Headless E-Commerce: Is It Just a Fad or Is It the Future?

E-commerce News and Tips, Ecommerce Industry

The problem with technology-driven industries like e-commerce is that new buzzwords spring up constantly. It can be hard to know if the latest jargon is the next big thing or just a rebranding of an existing best practice.

The term headless e-commerce has continued to gain traction, and in doing so, has online sellers wondering if they need to get onboard or stay the course with their current e-commerce models and operational workflows.

The vagaries surrounding what is being branded as headless e-commerce doesn’t help. To best understand this trend, we must start by simply defining it.

What is Headless E-Commerce?

Headless e-commerce is a separation of the front-end, customer-facing elements of online sales from the back-end order processing, supply chain, and fulfillment components. Both sides are able to communicate through API calls that keep everything in sync across multiple channels, modules, and integrations.

This front-end and back-end independence, if implemented well, spreads the IT and content burdens and is touted as an efficient way to promote innovation and flexibility when scaling an e-commerce brand. 

This headless style of e-commerce contrasts with more monolithic and traditional approaches where everything on both the customer and technical sides are tied together – unable to be managed or changed independently from each other. What makes this particularly problematic – particularly for modern omnichannel retailers – is that issues or downtime on either the front- or back-end almost always leads to issues on the other. The end result is a slower pathway to growth and increased potential for technical challenges.

In between the headless and traditional/monolithic online sales models lies decoupled e-commerce. This headless hybrid keeps the front-end and back-end separate, but there is still a connecting thread: unlike truly headless options, decoupled e-commerce content management is carried out on the back-end and pushed out to the various front-ends. This allows omnichannel sellers to retain some of the control afforded by traditional e-commerce models while also gaining some of the most valuable flexibility of headless e-commerce. Sellercloud’s omnichannel catalog management features are an example of this type of decoupled e-commerce approach.

What are the Benefits of Headless E-Commerce?

While there are many flavors of headless e-commerce being marketed these days, there are common benefits that most share:

  • Compartmentalized development – The differences between successful front-end and back-end design can be stark. Each requires unique skills and attention to distinct details. Headless e-commerce models allow your brand to focus technical talent where they can have the greatest impact. UX, UI, and marketing specialists can be left to manage front-end content while your technical IT specialists can keep the back-end running smoothly.
  • Simplified upgrades and enhancements – By separating front- and back-end development, you can upgrade or modify one without disrupting the other. This is perhaps the most marketable component of headless e-commerce. You can be sure your interfaces, APIs, and software systems remain current and secure while minimizing cross-departmental coordination.
  • Speed –  Implemented correctly, headless e-commerce gives your brand a level of agility and flexibility that is impossible when your front-end and back-end are linked. This division means that you can offer promotions, create new product listings, and generate timely content without disrupting the underlying back-end operations. Similarly, your back-end platforms can roll out updates, add new APIs, and integrate new modular partners without upsetting the forward-facing customer experience.

This is where things get interesting. In reality, most omnichannel sellers – Sellercloud users included – already reap many of the benefits of headless e-commerce in their current setups, even if they have never used the term.

For instance, Sellercloud’s omnichannel growth platform allows users to manage every aspect of their inventory, catalog, and third-party modular integrations across every channel where they sell from a single interface. When omnichannel orders come in, they can be processed according to customizable rules based on variables like channel, order, destination, product, customer, and more. All of these rules and workflows are handled independently of the customer-facing listings and content on the channel front-ends where you sell.
If you are looking to break out of the traditional, monolithic e-commerce sales model, Sellercloud’s API and EDI integrations with over 120 top-rated e-commerce partners give you the ability to use a decoupled, modular-style approach to create the ideal online retail setup for your brand. Contact us directly for a free demo and consultation and see for yourself how our approach to omnichannel growth is no fad.

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The Sellercloud team is dedicated to providing you with insights and content that can help guide your business strategy in a meaningful way. With 10+ years in the e-commerce space, our goal is to share our knowledge and ideas with you to help you achieve your business goals.