eCommerce Marketing

Tessa Wuertz Posted by Tessa Wuertz on April 18, 2019

What is Headless Commerce & Why is the eCommerce Industry Buzzing About It?

What is Headless Commerce & Why is the eCommerce Industry Buzzing About It?

All the talk about headless eCommerce giving you a headache? 

Pardon the play on words... but if you work in the retail or eCommerce world, you might hear the term “headless eCommerce” thrown around more and more lately. But what does it truly mean? Is it the same as a monolithic system? As with most buzzwords, it’s crucial to take the time to fully understand what headless eCommerce is to fully understand how and if it could benefit your business.

At efelle, we’ve been familiar with the term “headless,” for quite some time, so we want to break it down in terms that actually make sense for business owners.

The Current System of eCommerce

First, we have to start by explaining how the current system of eCommerce works. At efelle, we have both front-end and back-end developers who work on each part. In the most simple of terms, front-end developers create what users see; they take the designs from our visual designers and develop them into the site. The back-end developers work to create the functionality behind the user experience, including the server, any applications, and the database.

For example, if you’re buying concert tickets online, a front-end developer is going to build out the website you interact with as a user and purchaser-- they ensure that your experience is seamless, no matter what device is used for browsing. The back-end developer is in charge of the system that connects the ticket app and your data, so that when you make a purchase all the systems that need to be notified are alerted that a transaction has occurred.This system notifies the venue’s platform that less ticket is available, ensures your ticket is delivered, and payment is transferred from the funding source to the online store. As you can see, when you go online to purchase that concert ticket, there’s a lot of unseen work going on behind the scenes.

Currently, the traditional eCommerce system allows for this incredible type of functionality but can in some ways limit design. Say, for marketing, you are looking to make a quick change on the front-end of your website, it is often limited by what the back-end can do. Not to say that the back-end is something that is limiting because it offers an immense amount of functionality--but like most things, it can’t do it all.

So what is headless commerce?

This is where the idea of headless eCommerce comes in. Headless eCommerce is decoupling the front-end and back-end of your website. There is no functional overlap in the CMS (which manages the site’s front-end content) and eCommerce system, so each can do what they do best without slowing the other side down. A CMS will allow you to create the unique customer experience and the eCommerce engine will work to do the actual exchange of currency and functionality that it entails.

Why is this important for functionality?

The decoupled front and back-end allow for you to make much quicker changes to each side without making changes to the other. There can be a cache stored between the layers that will hold the changes made and allows for new integrations to be introduced in much less time.

This format also allows for marketers to be agile with cross-channel advertising, personalization, and frequently updated campaigns. Changes can be made quickly and easily without the help of IT or reaching out to your backend developer. 

Why is this important for brands?

As more and more businesses move towards eCommerce, consumers are expecting more robust experiences online. They are no longer just hoping to hop on a website and buy something, but they want to feel the full experience online. With so many digitally native brands that don’t even have a brick-and-mortar shop, it’s important for them to offer a memorable experience.

Think about when you walk into your favorite local shop--every couple of months they rearrange the store, update the look a bit, and offer new merchandise. With headless commerce, online stores can offer this same type of differentiation and frequent changes without having to do a full redesign with the back-end every time. Any architecture integrations you seek are no longer packaged together, so you don’t have to edit in bulk.

Who is it right for?

As with most systems, it really depends on your business, logistics, and your goals. Here's a few instances in which you might consider looking into headless commerce: 

  • If you're looking to create new customer experiences often and quickly
  • Your company is seeking or going to experience rapid growth
  • Content comes quickly from your team with your strategy changing often
  • Your customer journey requires consistent omnichannel epxeriences

Not sure where to start? We can help!

Are you considering a rebuild of your eCommerce store? Not sure if headless is right for you? Our team has worked for over 13 years to figure out the best strategies for businesses large and small. Give us a ring at 206.384.4909 or reach out via our online contact form and let's talk eCommerce!