Death of the B2B salesman might have been the most morbid sounding subject we’ve touched upon in our blog. That is until today. Because this blog introduces headless commerce. Despite its otherworldly name, headless commerce is nosing ahead of traditional eCommerce solutions. That’s because its unique approach to software architecture “chops off” independent front- and backend layers.
If the headless eCommerce concept has you scratching your head and you want to learn how your organization could leverage headless architecture, keep reading. We’ll dive into the benefits of choosing headless eCommerce as a strategy and discuss how OroCommerce can be tailored to support it.
The Face of Headless eCommerce
Why behead eCommerce?
Headless commerce allows you to entirely reimagine the idea of eCommerce platforms. The majority of traditional full stack eCommerce solutions come with a predefined storefront to face customers and a backend that supports online sales. Right out of the box, digital merchants get a set of sales-enabling features along with a ready-to-use framework to open their eCommerce shop. These solutions provide all the necessary features for buyers and shop admins to get started. They are a great option for sellers looking to get their webstores up and running fast and with minimum customization. However, some companies need to separate frontend experience and backend support to meet new business challenges and evolving business needs. That’s where headless eCommerce steps in.
Concept behind headless architecture
Why use a headless architecture? Headless eCommerce decouples the frontend (content, presentation and interactive layers of customer experience) and backend (the application’s tech stack, infrastructure, and business logic). This means that the customer-facing experience of your site is no longer driven by your eCommerce platform capabilities. With a headless approach in B2B, you get all the freedom to build omnichannel, tailored storefront buyer experiences while still having a robust eCommerce engine on the backend to facilitate complex transactions. Your eCommerce solution runs the backend and that’s where all integrations with external systems such as the ERP or CRM are also performed. The communication between front- and backend is carried out by RESTful API. The API feeds all the relevant data stored and managed in the backend to the frontend in a user-friendly way.
Headless Architecture Is The New Way to Build eCommerce
The headless approach is growing in popularity among eCommerce businesses for a reason.
In the early days of eCommerce, the majority of website traffic came from desktop web browsers and the sales process was quite straightforward. The eCommerce solutions that dominated the market back then came as monolithic, full-stack platforms with the front and backend paired. It’s different today as there are numerous buyer touchpoints and they aren’t limited to desktop or mobile.
Modern businesses trying to keep up with the omnichannel needs of their customers need greater flexibility from their eCommerce solutions. However, because the front- and backend are inherently coupled in the architecture of full-stack eCommerce platforms, decoupling them is hard, if it’s even possible. As the result, every single change made in the frontend (e.g., changing the checkout design) requires you to immediately make respective changes in the backend to avoid any disruptions. This can be costly and time-consuming. With headless architecture, this isn’t an issue because the front- and backend layers can be handled separately.
As B2B eCommerce becomes more common, there is an increased interest in headless architecture. Gone are the days where the website was nothing more than an online catalog to showcase products, B2B must now sell online to remain relevant and meet customer needs. Instead of acquiring a standalone eCommerce software with some functions that may never be used and then migrating content to it, they need a modular solution to facilitate eCommerce while still seamlessly connecting to their legacy CMSs, ERPs, CRMs, WMS systems. A headless eCommerce architecture addresses this need perfectly.
Key Benefits of Headless Architecture for B2B Commerce
There are many advantages to going headless. You gain freedom, flexibility, and agility to start. Those benefits lead to time and cost savings.
More freedom for businesses in choosing solution providers
Because headless commerce keeps the front- and backend layers apart, businesses can choose the different solution providers for each. For example, if you’re satisfied with one solution’s backend features, but prefer another system for the frontend layer (other than provided), you’re free to do so. Let’s say you’re a B2B company that previously only used a website as a content repository instead of a sales channel. You can choose an eCommerce system with a decoupled content management module and keep your existing CMS. In this way, you separate the commerce and customer experiences, which allows you to enhance both independently whenever you want and however you want.
Headless architecture makes it possible for business owners to control exactly how they want their business logic to work, what data they want to have at their fingertips, and completely control the user experience. With traditional eCommerce platforms, businesses often wind up adapting their needs to their tech stack instead of their tech adapting to their business needs. API-driven headless eCommerce allows the best business applications to work seamlessly together utilizing only the capabilities that serve specific business needs.
Rapid and non-codependent updates
Decoupled front- and backend systems enable you to make instant changes to either component without reconfiguring the entire system. For example, when your marketing team launches a new sales channel, you only need to add another integration to the backend, while the customer-facing content layer on the frontend remains the same. This allows cost-effective customizations and updates of required areas without changing the underlying infrastructure.
Fast and seamless integrations
Customizing solutions through integrations is now even faster. The headless approach uses API to let several systems communicate with each other, exchange data, and seamlessly integrate without constraints. Any additional functionality or system can be connected via the respective API.
More room for user experience optimizations
Because headless systems are separate you can test and experiment with different initiatives for front- or backend with greater ease. Based on the results revealed by these tests, you can optimize and innovate consumer-facing and admin facing experiences. Best of all, front- and backend can scale independently.
More efficient development implementations
Legacy eCommerce platform frontend developers are constrained by the coupling with the backend. Even a minor change of data or user experience element necessitates alterations within the database and the code. It’s different with headless eCommerce. A headless approach makes it possible for developers to make modifications and customizations without having to re-write the whole system’s logic every time. Front- and backend layers can be handled by different IT teams that can utilize different development skills. These teams don’t need to be well versed with the technologies used on the side with which they do not work. This makes development easier and more cost-efficient.
Examples of Headless eCommerce
When should businesses opt for headless eCommerce? To begin with, headless eCommerce platforms are an ideal solution for larger businesses with a complex, or nuanced ordering. To better understand how business can benefit from embracing headless commerce as a strategy, let’s look at two real-life examples.
Amazon, the global commerce behemoth is a pioneer in innovative technology. The iconic shopping experience they provide definitely has lessons B2B businesses should learn. And one lesson is adopting headless eCommerce. A headless commerce system enables Amazon to offer customers instant ordering on Amazon’s mobile app and site with Dash Buttons available for tens of millions of products sold by various sellers. These frontend buttons are wi-fi connected devices – each paired with a specific product – that reorder in the backend the desired item with just one touch. Total Dash Button orders have increased by 70% in just three months, while more than a half of Amazon orders were “dashed”.
Animal Supply Company (ASC), a leading US pet food manufacturer and distributor, provides 3PL (third-party logistics services) to its nationwide network of retailers across the United States. Their retailers take online orders on their sites using eCommerce portals and tools such as Amazon or hosted shopping carts, and ASC manages all warehousing, inventory, shipping, and order fulfillment operations. How does Animal Supply leverage headless commerce? The frontend layer is represented by multiple storefronts and is connected through the API to OroCommerce, the powerful backend eCommerce engine. OroCommerce is used as a centralized order management system (OMS) for processing orders that are submitted through both external sales channels and different storefronts. Whenever customers order from an Animal Supply retailer’s site or through Amazon, all order-related data is automatically transmitted to ASC’s OroCommerce headless platform for further processing. This gives Animal Supply a single view of all the clean data on their customer journeys. As a result, they can easily provide a cohesive experience for customers across multiple channels.
OroCommerce simplifies 3PL operations via Headless eCommerce model
Off with Its Head: Can Any Platform Serve Headless eCommerce?
In the years to come, headless commerce will grow in popularity among digital businesses because of its ability to build highly customized and consistent customer and commerce experiences quickly. However, this architecture only works when the eCommerce platform that powers the backend has the utmost flexibility and can live without the “head”. Most traditional monolith eCommerce solutions can’t separate the front- and backend painlessly. Only high-end, built-to-scale and highly flexible eCommerce platforms that use most up-to-date and innovative technologies and provide feature-rich API can support headless deployments.
Still can’t make heads or tails of going headless with OroCommerce? Get in touch with us to discuss a custom solution for your business.