Kmart, Koala and Comvita are just some of the leading retailers that have switched to a headless commerce approach in their e-commerce businesses in recent years, and they won’t be the last. Many experts believe headless commerce is the future of retail because it enables businesses to be extremely flexible and agile.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of being able to quickly react to change. Businesses that were able to launch new services, such as click-and-collect and kerbside pickup, during the Covid-19 pandemic have thrived, while many of those that didn’t are struggling to survive.
And yet, based on search data compiled by Google Trends, many people still don’t know what headless commerce is. If you’re one of those people, now’s your chance to learn what headless commerce is and whether you should adopt it in your business.
What is headless commerce?
A simple explanation of headless commerce is that it separates the front end of an e-commerce site from the back end.
This differs from traditional e-commerce sites, which involve a single piece of software with bolt-on applications for specific business functions. The problem with this approach is that everything is interconnected, so making a change in one area impacts the other. As a result, it can take months of testing to roll out a website change or software update.
With headless commerce, however, retailers deploy best-of-breed platforms for specific business functions, such as personalisation and pricing, and connect them with APIs, so they all work together, but remain independent.
“By separating the commerce platform and bringing in a different ‘head’, such as a CMS platform, or an experience management platform, you can start to make changes in either one without the other one having to know what you’re doing,” Joshua Emblin, Territory Director for APAC at commercetools, a next-generation software company that offers a cloud-native headless commerce platform, explained.
What are the benefits?
One of the main benefits of headless commerce is speed-to-market when rolling out new functionality.
For instance, when Comvita NZ recently launched a state-of-the-art bricks-and-mortar space called Wellness Lab, it was able to leverage commercetools’ API to seamlessly integrate a brand-new checkout experience for its virtual store in a matter of weeks to coincide with the launch of the physical space.
Another benefit of headless commerce is the ability to choose the best platform for each specific business function instead of having to constantly customise and upgrade a more traditional platform. Over time, this can reduce ongoing operational costs.
“People often think headless commerce is going to be more expensive because they’re buying more pieces of software and it’s going to take them longer to integrate, but all of those things are myths,” Emblin said.
“We’ve done a number of studies with customers, and we’ve consistently shown that we’re reducing their operating costs by up to 70 per cent. That comes from reducing headcount, reducing overheads in terms of ongoing testing and deployments and freeing up resources to do more innovative activities with the new platforms.”
Headless commerce also makes it easy for retailers to create multiple touchpoints across physical and digital channels to help drive revenue growth.
“There are limitless possibilities for businesses to create unique touchpoints for customers through a headless approach,” Emblin said.
Who should adopt a headless commerce approach?
When it comes to deciding whether a headless commerce approach is right for you, the driving factor isn’t the size of your business or budget, but rather how unique your requirements are, according to Emblin.
“If you’re constantly customising or making changes to your existing platform, then headless is going to be right for you,” he said.
“Gone are the days when you build an e-commerce site and say, ‘Yay, it’s done.’ The rate of innovation has sped up. And headless commerce helps you keep pace.”
Find out more about headless commerce in this helpful playbook from commercetools.