Once upon a time, in the bustling world of eCommerce, there emerged a visionary company ready to challenge the norms and revolutionize online shopping. This company embarked on a transformative journey that would leave the entire industry in awe. Embracing the power of headless and composable commerce, this company – let’s call them Supremissimo – immersed its shoppers in a world of endless possibilities.

With the help of these new approaches, Supremissimo was able to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and deliver true personalization in the customer shopping experience to its customers.

How did they effect this transformation, you ask? How did they build an eCommerce experience that’s impressive and unique? And more importantly – how do you replicate such exceptional customer experience?

Theoretically, you could still use traditional monolithic architecture. However, newer approaches, such as headless and composable commerce, are gaining popularity. (These are the frameworks used by Supremissimo.)

Traditional eCommerce platforms offer only a one-size-fits-all solution. This includes all the functionalities you need to build your online store. This can help you set up and manage your store quickly – and, depending on the size of your store, quite successfully –using out-of-the-box tools. However, you may need more help as you expand your online business or in the face of rapidly changing customer needs. That’s where these newer frameworks come into the picture.

Let’s get into the details

As a merchant, the need to stay ‘current’ increases with the number of digital touchpoints your customers use. This has led to the development of the first new framework we’re discussing: headless commerce. Headless commerce decouples the front-end from the back-end, allowing quick, real-time changes. The front-end communicates with the back-end through APIs.

Another new approach, composable commerce, designs the system to make every component independent of all others.

Headless and composable commerce empower businesses to thrive in a rapidly evolving market. This blog post discusses the pros, cons, and key differences between the two.

Headless Commerce: What is it?

A headless commerce application separates the front-end (client-facing) presentation layer from back-end (business-centered) operations. APIs connect the front-end to the back-end. The front-end is what the client can see; it has the content, options to purchase, buttons, links, and more. The back-end handles customer requests and consists of data storage, server, payment processing, and other major components and functionality.

Unlike in monolithic platforms, headless eCommerce platforms let you create unique customer experiences. This is thanks to the power and agility of headless API platforms. Such platforms give you the control to pick and choose the capabilities you need across the board.

Pros of headless commerce

Headless commerce helps make your online store better in many ways. You can change how it looks, how it works, and how it connects with other touchpoints. Let us explore some of the advantages of this approach:

Flexibility: Separation of the front- and back-ends facilitates independent development and updates. This lets you offer many front-end interface options. You can quickly update the front layer for all devices, from smart tech to traditional devices.

Omnichannel capabilities: Headless architecture lets you deliver a consistent experience across channels. That includes websites, mobile apps, voice assistants, IoT devices, and more.

Scalability: Since you can scale the back-end independently of the front end, a headless commerce website is more efficient at handling high traffic loads and supporting multiple users.

Customizability: You can access and integrate customer data from different back-end systems, such as CRM, order management, subscription billing, etc. You can highlight promotions and products based on user activity. This can help you run targeted marketing campaigns and provide a more personalized shopping experience.

IT department time savings: Since you can make changes to the front-end quickly, your developers save time on user interface changes. Additionally, since different teams can work parallelly on front-end and back-end updates, it speeds up the development process.

Cons of headless commerce

While the advantages are significant, there are certain challenges to adopting headless commerce. Some of the challenges are:

Budget: A headless site is more expensive to make, run, and maintain. You have to set up and manage two separate systems for the front-end and the back-end of the store. This raises platform costs and the effort to create and run the store.

Complexity: You will need more infrastructure with a headless platform. It’s not as complex as building an eCommerce website without depending on a platform. At the same time, it’s also not as easy as using only one platform. Moreover, you also have a limited number of platforms that support headless sites. (The big names, such as Adobe Commerce, BigCommerce, Shopify Plus and Shopware do support it.) Complexity will improve as more tech platforms adopt this concept.

Composable Commerce: What is it?

The term composable commerce was first coined by Gartner. This approach to building and deploying eCommerce solutions keeps each operating system component independent yet integrated. Composable commerce is an evolution from headless technology. You can plug, scale, and replace every element without affecting the other parts.

In a headless system, the front-end typically relies on a single back-end. However, in a composable system, each business capability is independent. Composable commerce uses modern approaches like MACH (Microservices, API, Cloud, and Headless) and JAMstack (JavaScript, APIs, and Markup).

Pros of composable commerce

Composable commerce brings a range of benefits for eCommerce businesses seeking flexibility and growth. Here are some advantages of composable commerce to help businesses stay ahead in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Omnichannel capabilities: In composable commerce, you can add or remove touchpoints, create high-performance digital storefronts, introduce new features, and easily design and customize customer experiences without limitations.

Quick adaptability to market changes: You can quickly adapt to new market conditions and explore new ways to interact with customers. Each component works independently from others and can be swapped out for new components when needed.

Vendor management: You can use modular components and best-of-breed solutions. It lets you add, remove, or switch functionalities without getting locked in with a single vendor.

Cost efficiency: You don’t have to upgrade or maintain outdated versions of your eCommerce software. This avoids unnecessary expenses like monitoring costs, customizations and hosting fees, as you pay only for the features you use.

Enhanced data control: Composable commerce gives businesses better control over their data. This allows them to use it for upselling and cross-selling opportunities throughout the customer journey.

Innovation acceleration: The flexibility offered by composable commerce gives tech teams the freedom to experiment with different touchpoints and features. This lets them focus on driving innovation and reducing time-to-market for new releases.

Automatic scalability: Like headless commerce, composable commerce too is cloud-native. This enables you to scale your online capacity automatically. This scalability ensures optimal performance and speed for your eCommerce operations.

Cons of composable commerce

While there’s a strong case to be made for the adoption of composable commerce in an eCommerce business, there are some implementation challenges. Here are a few:

Multiple vendor management: Dealing with multiple best-of-breed solutions requires managing relationships with different vendors, negotiating subscriptions, pricing, contracts, and integrating terms for each solution. However, this also gives you the flexibility to switch to a different vendor for any component when needed without being locked in to a single provider.

Excess functionality: This approach is perfect if you want complete control and want everything to run smoothly. However, if your business is just starting or your operation needs just essential functions, out-of-the-box alternatives could be a better fit.

Differences between headless commerce and composable commerce

In their approach to building eCommerce experiences, composable and headless commerce share many similarities. However, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they aren’t the same.

The headless commerce approach grew from a traditional commerce approach. In traditional commerce, the front- and back-ends are connected, and it’s impossible to decouple elements in the system. In a headless solution, the system is split into two parts: the front-end and the back-end.

Composable commerce builds off headless commerce, giving you more options and flexibility. The architecture is like a set of building blocks that can be put together and changed in multiple different ways. Each block has its own function and purpose; they can work together to make something bigger and better. You choose the blocks you want and arrange them to fit your needs. You can change them any time without breaking the whole system or affecting the other blocks.

Using headless commerce might cost you more than composable commerce. With composable commerce, you can select the best components for your business. You only pay for those parts and nothing else. If your business gets bigger, you can get more components as you need them. However, with headless, you pay for the entire platform, even if you use only some features, thereby increasing costs. Also, it is harder to manage and maintain and requires expertise, which again adds to the overall cost.

Headless and composable platforms are two powerful technologies for eCommerce. Before opting for either, evaluate the advantages and disadvantages and weigh the costs against your business needs. If you feel both have the right capabilities that your business needs, you can use them together. For example, you could use headless commerce to build a front-end experience suited to different devices and channels. Composable commerce can be used to build the back-end with the best tools for each function. You need to use these tools correctly to get the most out of your eCommerce site. Talk to Ziffity’s experts to learn more about how to use headless and composable architectures to create the best eCommerce solution for your online business.