Headless Commerce Explained!

If you are following latest trends in ecommerce, you have probably heard this term ‘Headless Commerce’. So what exactly is Headless Commerce and why should you care about it? Before I explain, let’s review the in our ecommerce journey and why we need to change our approach to make a case for headless commerce.

Web storefronts up until recently were monolithic applications. So – built together as one huge application with tight integration of font and back-ends. So long as it’s simply internet browsers rendering these storefronts, this model works very well. Then came mobile devices which forced us to think how do we deliver the same content in internet browsers as well as mobile devices, and hence the responsive user interface. Consumers expect all online storefronts will have a responsive user interface. So that they can consumer contents from browsers as well as mobile devices seamlessly.

Today’s Customer Channels

But now, the customer channels are not limited to web browsers and mobile devices. Google Home, Alexa, Amazon Echo are the new channels customers are buying their products from. In addition, customers have started buying directly from social media feeds such as Instagram, twitter, snap chat, etc. With more and more digitally enabled and connected devices coming to market everyday, it is almost impossible to predict where we are headed as far as future customer touch points are concerned. Every time you need to add a new channel or customer touch point to your storefront, you have to change your front-end as well as back-end parts of your monolithic commerce application. Market demands faster change for the online retailers, however monolithic architectural restrictions prevent them from doing so, hence the need to take a look at the new architecture called Headless Commerce or Microservices.

As we know it’s only the front-end or customer touch points that are changing faster, the back-end applications such as Order Management, Payment Processing, Product information, etc. are not changing as rapidly. It makes sense to decouple the front end from back-end. This architecture is called Headless Commerce or Microservices Architecture.

Headless Benefits

In Headless Commerce we decouple Front-end from Back-end and introduce a third layer in between called API layer. These three components are separate. They don’t depend upon each other and three different systems can be used to deploy them. You can work on these components without impacting others. Your user interface team can focus on deploying new UI or customer touch point without worrying about making changes to any back-end services. Similarly back-end team can work on their changes without worrying about the front-end. Separating the UI and Back-end allows you to decouple development and focus on faster moving world of customer touch points without worrying about impacting your critical systems in back-end such as Product Information, or Order Management or Payment Processing, etc

Advantages of using Headless Commerce Architecture

Speed:

With Headless Commerce you move your online business at the speed of consumers. You can make rapid updates and changes to your UI without impacting any back-end systems. Typically websites updates are once every few weeks. However, using Headless Commerce architecture Amazon updates their website on average every 11.7 seconds. You can easily add new touch points to your storefront as soon as it comes to market. This kind of speed to market in unimaginable in monolithic application architecture.

Flexibility:

You can easily replace any component or application in your architecture without worrying about other components. Suppose you want to replace your content management system. You can easily do so as it will not impact other components for your storefront. Headless Commerce Architecture empowers you with more flexibility when choosing vendors for your commerce application. Because of the decoupling of front and back-ends. Suppose you like Content Management from one vendor however back-end capabilities of an application from another software vendor. You can use both the applications (from different vendors) together for your storefront.

Seamless Integration:

Headless Commerce lets you integrate your storefront with any system and orchestrate new processes across the systems such as subscription retail. It lets you breakdown silos in your consumer facing operations. It does this by integrating processes that reside on different systems such as CRM or Financial System. You can build shoppable customer experience beyond just storefront, shopping cart and check-out. For example if customer is watching a video and likes a product in it, they’ll need to search for the product online if they wish to purchase it. However, with Headless Commerce, you can embed the shoppable experience within video. So that customer can click on the items in video and a pop up can appear with item details with an option to add-to cart.

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