What is headless E-Commerce?

Back 2018-11-20 14:19:18
In the last months headless E-Commerce has become an often discussed topic. It is predicted as the future of E-Commerce Software, but what is the meaning of headless E-Commerce and what benefit does it offer?

What is the meaning of headless E-Commerce? 

When we are talking about headless E-Commerce, we do so in reference to the technical architecture of E-Commerce Software, which enables the merchant to run an online-business. Headless E-Commerce is a modern approach compared to conventional E-Commerce software solutions. Conventional or "legacy" E-Commerce software solutions are providing a closed system with backend and frontend, whereas in a headless solutions the frontend and backend are independent from each other. In other words, the business logic and the presentation layer are separated from each other. In order to ensure the data orchestration between the backend and the frontend a strong E-Commerce API is indispensable. Further the API can be considered as the core of any headless solution.  

Why is headless E-Commerce  needed? 

In order to build an online shop, there were two main options for the merchant. He could either build the online shop from the scratch or decide to use one of the legacy E-Commerce solutions. Building an online shop from the scratch was the only option, when the merchant had a complex business model or in order to create unique UX. 
The downsides of building an online shop from the scratch are that it can be very time consuming, requires a lot of development power and involves a high probability for errors. To sum up, it can get very expensive. 

The more common method was to resort to one of the legacy solutions. They provide an easy and fast start as well as less total cost of ownership. The backend or in some cases „Dashboard“ is connected to the frontend, which is also known as template or theme. Furthermore, they are equipped with predefined functionalities. The downsides are the lack of flexibility, limited options for customization and personalization. Further most of the legacy E-Commerce software solutions were developed at a time, when most of the traffic and sales were generated via desktop. But considering the emerging technical infrastructure and devices, the expectation of the customer as well as the nature of demand changed. In times of the Internet of Things, E-Commerce solutions need to provide a connectivity with all kind of devices and surfaces, no matter if it is a mobile, a voice device, an order button or VR glasses.

On the basis of emerging devices and consistently changing market requirements, headless E-Commerce solutions provide substantial advantages for E-Commerce projects. Because of the separation of backend and frontend, headless E-Commerce platforms are bringing the best of two worlds together. On one hand they the deliver a full-stack backend with all needed E-Commerce functionalities and on the other hand, the architecture allows total freedom in customization. Due to the architecture of headless E-Commerce platforms, the backend can be connected to a common template or theme as well as to any device and surface. 

What are the main benefits of headless E-Commerce platforms? 

1. flexibility and customization 

The separation of backend and frontend enables the developer to create unique UX, because they are free of modifying databases in the backend. They just have to make a simple API call. This enables total freedom in design and customization for the presentation layer, which is one pillar of remaining competitive. Through the API, the backend and frontend can be connected with a common template or with a tailored designed frontend as well as with any device or surface.

2. agility and marketing effectivity

The API allows marketing effectiveness for innovation without hurting the backend process. Marketing measures are significant for the growth of an E-Commerce project. Marketing departments have to be able to roll out campaign very quickly. Because of the architecture of headless E-Commerce systems marketing campaigns and innovations can be implemented quickly without hurting the backend processes.

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