Why is Alokai the perfect “head” for the commercetools platform?

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Why is Alokai the perfect “head” for the commercetools platform?



February 5, 2021

Headless platforms are becoming the eCommerce industry-standard as businesses are forced to acknowledge that there is no way to foresee the future and prepare for the unknown. Decoupling the backend system from the frontend layer and, in doing so, freeing it from code dependencies and resource bottlenecks is the first step in becoming "future-proof". There’s more to it, to be sure, but here is what you should take into account at the beginning of your journey. 

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You should definitely assemble a “team” of services, starting from the most crucial one - the eCommerce platform. Why? It will be - without exaggeration - the heart and soul of your eCommerce business. It provides all the necessary features, without which it is difficult to even imagine a modern e-shop; it takes care of the business logic, data storage, and much more. Long story short, it is the foundation of every eCommerce business, so you must choose wisely. Switching at a later date will not be easy. 

It might not seem that difficult if we have already decided to take the headless approach. In practice, however, the “headless” term is often more a hollow marketing claim than a binding promise. The research, then, must be thorough and include technical documentation rather than sales pitch decks. The more the “headless” trend gains recognition, the more often significant vendors try to jump on the bandwagon and implement an API-first solution, which is often not scalable. These are the first speed bumps you may encounter on your future-proofing journey.

Having APIs on its own is not sufficient if they are not designed for scale. Good luck with consuming product data for your frontend via SOAP in Magento 1. Larger players are waking up to this as they cannot rely on their market dominance alone anymore, but the transformation is either incomplete or with more or less success.

Halil Köklü, CTO at LoveCrafts

LoveCrafts is one of the largest crafting community websites and marketplaces in the world, shipping to over two hundred countries.

When the company made the decision to switch from Magento to commercetools, it had to choose a frontend for its new headless architecture.

There were four options on the table: Extend the community frontend built on Symfony and Backbone, use a traditional CMS with commercetools integration, build their own frontend or build on top of an existing but modern and flexible backend-agnostic frontend. 

Option number four was the clear winner. 

The joint forces of Alokai and commercetools turned out to be the best way to provide LoveCrafts with the flexibility needed in the eCommerce industry.

A colleague mentioned Alokai to me and we were excited straightaway. We discussed the fact that VSF relies on normalization to be backend-agnostic, so things like product data are indexed into an ElasticSearch cluster which VSF can read from. commercetools already has great APIs so we didn’t need that but the team pitched Alokai Next to me on the spot. It interacts with backends through contracts, each integration is responsible for implementing a contract. These contracts are composable, so you can load e.g. categories from a different backend than products. Or you can go and build your own composable. It sounded exciting, almost too good.”

Halil Köklü, CTO at LoveCrafts

The open-source integration with commercetools couldn't have been done without LoveCrafts' trust and financing.

Moving towards a truly modular architecture must be done without compromise. As mentioned previously, any APIs must be fully scalable to be efficient. If they are not, the desired “freedom from code dependencies” will simply not happen. So what is the solution, besides in-depth and time-consuming research of every possible vendor? 

There are no shortcuts, of course, but narrowing the possibilities down to providers that were headless and API-first before it was fashionable seems to be a reasonable approach. 

And this leads us, inevitably, to commercetools. 

Don’t take just my word for it:

Contenders like commercetools, who started with headless, had a good head start and are spearheading this development as it requires a lot of investment to migrate full-stack to headless.

Halil Köklü, CTO at LoveCrafts

The "next-generation software company" claim in the "About Us” section on the commercetools website is not just PR bluster. 

Unlike other competitors that have been on the market for some time, the people at commercetools firmly believed in the headless and cloud-native approach from the very beginning. The founders didn't even bother building a downloadable piece of software, forcing customers to install it on their own. Instead, they created an entirely cloud-hosted eCommerce platform and a powerful API. All of this enables users to get access to the platform without worrying about any infrastructure-related issues; it’s enough to create an account and then freely integrate your store with any third-party tools.

The API-first nature of commercetools was praised by Forrester’s analytics for “setting up developer-friendly APIs backed by cloud-native microservices in a multi-tenant architecture”*. And we couldn’t put it better ourselves. This company, unlike other competitors with a “headless claim” on their banner, has gone with a genuinely headless approach from the very beginning, believing that the API-first approach is the answer to the challenges that modern eCommerce brands face. The traditional, all-in-one commerce platforms that once dominated the industry have become too complex to update, adapt and maintain, which is why API-centered architecture has come to the fore. 

Appreciation for solutions such as commercetools was just a matter of time - but still, it is astonishing how fast it came.

“commercetools skyrocketed from a modest ‘Contender’ in 2018 to the ‘Leader’ position in just two years. It is proof that microservices are the future of the eCommerce industry and we are on the verge of a great transformation.” 

Tomasz Karwatka (Catch the Tornado). 

How to choose a “head” for your headless platform? 

commercetools, despite being a genuinely headless platform, came with an optional "head", providing the basic front-end features. Nonetheless, choosing a more advanced solution is recommended by commercetools themselves. As a MACH advocate, this company does not shy away from admitting that the front-end is not exactly its cup of tea. Therefore, it also appoints specific, suitable vendors that can be considered instead of commercetools own, default front-end.

The best place to search for them is the commercetools marketplace, in which Alokai is a featured integration for the front-end, among other third-party services playing a different role.

Commercetools is doing an outstanding job of focusing on the eCommerce backend and the API-first approach. Alokai is great at giving developers a framework on which they can build amazing frontend experiences. What connects us is the awareness that headless is the future of eCommerce. By joining forces, we are giving merchants the opportunity to quickly adapt to a new era of eCommerce that is future-proof.

Patrick Friday, CEO, Co-Founder of Alokai

Is Alokai the only option you’ve got while going with commercetools? No, by no means. Is it the easiest one to go with? For sure, especially if the desired front-end stack is Vue.js. 

In that case, as there are no Vue-js-based solutions comparable to Alokai, the only alternative is building a custom front-end. It would be a path worth considering for enterprises that want to have full and unfettered control over further development, if not for the fact that Alokai already provides this. Its core architecture is basically a standalone code library, and the out-of-the-box features that ensure compatibility with commercetools are built on top of it. To make it more UX friendly, they also can be customized freely. 




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