Going headless on a traditional eCommerce platform

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Headless Commerce

Going headless on a traditional eCommerce platform

Are you interested in going headless or composable, but you’ve invested in a traditional eCommerce platform? Going headless, and eventually composable if desired, is easier and simpler than you think.

Did you know that 80% of companies without headless architecture intend to adopt the modular approach to their tech stack in the next few years? Forbes reports that headless technology has secured more than $1.65 billion in funding during 2020-2021, with the amount raised in 2022 yet to be revealed.

Ecommerce retailers and merchants are not letting anything hold them back from exploring new ways to connect with their customers. Read on the article written by Charles Heal, Commercial Director at Vaimo to discover how you can reap the benefits of headless , without re-platforming or saying goodbye to your current traditional eCommerce solution.

What’s the difference between headless and composable?

Let’s take a look at the differences between headless and composable.

What is headless?

Headless is an approach to eCommerce architecture where the frontend or the presentation layer of a website or application is separated from the backend or the commerce functionality.

Headless commerce allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and user experience customization across multiple touchpoints, devices, and channels.

What is composable?

Composable architecture is an approach to software design and development that emphasizes the building of applications from modular, interchangeable, and composable components or microservices.

In a composable architecture, individual services or microservices are designed to be loosely coupled, independently deployable, and able to communicate with each other through standard interfaces or APIs. Think of it like a stack of Legos, that can be switched out, modified, and re-arranged.

The composable method lets developers rapidly build and iterate complex applications by assembling pre-built, reusable components rather than starting from scratch, resulting in greater agility, scalability, and resilience.

What are the benefits of headless commerce?

Here’s why you should consider going headless:

Personalized customer experiences for maximum conversions

Headless lets you tailor your customer experiences without the barriers that a traditional eCommerce platform might have in place. Because the frontend is decoupled from the backend, you can change the content layer without disturbing the underlying infrastructure.

The freedom to create customized experiences is critical in today’s eCommerce market, where word-of-mouth drives $6 trillion in annual global spending and 13% of all sales. A headless approach helps you gather content in one place, and lets you launch it anywhere, which results in quicker delivery and a better customer experience.

With all customer shopping data centralized, you can use it to personalize recommendations, promotions, and browsing options for a specific channel, creating more relevant offers to improve conversion rates.

Seamless integrations

Headless allows you to connect different tools via API, which makes it easy for software platforms to communicate with each other, and promotes seamless data connections and transfers. This flexibility expands the possibilities for your data collection and usage.

Consistent omnichannel experience

Headless helps you deliver a unified experience at every point of contact by centralizing all customer data and providing a comprehensive API layer that allows frontend developers to input commerce into any customer experience.

Being able to add new online channels on the fly gives you a big advantage in the market.

Rapid experimentation

Headless commerce allows for experimentation in creating different user experiences and pricing. You can use headless to launch new features or offerings, test discounts or promotions, try different page layouts, and build mesmerizing customer experiences without tampering with the backend.

Agility and flexibility, resulting in faster time to market

Headless commerce solutions can support new emerging technologies, enabling marketing teams to launch multiple sites quickly and keep up with ever-changing customer expectations. Headless platforms provide flexibility, allowing you to experience and innovate without compromising backend functions.

Going headless before going composable

By separating your frontend, you gain the flexibility to make modifications "behind the scenes" without affecting the user experience. While decoupling the experience layer can be a significant technical change, it usually has a minimal organizational impact.

The transition to headless can be made gradually. For instance, you could substitute your catalog navigation with a new frontend while retaining the complex checkout process on the old frontend, assuming the eCommerce engine remains the same.

By styling the old and new frontends in a way that ensures a seamless experience, you can maintain continuity. Once the transition to headless has been made, breaking down your solution into smaller parts will be easier, if you decide to go composable.

You may want to experiment with headless or composable architecture, but maybe you’ve invested in a traditional eCommerce platform or you’re in a long-term contract with a platform-based solution, such as SAP, Oracle, HCL, or Adobe.

It’s easy to go headless with a traditional eCommerce platform, and it’s even beneficial for you to do it.

The benefits of going headless before going composable

Whether you simply want to try out headless or if you intend to go fully composable in the future, we always recommend a phased approach to going composable. Going headless first mitigates the risks involved when making big technical changes to your eCommerce store.

Here’s why it’s beneficial to go headless:

  • By making a small change to your eCommerce solution, you can take note of the effects the change generates, and adjust your actions accordingly.
  • Your business might react unpredictably, such as exhibiting resistance to change or encountering unexpected bottlenecks. Going headless first enables you to address these challenges as you go, rather than dealing with all the side effects simultaneously.
  • With a headless approach, you always have a working solution, and for each small change, you have a safe fallback if the change fails or takes longer than anticipated.
  • Additionally, you can realize the benefits of headless and best-of-breed components more quickly, rather than moving to composable all at once.

As you go through the process, you may identify components that don't need to be moved to new technologies because the effort outweighs the benefit. This is less likely to happen with a full platform migration, since this conclusion may not be evident when defining your plans.

How to go headless in three easy steps

  1. Determine whether to keep or switch your eCommerce platform

Small businesses may benefit from introducing APIs and/or microservices to tactically enhance specific experiences into their existing platform and keep up with new customer expectations. Mid-market or enterprise companies may prefer to switch to a more complete and agile SaaS solution for greater scalability and flexibility in the long term.

2. Select a headless frontend

A headless frontend is the way to go if you need to deliver multiple types of content to visitors across various channels and devices. With a headless frontend, you can more easily create content logic that is tailored to each channel, behavior, and desired user experience; while an API will link your frontend and backend, delivering the appropriate content to the appropriate touchpoints.

3. Synchronize your frontend and APIs

Syncing your headless frontend is akin to "attaching a head" to it. This is a crucial aspect of the process, facilitating a seamless system that integrates the frontend users experience and backend command. If you're migrating from a traditional commerce platform, taking baby steps is advisable rather than diving in all at once. Start by creating and synchronizing APIs for smaller parts of your headless frontend, like blog section or campaign landing pages. Once you have confidence in the process and initial results, test, optimize, and scale it up.

Key takeaways

  • You can go headless without breaking your contract with your traditional eCommerce platform, such as SAP, Oracle, or Adobe.
  • Going headless does not need to be complicated. With the right partners, you can do it in small steps.
  • Headless and composable is the future of eCommerce, regardless of your eCommerce engine or platform.

Headless and composable are the future of eCommerce, and now is a great time to get started. Going headless or composable need not be an abrupt change; simply decoupling the frontend is enough to reap the benefits. And if you do decide to go for a complete replatform, a big part of it is already done.

That’s where Vaimo and Alokai come in. We are ready to guide you through the whole process, from defining the roadmap to the implementation and beyond. Let’s talk about what the first steps toward headless will look like for you.

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