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You’re losing money. How do I know? Because 69.82% of online shopping carts are abandoned.

One of the key reasons for such a high cart abandonment rate is the customer’s experience on your website.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand why small businesses are switching from the traditional e-commerce store to a headless approach. We’ll explain:

  • What headless commerce is
  • The difference between headless and traditional approaches
  • How to decide if you should go headless
  • The Pros and cons of headless commerce

Why Is Headless E-commerce Good for Your Business?

Two decades ago, if you wanted to start an online business or build an e-commerce website, you had to buy a monolithic system.

But monolithic offerings couldn’t provide enough customization options and they didn’t iterate fast enough for businesses to stay relevant.

Slow go-to-market timelines, innovation delays, high cart abandonment, and development costs led brands to emerging models like headless commerce, which aren’t only agile but also offer more customization options.

As consumers interact with online stores, headless commerce provides the interface that works simultaneously across different digital channels and devices. Businesses can cater to the ever-evolving user experience (UX) and meet their customers’ expectations.

What Is Headless Commerce?

woman using a laptop
Source: Pexels

As confusing as it sounds, headless commerce is a simple concept: You remove the front end of the system, such as a website using a traditional content management system (CMS), from the backend commerce functionality like a shopping cart.

By detaching the front end, you can:

  • Connect multiple heads to one backend
  • Scale up multichannel commerce to customers across all channels ― brick-and-mortar store, online store, social media, and more ― and devices
  • Support new technology more comfortably as it emerges
  • Adapt and integrate into any system easily and quickly
  • Meet consumers where and when they want to purchase

In a conventional e-commerce store, you’d have to update both the head and backend if you need to apply some changes to the design or user interface. It’s not only time-consuming, but it’s also tedious.

Let’s explore the broader differences between headless and traditional approaches in more detail so that you can determine whether to switch to headless commerce.

The Difference Between Headless and Traditional Approaches

According to Morshed Alam of Savvy Programmer, the fundamental difference between headless and traditional e-commerce is that headless e-commerce separates the presentation layer from the commerce layer.

With traditional e-commerce, the presentation and commerce layers are integrated, so changes to the presentation, such as a new design or layout, require changes to the underlying commerce functionality.

Headless commerce separates the front end and backend while traditional e-commerce platforms couple them together so that the e-commerce functionality and design work occur within the same system.

The traditional commerce approach offers limited flexibility since backend databases contain the code for the frontend layouts and content. Having one end-to-end solution for creating and managing your e-commerce experience makes it difficult to run complex business logic at scale.

When you need to build front-end presentations, you must have templates that you can edit to some extent but you’re limited in how you can customize your designs.

That’s where headless commerce comes in ― to ensure that your e-commerce customer journey is seamless regardless of the channel they’re using to access your site.

Headless commerce gives you more control over the user experience and streamlines the digital experiences you offer your customers. Since the code is separate, you can change the front end quickly and keep backend systems separate from each other.

You don’t have to worry about possibly breaking something in the backend, and you have more flexibility, nearly limitless customizations, and freedom to grow.

How To Decide If You Should Go Headless

When LARQ founders were shopping for an e-commerce platform for their self-purifying water bottles company, they were clear about two things: Scalability and flexibility for customization.

The company was launching multiple international sites for its customers. It made sense to have multi-region capabilities and to provide various currencies from a single site, among other advanced features.

A traditional commerce solution wouldn’t scale with its business as it grew, and it lacked the flexibility and customization it needed to offer a seamless customer experience.

Headless gave the company all that plus complete control over the content and customer journey.

Today, the company reaches customers almost everywhere around the globe thanks to the headless solution, which allows it to control its regional sites in a single domain.

It launched its e-commerce site and realized a 400% revenue increase, 15% increase in average order value, and 80% increase in conversion rate over three months.

LARQ bottle image
Source: LARQ

Validate Your Decision to Move to Headless E-Commerce

You likely run a basic transactional website. If you plan to add at least one other digital presence, such as mobile, you’ve already validated the decision to go headless.

You can start small and build multiple front ends as you grow, but you’ll move faster if you have the headless infrastructure in place. By adding independent front ends later, you’ll save money compared to building new sites each time or adopting a cramped traditional solution that you can’t expand into a mobile app.

For example, if you’re a news organization, you can share information via a mobile app, online display ads, digital billboards, and more ― not just publishing stories on your site.

Instead of using a different CMS for each distribution channel and storing content in various places, you can store content in one headless CMS and use external frontend software to present the content.

Use Business Cues to Make the Decision to Move to Headless E-commerce

How do you decide when to go headless? When you want to:

  • Sell through multiple channels
  • Create world-class customer experiences
  • Add commerce capabilities to your current CMS
  • Increase checkout security and ensure easier Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliance
  • Partner with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider to reduce the workload on your information technology (IT) and developer teams

Do you have a business-to-business (B2B) company? You can go headless too. A detached backend offers unlimited options to add new features and create unique customer portals complete with self-service and account customizations.

By providing better personalization, you also improve your ability to service highly relevant products and content to your customers.

Pros and Cons of Headless Commerce

A headless system is a great option for your business, especially if you’re considering more digital channels, but it’s not without its drawbacks.

Review some of the key benefits and challenges to expect if you go headless.

Pros of Headless E-commerce

  • Business relevance: Going headless can help your business stay relevant as new channels and devices emerge and get an edge over your competitors.
  • Improved user experience: Customers can make a purchase on your website, using a voice assistant, or using their smartwatch.
  • Omnichannel selling: You can create custom experiences and deliver your content and products to multiple sales channels.
  • Faster content delivery: With headless commerce, the front end pulls data from the backend quickly without causing performance issues and delivers your content faster.
  • Flexibility: Your development team can use any programming language or technology they prefer in a headless system and make changes independently without breaking anything.
  • Rapid updates: You can make quicker updates on any part of the system without changing the whole or affecting your system’s functionality.
  • Speed to market: Once you set up a headless commerce system, you can replicate and optimize it for international SEO.
  • Enhanced security: Headless systems deliver content via application programming interfaces (APIs), which are often more secure. You can roll out security updates quickly at any time.
  • Lower costs: Headless reduces conversion rate and customer acquisition costs because you can draw in organic traffic through dynamic and smooth customer experiences ― not just paid ads.
  • Greater control over the platform: Headless commerce lets you keep the front-end solution that works for you and add to or upgrade what doesn’t work in your backend.

Cons of Headless E-commerce

  • Costs: A headless system is more complex, making it costlier to set up, maintain and update continuously with new features.
  • Resource intensive: Depending on the complexity of your headless system, you may need to employ more strong technical talent to get it up and running smoothly.
  • Potential downtime: You could experience serious downtime when implementing a headless system because you have to set up backend apps and create many front-end experiences.

Create Winning Shopping Experiences

The growth in digital channels, personalization, and transactions are requiring more robust and enterprise-ready websites than ever before.

You not only need more buyer touchpoints, but you also need to adapt quickly to respond to buyers’ needs. That includes shifting your strategy to include a seamless online store experience.

Here’s how you can get started:

  • Determine what commerce platform suits your needs best
  • Choose a headless CMS solution
  • Use APIs to sync the headless solution to your sales channels and other backend systems

The rest is up to effective UX and interface optimization to improve customer engagement and conversions.