Move Over Traditional eCommerce! It’s Time to Go Headless
B2B eCommerce transactions are expected to reach around $1.2 trillion by 2021. This means you can’t ignore an online portal if you are into a B2B business because this is where most of the sales are happening. People are more comfortable searching, researching and buying B2B products online.
With such tremendous opportunity lying in front of B2B business owners, the need to adopt the best technologies in order to stay ahead of their competitors is of utmost importance.
The single biggest factor that can differentiate your B2B business from others is “user experience”. The better UX you provide, the greater satisfaction your prospects will have leading to more sales and improved revenue. Innovation affects UX. And without continuous innovation, you can’t improve UX.
Traditional eStore platforms have failed to provide a better UX. The reason being, the technology keeps both the front end and back end of the electronic store model together and any changes you apply on one affects the other side. The system is complex, consisting of huge libraries and the dependency to allow both front-end and back-end to work together. And herein lies the problem!
The new headless eCommerce model is excellent because it offers a free hand to the developers to make any changes on the presentation layer (the front-end which the prospects actually see) without affecting the back-end.
Headless commerce is responsive, allows for innovation, is easier to maintain and you have complete flexibility to adapt the front-end of your B2B store as per the exact needs of your audiences.
Let’s understand the two platforms and why the time is ripe to ditch the traditional eCommerce platforms and adopt the new headless model.
What is Headless eCommerce?
Headless eCommerce, as weird as the term may be, is an important concept to understand for modern electronic store players.
Traditionally, an eStore’s architecture is based on a ‘backend’ that is capable of delivering content in a few predefined ways. For instance, in the form of websites and native mobile apps.
This, however, is the era of rapid innovation. As kiosk screens, smartwatches, smart speakers, and voice assistants enter the commerce fray, it becomes important that traditional CMS (Content Management System) be able to deliver content to these components of a user’s technology ecosystem
This means that eCommerce needs to move from a model where the front end (the website template, for instance) and the backend (the CMS) are tightly screwed to each other. Instead, eCommerce architecture must decouple the backend (the back) from the frontend (the head), creating what could be called a ‘headless eCommerce’ architecture.
Decoupling the presentation layer from the eCommerce platform layer provides greater control and flexibility to the purchasing experience offered by B2B businesses.
Thus, headless eCommerce constitutes a CMS that stores, manages, and delivers content without a front-end delivery layer, making it the perfect architecture for the Internet of Things era.
So How Does It Work?
Headless eCommerce architecture works by passing requests between the application and presentation layers through application programming interface calls or web services.
So, when a user clicks the “Buy Now” button on their device, the presentation layer of the headless electronic store platform sends an API call to the application layer for processing the order.
Another API call is sent by the application layer to show customers their order status.
Think of it like layers of technology with sophisticated interplays – in a manner such that the end-user doesn’t even become aware of the existence of these layers.
Comparison with the Traditional Commerce Model
Previously, leading electronic store providers offered all-inclusive, fully managed commerce features. These end-to-end, predefined solutions were streamlined so brands did not have to bother with the management of different platforms and vendor relationships. Unfortunately, they could not match up to the heightened experiences and agility offered by fully integrated headless models.
Traditional: Traditional eCommerce platforms pose various hurdles to developers. Since the designs and processes are limited, development becomes complicated and the cost of maintenance, expensive. Moreover, nuanced development with multiple layers of code results in a slow go-to-market.
Headless: Headless eCommerce technology decouples the front-end and the back-end for a quicker development window at reduced prices. Developers are able to form new user experiences without the added responsibility of reconfiguring the back-end. Also, a brand with an existing CMS can use simple API calls to connect this technology to best of breed commerce systems tailored to their specific business interests.
Traditional: Traditional eCommerce platforms are mostly dependent on custom-built systems. They lack sufficient infrastructure and flexibility to keep up with the breakneck pace of eStore innovation. The intricately wound front and back-end technologies make it time-consuming and difficult to edit layers of code and databases.
Headless: Since headless solutions are decoupled, front-end developers can simply update the platform’s content layer. The improved flexibility gives brands unprecedented freedom, whether it is adding promotional campaigns and products to implementing a custom checkout flow without reconfiguring the back-end system.
Traditional: End-to-end systems with coupled infrastructure lack sufficient personalization options. Brands are mostly limited to using predefined experiences owing to the high cost, the time required to customize the user experience, and the disruption of back-end functionalities.
Headless: A fully integrated headless eCommerce model provides unlimited customization as well as total control over the customer experience’s look and feel. Front-end developers are able to implement quick changes to the headless platform using API calls. No wonder brands eagerly await a more unique customer experience and engaging site content.
Consider The Real-world Examples of Magento and BigCommerce
Despite the promise of a complete open-source eCommerce experience, Magento’s monolithic development model means it handles everything – both front-end and back-end. And ultimately, you can only do what the software permits you to do.
On the other hand, the headless eCommerce setup by BigCommerce is fully customizable. The main responsibility of the CMS is to manage your products along with other back-end tasks.
By virtue of being decoupled from the front-end, you get to choose what it does. You can craft an original look and feel for your online store from scratch.
This last bit should greatly interest developers. Why? Because they are greatly constrained by traditional commerce models and crave more freedom and benefits which headless commerce can provide.
What Advantages Does Headless eCommerce Offer?
eCommerce is no longer just about setting up an online shop and making the transaction process as smooth as possible. Instead, it’s geared more towards interacting with customers at the right time, at the right place and through the right channel.
Flexibility is the buzzword here. This flexibility helps design online store solutions that always offer customers an optimal user experience.
B2B companies require an approach that provides enough flexibility to prepare for new touchpoints without having to purchase new software or totally overhaul the existing IT landscape. Headless architecture fits the bill perfectly, thanks to a number of beneficial features:
- Personalization: Every target audience is individually addressed – in terms of both the channel and the content offered.
- Uniformity: All customers get the same level of user experience, irrespective of which device or channel they use.
- Ease of implementation: Companies can quickly respond whenever a new touchpoint is required. So, a process that took months even a while back can now be implemented successfully in a matter of days or hours.
- Future-ready: Brands investing in headless commerce gear up for future developments in the long run.
- Scalability: Headless electronic commerce platforms are easily and infinitely scalable. Traditional solutions, on the other hand, lose speed as soon as they attain a specific size and become difficult to manage.
- Agility: Headless online store platforms offer a shorter time-to-market for products along with front-end speed for end users.
- Experimentation: Headless commerce models allow brands to try out new front-end designs without affecting the software of the whole electronic commerce
Evolution Of The Headless eCommerce Model
eCommerce is an evolving industry. Modern B2B prospects are accustomed to consuming content and buying products/services through different touchpoints – from progressive web applications to IoT devices. It’s no surprise that legacy eCommerce platforms are finding it difficult to keep up with customer demands.
Headless eCommerce is going to become more popular in the coming years. Right now, it is mainly focused on the connection between the CMS and eCommerce platforms. But the functionality can be replicated for a limitless number of use cases. Since the back-end and front-end are decoupled, merchants are free to expand their opportunities and outreach to a greater number of users quickly and efficiently.
So, it’s only a matter of time before headless commerce becomes the new normal as customers seek out innovative channels and experiences for new points of engagement and potential purchase moments. No longer do they have to settle for location-based eStore interactions, visiting a website or store. Commerce interactions and transactions can be woven seamlessly into our everyday lives.
Should You Go Headless?
Yes! The future of B2B eCommerce will be all about offering a seamless and superior shopping experience to your end-users and flexible solutions for developers. Headless eCommerce solutions put you in charge of the overall customer experience and provide complete control over how buyers interact with and buy your products/services.
Within reason, of course, customers now value experience more than price. So, digital experiences will differentiate good B2B businesses from the average more than ever before. To stay ahead of the competition, deliver exactly what your target audience wants across an ecosystem of touchpoints. Headless eCommerce allows you to do just that by combining best-of-breed technologies that allow high-speed innovation and engagement with customers at a higher level.
Joydeep Bhattacharya is the author of the SEO blog, SEOsandwitch.com and is a regular contributor on publications like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Smartinsights, SearchEnginePeople, Wired, Hubspot and many others. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or tweet him @seoforu
Featured image: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_gearstd‘ / 123RF Stock Photo