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Choosing A Headless Ecommerce Platform

An image highlighting the factors to consider when choosing an a Headless Ecommerce Platform

Headless Ecommerce Platform (Factors to Consider)

Headless ecommerce platforms have a massive potential to make your business more competitive. However, not all headless platforms are created equal. The inappropriate choice could become a wasted investment, hurting your bottom line.  

To do headless commerce correctly and successfully, you must start by picking the right headless ecommerce platform. Such a platform gives customers the flexibility to shop online from any digital touchpoint — web applications, mobile devices, IoT interfaces, and more. However, it must also meet your business needs to put you on the path to sustainable progress. 

In this article, we explore headless commerce in terms of what to consider when choosing a headless platform for your online store. 

What is a headless ecommerce platform? 

What is a headless system? A headless ecommerce platform is one designed to function fully without a front-end IU display layer. 

An ecommerce platform usually has a customer presentation layer, or the user interface, and the business logic or ecommerce engine. 

The customer presentation layer is the front end of your ecommerce platform and comprises the user interface. This can be a smartwatch display, web application, or mobile interface from where the customer interacts with your ecommerce website. 

The business logic is the back end of your ecommerce platform. It is the ecommerce engine that performs the actual ecommerce functionality. This crucial layer handles the core ecommerce operations like payment processing, inventory management, and order fulfillment.

These two layers can be coupled (as in standard or traditional ecommerce platforms) or decoupled (as in headless commerce platforms).

Standard or traditional ecommerce platforms have the front-end UI display layer attached to the Back-end infrastructure. The two layers of the platform exist as a unit in the same codebase. So, if you modify the user interface, the change invariably affects the back-end functionality.  

However, in headless commerce, the ecommerce solution comes without a front end. This is where the ‘headless’ moniker comes from. You must create one using front-end technologies like Vue.js, React.js, and Angular—whichever you prefer.

In these cases, the front-end layer is a separate entity from the back-end ecommerce functionality. Any modifications to one layer do not affect the other layer. 

More importantly, since the front end and back end are decoupled, you must implement an API (application programming interface) to enable the transfer of data (communication) between the two sides of the platform: the back end and the front end. 

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Headless Ecommerce Platform 

Now that we have a decent picture of a headless ecommerce platform and its architecture, it’s time to choose one for your business. How do you do that? 

With many platforms available for ecommerce business enterprises hoping to go headless, you can be spoilt for choice. Thankfully, there are a few pointers to get you off on the right foot. 

Here are the factors to consider when choosing a headless ecommerce platform. 

The business features available with the platform.  

Headless ecommerce platforms have plenty of business features to enhance the smooth running of your online business. These features vary from platform to platform, but some are a must-have. 

Here are some essential features that your potential choice should offer:

  1. Inventory management: Going headless allows you to sell your inventory on multiple digital channels, including social media, web, and mobile. With that, you want a platform that allows you to track your inventory more easily. It's even better if you can track it down to the item. This option comes in handy when running low on a product, letting you easily replace or pull it down.

  2. Analytics and reporting: No single strategy is perfect out of the box. You improve your strategy based on what you learn as you go, so you need access to comprehensive analytics to help you make informed business decisions. Look for an ecommerce platform that provides detailed insights into user behavior, sales, and performance metrics.

  3. Order management: The ultimate function of an ecommerce solution is to facilitate the selling of products. Look for a platform that streamlines your workflows and helps you deliver omnichannel customer experiences effectively. You want the best customer experience from the first interaction down to the product delivery. The easier it is for the customer to track orders, the better. 

  4. Security: By separating the front end from the back-end functionality, a headless platform helps mitigate potential attack vectors and makes your ecommerce website more secure. However, the platform must go further to comply with industry standards and offer robust security features to protect sensitive data. 

  5. The user interface

An illustration of how a Headless Ecommerce platform uses API layers to provide an interactive and user-friendly front-end.

Several headless ecommerce platforms offer user-friendly interfaces, making them popular choices for businesses. 

WooCommerce, for instance, has a headless architecture with a familiar and user-friendly interface for businesses already accustomed to WordPress.

Notice that WordPress is the world's most popular CMS software, powering a third of the web. More specifically, approximately 43% of all websites on the internet are built on WordPress. 

If your team is familiar with this popular CMS software, they should find WooCommerce easy to learn and use.

Away from that, Shopify Plus is known for its intuitive interface and ease of use, so you won’t be tied to WooCommerce even if all your staff are WordPress fans. 

Similarly, Magento's headless solution provides flexibility and customization options while offering a user-friendly admin interface for managing products, orders, and more.

If you are like many businesses, the last thing you want is a tool that will add complexity to your business operations. According to a Workfront survey, nearly 80% of marketers are overloaded with work and understaffed. Naturally, a tool with a complex user interface and a steep learning curve is the last thing such a team would want. 

Any new tool being added to the mix should make their work easier, not harder.

Make sure the content management system delivered by your headless ecommerce platform has an exceptional user interface. It should be user-friendly for everyone, including people who aren’t developers. 

Pricing and the total cost of ownership

The prices for headless ecommerce solutions vary widely. Some platforms are pricier than others, but the most expensive option may not necessarily be the best for you. 

To get the best price, evaluate the overall cost by summing up the initial setup fee, customization expenses, maintenance costs, and any additional expenses involved. This should give you the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the platform. 

While at it, consider any long-term expenses likely to drive up the cost and go for a headless ecommerce platform with the best pricing model within your budget.  

Available integrations

Since headless commerce separates the front end from the back end, it can integrate with any number of ecommerce front-end and back-end systems.  

A single headless back-end solution can distribute its content across various channels, including web, mobile, and social media channels, through APIs (application programming interfaces). Such integrations with front-end systems help keep the back-end system constant, providing customers with the best omnichannel experiences.

When choosing your headless ecommerce platform, find one with robust APIs for seamless integration with various back-end and front-end systems. More importantly, check to ensure the platform allows integration with essential third-party tools and services such as payment gateways, marketing tools, CRM systems, and more. 

With this API-first approach, you can integrate a headless ecommerce content management system like Contentstack and other headless back-end systems into your platform. 

Content Management System (CMS) integrations go a long way in facilitating easy content management and updates across various channels within your headless ecosystem.

Integration with third-party tools can significantly extend the functionality of your headless platform and create a unified customer journey. Consequently, you can count on happier and more satisfied customers, leading to more sales. 

Customization and flexibility 

Limitless customization is one of the main appeals of any headless system. Since the ecommerce platform has no built-in customer-facing display layer, you can create one from scratch. 

With that in mind, consider a platform with robust API functionality, allowing you to customize the front-end experience in ways that resonate with your clientele. 

A good ecommerce platform should let you modify the digital experience in real-time based on customer data. While all headless systems are flexible and customizable, some have more extensive options. 

When choosing a headless platform, find one that has extensive customization options to let you tailor the user experience and functionality to your specific needs.

Let’s make it more specific: look for a modular system that lets you customize the platform’s functionalities to match your specific business needs.

Also, go for design flexibility. This means being able to customize the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) according to your brand requirements.

Finally, choose a headless ecommerce platform that supports add-ons and extensions or plugins to extend its functionality as needed.

Customer experience

The ecommerce field is pretty competitive. And the better the customer experience, the more your customers will likely spend. Recent surveys show that a whopping 86% of shoppers are willing to pay more for a positive customer experience. 

Contrary to popular belief that exorbitant prices are prohibitive, a PWC survey suggests otherwise. Provided the customer experience is positive, shoppers will be more willing to pay if the item is more expensive. 

This underscores just how crucial positive customer experience is. With so many options for online shoppers today, delivering an exceptional experience is not just nice to have; it is necessary. 

Keep the customer experience in mind when choosing your next headless front-end solution to ensure the customers enjoy interacting with your webshop and keep coming back.

How does your headless ecommerce software solution influence the customer experience in your shop? 

Let's break it down. Customers need a seamless experience, and a disjointed system will not provide much of that. So, the idea is to ensure the platform will support the creation of an integrated system. Such a system naturally delivers a unified, seamless customer journey and a positive experience. 

Support and maintenance 

You can never know when your system will break down. That’s where reliable support comes in handy. Therefore, assess the level of support the platform vendor provides, including response times, availability of documentation, and community forums. 

It also helps to get regular updates and maintenance. These go a long way in addressing bugs and security vulnerabilities and help ensure your business stays current with industry trends.

Overall, a responsive support team and regular updates are crucial for ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting. You need timely platform updates, bug fixes, and continuous improvements to maintain optimal performance. 

Performance and speed

This is a rather popular one. If you have been following our posts on headless ecommerce, you know just how much we have emphasized speed and performance as crucial aspects of any headless solution.  

Alt text: An image depicting website site speed. Headless Ecommerce websites are generally fast and optimized for SEO. 

That is so for a good reason: page speed is one of Google’s ranking factors, a fact solidified by Google's Algorithm Speed Update

Technical aspects aside, a slow page speed can increase the bounce rate and reduce dwell time on your website.

You need no one to tell you how bad that is for an ecommerce website. If people leave your ecommerce site too soon, they are not buying what you're selling. What does that mean for your conversions? Nothing good.

So, choose a platform with a reputation for fast page loads and responsiveness under heavy traffic conditions to guarantee positive user experiences and higher conversions and sales. 

Choosing a Headless Ecommerce Platform: Summary

So, what did we learn in this write-up? We started by learning the headless ecommerce meaning, noting that it is one designed to function fully without a front-end IU display layer. We also learned that you must consider the following factors when choosing a suitable ecommerce software for your business:

  • Performance and speed

  • Support and maintenance 

  • Customer experience

  • Customization and flexibility 

  • Available integrations

  • Pricing and the total cost of ownership 

  • The user interface

  • The business features offered

Next, we will get more specific with our journey into headless commerce and look at some leading examples of headless Shopify. Keep an eye out. 

Have you chosen a headless platform for your next ecommerce business? Do you have any questions or need help picking a headless ecommerce software for your business? Our Endertech experts are here to help.