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What is Headless Commerce?

New technologies are transforming the way we shop online. Mobile devices and the Internet of Things have added a new dimension to the ecommerce experience. Retailers need to get savvy when navigating the changing topography of online shopping. They need to look beyond their websites to new platforms. Mobile, social and IoT channels are all important frontiers in this new landscape. And retailers need to meet the customer at these points to ensure their engagement.

Headless commerce is a new approach to ecommerce that allows retailers to do exactly that. Here’s everything you need to know about headless commerce and how it can lend you a competitive edge.

Headless commerce explained

What do we mean when we talk about headless commerce? It may be a confusing term for those with no software or web development expertise.

The “head” or front end is a term for everything pertaining to the customer-facing aspects of ecommerce. This includes digital interface, IoT, mobile platforms, social commerce etc. The back end, on the other hand, is the underlying infrastructure that allows the application to work.

Headless commerce involves separating the front and back ends. This allows the front end to be changed and updated independently of the back end (which is more complicated and costly to alter). 

This affords brands the ability to create unique customer experiences in an agile and affordable way. 

Headless commerce architecture

A headless architecture focuses exclusively on back end processes. It uses APIs like Mulesoft or Heroku to separate the front end and make the data available on multiple platforms through separate applications. It also requires the use of headless content management systems (CMS) that provide access to databases of copy and images on the back end.

Back end systems typically include payment processing platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and multi-platform security systems. 

The end result is a coordinated and consistent experience that ensures brand continuity and a seamless customer experience across multiple platforms. 

The benefits of headless commerce

Headless commerce requires a substantial investment in custom programming in order to build separate independent front and back end systems. As such, it is usually favoured by larger, enterprise-level companies. 

Nonetheless, headless commerce brings a multitude of benefits for businesses and their customers.

The benefits of headless commerce for businesses

There was a time when virtually all ecommerce sales were made through desktop systems. Now, consumers have more platforms than ever at their disposal to make transactions through the internet. 

Headless commerce allows businesses to meet customers on their own turf. While this requires a more complex architecture, it affords them a range of benefits including:

  • Faster time to market with updated front-end experiences available almost instantaneously. So users always get the most up-to-date experience

  • Improved security

  • Flexibility that affords free expression and consistent branding 

  • A more adaptable front end that can be remodelled according to the customer’s preferences 

  • Easier employee adoption with increased time savings

The benefits of headless commerce for customers

Of course, when businesses benefit from headless commerce, the customer benefits as well. Headless commerce makes for a more seamless and satisfying user experience in the following ways:

  • Websites and apps work seamlessly across multiple platforms. So users can expect the same experience no matter what device they’re using

  • Customers enjoy an optimised user experience that is updated instantaneously. As such, they can be assured that they’re always getting the best possible customer experience

We can help

If you’re interested in finding out more about headless commerce and navigating the changing landscape of online retail, then get in touch with our financial experts. Discover how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

GoCardless is used by over 60,000 businesses around the world. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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