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Headless eCommerce: What is it and should you consider it?

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Last editedNov 20222 min read

Anyone with a passing familiarity with eCommerce has probably heard the term ‘headless eCommerce’ floating around in recent years. While it might sound frightening, it’s actually something that more businesses should really take advantage of.

Indeed, headless eCommerce technology can help drive engagement and deliver more seamless digital solutions for your customers and clients. But while it could benefit your business, there are drawbacks to consider, so here we offer a balanced view on the technology.

What is headless eCommerce?

As the name suggests, headless eCommerce is a ‘headless’ commerce architecture that separates a website’s front end from its back end. This means that the presentation (images, text and buttons) and the functionality of the site (pricing, security and checkout) work independently of one another through an API.

A headless solution allows businesses to essentially ‘unplug’ and change or update different heads from the system, without affecting the back end. It allows for the storage and delivery of content on several different platforms without the need for a front end delivery layer, meaning developers can focus on creating content using whatever front end framework they like.

It works by using an API to send information between the front and back ends, and is a strategy that’s been used by Amazon for years to allow their platform to be accessed easily from a range of different channels. But Amazon is the largest eCommerce business on the planet, so while it might allow them to work faster and target markets more decisively, could it also work for small eCommerce businesses?

Headless eCommerce vs conventional eCommerce

A traditional eCommerce solution contains a front end and a back end working together. As it’s essentially one system, this means if you want to make alterations to the front end, you also need to edit the back end. This presents obvious limitations in terms of flexibility and functionality.

Headless eCommerce benefits

·       As eCommerce systems change, headless platforms are more flexible when it comes to supporting new technology and following market trends.

·       Headless eCommerce solutions allow for seamless integration with several other systems and combinations of systems, letting you create the bespoke solution that suits your needs and business goals.

·       Data can be drawn from back end systems to more accurately analyse customer needs and trends, and then use that data to implement offers and new experiences faster.

·       The more personalised customer experience offered by headless eCommerce allows you to deliver unique experiences and engage more users.

·       As Amazon has discovered, headless eCommerce allows for purchasing of products across several channels without the need to ‘re-platform’ the front end to improve functionality. This creates a more cohesive customer experience, even on social media.

Headless eCommerce drawbacks

·       As you might be building your own front end from scratch, a headless eCommerce solution is usually going to prove more costly and more time-consuming than using a more traditional ‘package’ eCommerce solution. You also need to consider maintenance costs for the front end.

·       While it is more flexible, a headless eCommerce solution is also more complex. This means smaller businesses without dedicated development teams might struggle initially as they learn the ropes. However, third-party services can be brought on board to help.

·       The more successful your platform becomes, the more maintenance it requires. With a headless eCommerce solution that means having to maintain two separate solutions. Without a robust team in place to help manage it, headless solutions might prove too much for some businesses to handle.

Generally speaking, headless eCommerce is a more flexible and scalable eCommerce architecture solution that might prove a little daunting for smaller businesses. For those more adventurous SMEs wishing to claim complete ownership over site architecture and improve marketing effectiveness, it’s definitely a solution worth pursuing, particularly if you have international ambitions.

We can help

GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. It also works seamlessly with a number of front end eCommerce applications and other payment platforms, so could form the ideal back end in your own headless eCommerce solution.

Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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