For the past three decades, eCommerce websites have evolved from simple tasks of buying products online to delivering niche shopping experiences. Technology has enabled retailers to provide seamless digital experiences customized for buyers’ specific interests.
Online shoppers are rewarded with membership benefits, same-day delivery, free shipping, flexible return policy and more. This approach to wooing customers has made them rely on online stores for all products ranging from clips to cars.
As the eCommerce market expands, the expectations of online shoppers keep evolving and so, there arises a need for digital experience management.
Now, let’s try to explore the various approaches to provide an immersive shopping experience for customers of today and tomorrow. Before that, let’s know the traditional eCommerce website architecture in the early days of eCommerce.
Traditional eCommerce website framework
A ready-made web store framework was used by merchants during the early days of eCommerce. Developers had to follow a specific template given by the eCommerce software vendor. Whenever customizations had to be done, the front-end releases had to be managed together with the backend release. So, the development and deployment took longer and adopting new technologies were a nightmare.
During those days when eCommerce was yet to go mainstream, the online buyers’ expectations were low. The customer journey was linear and they used desktop computers at home or work and hence, merchants were able to meet their expectations with a simplistic digital shopping environment.
Fast-forward a few decades and we are in the smartphone era. These pocket computers, along with internet connectivity on the go, are faster than desktops and laptops and have mobile apps that are simpler yet effective to use. They expect a similar user interface when they shop online like quick navigation, secure payments etc., and so, merchants had to go beyond the traditional, templated website framework.
To solve the existing limitations in operating with full-stack commerce solutions plus the customer expectations in the smartphone era, API-based, website architecture with decoupled front-end and backend systems, emerged. APIs allow developers to create customizable front-end applications that can fully access the data and features of the application, operating system and services.
There are three important approaches to digital commerce architecture based on APIs, namely, “Full Stack”, “Hybrid” and “Headless”. While the full stack is similar to the traditional website framework, the headless is future-ready while hybrid is a combination of both full stack and hybrid.
Full Stack Approach
This approach has a primary commerce platform and a partner-supported storefront for customizing user experience. To extend the commerce capabilities, for instance, native mobile apps, APIs are available. This approach doesn’t need in depth technical knowledge and is widely adopted by small to mid market businesses. However, it still doesn’t address customer experience management features like data analytics and personalization.
This is a phased approach for headless commerce. A commerce API communicates with front-end such as a web content management platform and backend which is the core commerce engine. With hybrid approach, the front-end user interface is more customizable than in the full stack approach.
Commerce APIs are used in headless commerce but the website’s front-end and backend are separated or decoupled. Headless approach is the best solution for challenges faced in an omnichannel commerce environment because, merchants have more flexibility and customize commerce-specific requirements irrespective of whether it is a system, IoT device or a mobile application.
Further, headless commerce allows the developer to seamlessly integrate with other content management systems.
Defining Headless Commerce
Headless commerce is a type of website architecture that provides the flexibility in delivering experience-driven commerce. Headless commerce has its front-end ‘decoupled’ from the backend.
Both front-end and backend can function independently in the website architecture while APIs communicate between them. With this architecture, retailers can have competitive benefits such as omnichannel experience, marketing initiatives and faster web development.
Benefits of Headless Commerce
- Headless commerce is not limited by specific processes or workflows. Developers have complete creative control over user experience based on brand-specific requirements.
- Customer-facing content layers can be rapidly updated without affecting the logic-heavy backend. Similarly, backend codes can be developed and deployed independently without upsetting the front-end.
- Sending customer-specific promotions and offers is easy for merchants because the customer data is made available across every touchpoint.
- Merchants who want to scale their sites can do it faster in a headless architecture. Site updates will take less time and front-development costs will significantly reduce.
- The marketing team can freely access the front-end and include campaigns, promotions and launch new customer experiences without depending on the development team.
Things to consider before hosting headless commerce
Now that we’ve listed the benefits of headless commerce, here are the factors you need to know for a seamless hosting experience:
Your hosting platform (e.g., Magento) has to be compatible with other platforms.
Front-end and backend combination has to be carefully chosen to meet commerce-centric requirements like:
- Traffic Surges: Your website has to hold up to extreme traffic outbursts, especially during holiday seasons.
- All-round Security: Both front-end CMS and backend platforms should be run in a highly-secure manner to avoid hackers stealing your customer data.
- Continuous Monitoring: An experienced admin team is needed that can continuously monitor, be proactive in solving issues before they occur, and ensure that the site is up and running, 24×7.
- Loading Speed: Site loading speed is one of the key aspects for improving conversion rates. Your choice of front-end and backend architecture must ensure fast loading speeds.
- Tech Support: The support team must include account managers, admin teams to ensure smooth performance in all hosted platforms.
- Customizations: Ensure that the platform you choose can cater to your specific needs and is flexible for future requirements as well.
Magento Commerce for headless architecture
Magento Commerce has innovative solutions to help merchants implement a headless approach into their eCommerce architecture. Here are the options that Magento Commerce provides for headless commerce implementation:
- Magento Commerce integrates with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) for merchants to develop customizable front-end and also choose between a headless and hybrid commerce approach.
- Magento Commerce comes with REST and GraphQL APIs with which merchants can quickly extend and adopt APIs for various customer touchpoints and integrations with third-party systems.
- Magento PWA Studio is available for developers to create app-like immersive experiences for mobile browsers regardless of the backend processes.
We have learned the headless commerce, its benefits and things to consider before choosing this approach. Now, it’s time to decide whether a headless approach will suit your business.
While mainstream eCommerce will mostly embrace headless technologies in the future, early adopters can integrate these technologies in a phased manner depending on their organizational maturity and how future-ready they want their business to be. Magento Commerce, with its readily available technologies, can be the first step in the process of adopting headless approach.
Thinking of headless Commerce but need more help to decide whether it’ll suit your business? Talk to our eCommerce experts today.