Why Enterprises Should Drop Their Legacy Platforms for a Headless Website
Consumers today have higher expectations than ever before. They expect a seamless experience across channels, whether through mobile, desktop, or IoT devices. As a result, eCommerce businesses must stay up to date with the latest consumer trends and strive to deliver integrated and personalized online shopping experiences or risk being left behind. And to achieve this goal, many businesses are ditching their legacy platforms in favor of headless websites.
But what exactly is headless commerce? And how does enterprise headless commerce allow companies to gain a competitive edge in an increasingly fierce eCommerce landscape? Let's get into it.
Why Go Headless? The Benefits of Headless Commerce
Let's take a step back. What is headless commerce? In simple words, headless commerce decouples the frontend (the "head") and backend of an online store, leaving only the backend. This then means that developers can use APIs to deliver functional elements like blog posts, products, banners, and customer reviews to any screen or device. At the same time, frontend developers can choose the most appropriate framework to present that content in the most visually compelling and resonant way.
By going headless, businesses can create better shopping experiences for customers without needing to modify or update the backend infrastructure, which can often be a time-consuming and intricate task. For example, suppose every time you wanted to change a customer-facing part of your store, you had to touch backend processes that control order shipping, shopping carts, tax calculations, etc. In that case, you could impact the entire user experience without meaning to.
And critically, being adaptable in the digital age is synonymous with success. For example, it's estimated that by 2025, eCommerce will make up 24.5% of all retail shopping worldwide. In such a booming and competitive sector, being able to change things as you see fit to meet customer demands is paramount.
With this in mind, let's look closer at some of the specific benefits of headless commerce.
Headless technology allows companies to scale their systems more quickly, as the front and back ends are decoupled and can be developed and scaled independently. In simple words, the headless approach is entirely customizable, which is an essential benefit for businesses that are going to expand in the near future. It allows companies to introduce new marketing or product campaigns without tech pains. Companies can focus on optimizing their marketing strategies and digital experiences without expending too much energy on coding and website integrations.
With a monolithic approach, one single program manages the entire suite of website processes, from company databases to customer transactions. The issue here is that if one end fails, the whole system fails. In addition, bad actors can hack the processes that connect the backend and front end, causing the system to come to a standstill.
But by detaching the front and back end, companies can reduce the attack surface and improve the system's overall security. In addition, if hackers do manage to breach one part of the system, they're still isolated from the other parts, significantly hampering their ability to wreak havoc on the entire system.
With headless architecture, tech teams or even non-developers can quickly apply necessary changes as they arise. As a result, new integrations, features, and functionality can be built and deployed more rapidly with a decoupled front and backend. And companies are freed up from editing several layers of code to update eCommerce themes or add new components. This helps businesses respond quickly to evolving market conditions or customer demands.
Better User Experiences
When you remove the hard-coded relationship between the front and back end, you give developers and designers more freedom to create increasingly compelling and channel-specific personalized user experiences. Today, omnichannel experiences are critical to the success of eCommerce businesses. Still, delivering exceptional user experiences can be challenging using legacy systems that force IT teams to manage changes and updates separately across different devices.
But with a headless approach, personalized content added in one source can seamlessly be replicated across multiple touchpoints. In short, enterprises can deliver rich user experiences with minimal coding and without complicated technical considerations.
Monolithic (non-headless) architecture involves handling many different eCommerce layers at the same time. This process is time-consuming and complex and therefore demands skilled IT professionals. But with a headless approach, you don't need to engage the entire development team to make changes to the site, which helps cut down on IT costs.
At the same time, a headless stack allows development teams to work independently without jeopardizing the whole website. This means companies can better manage their IT resources, allowing some developers to test components and fix bugs without waiting for other team members to finish other tasks first.
Moreover, headless commerce architecture allows marketers to take a more active role in updating the website, further reducing the dependence on IT workers. In addition, the pre-built integrations offered by headless commerce platforms save countless development hours. In short, upgrading to a headless approach can help companies reduce costs by streamlining their development and deployment processes.
Lastly, companies can leverage reusable components across different channels and platforms, vastly reducing redundant coding work.
The Best Headless Commerce Platforms Today
Whether your enterprise deals with B2B or B2C eCommerce, there's a headless commerce solution to fit your needs. And with headless websites surging in popularity, there is no shortage of headless commerce platforms on the market. But how do you know which one is right for your business? Let's dive into some of the best options available.
Contentful is an API-first platform that enables companies to build compelling digital experiences. Creators can leverage an intuitive web app to make changes easily and build digital experiences without relying on IT workers. The platform also integrates with PIM and commerce systems, as well as integrating with existing workflows.
Contentstack is a headless CMS platform that offers fast-paced content management. For example, businesses can onboard new users in less than 30 minutes and easily manage content on the centralized content hub that provides a unified user experience across the marketing technology stack. The intuitive interface is also optimized for no-code and low-code users, allowing everyone to hit the ground running.
ButterCMS is a headless CMS with content APIs allowing companies to manage content at scale. For example, businesses can manage content for multiple websites and channels, all from a centralized dashboard, and integrate with their existing tech stack. This means marketers can create compelling content just once and replicate it across their platforms without needing to worry about administration conflicts or technical issues.
If you're in the eCommerce world, you've likely heard of Shopify - a cloud-based commerce platform for small and medium-sized businesses. But what about Shopify Plus? Shopify Plus is the company's headless offering, allowing businesses to transform any digital device or screen into a sales channel without design and development constraints. It also integrates with various leading content management systems and other frontend solutions. At the same time, the Storefront API lets brands design fast, resonant storefronts for mobile, web, video games, and more.
How Do Headless Commerce Platforms Stack Up Against Each Other?
Contentstack outperforms Contentful in some areas, like enterprise scalability and ease of content management. However, as the market-leading cloud-native composable content platform, Contentful offers some unique advantages of its own. Namely, Contentful focuses on the entire life cycle of content, which includes decoupled frontend capabilities, but also backend customization to allow seamless cross-functional collaboration.
And what about Shopify Plus? Shopify Plus doesn't offer the same range of features as the other picks on this list. Still, they are a behemoth in the eCommerce world and are continually committed to providing new products for its customers. With this in mind, if you're already using Shopify, giving Shopify Plus a go could be an excellent way to transition toward headless architecture.
Here's the bottom line. With companies like Amazon pushing the envelope regarding consumer expectations, eCommerce businesses can't afford to take a back seat. But continually developing immersive digital experiences to meet customer demand is quickly becoming unfeasible without headless architecture. Headless enterprise commerce allows you to meet customer needs and differentiate yourself by competing on experience, whether you're a seasoned enterprise or a fledgling startup. It's the vehicle for driving increased customer loyalty, more conversions, and boosted sales.