Headless commerce is one of the biggest buzzwords in eCommerce and the technical jargon surrounding it makes it difficult for brands to understand what it entails and if it’s worth their time. But one thing is clear: headless brands are different, but are they better off?
With the increased competitiveness of the eCommerce market, brands are leveraging any tool or strategy to deliver a more immersive experience and get ahead, headless commerce included.
In this article, we provide a brief overview of what headless commerce is, using minimal technical terms, shed light on the most common myths surrounding headless, and provide three use cases to help you understand if headless is the right decision for your business.
This blog post is part of a new series we are launching called “Head(less) into 2023”. Stay tuned for more headless commerce content coming soon!
What is Headless Commerce?
A headless commerce is the separation of a website’s front-end (the customer-facing digital storefront) from the back-end (all the systems, processes, workflows and tools that allows your business to operate).
The primary benefit of this separation is the ability to make changes to one without impacting the other. For instance, our proprietary headless framework, Bedrock, allows our clients to change eCommerce platforms (the back-end) without needing to replatform.
This separation is made possible by the framework’s integration layer, also called middleware, that organizes, sanitizes, and maps data from one system to another. Think of the middleware as the glue holding the font-end (head) and back-end (body) together.
Given the added flexibility, speed, and the many other benefits (check out our full blog post on the benefits of headless), it’s easy to understand why headless commerce has become wildly popular in the last few years. However, there is a lot that’s still misunderstood about why someone would want to move to a headless architecture.
Debunking Headless Commerce Myths
There are many myths surrounding headless commerce – more than could be explored in just one blog post – so here are the top 4 myths we hear the most often.
Myth #1 – Headless is the next step for every brand.
Headless is not for everyone. As an agency, we take a consultative approach to understanding our client’s goals and pain points to ensure headless is the right fit. Jump ahead to section 3 to read four different use cases and good reasons for going headless.
Myth #2 – Headless is prohibitively expensive compared to “traditional” sites.
In the short term this is most definitely true. Going headless requires 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. If done right, the savings accrued overtime from using a headless website will pay for the initial investment.
Myth #3 – Headless sites are slower to build than “traditional” sites.
Similarly to myth #2, it can take longer to get up and running on a headless site, but if you work with a partner that leverages reusable components, like The Stable, implementation times can be drastically reduced and any changes to the website will be a lot faster than a traditional website would allow.
Myth #4 – Site speed is the only benefit of going headless.
Most brands decide to go headless because of speed. Site speed is a key benefit of going headless but certainly not the only one. If your only reason for going headless is speed it might make more sense to optimize the traditional site you already have by working with a trusted agency rather than investing in an entirely new architecture and way of working.
Best Use Cases for Headless
When talking to a client about moving to a headless commerce site we make sure to understand their goals and reasoning in making this investment. We wouldn’t push a brand to go headless unless it benefits them. We’ve found there are commonalities between brands that benefit from going headless based on different use cases.
Use Case #1 – Reduce Technical Debt
Brands that have worked with more than one agency on their website know and understand the implication of having multiple developers edit and write new code. The accumulation of technical debt is inherent to a traditional website, which is often fixed by starting over (redesign/replatform). Moving to a headless architecture would be the right fit for the type of brands that frequently work with agencies because it would:
- Eliminate the need for future replatforms
- Improve tech stack and third-party governance
- Facilitate a transition away from outdated technology
- Reduce refactoring time and allow more time for fun, innovative ideas
Use Case #2 – Content Heavy Site
Any content-led website that has a variety and large quantity of content would benefit from using a more robust CMS like Contentful or Sanity. Here, the benefits of a headless architecture would include:
- Ability to handle large amounts of content without a hit on performance (speed)
- Compatibility with multiple forms of content (video, voice, text, etc)
- Support large volume of traffic
Use Case #3 – Codebase Consolidation
If you own multiple brands and would like to consolidate all these websites under one codebase/umbrella then a headless architecture would provide:
- A single Content Management System (CMS) login
- Consistent brand experience across channels
- One process to manage
- Tech stack governance
Use Case #4 – Aggressive Growth Plans & Business Expansion
Headless sites are built in a way that facilitates expansion. Think of it as building blocks that can be stacked on top of each other. By investing in a headless website you will be able to:
- Use integrations across multiple channels (for example: using a CMS integration to deliver content for your website, newsletters or apps)
- Expand your content library (video, text, voice)
- Open physical locations that can be seamlessly integrated
- Expand internationally
Headless commerce is appealing for many reasons and could be the right decision for the future growth of your brand. If you don’t fit any of the scenarios discussed above but are still interested in exploring headless commerce, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team can help you understand if headless is the right fit for your business based on your goals. Get in touch!