The world of e-commerce has changed dramatically—and so has the technology that enables it. In the first iteration of online selling, e-commerce companies anticipated that their customers would browse and buy via their desktop computers. It made sense, given that there was no other way.
Today, e-commerce is a different story. Customers shop via multiple devices, from smartphones and tablets to laptops to Alexa and Google voice-activated assistants. For instance, consider that 92% of e-commerce order growth comes from mobile phones. Traditional e-commerce tech stacks weren’t designed to meet customer needs across various channels and devices.
Fortunately, this is where headless commerce comes into play. Headless commerce separates the customer-facing, frontend technology from the backend features and processes such as billing systems, ERP and CRM solutions. By doing so, companies can quickly adapt the applications to meet changing markets and customer demands, without impacting the critical backend systems.
The approach offers companies a myriad of benefits from increased flexibility to enhanced personalization and responsiveness. Most importantly: It allows you to better serve your customers for how they’re shopping now—and how they may buy in the future.
Headless commerce explained
Headless commerce is a concept that refers to the decoupling of the frontend and the backend systems. The “head” of your e-commerce operation is the customer-facing experience—the channels, devices, and services that your company uses to connect with customers and prospects. With traditional e-commerce technology, the shopping experience is closely tied to the backend systems—or the “body.” Altering the customer experience often means you need to make changes to the related backend solutions as well.
Headless commerce decouples customer experience and backend systems from a development perspective. For merchants, this means that you can update and improve your shopping experience without impacting the related business processes and systems. So, for example, you can update the mobile version of your website without impacting your online payments system.
Meanwhile, backend developers can continue to deliver services, regardless of how they’re delivered—via a screen, device, or even voice-activated. With headless commerce, these services and processes are available through APIs and microservices. Essentially, the customer-facing experience remains connected to the business process solutions, but one solution isn’t dependent on the other.
The benefits of headless commerce
Headless commerce is designed for modern merchants and customers. It allows companies to address how customers make purchases now as well as in the future. Consider these four ways that headless commerce could benefit your business:
1. Increased flexibility. With traditional e-commerce, the customer and business experience are fixed. Adapting the frontend to changing consumer needs means reconfiguring the backend—adding significant development work and time. With headless commerce, you can select the best of breed for each of your processes. It allows for more of a plug-and-play mentality, giving businesses the option to use a given technology specifically for what it’s best at and finding others to fill in gaps.
2. More personalization. Headless commerce also makes it possible for merchants to truly own their customer experience and personalize it to their customers’ needs. The experience is not delegated to external service providers, which may have more standardized approaches. For instance, headless commerce allows you to maintain consistent design and branding across your customer experience, whatever the channel. Consistency is critical, as customers are now more than ever apt to begin exploring your brand and product via one channel – say social media – and then research and purchase it via another. Keeping the design the same no matter what channel ensures that consumers understand and differentiate your brand from others.
3. Improved responsiveness and time-to-market. Thanks to headless commerce, you can increase your time-to-market for wholly new products as well as improvements to existing experiences. The ability to implement new customer-facing solutions without impacting the backend means that you can make small frontend adjustments every day based on evolving customer expectations and demands. For instance, you may want to add a currency or revamp the colors of your brand. You can easily make these changes, and then test continuously for better results, and not have to worry about inadvertently impacting related solutions. As an example, consider Amazon, the undeniable leader in headless commerce. The ecommerce giant reportedly deploys new releases every 11 seconds. Headless commerce makes this possible, allowing the company to continually test, measure, and then adjust its customer experience without affecting the related backend solutions.
4. Increased cost-effectiveness. With headless commerce, your e-commerce tech stack becomes more bespoke—and you’re not obligated to one monolithic provider. Instead, merchants can select the services they want and need from a myriad of providers. What’s more—you can then pay for only the services you use. For instance, with headless commerce, you might choose a product catalog solution that’s far better than the one provided by a general platform vendor. Finally, headless commerce also allows you to scale the front and backend solutions individually, which increases operational efficiency and reduces cost in the process.
A decade ago, it was hard to envision the significant role that mobile devices would play in e-commerce. Now headless commerce not only makes it possible to provide better e-commerce customer experiences via the new channels that exist today, but it also makes it easier to adapt to whatever comes next.
Learn more about headless commerce and how Nexway’s platform of digital microservices improves the customer experience, increases conversation and allows for seamless integration between e-commerce solutions and simplified payments.