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The Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce

What is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is a separation of the front end and back end of ecommerce applications. The headless commerce technology offers companies the freedom of to build without limits and enables them to significantly improve the customer experience.

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Headless Commerce

Headless Commerce in a Nutshell

  • Headless vs Traditional
  • Benefits
  • For B2C
  • For B2B
  • Success Stories

What Headless Commerce Means

Headless commerce architecture, unlike the traditional e-commerce model, involves separating the front-end and back-end of an e-commerce application.

With headless commerce, the customer-facing layer or storefront is decoupled from the backend (where the product information, order management, and a few other functionalities are set up). Headless commerce relies on the use of an application programming interface (API) to connect multiple platforms on the front-end thereby making it easier for developers to create personalized experiences without having to make alterations on the back-end system.

A headless eCommerce system works by passing requests between the presentation and application layers through web services or application programming interface (API) calls.

As we mentioned above, the back-end of a commerce platform houses product information, pricing, payments, and all the other management functionalities. These services are arranged in packages known as features or Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs). By decoupling the back-end functionalities from the front-end, it is easier to release new features that customers can access through multiple channels or storefronts such as mobile, social, wearables, voice assistants, and other IoT devices.

Headless Commerce

Definition

Headless commerce is an e-commerce architecture where the front-end is decoupled from the back-end commerce functionality and can thus be updated or edited without interfering with the front-end, similar to a headless content management system.

Headless eCommerce vs. Traditional eCommerce

If you’ve ever set up an online store for your business, then you’re probably very familiar with the traditional e-commerce model. As simple as traditional e-commerce platforms appear to be at first, they often pose challenges further down the line when a business’s e-commerce strategy develops and customers begin to demand more store features and functionalities. 

The problem with traditional e-commerce platforms is that they often come with pre-defined experiences for both the customer and the website administrator or developer. While this might work for small businesses looking for an out-of-the-box solution, this can pose countless difficulties for agile or complex businesses that need to constantly modify their store-front to meet the endless needs of store visitors.

Traditional e-commerce platforms are often monolithic in nature. What this means is that typically, the front-end (customer-facing layer or storefront) is tightly coupled with the back-end system (where all the functionalities are controlled) and that features cannot be individually customized or changed, since the whole system is working like one gigantic block.

In the early stages of e-commerce, businesses relied on these monolithic architectures as they brought their stores to life but the lack of flexibility with such systems often caused customization complexities and slower iteration cycles. If developers wanted to make improvements to the front-end, they would have to alter the back-end as well. The risk of ruining the entire system confined developers to these all-in-one structures.

For businesses that require basic online stores with less frequent product updates and little to no customization, the traditional e-commerce model works just fine. However, in today’s rapidly changing, consumer-driven world, a headless commerce approach is relevant for businesses that desire to not only scale but scale speedily.

  • Benefits of Headless eCommerce Solutions
    • Headless Commerce Benefit: Flexibility
      Flexibility
      • Headless Benefit #1
      Headless commerce gives you the flexibility to customize your storefront and develop as many front-end interfaces as you would like. This is good news for developers as they are no longer limited by pre-existing front-end platforms; they can build new customer-facing platforms from scratch taking into consideration the experience they would like customers to have. In other words, flexibility gives room for a richer user experience. Furthermore, developers would no longer be frightened by unintended changes to back-end systems, as they attempt to modify the presentation layer. By adopting a headless approach, you can make updates safely knowing that the two entities are independent of each other.
    • Customization & Personalization
      • Headless Benefit #2
      Research shows that 90% of U.S consumers find personalized marketing very or somewhat appealing. Consumers want to be reached on the channels they utilize the most – whether it is social media or an IoT device, they would rather place items in their carts or approve transactions at their convenience. Headless commerce greatly supports the idea of personalization and your business has the potential to create custom experiences and refine them as time progresses. We will dive deeper into how you can deliver more personalized experiences when we share headless use cases and applications.
    • Time to Market
      • Headless Benefit #3
      Headless commerce guarantees faster time to market. With Spryker’s GLUE API, content and product information can easily be pushed to any platform. Thus, the time to get a new product to the market becomes significantly reduced. In some cases, a shorter time to market could also mean fewer tests and reduced costs for the business.
    • Omnichannel Experience
      • Headless Benefit #4
      Multiple touchpoints allow for a more seamless customer journey. The ability to reach customers on various channels without having to make major architectural changes is a huge benefit of headless commerce. Your customers can easily migrate from one platform to the next while still enjoying similar experiences. Deploying an omnichannel strategy by going headless can also keep you top-of-mind for your desired audience. Knowing that accessing your platform doesn’t interfere with their ordinary routine can help drive purchases. These days, customers are all about convenience and a headless approach can enable a business to better respond to this need.
    • Agility and Fast-Tracked Innovation
      • Headless Benefit #5
      In today’s business environment, agile methodologies or processes are required in order to scale. Customers are constantly changing and businesses need to evolve with them. Headless Commerce makes it possible to not only adopt new technologies such as IoT devices; it also allows for the integration of new systems for example payment platforms, Customer Relationship Management tools, and Content Management Systems. Being nimble is all about meeting new customer demands as they come. With headless commerce, agile marketing becomes much easier as well; new campaigns or content can be released and insights from customers can be gathered at a much quicker pace. These insights will then be used to optimize the campaigns in order to deliver more value to customers and secure a greater ROI.

When is Headless Right for Your B2C Company


Retail is one industry that has been at the forefront of headless commerce applications. Fashion and food retailers in particular (including marketplace operators) understand how crucial it is to be agile when delivering experiences to customers. For example, in the world of fashion retail, trends are short-lived and consumers are always looking for the next best thing. To capture and retain customers, B2C brands need to constantly create new and engaging experiences.

One of the biggest impacts headless commerce will have on the B2C industry is its ability to support highly personalized experiences. Consumers crave content, especially content that speaks to them personally. According to a study done by Accenture5, a whopping 91% of consumers say that they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.

A lot of B2C and D2C companies struggle with capturing audience attention and standing out from the competition. Headless commerce’s flexibility makes it easier for brands to get right in front of their customers. As new technologies emerge, businesses can oscillate between several digital storefronts; they can go wherever their consumers choose to go without ever compromising their back-end system. Being flexible enough to move back and forth between channels will help you stay competitive in a very crowded FMCG or CPG market. Furthermore, it could significantly impact brand awareness. The more digital channels your business can be found on, the more visibility you would have.

As we mentioned earlier, headless commerce supports the seamless integration of third-party systems. This is a key benefit for B2C and D2C businesses especially when it comes to payment gateway integrations. Most shoppers want to feel comfortable as they utilize payment features on your website. By presenting them with the best-of-breed payment options, you can guarantee increased customer trust and also heighten the chances of repeat purchases.

Find out what Headless Commerce can do for your business.

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The Pros and Cons of Headless for B2B E-Commerce


The shift in buyer patterns at the start of the pandemic had a massive impact on the B2B industry. A lot of businesses who simply didn’t see the need for an e-commerce platform or solution had a rude awakening as person-to-person contact, logistics, and supply chain activities came to halt. A digital presence is no longer a nice-to-have but in fact a necessity. As B2B buyers evolve, companies must respond to new consumer and commerce trends.

Headless commerce reinforces how important it is for B2B businesses to build a digital presence; building an e-commerce store is the starting point but branching out to other touchpoints could help drive sales for your business and improve customer convenience.

B2B buyers often make purchases in large volumes and sometimes the order approval process can become overwhelming for the distributor. This is one area where we can see headless commerce making a difference. Aside from giving customers an opportunity to purchase products on their platform of choice, a headless approach can also work in reverse by helping businesses approve orders using smart devices such as wearables or voice assistants. For instance, warehouse managers could utilize a smartwatch connected to a Spryker-enabled back-end to approve orders on the go. Similarly, order management can also be done on any device. Unlike with traditional e-commerce systems where employees only had the option of going through orders on a desktop, these days, push notifications can be sent to smartphones and other devices and this greatly accelerates the order fulfillment process. More so, you will be viewed by your customers as a trusted supplier.

Headless Commerce Success Stories

Durst – Using Headless to Outperform the Beverage Store Around the Corner


Durst provides retailers with a reliable platform that holistically covers the whole process of delivering beverages, including logistics. Therefore, it is a combination of a marketplace with a multi-interface shop that is user-friendly towards its customers while convenient to maintain by the retailers.

Durst - Headless Commerce Success Story

When Durst started planning its product as a greenfield project, the startup knew exactly what it wanted from a commerce solution:

  • be mobile-first, to serve as the basis for the customer-centered beverage delivery service
  • be a combination of a marketplace and a multi-interface shop system to meet the expectations of both retailers and customers
  • serve as the technical base for handling the entire process, including logistics, via a reliable platform

An off-the-shelf solution was not sufficient for these goals. They looked at other shop systems, but Spryker ultimately won them over with its tech-savvy approach, platform development capabilities, and scalable licensing model. 

Durst has realized that customers prefer to order beverages using their smartphones. Regular retailers can easily integrate products on the platform and offer them for sale via a link to the app.

“…Thanks to Spryker‘s flexible and modular headless architecture, we were able to implement the launch and further development using an agile MVP approach. We couldn‘t find any other provider that had the solid API-first approach with the combination of mobile app and merchant platform in this form, and we are excited to be able to now fully dedicate ourselves to Durst‘s growth.”
Matthias Steinforth, Founder & Managing Director at Durst

The API-first concept means that there is no classic webshop with an inseparable front-end and backend. Various selected front-ends and systems can be flexibly connected to the modular back-end via the API. This way, the transaction is not based on a mere shop solution, but is headless and can be loaded with a multitude of customer interfaces. 

Headless Commerce Resources

Learn more about Headless Commerce

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What is headless commerce? Is it the right solution for your business? This 5 piece masterclass will walk you through the benefits of headless commerce compared to the traditional commerce, highlighting the main differences between the two approaches, and showing how Spryker can help you go headless and stay innovative, without pain.

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