DTC Headless Website Optimization

Much content has been written on the benefits of going headless. In the past, on our blog, we have discussed the best use cases for headless, the benefits of using a headless architecture and how headless compares to a traditional website. But it’s harder to find content pertaining to the losses that come with selecting a headless website. 

We understand the time and monetary investment that comes with moving to a headless website. No one should make this decision without weighing the pros and cons. We also understand that different parts of the organization will be impacted differently by this decision.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast every gain and loss experienced by key departments to help you make an education decision that will benefit your business as a whole.

This blog post is part of a new series we are launching called “Head(less) into 2023”. Stay tuned for more headless commerce content!


Gains & Losses of Using a Headless Architecture by Team

Marketing & eCommerce (Gains)

Total Customization: With a headless website you can achieve the exact look and feel you envision, much like a custom theme except there are no limitations or restrictions.

Dramatic Increase in Speed: Implementing a headless site with progressive web app (PWA) can help you achieve sub-second load times across all channels.

Unlimited Expansion: Headless commerce removes technology-specific limitations and expands your ability to connect with technologies and devices (i.e. wearables, physical stores, apps, etc).

Increased Agility: eCommerce is changing quickly, sometimes unexpectedly so as we have seen with the pandemic. Headless solutions are nimble and allow website updates to happen quickly allowing you to react to market changes in a moment’s notice.

Fewer Barrier to Internationalization: Internationalization is a complicated process and headless doesn’t solve this specific problem per-se. However, many headless solutions have made it a point to bake this feature into their platform, making it easier for their customers to sell products internationally.

Marketing & eCommerce (Loss)

No Single eCommerce Management Point: With a headless website you will go from one login to manage storefront and operation to having multiple logins for each separated piece.

Operations (Gains)

Lower Maintenance/Upgrade Costs: In most cases, having a codebase that is evolutionary (growing features and capabilities over time) is going to cost less money long-term because there is less risk of accumulating technical debt and technical debt correction costs.

Single Sources of Truth: Headless infrastructure couples less features together in the platform and allows you to work with technologies that are flexible. This enables organizations to use one source of truth for multiple platforms.

Operations (Loss)

Higher Up-Front Investment: Going headless can require a more significant upfront investment than a traditional site. However, long term a headless website can be a lot more sustainable than a traditional website that requires regular redesigns and reflatforms.

Technology (Gains)

Engineering Autonomy: Some headless frameworks (like The Stable’s) will help you break free from platforms, third-parties led decisions and pre-defined feature sets. You will no longer be tied down to a platform’s specific guardrails or whims.

Easier Optimization: With deeper control of how each page renders, optimizations of performance and speed become a lot easier to mitigate than working with proprietary templating languages.

Attracting/Retaining Talents: Headless gives the freedom to bring development in-house. As an added bonus, the use of modern frameworks/technologies can be a great incentive for talented developers.

Access to Free/Open Source Solutions: Headless websites have a component-based architecture which facilitate the development of new features and gives access to many free/open source solutions that can be plugged into the front-end.

Omnichannel & Device Friendly: Headless websites are more compatible with multiple screens or channels as the APIs and components can be shared.

Technology (Loss)

Access to Marketplace Apps: Most marketplace apps operate in a specific environment or language (for example Shopify apps only work in Liquid). Which means if the language used by the app is different from your framework’s they wouldn’t be compatible with your new headless site. However, the beauty of headless is its ability to leverage APIs to build connections. Thus, any app with a public API can be supported on headless.

Closing Thoughts

Every business decision requires you to weigh potential gains and losses – selecting a headless architecture is no different – however, we believe that if your goals align with the benefits of headless then the gains will clearly outweigh the losses. Our team of experts in all things DTC is here to advise you and help you make an educated decision. Get in touch!