Businesses are devising various strategies to revamp their e-commerce architecture and adapt to the highly competitive environment. Yet, this transformation should not be a time-consuming obstacle, as a slow and complex backend process can hinder business continuity and customer satisfaction. Therefore, headless commerce is a suitable solution for businesses, which offers numerous benefits such as scalability and easy integration. 

What is headless commerce? 

Headless commerce is a modern e-commerce approach that separates the front-end presentation layer from the back-end functionality. This separation allows for the dynamic delivery of content to various platforms, including websites, mobile apps, kiosks, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Components of Headless Commerce

Headless commerce includes 3 main components: 

1. Front end: This includes the user interface across various sales channels, providing the visual and interactive elements that customers interact with. 

2. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces): These serve as intermediaries between the front and back ends, facilitating the exchange of data requests and inputs between the two layers.

3. Back end: The back end includes all business processes and user interactions, including checkout, promotions, catalog structure, and other functionalities.

Key differences – Traditional, headless, and composable commerce 

In traditional commerce platforms, the integration of front-end and back-end systems are tightly connected. These platforms often come with built-in templates, which often leads to limitations in customization. 

Unlike traditional commerce systems, headless commerce allows independent changes as the front and back-end are detached. Thus, enterprises can seamlessly integrate new e-commerce functions (such as payment gateways, marketing tools, and more). Headless commerce platforms use APIs for connectivity, providing the flexibility to create tailored technology stacks. 

Composable commerce further enhances scalability by breaking the e-commerce platform into specialized microservices. Businesses can select and integrate microservices tailored to their unique requirements in a composable commerce framework, such as catalog management, order processing, and inventory management. 

4 Headless Commerce Benefits

Headless commerce allows for more customization and easier intergration

1. More customization 

Separating the front end from the back end makes it easier for enterprises to change the content layer to the underlying infrastructure. By minimizing changes, businesses can avoid disruption when adding or removing functionalities to their current architecture. 

Additionally, headless solutions enable e-commerce brands to deliver an omnichannel experience at every point of contact by centralizing all customer information and providing a comprehensive API layer that allows front-end developers to input commerce into any customer experience. This access enables the implementation of personalized purchase recommendations, targeted promotions, and tailored browsing options across specific channels. As a result, businesses can attract more customers and improve conversion rates.

2. Easy integration

By providing APIs that facilitate seamless communication between the front-end and back-end systems, headless commerce platforms make integrating third-party services such as payment gateways, marketing tools, or analytics platforms easier. These APIs adhere to standards such as REST or GraphQL, making it easier for developers to understand and integrate. With 68% of digital leaders indicating headless commerce architecture can facilitate seamless integration between systems, enterprises should leverage different APIs to maximize this architecture, such as:

Checkout API: Allow customized checkout processes to suit different customer segments or audiences.

Marketing API: Add customers to various email lists and further segment those lists based on locations, purchase behaviors, order history, and more.

Cart API: Build, view, and manage customers’ shopping carts.

3. Continuous innovation

One of the headless commerce benefits is to empower development teams to rapidly prototype and test new ideas without disrupting existing systems. Headless commerce supports continuous deployment practices, allowing development teams to release updates and improve production. Thus, headless commerce allows businesses to deliver exceptional customer experience. According to research, 77% of businesses using headless architecture noted a boost in flexibility.

4. More security

One of the benefits of utilizing headless commerce is enhanced security. Due to the decoupled headless architecture, if a business is attacked on its front end, the back end would not be affected. This additional layer adds more security to headless commerce. This additional layer adds more security to headless commerce. For this reason, nearly 65% of respondents highlight security as their primary use for headless.

Current challenges of headless commerce

Highly skilled resources are required for headless commerce.

Much as headless commerce solutions provide great flexibility and customization, businesses should be aware of their current limitations:

- Highly skilled resources needed: Headless commerce integrates various independent APIs, which requires developers with expertise to understand how these systems work individually and how they can be effectively connected to function as a whole. Even after implementation, post maintenance tasks (such as updating APIs, addressing security vulnerabilities, and incorporating new tools) can be complicated.

- Re-platforming challenge: Transitioning to a headless commerce platform requires careful planning and precise execution. Introducing a modular system may require developers to familiarize themselves, which could result in temporary downtime.

- Higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): If headless commerce transforms into a comprehensive re-platforming, implementation and maintenance might incur higher costs. This may extend the necessary resources besides the initial headless commerce solution expenses.

Get a head start with Headless Commerce

Headless commerce helps businesses provide a genuine omnichannel, personalized experience, resulting in a more vital competitive advantage, higher conversions, and more satisfied customers. Realizing its benefits, businesses are turning to headless commerce, as 80% of businesses that do not have headless architecture today plan to implement it in the next two years.

Discover how we can help businesses get a head start with headless commerce here

Author Tuan Minh Tran