Although the first online marketplace, the Boston Computer Exchange, was launched in 1982, eCommerce really gained traction in the late 90s with the launch of stores like Amazon and eBay. Now, with tens of millions of websites, eCommerce is one of the biggest industries around the world.
With that much competition, everyone wants to stand out from the crowd with the best features and excellent UI. Most websites use traditional eCommerce platforms for an easy development process. However, with these platforms, the frontend (the part of any website or application visible to and interacted with by the users) is functionally linked to the backend (basically, the part that handles data storage, order processing and everything else the users can’t see). That means any change they make will affect both the frontend and the backend of the website, which can be a bit of a headache because you will miss out on so many great features and creative ideas.
That’s where Headless eCommerce comes in. The headless eCommerce platforms let the developers separate the frontend and the backend of an eCommerce website so that they can be worked on separately.
What Is Headless eCommerce Architecture?
As eCommerce businesses try to keep up with current trends, over $1.65 billion was raised for headless technologies in 2020–2021 , according to Forbes.
With headless eCommerce platforms, you can design the frontend or UI of your online marketplace however you fancy without any impact on the backend features and functionalities. Similarly, you can add and modify whatever features you want on the website or application without worrying about how it may affect the UI/UX.
But how does headless eCommerce work? Although it may seem that the frontend and backend systems are completely separate in the headless eCommerce platforms, that’s not the case.
The two systems are connected with the APIs (application program interfaces) to exchange real-time information. It helps test and experiment within both environments independently, but the data exchange keeps intact.
Why Is Headless eCommerce Gaining Popularity?
Most online marketplaces and small businesses, nowadays, prefer headless eCommerce because it gives them the ability to make changes and roll out the updates to the frontend and backend independently. Moreover, the updates are developed and launched fairly quickly to ensure there is no impact on web traffic and sales. Plus, little to no work would be required to make any backend alterations, and the UI/UX would be unaffected.
You can choose any backend system for setting up your online marketplace as long as they are not linked to a particular eCommerce development platform and can provide an API.
A headless eCommerce platform lets you develop the backend of an online store without worrying about how the changes may affect the frontend systems. Plus, you can design the best user experience possible after researching the target audience’s preferences. That will ensure your website stands out amongst the crowd, and the web traffic will be higher because the potential users like what they see.
Last but not least, with the headless platforms, you can switch the backend and frontend systems as many times as you want. And connecting the front and backend systems through APIs ensure data exchange and storage stays intact.
Headless eCommerce Vs Traditional eCommerce
Traditional platforms allow you to develop eCommerce websites monolithically, which means the frontend and backend systems will work in tandem. On the other hand, headless eCommerce platforms let you split the frontend and backend systems so that the developers can work on them independently.
Let’s check out other differences between the two types of eCommerce development platforms.
|Parameters||Traditional eCommerce||Headless eCommerce|
|Flexibility||These platforms let you create the eCommerce websites monolithically, meaning the frontend and backend will have to be worked on together.||These platforms let you separate the frontend and backend of the websites so that they can be worked on independently, giving you more flexibility.|
|Scalability||Since the frontend and backend work in tandem, it will be more difficult to add features to either system without impacting the other.||Since the frontend and backend can be worked on separately, you can scale the website up or down pretty easily.|
|Security||Because the websites are built monolithically, access to the frontend would mean a more accessible and vulnerable backend.||With headless platforms, you can protect the frontend and backend of a website independently, increasing overall security.|
|Implementation||In the case of a traditional eCommerce website, you will need an understanding of both frontend and backend development.||You only need to understand one system (backend or frontend) since they can be worked on separately.|
|Cost||More cost-effective since you don’t need two separate systems.||More expensive since you will need separate systems for frontend and backend, and the cost may further depend upon the development stage.|
|Integration||With traditional platforms, you may not be able to integrate other systems like payment systems, inventory management systems, etc. in your small business eCommerce platforms.||Front-end and back-end systems are connected with API. So you can integrate the back-end of your website with your other systems for better functionality.|
|Customization||Although you can customize your small business eCommerce website, traditional eCommerce platforms don’t let you choose the choice of front-end platform||With headless eCommerce platforms, you can choose any front-end platform you desire to ensure extensive customizations for your small business eCommerce websites.|
|User-friendliness||More user-friendly||Less user-friendly.|
Key Benefits Of Headless eCommerce
Headless platforms can be beneficial for eCommerce development in the following ways:
Effortless Omnichannel Retailing
Headless eCommerce is excellent for omnichannel retailing, which means you can sell your products and services through various channels like blogs, paid ads, social media channels, etc. Moreover, with a creative team, you can also choose to promote through PWA (progressive web apps), digital billboards, Alexa skills, and even those advanced fridges with interactive screens (you can use to promote F&B websites).
And the plus point is that omnichannel marketing approaches are available as stock with the packages offered by the headless eCommerce platforms.
One of the most significant aspects of a digital marketing strategy is setting up a brand-new website for a particular business or person. Headless eCommerce platforms help set up the online store in days rather than weeks or months, making it much easier and quicker for the market team to implement the strategy.
The headless eCommerce platforms include APIs, like GraphSQL, by default. So it is easier for them to connect and communicate with other platforms. So basically, with headless platforms, you can help your brand and business reach more customers through varied devices simultaneously. To make things even better, this process of integrating different devices will take just hours rather than weeks or months.
Faster Public Launch
Creating a multichannel retail strategy for small businesses through traditional eCommerce platforms can be slow and quite painstaking. But through headless platforms, you can focus on creating the best frontend systems for different devices while the backend is housed on a central server and delivered as required via APIs. That improves the time it will take you to launch your eCommerce website publicly.
New technologies are so frequent in today’s day and age that you have to be attentive enough to provide customers with regular updates. That’s how you stay ahead of the competition. Major players in the eCommerce industry roll out updates every few days and even hours (and you won’t believe it, some companies, like Amazon, roll out updates every few seconds).
In tough economic times, businesses will likely look for ways to cut costs, including marketing studies throughout the recessions of the 1900s and early 2000s, and during the Coronavirus pandemic, that tell a different story.
So, keeping up with marketing during these times can help you stand out from the crowd, take advantage of a market with less competition, and build your brand’s reputation as stable and reliable even when things are going wrong.
Consistent User Experience
With headless eCommerce platforms, you can ensure excellent user experience by changing the frontend consistently while maintaining the features and functionalities of the website. Moreover, you can take customer data and their likes and dislikes in the background. According to that, you can model the website for the best user experience possible.
Headless platforms enable you to separate the frontend from the backend, which means you can try out different templates on your website to see which one doesn’t just look good but also ties everything together to provide the users with a seamless experience on the website. So when the users like what they see on the website, it results in a positive conversion rate.
Although these benefits might be enough to attest to the growing popularity of Headless eCommerce for small businesses, they have a few drawbacks as well, like any other software.
Drawbacks Of Headless eCommerce
Headless eCommerce has several drawbacks, and here are two of the most significant ones:
Headless eCommerce only offers a backend on the website, so you’ll have to either create the frontend on your own or hire a professional frontend headless eCommerce development company for it. Now, although that means you can create a fully unique UI to ensure the best user experience, it will also be costly and time-consuming.
Moreover, when the same or different landing pages are supposed to be launched on different devices, the marketing team will have to depend heavily on the IT team, which may drive up the development cost.
When it comes to normal websites and applications made with traditional platforms, you can create content and see how they will look on the front end in real time and make suitable changes. But when it comes to headless systems, there is no frontend by default. So the marketers will have to wait on the IT team to create the frontend. After that, the marketing team will be able to implement their strategies. So you can say headless platforms are not very marketing-friendly, which is not ideal for eCommerce websites.
Now that you have seen the benefits and drawbacks of headless eCommerce for small businesses, it might be easier to make up your mind on whether or not it is better for you than traditional eCommerce platforms.
How Headless eCommerce Supports Omnichannel Retail?
Omnichannel retail improves the user experience by integrating the offline or in-store experience with the ease of online shopping. This retail model allows customers to easily move from online to offline and vice-versa.
Let’s take an example. Tesla still doesn’t have physical showrooms like other brands in so many cities. But you may find a Tesla Gallery, which is a perfect example of Omnichannel retail. These galleries let you browse through the Tesla products and experience them IRL. When you are ready to make a decision, you can order the car through Tesla’s website, thereby combining online and offline channels effectively.
Moreover, with a headless platform, you can devise a completely unique frontend that will be consistent throughout different channels (like websites, mobile applications, social media, etc.) and different devices to ensure the best user experience.
Implementing Headless eCommerce Architecture
First, let’s see how you can evaluate if headless eCommerce architecture is suitable for your small business eCommerce website.
When evaluating if headless eCommerce is the right choice for your business, there are several factors to consider:
Implementing a headless eCommerce architecture requires a high level of technical expertise and experience. If your team lacks the necessary skills, it may be more challenging to implement and maintain.
Flexibility And Scalability
A headless eCommerce architecture allows for greater flexibility and scalability, as the frontend and backend can be developed and updated separately. This can make it easier to add new features and make changes to the website over time.
Performance And Speed
Headless eCommerce for small businesses can potentially improve performance and speed, as the frontend and backend can be optimized separately. This can lead to a better user experience for customers.
Integration With Existing Systems
Headless eCommerce allows for easy integration with other systems such as payment processors and inventory management systems, as the backend can be built using the technology of your choice.
Cost And Resources
Implementing headless eCommerce for small business websites can be more expensive and resource-intensive compared to traditional eCommerce solutions, as it requires a high level of technical expertise.
Headless eCommerce may not be suitable for every business. It is important to consider the specific requirements of your business, and whether headless eCommerce can meet those needs.
It is also important to weigh the pros and cons and consider if headless eCommerce aligns with the overall strategy and goals of the business. It is also recommended to consult with experts in the field to have a better understanding of the implications and costs of the implementation.
3 Headless Commerce Platforms To Consider
Several headless eCommerce platforms are available to create eCommerce websites with fully-customized frontend for a superior user experience. Here are three of the most common ones:
Shopify is a headless SaaS eCommerce development platform to turn any digital screen into an online store. It even integrates with other third-party frontend systems like CMSs, CRMs, ERPs, etc., to ensure the website is user-friendly and functional.
Adobe Commerce is a headless platform that offers highly-customizable eCommerce development. Plus, there are several omnichannel retail solutions to integrate online and offline shopping to ensure a superior user experience.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
This headless platform helps create a highly secure and scalable eCommerce website through an agile development approach. Also, it’s more easy to use than several other headless eCommerce platforms.
There are several other headless platforms available on the internet to create the best small business eCommerce websites. But choosing amongst them is purely dependent on your requirements and expectations from them. So take a look at all of them and choose accordingly.
Conclusion – Which eCommerce Solution Is Right For You?
Small businesses with eCommerce websites prefer headless platforms separate the frontend and backend systems with APIs to ensure more customizability without impacting the backend features and functionalities. That’s why these platforms are gaining popularity, making you wonder whether you should choose them over traditional platforms.
To make the right choice, you must see if the headless platform can help alleviate any of the issues you might have with traditional platforms. Moreover, will any of the drawbacks of a headless platform, i.e. higher expenses and marketing issues, impact your business negatively? Only after carefully weighing all your options and their effects on your business operations should you make the final choice.
Although traditional eCommerce platforms tend to be less expensive and better for the marketing team, the headless platforms separate the frontend and backend systems with an API. So you can easily make changes in the frontend to create the best user interface without worrying about its impact on the backend operations. That’s why companies looking to make extensive customizations in their online stores usually choose headless eCommerce platforms.