Is Headless Commerce a mandate for every eCommerce retailer? Headless Commerce has been one of the most suggested eCommerce approaches for a long time now. However, not all brands that have embraced the approach have succeeded.
We wanted to unearth the technical challenges and difficulties involved in the approach and interacted with Aaron Sheehan, Director of Competitive Strategy at BigCommerce. In ‘PART 1’ of our two-part series Aaron has covered points like why brands should embrace eCommerce, how to go about choosing the frontend, and business considerations that hint at a headless approach. In PART 2, he answered questions like how to overcome challenges in a headless approach and suggestions on the best platforms that support headless.
If you are planning to go for a headless approach, here’s some expert advice you should not be missing. Read on.
Is the Headless approach advisable for enterprise-grade organizations? Why?
A SaaS + Headless Commerce approach is better suited for upper mid-market and enterprise brands because of the technical complexity it holds.
Enterprise-grade businesses that have technological know-how involved in a headless implementation can succeed. Why? Having an in-house team will help brands get the best out of their headless system.
Let’s also discuss why small and medium businesses should think twice before going for a headless commerce approach.
While using a single eCommerce platform provider that gives a backend and a frontend, the technical stuff involved is pretty straightforward. A business doesn’t have to rely on an in-house development team to push data through API communication or maintain middleware. Most of the features and essential eCommerce functionalities will be facilitated out-of-the-box.
However, SMBs using monolithic platforms will face constraints in bringing the changes needed faster. It is, in another way, easier for small businesses with no technical team or fewer overheads to manage consistent orchestration of pushing data from one system to another. Headless may be a lot of work and frustrating for those businesses. In other words, there is value for SMBs in the simplicity of going with one provider.
While going for a Headless approach, challenges like high ownership cost, complexities in managing multiple systems, and hurdles in replatforming are inevitable.
We asked Aaron what’s his take on the challenges in a headless approach and this is what he had to say.
Ownership cost – Since headless demands a separate CMS or a custom-built frontend, the cost of using the CMS or building one on your own will add to your cost. Costs will increase as developers have to troubleshoot their UI code for quality.
A matter of time – Building templates and bespoke experiences for each device and touchpoint might become time-consuming.
Marketer dependency on developers – Your marketing team will have to depend on developers to create landing pages and launch campaigns.
Replatforming difficulties – If your eCommerce store is distributed across several systems, replatforming to another platform becomes tough. Recreating such backend and frontend features becomes challenging.
Management diversification – With multiple systems in place, you’ll have to coordinate with different providers or development teams to manage and keep them up to date.
Now let’s get on with what Aaron shared about overcoming these challenges.
The most important part of overcoming these challenges is preparing beforehand during the decision-making and planning phase. The development team drives the headless decision. They should make recommendations to you about the tooling that’s important for your headless approach.
Before you sign the dotted lines with your vendor(s) that collectively contribute to your headless tech stack, ensure you understand the operational impact of headless. Here are a few examples of scenarios that are common to your business operations like
- Creating a category
- Creating a new product
- Filling orders
- Doing a promotion or a marketing campaign
- Doing a landing page
You can add to this any common eCommerce scenario that occurs or a process that repeats often. These processes, which you were comfortable doing in a monolithic environment, will look different in the headless space. Talk to your development team, get an idea of the cost, and put together a coherent picture of how the system will look like and the complexities involved in it. Only then you’ll be able to extract value out of your headless commerce initiative.
There’s another upcoming solution in the headless and composable commerce space. We are seeing new platforms show up to facilitate a composable environment. Digital Experience composition or Digital Experience Orchestration solutions are new commerce solutions gaining popularity.
For example, imagine a tool that helps developers set up digital experiences. Developers can build it and hand it over to a business user (B2C brand) to use and maintain so that the business need not have a developer involved to launch a new product or make changes. It is like orchestrating, pulling data from disparate systems, unifying it, and pushing it to a frontend. Uniform is one of the platforms currently serving in this space. The promise of these platforms is to help merchants
- Pick and choose the tech stack of your choice
- Choose multiple systems without vendor lock-in
- Build fast websites
- Deliver content faster
- Transition to composable commerce at their own pace
- Less dependency on developers to create and execute campaigns
Uniform and Occtoo are two platforms that provide brands with such technological advancements.
What are the best platforms in the market facilitating a Headless approach?
BigCommerce is one of the best SaaS platforms that facilitate headless commerce. It has more headless builds than any other platform. BigCommerce has been building headless commerce capabilities for a long time now. It’s very accessible and flexible. Here’s an example.
BigCommerce doesn’t force brands to be headless the entire way. You can use it’s native template for pieces of your site and use custom-built software for other parts of your site. For example, you can handle the home page on your own and use BigCommerce to render a Product Listing Page (PLP), PDP, cart, and checkout pages. You can mix and match depending on what your business needs. It’s a great way to test and see.
If you are looking for substantial proof of BigCommerce’s headless commerce capabilities and how it compares on the same scale with other platforms, we would recommend checking out the MACH Alliance community. It’s a consortium of software vendors who follow the same headless philosophy in how they build it. There are several software vendors in the MACH Alliance – CMS, DXPs, Digital Experience Orchestrators like Uniform. Headless is one of the most important traits of MACH.
This is what Aaron had to say about the ‘future of Headless Commerce’.
Headless Commerce was a buzzword before, but the need for advanced storefront experiences has made it an option worth considering. It makes perfect sense for eCommerce brands to manage all their data centrally and provide tailored storefront experiences on multiple frontends. The complexity for brands to represent their presence differently in different regions to cater to local audiences in a personalized way has also grown leaps and bounds. The headless commerce adoption will continue to grow and will be an integral part of the upcoming composable commerce space.