The Ultimate Headless eCommerce Guide 2022This is the ultimate headless eCommerce guide for online store owners. Easy to understand for those without a tech background, it explains how and why headless eCommerce can greatly benefit your business.
The Headless Ecommerce RevolutionAs online shopping and selling changes, store owners demand more and more flexibility when it comes to how their store looks and functions. Customers expect stores to provide a seamless experience and online retailers are under more pressure than ever to give it to them. From fast loading times to painless checkouts, an online store has to deliver more than just the product it’s selling - it has to deliver a perfect shopping experience as well.
Your store’s design depends on backend code or apps, and if you want to change it, it can be a complicated or sometimes downright unachievable task. Many of the best-known eCommerce platforms, like Shopify and BigCommerce, use themes that make them so appealing to store owners. Select your theme, populate with your product photos, write copy and you have a functional and professional eCommerce site. But despite this appeal, for customizations like custom landing pages and URLs, you would be out of luck.
Because the backend functionality and the frontend design are so intertwined, online store owners struggle to get their store to look and function exactly how they want it.
Is there a solution?
Yes, headless eCommerce.
With a headless solution, it’s no longer difficult for store owners to build a stylish, multi-functional site that matches their vision while offering all the functionality they want at the same time.
Find out how you, as a shop owner can benefit from adopting headless eCommerce in this comprehensive and easy to understand guide.
What Is Headless Ecommerce?In simpler terms, Headless commerce is the separation of back-end functionality and front-end looks. Your front-end includes your website which faces your customers, its visual design, responsiveness and how quickly it loads. Your backend is your payment processing, order information storage and content management system.
In traditional eCommerce, your front-end is deeply intertwined with your back-end, and to make changes to how your store looks and functions requires back-end coding. Which in turn takes valuable time and money to do.
Benefits of Headless Ecommerce When the front-end and back-end are decoupled, it means freedom. Freedom to:
Design your store without compromising on functionality
Your front-end is completely separate from your backend. In regular eCommerce, any front-end changes may require editing the database and coding, which can get complicated very quickly. No more coding!
Let’s remember that eCommerce platforms use themes. Despite their appeal, they can be very limiting. A fully customized theme is expensive and time-consuming to create. Not only that, it continues to be expensive and time-consuming to update or make changes to it. This is where a headless eCommerce storefront can excel - by separating the back-end from the front-end, your marketing and design are no longer bound by complex back-end issues.
In today’s image and content-driven world, content is king. It’s a major advertising platform and an indispensable method to get organic traffic to your site. Integrating your content with your website can be a different story altogether. Here’s an example:
You run an Instagram campaign and a potential customer clicks on your ad. You want them taken to a custom landing page created specifically for that campaign. Not so fast! If you’re using Shopify, you’re out of luck because it doesn’t allow its users to create custom landing pages. But with a headless approach, you can not only build custom landing pages, you can also publish content anywhere through whatever framework you want. That same Instagram ad from the campaign in the example above can be seamlessly published on a smartwatch, tablet, desktop or smart TV.
Create a frictionless online experience
Customers expect brands to offer the same online experience, whether they’re browsing on mobile or a laptop, using chrome or safari. Even if they are not aware of the specifics of marketing and design, customers quickly notice if your brand’s online experience is lacking in one area and not the other. Unified content and an intuitive online journey position your brand in a strong light, ultimately leading to customer loyalty, upselling and cross-selling and increased sales.
Improve the UX of your website
Much like content, your UX (User Experience) is an important aspect of your brand. Customers are quick to leave your store if loading takes too long, images aren’t rendered correctly or the checkout experience is too cumbersome. According to a report from Adobe, 39% of online users stop engaging with content if it takes too long to lead. You only have a couple of seconds before their attention span won’t take it anymore!
Likewise, another report from Toptal says a whopping 88% won’t return to a site after a bad experience! First impressions matter, especially in eCommerce!
UX designers are masters of consumer psychology, understand how to build an intuitive website and where to place each element. But they are often severely limited by the back-end capabilities of the site. Headless eCommerce allows front-end developers to build the design exactly to the specifications of the UX designer.
Release updates quickly and painlessly
When you separate the front-end and back-end development, updates and releases are also positively affected. Back-end developers no longer need to worry if their release will break something on the front-end while the actual business owners can make their own content updates without worrying about IT.
Testing also becomes easier and faster, allowing you to understand what’s working to convert customers and implement it.
To further understand the benefits of headless eCommerce, you must imagine your online store beyond the regular desktop and native mobile app. There are many other touchpoints where customers can and do interact with brands, including social platforms, kiosk stands, smartwatches, voice shopping through home devices, etc. You must ask yourself the question if your brand is prepared for the inevitable evolution of online commerce. Headless eCommerce allows you to give customers a seamless shopping experience no matter the entry point.
Headless Ecommerce ArchitectureTo understand headless eCommerce architecture, it’s important to understand what an API is. Without getting too technical an API, or Application Programming Interface is a broad term that covers how computer programs speak to each other. Let’s say a program like Microsoft Word wants to open a window on your screen - it would call your operating system’s API and ‘tell’ it to open a window.
Let’s say you want to load something to a customer’s screen - a product photo or blog article, for example. Back-end developers would use an API to deliver this item to customers’ screens, be it mobile, desktop, laptop or tablet. Front-end developers are responsible for how the item is presented, with direction from marketers and /or designers. In regular eCommerce architecture, front-end and back-end are dependent on each other while marketers and designers are dependent on both.
But in headless eCommerce architecture, a designer can create whatever design they like without being restricted by back-end coding and limitations. Why? Because content is delivered using an API, removing the ‘middleman’ of rendering it into a webpage.
How Does a Headless Ecommerce CMS Work?Your Content Management System or CMS is how you organize and deploy all the content that faces your customers and includes things like images, copy, etc. It’s considered a back-end of a website. The beauty of a headless CMS is that you can store, manage and deliver content without being tied to a specific front-end. Your content is no longer tethered to a single website and can live anywhere without back-end coding.
Remember the APIs we talked about in the previous section? They also come into play here. A headless CMS is API-first, meaning that your content isn’t tied to a particular delivery system but is provided as an API. These headless APIs allow you to have a flexible structure that can deliver content to its intended destination without the extra layer of coding.
How to Implement Headless in Your BusinessIf you’re looking to implement headless eCommerce into your business, you might ask yourself “Where do I start?”. It can be daunting to begin a complete overhaul of what you’ve built, so starting on a single project is a good way to get your feet wet and experience the power of headless. Here are some areas where you might consider using it:
If you’re using a theme from one of the big eCommerce platforms (we’re looking at you Shopify!), it can look a little like all the other businesses that are using the same theme. You might have an idea of the design changes you want to make, but modifying a pre-built theme means losing developer updates. You don’t want to lose those because they include bug fixes and new feature releases - things that are crucial to your store.
Enter the headless eCommerce storefront. Gain your freedom to design your online store and UX exactly the way you want it to be, on any device.
If you’re looking to run a campaign to advertise your store and reach potential audiences, your marketing team will be at the mercy of developers. Not that developers are dictators, quite the opposite! But in a traditional eCommerce environment, marketers depend on developers to roll out their campaigns and any changes to your website.
With headless eCommerce, not only does your marketing become more agile (think days instead of weeks), but content can be pushed to any platform without ever involving back-end developers.
A/B testing is the comparison of 2 separate versions of an email headline, webpage, social ad, etc. to learn which one resonates with consumers more. It’s an important marketing tool to further your understanding of your audience and gain valuable insights about your customers’ likes and dislikes.
With headless eCommerce, A/B is simple and fast. You no longer need to involve development to build each version - your marketing team can do it themselves, get results and implement them quickly.
Give your customers an integrated shopping experience, no matter how or where they buy your product. Let’s say you have a brick-and-mortar store, an online store (on both desktop and mobile), you sell your products on Amazon and through social channels. Maybe in your situation it’s a combination of any of the above, but you’d like to move towards adding more channels. The cost and time it takes to optimize each channel can be enormous, from both a front-end and a back-end aspect.
Imagine being able to update and change product information in all your channels without any changes to your back-end systems. With headless eCommerce, you can! Not only that, but you’ll also create unified customer experiences across every channel and adding new channels will be a quicker and easier experience.
What Are the Best Headless Ecommerce CMS Platforms?
It’s important to know that to adapt to the rising popularity of headless eCommerce, some platforms are decoupling their CMS to keep up with demand. The main difference is that decoupled CMS still requires content to be prepared on the back-end and the content is then formatted for each delivery channel. With truly headless eCommerce CMS, content is presented as data only, bypassing the need for a traditional CMS. Here are a few companies that offer headless CMSs.
Adobe Experience Manager
Although it’s a headless eCommerce CMS, Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) works best with other Adobe technology, called DAM. DAM is an asset management system that stores your content and allows for easy collaboration.
Amplience’s focus is on creative teams and allowing them to unleash their creative powers without being hindered by development. Their headless eCommerce CMS allows its users to preview their work.
This open-source headless eCommerce CMS supports many technologies you probably already use in your business, including SEO, marketing automation and analytic tools.
Built using Drupal (an open-source content management system), Acquia also uses AWS (Amazon Web Services) for a powerful and secure headless eCommerce CMS.
This cloud-based headless CMS solution allows you to integrate other providers and has a great customer support platform.
Try Headless CommerceThe digital world is constantly evolving - no one could have predicted 30 years ago that we would be doing our shopping through small, glowing hand-held rectangles while being connected to a world wide web of information. Well, maybe a few tech visionaries did know this, but the rest of the world was much slower to catch up.
As new technology emerges, you want to be prepared for the future - whatever it may hold. Headless eCommerce is a revolution in how content is managed and delivered. Designed to simplify the often complicated process of building and running an online store, it’s a solution that businesses will be adopting more and more to save money and time and development.
If you’d like to take the first step towards future-proofing your store, get in touch with us for a free demo: https://calendly.com/b2storefront