Headless Commerce Rises as Checkout Becomes Competitive Advantage


The headless commerce space is becoming increasingly competitive, as more and more businesses are seeing the benefits of this approach and seeking out solutions that can help them provide a better customer experience.

Many established eCommerce platforms — including Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce — have started to offer headless commerce options, allowing customers to decouple their front-end and back-end functionalities.

In addition to established eCommerce platforms, gaining traction in the market are several newer headless commerce platforms, such as commercetools and Elastic Path. These platforms offer a component-based agility that aligns with an increasing need for eCommerce sites to adapt to trends as they happen.

Furthermore, some companies provide specific services for headless commerce, such as API management, content management, and personalization. These include Contentful, Algolia and Dynamic Yield, among others.

The headless commerce space is becoming highly competitive as eCommerce evolves, with established and newer players vying to provide the most comprehensive and customizable solutions to their customers. This competition is driving innovation and pushing the limits of what is possible in the world of eCommerce, benefiting businesses and customers alike.

But before going any deeper, what exactly is headless commerce?

The Headless Commerce Explainer

Headless commerce is an eCommerce architecture that separates the front-end presentation layer (the “head”) from the back-end commerce functionality (the “body”). In headless configurations, front-end, consumer-facing elements such as websites, mobile apps, or other channels are decoupled from underlying eCommerce platform processing functionality.

With headless commerce, the back end provides an API that can be used to build custom front-end experiences, allowing for greater flexibility, scalability and speed. This approach allows companies to deliver tailored shopping experiences across a wide range of channels, including websites, mobile apps, social media, smart speakers and more.

Among the key benefits of headless commerce is the ability to create a consistent and personalized customer experience across multiple channels, which often leads to increased customer loyalty and higher sales. Additionally, because the front-end and back-end are decoupled, it’s easier to update and iterate on each separately, allowing businesses to move faster and respond to changing market conditions more quickly.

Headless Commerce in Action

A good example of headless commerce is a company that uses a headless CMS (content management system) to manage its website’s content and messaging, and a separate eCommerce platform to manage its online store’s functionality.

In that instance, a company could use a headless CMS like Contentful or Prismic to manage website content, and an eCommerce platform like Shopify or Magento to handle its online store’s functionality. In this scenario, the website and the online store are two separate entities that are connected through application programming interfaces (APIs). Such websites are designed and optimized for specific customer journeys, and the eCommerce piece handles the checkout process, inventory management and fulfillment.

Companies can also use APIs to connect their eCommerce platform to other channels, such as social media, marketplaces or mobile apps. This allows the delivery of a consistent shopping experience across multiple channels while leveraging the best tools for each specific task.

Put another way, a headless commerce architecture allows companies to leverage the best technology for each specific task, leading to greater flexibility, scalability and speed.

The Business Case for Headless

Headless commerce can be more cost-effective for brands in the long run, but it may require a higher upfront investment.

While traditional eCommerce platforms provide an all-in-one solution that includes both the front-end and back-end functionalities, headless commerce separates these two components. This means that a company needs to invest in building or buying a front-end solution to connect to the back-end eCommerce platform.

However, once a headless commerce architecture is implemented, companies can benefit from greater flexibility, scalability and speed. For example, if a company wants to update its website’s design, it can do so without having to make changes to the eCommerce platform’s functionality. This reduces the risk of disrupting the entire system and allows for faster implementation of changes.

Additionally, headless commerce allows companies to tailor their customer experience to specific channels, such as mobile apps or social media platforms. This can lead to increased customer engagement and loyalty, which can result in higher sales and revenue. The upfront investment in a headless commerce architecture may be higher, but the increased flexibility and scalability it provides can ultimately result in cost savings and improved business outcomes.