a website, it is necessary to develop a separate system so that the content is presented in the browser. This is more effort if functions are missing and have to be built up. Both the maintenance effort and the complexity increase. Accordingly, there are also disadvantages of the headless system, although these could change over time: 

  • Complexities between individual function modules – customer logs in to website → frontend should know the name for personal greeting, the backend should have stored payment data during checkouts. 

  • After a while, incompatibilities can arise between the different building blocks. 

  • Image processing for different platforms/channels is not yet given, nor is a preview for editors.

  • Conversion to HTML is difficult so far.

Headless software

So far (as of 12/22), the toolbox of headless software is still manageable, but it will evolve over the next few years. Some headless commerce platforms so far are:

Shopware 6

API-First technology

Future-oriented customer experience

Storytelling features

Social shopping integration

SAP Commerce Cloud

Wide range of tools 

Commerce Cloud 

Omnichannel shopping experience

Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Connecting users

Enhanced omnichannel experience

Commercetools 

Commerce platform

Microservices 

APIs 

Cloud-based headless architecture

Frontastic

Focus o frontends 

Many conditions of frontends

FAQ

What is headless commerce? 

With Headless Commerce, content (backend) and view (frontend) are separated from each other in order to give more flexibility in the checkout process, design choices and playout of one's own content.  

Why headless commerce?

Headless Commerce offers users a variety of possibilities and requirements for building their own online shop and quickly adapting it to the individual target groups. 

What are the advantages of a headless architecture? 

First, there is definitely the flexibility of headless commerce. In addition, the user experience is improved because platform-independent content is played out that reaches different target groups.