Roqqett Blog

March 24, 2022
Author: Patrick McDill

The Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce

The eCommerce landscape is shifting. It could be said that it has lost its Head.

Quick Summary

In this post, you will learn about Headless commerce:

  • What is Headless Commerce architecture?
  • How Headless Commerce works
  • Headless Commerce vs Traditional commerce
  • Headless Commerce: The Key Benefits
  • Headless Commerce: The Key Drawbacks
  • Headless Commerce will support omnichannel retail
  • The Future


Legacy e-commerce platforms are failing to keep up with the demands of customers as they become accustomed to consuming information from and making transactions across various touchpoints — from Internet of Things (IoT) devices to progressive web apps.

Consumers now expect to browse products, read reviews, and place orders using express checkouts,  intelligent voice assistants, and in-store touchscreen interfaces. To put it another way, customers have embraced the IoT age, even if most retailers haven't (at least yet).

For the e-commerce retailers that have, they are reaping the benefits (hello, Amazon), while the laggards are scratching their heads, unsure how to get in on the action without inventing their own IoT gadget or rebuilding their back-end solutions from the ground up. A solution exists though. It’s name: Headless commerce (aka Headless content management).

What is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce, in a nutshell, refers to an e-commerce solution architecture that decouples the customer-facing front-end from the back-end. In this model, a headless commerce platform can have many, concurrent front-ends (or "heads"), which all connect, via API, to the same backend. Therefore, its  architecture provides a platform that includes a back-end data model and cloud-based infrastructure. 

Developers can then use these APIs to easily expose things like products, blog entries, and customer reviews to any front-end on any screen or device. At the same time, front-end developers can work on presenting that material using whichever framework they want. Likewise e-commerce firms can offer content, products, and payment gateways to smartwatches, kiosk screens, Alexa Skills, and everything in between since the platform is not closely connected with the backend.

The system's functional parts (such as forms, blogs, products and checkouts) may all be accessed and managed programmatically - this includes the creation and management of content components.

On the flip side, traditional eCommerce platforms have their heads screwed on tight. That implies the platforms have a preset front-end that is tightly coupled to the back-end. These ‘monolithic’ platforms are solely designed and limited to serve content in the form of that front end , even if the platform has plenty of customisation features and unrestricted code.

How does Headless Commerce work?

A headless commerce platform functions as a headless CMS by transmitting requests between the presentation and application levels using web services or application programming interface (API) calls. When a consumer opens a retailer’s website or presses a "Buy Now" button, the display layer sends an API request to the headless application layer to process the given action. In response, the application layer sends another API call back to the display layer to show the result.

Traditional vs Headless Commerce

There are three core differences between Traditional and Headless commerce platforms:

1. Simple front end development

Traditional Commerce

When it comes to architecture and the whole buying process, front-end developers working on a traditional commerce system face many challenges. Any change typically necessitates more than expected effort because of how tightly coupled the front and back are. Developers are also overly restricted in what and how they change because of the platform manufacturer’s tight control. Run afowl of them and you easily jeopardise your warranty or exclude yourself from future updates.

Headless Commerce

Headless commerce goes a long way to solve these challenges. Front-end developers are enabled to construct rich user experiences that more easily help achieve primary business goals.. Front-end developers are unshackled and no longer have to worry about backend database modifications because the API has standardised this relationship. In other words, the API provides uniformity that allows the front-end and back-end developers to without the constant risk of impacting each other

The only disadvantage is that because there is no front-end presentation layer. Front-end developers and marketers must create everything from scratch, from product sites to landing pages. And getting an appropriate e-commerce site design is no easy task.

That is why a decoupled solution is better than a headless solution; however, more on that later.

2. Simple experience customisation

Traditional Commerce

Traditional platforms have a pre-defined user experience for both your customers and administrators. However, these platforms leave little room for personalisation or customisation. If you and your customers are satisfied with the experience offered by these established platforms, then stop reading now.

Headless Commerce

Developers and users are constrained by traditional commerce systems' definitions of what constitutes a good user experience. But with no fixed front-end, developers can construct their own user experience from the start. You have more control over the look and feel of your eCommerce platform, as well as the user experience for both customers and administrators.

3. Flexibility

Traditional Commerce

The front-end is strongly integrated with the back-end code and infrastructure. This limits or eliminates the ability to make any required adjustment or enriching personalisation. Developers must update numerous layers of code between the front-end and the database layer buried in the back-end to make a single tweak.

Headless Commerce

Because headless commerce has already decoupled the front-end and back-end, customisation is easier and plentiful. All you need is a front-end developer to make any adjustments. Small or significant changes, such as establishing a custom checkout flow or adding a new field to a customer account, are simple to accomplish with a headless commerce architecture.

Headless commerce: The Key Benefits

1. Achieve true Omnichannel success

First and foremost, a headless CMS will assist you in getting your material to where it needs to go. For an e-commerce brand, it means sending your products, product videos or blog entries via any channel that exists – or will emerge. Prepare to sell using Alexa Skills, digital signage, progressive web apps, and even touchscreen refrigerators (yes, they exist).

2. Agile Marketing

A headless commerce platforms may accommodate new technology more easily as it emerges. When creating fresh customer experiences, this is ideal. This puts marketing teams back in control, allowing them to launch many sites across multiple brands, divisions, and portfolios. Marketing teams can set up a new site in days rather than months because of the flexibility given by a headless commerce system.

3. Keep up with the competition

You can deliver rapid updates without affecting your back-end system using a headless commerce platform. And you can quickly adapt your front-end to keep up with the fast pace of consumer technology. Every few weeks, major commerce brands that use a traditional platform release an upgrade. In comparison to Amazon, which deploys updates every 11.7 seconds on average, they reduce both the amount and duration of outages. When a front-end is loosely coupled to the back-end, you don't have to update the entire system; just a small portion of it. As a result, you'll be able to supply what your customers want faster to remain competitive.

4. Improve the client experience

Customers should receive a consistent customer experience across all devices and channels, even if their needs vary over time. Consumers also want to buy from e-commerce companies that are aware of their needs across all platforms. This is more than just "those who bought X also bought Y." The backend is already aware of what a customer has purchased. This information is used to power customisation engines on CMS, mobile apps, and social media platforms.

5. Any device anywhere

A headless commerce solution must, by definition, have an API (such as GraphQL), which facilitates integration and communication with any type of consumer facing device. You can add your brand to any new device, so expand your prospects and reach out to new clients. In addition, instead of taking months to link your eCommerce platform with a new device, it will just take hours.

6. Improve Conversion Optimisation (CRO)

You can experiment with alternative templates and methodologies after you have a headless commerce system in place. For example, while running the same front-end search, you may try out a different back-end search solution. As a result, headless commerce enables you to run continuous tests and optimisation cycles, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of your customers while learning at a faster rate than other retailers.

7. Quicker time to market

If you use a typical e-commerce platform to create a multi-channel or omnichannel retail experience, your time to market will be painfully slow, and scaling will be complex. A headless commerce platform, on the other hand, allows companies to concentrate on developing front-end experiences across a variety of devices and touchpoints because content and items are stored centrally and provided via API to any location. This allows for a quicker time to market when implementing new channels, expanding into new markets, and so on.

Headless commerce: The Key Drawbacks

1. Isolate your Marketing team

As a Marketer, this one hits home, because without a front-end presentation layer, marketers with a headless commerce system lacks are unable to:

  • Create content in a ‘what you see is what you get’ environment
  • Preview material to see how it will appear on the device or screen of the end-user.
  • Function without relying on another department, quickly brainstorm, authorise, develop, and publish content.

Instead, marketers would have to rely entirely on the IT department to not only create but also update and populate the front-end display layer. 

2. Cost

Developers must create their own front end because headless commerce systems do not provide one. This means headless requires a higher initial outlay (to build the frontend/s) but in turn the operation costs are lower, compared to the traditional counterpart.  Thus, you need to plan to remain on the headless system long enough to get youre ROI. 

Overall, this is fantastic because it allows developers to create custom front ends for each device and touchpoint. Building templates and user interfaces from scratch, on the other hand, can be time-consuming and costly. Furthermore, developers will be responsible for troubleshooting their own front-end designs, resulting in ongoing costs beyond the original implementation. Considering that the marketing staff is now isolated and must rely mainly on the IT team to publish landing pages and content across many devices, the costs grow even more.

Headless Commerce will support omnichannel retail

The term "omnichannel retail" refers to the ability for a shopper to shop both online and offline, on any device, at any time, using the same internet platforms and get the same experience (no?). Because the main goal of headless commerce platforms is to provide a consistent user experience across channels, headless can be an valuable asset in achieving the omnichannel retail mission.

According to a 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review, of the more than 46,000 shoppers polled, those who utilised multiple channels purchased more online than those who only used one. Additionally, buyers who utilised numerous online channels made more purchases in physical stores than those who only used one., a high-end furniture retailer, has implemented omnichannel marketing methods in their London showroom. Customers can scan item tags with tablets to make a shopping list, which they can subsequently email to themselves. can use the products on the customer's list to make customised recommendations based on their tastes.

The future

While a headless commerce solution solves many difficulties (hello, ever-changing IoT device landscape), it also presents issues, as stated above. So this is why we think the future is decoupled, not merely headless. A decoupled commerce platform, like a headless platform, has detached front and back-end, it does not entirely remove the front-end presentation layer from the equation. Instead, a basic front-end is offered that restores marketers control over content writing and previewing while simultaneously providing the brand with the headless freedom to send content to various devices, applications, and touchpoints via APIs.

You could say that a decoupled CMS provides you with the best of both worlds, which is why we believe that decoupled e-commerce is the way of the future. So has e-commerce lost its Head?. Almost, but given decoupled commerce platforms blend the ease-of-use of traditional commerce platforms with the flexibility of headless platforms for those who are not tech-savvy. It's a win-win situation.

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