The Business Case for Headless Commerce

Our retail clients often complain about the challenges of customization. They complain about the financial costs incurred and the time spent, as well as the following:

“We’re hacking things together on the front-end!”

“Front-end integrations conflict with one another and break!”

“Our site presentation just feels cookie-cutter and boring.”

It goes without saying that modern retailers and brands are starting to understand and feel the pain of operating on traditional, typical commerce platforms. We hear you on all these issues! Typical commerce platforms deliver generic and templated shopping experiences in the form of storefronts, carts, and checkouts. As a result, the front-end experience for developers and end-customers alike is constricted to a predetermined format.

We’re here to let you know that headless commerce is emerging as a winning framework, one that improves on the pains associated with typical and traditional commerce solutions.

In this post, we’ll explain the business benefits of headless commerce, and how forward-thinking retailers and brands can:

  1. Save time and money on development costs, thus operating more flexibly = Reduced operational expenditures
  2. Learn faster, convert better, and retain more customers through stronger implementation of experiments = Higher customer lifetime value and retention
  3. Deliver customized, personal experiences and stand out from the competition = Reduced bounce and shopping cart abandonment

But first, here’s a brief overview of headless commerce:

What is headless commerce?

What is headless commerce, and how is it different from typical commerce solutions?

Typical commerce solutions are built in a manner where the front-end and backend cannot operate independently from one another. The architecture is inherently rigid and built with a predetermined front-end, which provides the usual table-stakes features that online brands require, such as storefront, shopping cart, checkout, and payment processing. In addition, with typical commerce solutions, front-end changes require that backend database changes be made concurrently, usually with full site redeployments. Most retailers today employ typical commerce solutions.

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Headless commerce, in contrast, is a decoupled solution where the front-end and the backend are allowed to operate independently from one another while still being connected. This simple architectural nuance allows brands and retailers to realize newer and faster capabilities than ever before.

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Now that we’ve defined headless commerce, let’s jump right into the business benefits.

Less dev time = reduced operational expenses

Typical commerce:

With typical commerce solutions, simple fixes or modifications on the front-end require backend code to be modified simultaneously as well. From a development standpoint, this may require shutting down your entire site for maintenance, which also means changes can’t be made in real time. From a business standpoint, time is wasted. It also means not knowing for certain whether a change is safe to roll out.

Headless commerce:

The architectural philosophy behind headless commerce allows brands to develop a more flexible experience for developers and business operators alike. Front-end developers save time and headaches from making essential front-end changes, while backend developers no longer need to fret over front-end changes breaking backend rules and logic. Meanwhile, business operators can harness stronger A/B tests, implement user analytics, and focus on conversion optimization, all without upsetting developers. Operationally speaking, this is a big win for e-commerce teams.

Test, respond, grow faster = higher customer LTV and retention

Typical commerce:

Rolling out more frequent UI / UX changes should mean more than mere changes with content messaging, colors, and images, but because the front-end and backend are still coupled, the architectural rigidity of typical commerce solutions remains pervasive. This stands to inhibit brands from using content management solutions and layers to their full potential. This rigidity in turn slows down the pace and innovation at which brands learn about customer behavior or campaign performance. It’s no wonder that only 25% of companies say they’re doing a decent job of experimenting and releasing new features, according to a survey report by New Relic.

Headless commerce:

Headless commerce allows for the quicker and more flexible deployment of front-end user A/B tests, which further allows retailers and brands to learn more about what tests and changes can drive higher or more effective user conversion. With headless commerce, teams comprised of digital marketers, store operators, content managers, and front-end developers are also able to work quickly together to test user flows and find the optimal conversion funnels for campaigns. Imagine having the ability to run tests more flexibly during peak shopping holidays. Now, retailers can accrue the most event revenue possible, and not leave any money on the table.

A one-of-a-kind experience = reduced bounce and shopping cart abandonment

Typical commerce:

Typical legacy players offer templates that often look and appear the same in presentation and feel. Clothing brands, hardware lines, beauty products all fit squarely in neatly pre-designated arrays and product pages. While setup and maintenance may seem straightforward, on the customer experience side of things, visitors are becoming accustomed to a cookie-cutter feel. As a result, they may be more inclined to abandon cart. In addition, forward-looking brands are now focused on delivering in-store experiences to customers that are rapidly evolving; these brands must be able to also provide a rich and captivating online shopping experience that is truly consistent with their evolving brick and mortar feel and presentation.

Headless commerce:

Berlin-based designer and developer [Owen Hoskins] used Reaction’s framework to exercise more control over the user experience and allow for more experimentation with his specific design concepts.

Customers are inevitably getting acclimated to richer online shopping experiences. They’re continuing to demand more in the way of differentiated presentation. Given headless commerce’s architectural philosophy, retailers and brands can now break away from a templated look. They’re getting more creative with presentation layers and content management solutions. Customization is now taken to a new level: a clever and personalized feel is what makes all the difference in reducing bounce and cart abandonments.

Headless commerce is the future

Typical commerce platforms and providers are being forced to consider how much freedom of expression modern brands and retailers can exercise while allowing brands to sell product online effectively. Often, this balance is limited and dictated by the very architecture, technology, and philosophy that traditional commerce platforms have been built on. Headless commerce is changing the game completely by finally allowing brands to exercise more freedom of expression. This is so vital to the progress of modern brands and retailers. This new level of freedom permits modern and forward-thinking retailers and brands to convert more customers, increase LTV, save on development costs, and stand out from the crowd.

Right now, no other ecommerce platform out there can claim to be open and headless. That’s why, with our upcoming 2.0 release, Reaction Commerce stands at the forefront of this paradigm shift. If you’re interested in learning more about our progress, visit our product roadmap.

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