You are probably wondering what is Headless eCommerce. Well, the words Headless eCommerce may sound ‘bloody’ and off-putting at first, but it is not an alien system. Headless eCommerce is simply a part of what we call Headless Content Management Systems, and they have been here for a while. In fact, Headless CMS technologies started emerging the moment the market started showing dissatisfaction with the performance of Traditional CMS like WordPress.
Simply put, all companies want to create a seamless user experience, where the same content shows across all devices and platforms fast and without any hindrances. But, Traditional CMS’s are lagging behind in this area, and they soon became a bottleneck for this omnichannel vision. Moreover, for organizations relying on Traditional CMS like WordPress, this is just another restriction added on an already long list. In response, developers came up with decoupled or Headless Content Management Systems as a solution to the Traditional or coupled CMS.
What is the difference between Traditional and Headless CMS?
Traditional or coupled CMSs come with a pre-built frontend in the form of Themes or Templates. Aside from the readily-available designs, Traditional CMSs also benefit from existing functionality blocks – add-ons, plugins, and widgets. For content management and editing in real-time – a trademark of tools like WordPress or Drupal – Traditional CMSs often use a technology called “What You See Is What You Get” or WYSIWYG editor. However, having everything pre-built for you means that there is little to no customization room without a developer. And even when a developer is involved, they are restricted to what technologies they can use.
In comparison, a Headless CMS comes without the ‘head’ or pre-built frontend, hence Headless. So, while this means that organizations have to employ the services of a frontend developer, Headless CMSs allow them to pick and choose their technology. Also, they are not limited by a pre-defined layout. They can do whatever they wish. Basically, the greatest advantage of a Headless CMS is that you can attach whatever “head” or frontend you want to the backend.
What is Headless eCommerce
So, what is Headless eCommerce then? Headless eCommerce is just a Headless CMS adapted for eCommerce platforms. So, like with Headless CMS, the frontend of the system has been removed from the eCommerce platform, while the backend is untouched.
Similarly, since the backend of the eCommerce system remains, the merchant has flexibility over development and updating the system themselves. As a result, companies are able to provide a unique and excellent user experience, without the limitations of a pre-defined eCommerce frontend architecture.
How does Headless eCommerce systems work
The next question is, how do Headless eCommerce systems work? More precisely, when we “remove the head”, how will data and content render? To put the above questions in perspective, Traditional CMSs retrieve data through from the database by making individual calls to it. This specific procedure is time-consuming and is also restricted to the application.
On the other hand, the Headless eCommerce draws on the benefits of the Headless CMS. This means that they use APIs made to fetch the data required. APIs are by definition faster and far more secure than using direct calls to the database. And they can be re-used in other applications, as well. That, and the obvious freedom of frontend technologies.
In simple terms, developers have the option of using technologies they know and love. They are free to use readily available APIs instead of making direct database calls or create their own APIs in PHP for example. And the entire process is much more secure from the frontend perspective.
Advantages of Headless eCommerce
There are several advantages to using a Headless eCommerce system. For one, as mentioned above, Headless technologies rely on APIs for accessing data, which makes them more secure. APIs have better control over what data is accessed by each user for each feature. Also, APIs are reusable, ensuring a consistent quality of code and a reduced chance of bugs and errors.
Second, developers and product owners have full control over the frontend design and architecture. They decide how the application looks and what technology is used, thus providing the best possible user experience. This also means that Headless eCommerce systems can be truly cross-platform, instead of just responsive as Traditional eCommerce platforms used to be.
Finally, updating and maintaining a Traditional eCommerce platform can be problematic. The theme or Template is maintained by the developers behind it, so when updating, there are high chances of conflicts between f.ex. installed plugins and the updated theme. But that is not the case with a Headless eCommerce system as each company controls its own frontend.
Disadvantages of Headless eCommerce
The first and most obvious disadvantage of using a Headless eCommerce system is the fact that there is no frontend. This means that one developer at least is needed, if not a developer-designer team. Naturally, this is more costly and more time-consuming than using a Traditional eCommerce system that comes with a pre-built frontend.
Secondly, since Headless eCommerce systems rely on APIs, the security and speed of the application depend on the quality of the API. So, if a developer builds the API wrong from the beginning or in an inefficient way, this can be incredibly harmful to the overall app. The same goes for public or partner APIs coming from sketchy sources.
Finally, because of the way they work, Headless eCommerce platforms are not marketer-friendly, especially for non-technical people. As a result, marketers rely on developers for every update or change, which, again, is expensive and more time-consuming.
Solutions for Headless eCommerce systems
On the bright side, the fast-growing popularity of Headless CMSs brought forward a plethora of technology companies that have built solutions dealing with the lack of frontend in Headless systems, as well as the APIs required. For example, Contentful, an API-first content management platform for enterprises promises accelerated, scalable solutions reducing development time from months to minutes.
Another option is Kentico, a software solution focused on cloud-based Headless CMSs and enhanced digital experience. On their side, Kentico leverages cloud technology for better and faster content management, team collaborations as well as microservice-based architecture for tool integration. And the list goes on with many other solutions like Prismic, Gatsby, Adobe Experience Manager, and more.
However, Traditional CMS platforms also started supporting Headless solutions as an alternative. This particular list includes Shopify, Magneto, Big-commerce, Spryker, and many others.
So, what is Headless eCommerce? A Headless eCommerce is simply a Headless Content Management System optimized for eCommerce. This type of eCommerce is faster, more secure, and far more flexible when compared with traditional solutions. Developers choose the technology they use for frontend and deliver the best user experience possible.
But, Headless eCommerce systems require at least a developer. The frontend is built from scratch and the system needs APIs to function. This implies quite a bit of development time and costs, so it might not be accessible for small companies with a tight budget.
In conclusion, Headless eCommerce systems come with advantages and disadvantages, just like any other technology. While the Headless solution might perfect for some, Traditional CMSs are the best option for others. So before you “go headless”, make sure you research your options properly. We hope this article is a good start for your journey and for more like it, keep an eye on our Insights section. Good luck!