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Understanding headless commerce: what it is and why it matters for your business

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Headless commerce offers numerous benefits that enable you to improve customer engagement and grow your business. Find out here how to harness the power of headless commerce to boost your online sales, performance and brand recognition.

In the old days of e-commerce, users relied on their desktop browsers to search for products, compare items and make purchases. These days, however, consumers have many more ways to activate their digital spending, from mobile apps to wearables to the "internet of things."

It’s critical for brands to embrace innovation, continually adapting to digital-first experiences in order to attract and retain buyers. That’s where headless commerce comes in.

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Headless commerce platforms explained

What is headless commerce?

Headless commerce is an e-commerce solution in which the front end (or "head") of the content management system (CMS) has been removed but the back end remains intact. The front end is the part of the software the user interacts with, like a website, mobile app or smartwatch. The back end is where the software gets its functionality, like the business logic and the data model.

By separating (aka decoupling) the front-end user experience from the back-end business logic, you can add, remove or update various "heads" without disrupting the back end. So, in a nutshell, a headless CMS separates back-end content creation and management from front-end content formatting and distribution.

How does headless commerce work?

Headless commerce works by passing requests between the back-end content repository and the front-end display layer via application programming interface (API) technology. This technology enables a variety of applications—including e-commerce tools like a product information management platform and order management system—to work together but remain functionally independent.

With a headless commerce platform, you can access the back-end functionality with APIs and build various "heads" (aka, user interfaces) on top. A traditional e-commerce platform, on the other hand, has a predefined front end that’s tightly coupled with the back end. That means the platform can only deliver content to websites and perhaps native mobile apps, but nothing more. Headless commerce allows you to deliver things like content, products and payment gateways to a variety of platforms, such as kiosk screens, smartwatches and more.

What are the benefits of headless commerce?

Headless commerce offers numerous benefits that enable you to improve customer engagement and grow your business. Consider these five benefits of making the switch to headless commerce.
  1. Omnichannel deployment: Since most consumers engage with more than one channel on their shopping journey, your brand can’t afford to stick with single-channel delivery. Headless commerce can help your company get more products on more channels without disrupting current processes. That’s because headless commerce enables multiple front ends to be connected to the same back end. With a headless commerce platform, you don’t have to rebuild your system to publish across multiple channels. You can reach consumers on desktop websites and mobile apps as well as innovative touchpoints like digital signage, Alexa Skills and even smart appliances.
  2. Customer personalization: While a traditional commerce platform offers a predefined user experience, headless commerce provides your brand with greater control over the look and feel of the platform as well as the user experience. A headless commerce system makes personalization possible because you’re not constrained by a prepackaged front end. And when your business invests in personalization, you’ll be able to see a clear return on investment in the form of consumer loyalty and sales.
  3. Time savings: In order to grow your business, you must be able to pivot quickly to meet customers at their preferred point of purchase. With headless commerce, you won’t need an arduous development process for every user interface change. Instead, your developers can make agile changes to the front end, potentially using headless templates or other partner solutions to quickly launch e-commerce apps that boost conversion. This saves valuable time, thereby decreasing the time to market for new front-end experiences.
  4. Cost savings: Saving time translates to saving money, and speed to market is also tied to increased cash flow. A headless commerce system allows you to eliminate costly back-end development for every new front-end initiative. After all, it’s the back-end business logic, functionality and capabilities that comprise the lion’s share of the software development process. With headless commerce, you can quickly launch new touchpoints without spending a bundle on new design and development.
  5. Flexibility: Why rely on monolithic, all-in-one software when you can create a tech stack that’s unique to your organization? With headless commerce, you can switch out applications as needed, ensuring that your software does exactly what your business needs it to do at any point in time. By harnessing the agility of APIs, you can create your own software solution that’s just right for your brand.

Want to future-proof your business? Make the switch to headless commerce today.

Robyn Tellefsen
About the Author
Robyn Tellefsen
Robyn Tellefsen is a writer for Brightspot. She has 20+ years of experience creating and editing fresh, original content to help brands achieve their business goals. Robyn is a skilled communicator, with expertise across multiple verticals and media. When she’s not writing, you can find her absorbed in the pages of a novel.

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