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Headless eCommerce: Is This The Future of Retail?

To keep up to speed with the ever-changing world of ecommerce, more retailers are moving on to headless ecommerce approaches. Headless eCommerce allows companies to provide digital-first, customer-centric buying experiences.

In this Headless eCommerce guide, we will cover the growth of headless ecommerce, what it means and why it's important. We'll also take a look at how you can build a headless infrastructure, an overview of its parts and components, and how it can improve your storefronts.

At its most basic terms, headless ecommerce gets rid of your website's "head" (also known as the front-end template or theme). This decouples it from the back-end and allows only it to store, manage, and deliver content. Doing so allows front-end developers to freely use any framework they want to show the content on.

Because headless infrastructure separates the front- and back-end, eCommerce merchants can deliver things like content, products, and payment gateways to more channels than ever before.

What sets Headless Commerce apart?

Originally, eCommerce systems were just intended to allow users to make purchases from their desktops. This indicates that the platforms only have a single structure with tightly coupled back-end and front-ends.

However, a lot has changed in the world of eCommerce. The advent of mobile commerce, as well as omnichannel experiences, has brands and retailers searching for better, more flexible solutions.

Enter headless eCommerce.

Headless Commerce is an eCommerce system in which an eCommerce platform's front-end and back-end operate independently. To illustrate, the "head" represents the front-end and the "body" represents the back-end. Usually, like in Shopify, both the front-end and the back-end are operated by the same system.

How does headless eCommerce work?

In traditional commerce, the front-end and back-end are connected in a monolithic architecture. This means that brands using traditional eCommerce are constrained by the existing architecture and database.

With a headless Shopify store, your front-end can be modified without having to adjust the database. This gives you flexibility and freedom because your design team won't be limited by the platform's capabilities. It's also a cost-effective and time-saving way to make changes to your website.

Every eCommerce website has two functioning parts, the front-end, and the back-end

Front-end

  • Customer-facing part of an eCommerce site
  • Also called the client-side
  • Cannot store and retrieve data

This includes things like the fonts, colors, buttons, images, and menus that you and your website visitors can see and use.

All of these things are made up of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, which are controlled by browsers. These scripts are responsible for providing your website with essential functions like text and images, as well as adjusting fonts, sizes, and colors.

For example, if you want to start selling luxury brands, you have to build a website, upload photographs, or enter information. This is the front end at work. With just the frontend, consumers or website visitors can't fill out forms, place orders, or leave reviews.

Back-end:

  • Known as the server-side
  • Not visible to users or client-side. Basically behind-the-scenes part of your website
  • Used to store and retrieve needed information

This is what lets your customers do things like leave comments, place orders, and write reviews on your site. It saves and receives information that helps the frontend work. Programming languages like Ruby, Python, Java, and.Net are used for backend development.

When a consumer fills out an order form, for example, the browser makes a request to the server, requesting the required data. This information is processed by the browser and delivered to users on the front end.

In short, headless eCommerce architecture consists of two layers: a presentation layer and a back-end layer. These layers communicate via APIs.

An API is essentially a set of functionality and features which process and output data - allowing applications to communicate with one another.

Presentation layer

This is where our client-facing technologies exist, such as a fast-loading Shopify store, mobile apps, IoT devices, wearables, voice commerce, and in-store KIOSK systems. Changing this layer does not affect the back-end, which is a plus. Your designers and developers will be able to deploy new ideas and technologies without constraints.

Backend layer

In a headless Shopify store, this may be seen as Shopify itself which includes the inventory, product catalogs, payments, orders, etc.

Why should a brand go headless?

Because of the rapid growth of eCommerce, consumers are no longer limited to shopping on a desktop. Nowadays, they may be shopping on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. They could even be browsing on their phones and checking out on their laptops.  Traditional CMS used to be effective for single-channel web development, but is now inefficient for multi-channel web development.

Our eCommerce sites must be able to adapt to the changing needs of our customers as a result of this shift. Traditional eCommerce systems aren't adaptable on the front end, which can make it difficult for businesses to provide a consistent user experience to their consumers.

Headless e-commerce is going to have a significant impact on the user experience. With the ability to craft unique digital experiences and personalization, businesses will quickly embrace new tech touchpoints, shape the purchasing journey, and be more engaging. The possibilities for experimentation and discovery are also virtually limitless.

Why headless commerce is the way to go

Headless eCommerce allows greater flexibility

Because of the rapid pace of change, all businesses have had to quickly adapt. Headless eCommerce firms are more likely to keep consumers pleased and continue in business.

Headless eCommerce enables businesses to stay agile

Traditional architecture impedes progress since both the front and back ends of the systems must be updated. This means more effort is expected of the IT staff, which can get expensive while customers experience the downtime.

Headless eCommerce can save money in the long run

While there has to be a considerable bit of investment in establishing a new headless ecommerce system, once it’s up and running, tech teams will save substantial time and money.

Easier employee adoption

Because of the technology's simplicity, even staff who aren't programmers or developers can readily update the front end. Employees with more creative capabilities can be involved in building the interfaces — making full use of their expertise.

Shorter time to market

New front end experiences may be introduced immediately without having to wait for the backend, resulting in a shorter time to market.

Is headless ecommerce something you should consider?

If any of the following criteria are for your business, then the answer is a solid "yes."

  • You're a brand that's all about the content.
  • You're looking for a way to incorporate personalization, AI, or augmented reality into your business.
  • You wish to provide consumers with a unified digital experience across all touchpoints and devices.
  • You need a backend that can support many frontends while also functioning as a single global/multi-site solution.
  • The CMS you're using already has e-commerce capabilities, but you'd like to extend that functionality.
  • You sell online and have a separate content site that you wish to integrate.

Is Headless eCommerce the Future of Retail?

Maybe yes, but don't expect anything drastic overnight. It's more likely that headless commerce will be adopted by big retailers first before being embraced by small businesses. To start with, it's quite costly to implement this technology and it requires an engineering team which smaller companies do not have at their disposal.

As the retail industry continues to evolve, many of today's companies are finding that they must change and adapt to compete with e-commerce giants like Amazon. While some retailers have tried to compete by offering unique, high-quality products or exclusive discounts, others are beginning to shift their focus away from physical storefronts and instead developing headless commerce sites.

 A headless approach allows brands and retailers to build apps and websites that are fully responsive and work on any device without having to rely on a single frontend technology stack. This approach is being adopted by more businesses as we speak, with predictions that headless commerce will be the norm within a decade.

So what does that mean for individual companies? It means they need to quickly adjust their business models and customer relationship management (CRM) strategies to meet different customer expectations.

Headless commerce might be the future of retail, but it's important to note that it's not a cure-all. 

WRAPPING UP

Choosing to switch to headless eCommerce is a big decision as you will essentially be building your website back from scratch. There are however benefits to it especially if your business is steady and making big profits.

If you choose to go for a headless Shopify store, choosing a team to work with can help ease the time and cost spent because you’ll be working with experts.

Who is Webinopoly and what can we do for you?

Webinopoly is an Award-Winning Digital Agency and are experts in Design, Setup, Development, and Marketing. At Webinopoly, we strive to create solutions that help your business grow and give you more out of Shopify.

If you’re ready to get started, contact your Shopify experts at Webinopoly here or view our recent work here.

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