Traditional eCommerce vs. Headless eCommerce: Which Do You Need in 2020?

January 23, 2018

Categories: B2B eCommerce, Digital Transformation Strategy

If you or your colleagues are focused on innovation and evolution when it comes to your eCommerce experience, you’ve probably heard about “headless eCommerce.” But what exactly is headless eCommerce and what’s the difference between it and traditional eCommerce? And maybe most importantly, which do you need?

What is Headless eCommerce? Headless eCommerce represents a platform or solution that abstains from defining the perfect front-end by simply not having one. This means that the front-end has been decoupled, or removed, from the backend, and you are not forced to remodel or live within a tightly coupled user experience.  Instead, you are free to develop any front-end experience you want to and can call all the complex eCommerce functionality from the backend via a RESTful API.

In general, businesses who are interested in headless eCommerce platforms tend to be larger, with complex business rules and ordering processes.  They may also have a variety of other systems that need to integrate elegantly with the eCommerce system.  In some cases, they might just have a really unique ordering experience that has never been contemplated before and needs to be developed in the best possible way.  In every one of these cases, these businesses are interested in making a move to a next-generation architecture to respond to their business’ evolving needs and are driven by factors like the consumerization of enterprise, the proliferation of connected devices and sensors inside and outside of the workplace, and the need to lower the costs associated with delivering new online ordering use cases.

There are 3 key differences between headless eCommerce and traditional eCommerce options:

1. Headless eCommerce does not limit front-end developers.
With a traditional eCommerce platform, front-end developers are constrained to the front-end design and process that is created by the solution. If they wanted to change the data or the experience, they’d need to change the database, the code and the front-end, making even the smallest change a large business risk. By not having a defined front-end, headless eCommerce allows front-end developers to create a completely catered and unique user experience that fits exactly what the business needs, without worrying about modifying the database.

2. Headless eCommerce offers almost limitless customization and personalization.
Traditional eCommerce platforms come with a predefined experience for both an end user, as well as an administrative user. Headless eCommerce allows businesses to define the
exact experience they want, for both buyers and administrative users.

3. Headless eCommerce improves your time to value.
No matter your eCommerce platform, back-end business logic, functionality and capabilities usually comprise up to 85% of a software development process. With a headless commerce platform, you are starting from the point of completion which is allowing you to focus on the user experience and deliver a final solution for far less cost, time and effort.

In 2020, the buzz around headless eCommerce platforms will continue to grow as today’s buyers demand more from the B2B eCommerce buying experience and seek a greater degree of flexibility, lower cost options and better performance from their platform.