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News | November 08, 2019

In Over Their Heads? Why Headless Commerce Makes Sense for B2B Brands

Ecommerce buzz word of the year. Preached by many as the future of ecommerce itself. Everyone in ecommerce has undoubtedly heard of headless commerce in the last year-or-so and the pragmatic advantages it offers by severing the connection between the front and back end components inherent in full-stack solutions. Headless commerce instead relies on APIs to connect the dots and deliver the full package.


“Headless commerce” is where the front-end and back-end of a commerce platform are de-coupled and stand independently of one another, separating the content presentation layer and the business logic/functional layer.”

[Chavan, DigitalCommerce360]


Personally, for how popular the term has become, I wish that a better adjective had been chosen. ‘Headless’ conjures up images of decapitation, not exactly something enjoyable to visualise. Maybe ‘faceless’ would have been better? No, that’s just as bad. ‘Detached commerce’? Ok, it’s not as easy as I thought, but I digress.


Another issue I’ve noticed is that the concept of headless commerce is often trivialised, making it seem as though it’s a simple undertaking and just like choosing option A or option B. Looking at it objectively, the fact is that headless commerce is not the correct fit for every business, and can involve massive dedication and resources that smaller brands simply won’t have available. Of course, this isn’t to detract from it, the good news is that many enterprise ecommerce businesses do have the resources to successfully execute a headless strategy.


[Image Source]


Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives by a landslide, but we must always be aware of the full picture. In this brief introductory article, I’ll present the most significant benefits of headless commerce mainly as they relate to B2B businesses, and also state the facts on some potential drawbacks.

Major Benefits of Headless Commerce

For B2B businesses looking to expand into ecommerce, headless is definitely the right fit. The main reason is that it’s likely that these businesses already have a branded website, and it would be much easier to attach an ecommerce engine to the existing CMS than it would be to construct a new site and migrate all the existing web content over.


With this in mind, the benefits go beyond initial conveniences.

True Omnichannel

Headless commerce idealises the ability to present content optimally at any touchpoint. This means that information is delivered to any channel without compromising the quality, UI or UX and without disrupting business functions on the backend.  New channels that emerge are also easier to adapt to, making headless commerce a safer bet for brands looking to future-proof their ecommerce strategy.


Take for example Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), where content is presented similar to that of an installed application directly within the browser. This means lower data usage, faster speeds, better performance and better experience that couples with headless perfectly because PWAs are extremely hard to implement with full-stack technologies.

Lean and Agile

In the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman has no problem catching Ichabod Crane and making quick work of him. The moral of this story? Headless means faster and stronger.


Yes, I’m aware that reference is a massive stretch and perhaps painful to read, but hopefully it was enough for a cheap laugh.


On a more serious note, headless commerce allows change to happen quickly. This focuses heavily on my initial point in this section, where connecting an ecommerce engine to an existing CMS is much more lean and agile than building everything from scratch. This also allows greater adaptability and flexibility for technologies and touch points that are yet to be seen in ecommerce.

Scalability

Everything comes down to can headless commerce grow with the business. The answer is absolutely yes. Headless commerce at its core is: 


  • Flexible

  • Adaptable

  • Efficient

  • API-driven

  • Experimental

  • Customisable

  • Seamless

All of these characteristics contribute to the ability for headless to scale with the business, along with reduced operating costs and development resources.

Potential Drawbacks of Headless Commerce

It’s important to realise that these challenges would be completely subjective case-by-case. It all depends on the size and scope of the business, and as our primary audience will be established B2B ecommerce brands, these drawbacks should be inconsequential.


  • Developers needing to build their own front end: This would only be in the very rare case where no online presence exists. If there is no website to speak of, then I would not recommend a brand consider headless commerce, let alone ecommerce until they have better established their position online.

  • Reliance on IT for content presentation: headless can potentially present an issue with departments needing to rely heavily on developers and/or IT for publishing and presenting new content. The solution to this would be to use a powerful CMS and train the necessary teams on how to use it correctly, establishing cross-departmental guidelines for consistency.

  • Can limit native functionality: this would be mostly dependent on the CMS that is used, which means affordability. As enterprise brands should have the resources to implement a sophisticated frontend system, this should be a non-issue.

Coming up next: Major Ecommerce Platforms Conducive to the Headless Approach

You’re now probably wondering which platforms might be ideal for implementing a headless approach. You can rest assured that there are many. In our next headless commerce article we’ll take a look at which platforms are doing it the best and how the headless strategy can most effectively be used with each.


SmartOSC are experts at applying the headless commerce concept to leading global ecommerce platforms and B2B businesses. You’re surely curious about how exactly this strategy will improve your business, so contact us today!


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