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How headless ecommerce gives product sellers more flexibility

02 Apr, 2022 | eCommerce

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COVID rapidly changed the way consumers shopped for everyday items to luxury brands. Consumers expect more. Businesses need to provide seamless transactions that are quick and easy from all platforms. Smart businesses are using headless ecommerce to do just that.

Headless ecommerce is the new buzz word of 2022. It’s a tool used to separate the front end from the back end of an ecommerce application. Using this technology, businesses have the freedom to build whatever they want while simultaneously improving the customer experience.

This article will explore the basics of headless ecommerce including the technical aspects, benefits, and limitations.

What is headless ecommerce

“Headless” is an umbrella term used to describe the architecture used by ecommerce sellers.

Your back end processes include things like inventory management, order management, shipping and tracking, and product cataloging. Headless architecture separates these back end functions from front end operations. The front end is the “head” of your ecommerce site. In most cases this is the theme or template that controls what the customer sees. A headless system allows robust flexibility of content delivery. With a headless system you can connect to a content management system (CMS), digital experience platform (DXP), or Internet of Things device (IoT) specifically designed to create content or experience-led commerce.

The front end can be altered without affecting the back end. Communication between the front and back ends is through simple application programming interface (API) calls.

Another way to think of this is “plug and play” ecommerce. It allows online retailers to be fast and flexible when managing the touchpoints of their customers.

Why headless ecommerce is important for customer experience optimization

The pandemic accelerated ecommerce adoption across the world. Stay-at-home orders catalyzed online shopping – and not as an alternative to in-store shopping, but as the only way to shop in many instances. The dramatic shift solely to online shopping augmented customer behavior and their expectations significantly, altering the ecommerce landscape dramatically from the pre-pandemic era. Customers expect a better experience tailored to them – as individuals.

Businesses that find ways to improve the customer experience will ultimately win. Here are some really good reasons to prioritize the customer experience:

  1. Competition is tighter than ever as stores continue to shift to in-person, online, and hybrid models.
  2. Customer personas are expanding. Customer personas create a detailed picture of a hypothetical customer using emotive information like personal motives, values, and communication styles. Businesses usually have between three to eight customer personas.
  3. Customer behavior is more granular than ever before owing to the different platforms that different customers prefer.
  4. Financial and digital literacy is becoming more fragmented among consumers as technology is outpacing consumers’ learning curve.

Headless ecommerce might just be the solution to creating unique and memorable experiences for your customers.

People are no longer consuming content from a few devices, like a laptop and cell phone. Now customers shop through home assistants like Alexa. Traditional ecommerce platforms including Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix offer limited opportunities to optimize the customer experience. These more traditional ecommerce models require front end and back end system updates. With headless ecommerce, you can localize your back end functionalities for each platform without disrupting your online store.

Essentially, headless ecommerce helps maintain relevant customer touchpoints.

Competing solutions for online retailers

In order to understand the technical aspects of headless ecommerce, let’s take a look at the different solutions available for online sellers.

Monolithic solutions

Monolithic solutions were the only choice 20 years ago. These are all-in-one platforms that provide a one-size-fits-all solution including website themes, design, content management, catalog management, and shopping carts. The emerging leader of this pack is Shopify. It’s a one-size-fits-all platform that works for small businesses who want to hang up an online shingle.

Front end solutions

As the name implies, this solution focuses on what the client sees – the front end. The front end includes features like fonts, colors, drop-down menus, image sliders, shopping cards, and search bars. Vue Storefront is an example of a progressive web application (PWA) front end solution. This platform runs independently; thus, does not require a back end platform.

Add-on solutions

An add-on solution fits somewhere in between monolithic and front end solutions. These microservices or headless systems decouple (disconnect) the front end and back end of ecommerce. This allows the user to scale the front end and back end separately. DEAR Systems is an add-on solution that allows you to automate the back end processes while pushing product data to any platform of your choice.

Benefits of implementing headless ecommerce

Prior to the global pandemic, headless systems were a luxury. Today, meeting the expectations of customers almost commands an upgrade. Here are some of the biggest advantages to moving to a headless system:

1. Flexibility to build, scale, and integrate

One of the biggest setbacks of using an end-to-end ecommerce platform is being stuck within it! All-in-one solutions are truly one-size solutions. You do not have control over the functionality of the platform unless it’s already existing within the platform.

With a headless solution, you can build different modules using coding technology to suit your requirements. Additionally, you can integrate other technologies into specific modules of your choice. Modules can scale independently of each other. Headless systems allow administrators  to solve language barriers by delivering specific data sets to different regions by using funnel viewers and other tools.

2. Ease of development and faster time to market

With a headless system, you can have multiple front end solutions connected to one back end system. Businesses can use software they are familiar with; thus, eliminating development costs and time. This allows you to quickly implement multiple touchpoints on the front end.

Essentially, your business can react to market trends rapidly without compromising back end functionality.

3. Full control over platform and selling capabilities

With a monolithic solution, you have very little control over how the platform facilitates different functionalities. But with a self-managed headless platform, you have full control over the choice of front end delivery services, tools, and back end solutions. Unlike traditional architecture, you can swap any service for a newer version with virtually no impact on other services.

Services can be built to exact functionality requirements without disrupting architecture-specific constraints.

4. Minimize marketing costs and conversion rate optimization

Implementing headless commerce provides unparalleled control which in turn lowers marketing costs. It gives you greater control over content delivery to improve organic traffic through platform-specific campaigns and collaborations with marketing experts.

Undoubtedly, this improves conversion rate optimization and lowers lead acquisition costs. However, one of the biggest advantages of the decoupled architecture is that marketing efforts can be centralized in an effective way.

Limitations of headless ecommerce architecture

It may seem like an all-star solution but headless commerce has some limitations.

Even with a well-executed headless architecture, often you’re confined by application programming interface (API) connectivity issues associated with other platforms or services. API is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Problems with API connectivity are infrequent. But when they do occur, workarounds can be tough.

Additionally, it may make sense to continue using your existing front end solutions. For example, using the WooCommerce plugin with WordPress may be sufficient for your needs. In that case, it may not make sense to swap out both front end and back end services, making a headless solution more solution than you need.

Finally, even though services aren’t coupled tightly, you need to keep the coordination tightly coupled. Failing to do so leads to a much longer development cycle.

How to decide if a headless ecommerce system makes sense for you

We’ve assembled these questions to help you decide if a headless system makes sense for your ecommerce business.

  • Do you want to incorporate multichannel selling? 

Multichannel selling is customer-centric selling no matter what platform your customers use. The flexibility of a headless system allows sellers to quickly effect changes on the front end to meet customer touchpoints. Moving to a headless system makes sense for those businesses serious about multichannel selling.

  • Do you outsource front end and back end development?

If your business outsources development, a headless system doesn’t make sense. It is better suited for those businesses that keep their development in-house.

  • Does your business handle technically sophisticated platforms using an in-house team?

If your company has an in-house tech team and stack of tools to take care of the development process, headless ecommerce is the right choice.

  • What are your content distribution needs?

A headless system is most beneficial for those companies that are innovators and  trend setters with a constant stream of new content across multiple channels to meet the growing demands of their customers.

  • How much do you want to invest in your ecommerce solution?

A new headless system requires a significant investment in both time and money to fully customize its features to work for your business. If your company doesn’t have the human or financial capital required to get up and running, a headless system is not right for you.

  • What sort of long-term value are you hoping to achieve by upgrading to a headless ecommerce platform?

If your business goals include becoming a market leader and converting more sales through strong brand recognition, a headless system makes sense.

Build a headless ecommerce stack with DEAR Systems

Headless ecommerce is becoming increasingly common as we progress into 2022. This is owing to a growing number of platforms and evolving content consumption preferences. Newer methods of distributing and consuming content demand upgrades to platform-native user experiences and selling capabilities. Headless systems are especially beneficial for early adopters outperform the competition.

With DEAR Systems, you can integrate your back end services and applications to ensure a seamless front end experience no matter where you want to display products. It has top-of-the-line features that boost collaboration between internal and external teams, thereby streamlining operations. DEAR Systems is a perfect solution for ecommerce sellers looking to start building a headless ecommerce stack.

Try a 14 day free trial of DEAR Systems.

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