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What is a Headless Ecommerce Platform

December 19th, 2022 | 5 min. read

What is a Headless Ecommerce Platform Blog Feature

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As the world of ecommerce continues to evolve and buyers’ expectations increase, businesses are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors with optimized functionality, high-quality products, and a personalized digital experience. 

The desire to effectively balance business needs with customer needs has led to the growing trend of headless ecommerce solutions. But what is headless commerce? 

Understanding the Headless Platform 

The official definition of headless commerce is the separation of the frontend and backend systems of an ecommerce application. 

When we talk about headless ecommerce, we are talking about decoupling the customer-facing storefront from all the background tools that make sure your business is running continuously. For an ecommerce business, when you separate the frontend from the backend, you get more flexibility in the customer experiences you create. 

Headless architecture is the most common way to build a personalized, consistent experience with the fast cycle times ecommerce businesses need. However, headless commerce solutions often require re-coding of your website from the ground up, taking a huge investment in time and resources, often including an expensive development team. Given the labor and cost of going headless, large retailers with significant budgets tend to be the ones able to take advantage of this functionality. 

We wrote another article you might find helpful: Why the Grass Isn’t Always Greener When You Replatform to Headless. 

Understanding Headless Commerce Architecture 

Traditional ecommerce platforms are built with a monolithic architecture. The key to this type of architecture being “mono” (or one) is that everything is built inside of a single codebase – user interface, business codes, database calls – all in one architecture. Monolithic architecture has its advantages including that its straightforward and easy to use when starting an ecommerce store. However, there are disadvantages including it being hard to implement new features on both the front end and back end, and it can be painfully slow when trying to manage an omnichannel experience.  

As described above, headless architecture separates the frontend (or head) from the backend commerce functionality. Because of this separation, the “head” or user interface portion of the ecommerce solution can be handled as an entirely separate solution without interfering with the backend of the ecommerce solution. 

A headless approach allows for a frontend presentation layer that is built entirely from scratch, without the confines of predefined frontend tools or templates with optimization in mind. This allows for limitless customization of touchpoints with the flexibility to adjust frontend sales tools.  

If you are going down the path of re-platforming your ecommerce site, this article is also helpful: How to Make Headless Less of a Headache

Benefits of Headless Commerce 

As an ecommerce business, you know that delivering a customer-centric experience is key to building a successful online store. Research from Vanson Boume indicates 92% of respondents agree that headless technology goes hand-in-hand with delivering this personalized, customer experience. 

Developing a customized user experience will be key to success as consumers’ demand for a personalized ecommerce experience continues to grow. Organizations must build the architecture that allows for this frontend personalization without significant delay in ecommerce functionality. Gartner indicates by 2023, organizations that have adopted an intelligent, composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation. Going headless puts the necessary architecture in place to allow for rapid deployment. 

Beyond an easily deployed personalized user experience, going headless allows for a framework that delivers: 

  • Faster time to market on new trends
  • Better site performance and loading times
  • Consistent brand front-end experience with unlimited customization
  • Rapid experimentation
  • Ease of best-in-class solution integration

Headless Ecommerce Solution 

Historically, creating a headless ecommerce website has required re-platforming, which takes valuable resources – time and money being the main two.  But there are other solutions, such as Creator Frontend, that can give you the benefits of a headless ecommerce platform without the expense and time constraints. To help you make the right decision for your business needs, we created an ebook that explores the 5 biggest pitfalls with a headless migration (and how to avoid them).    

Have some questions for our team? We are available on chat or send us your question and one of our solutions advisors will reach out to you.