Why headless technology is changing the face of commerce

Why headless technology is changing the face of commerce

commercetools author image Stephanie Wittmann
Stephanie Wittmann
Head of Communications & Content, commercetools
Published 27 November 2020

A deep dive into the reasons headless is turning the entire commerce industry on its head…or rather, losing it completely.

Why headless technology is changing the face of commerce

The headless commerce revolution

Going headless may not sound like a very pleasant thing to undertake, but we assure you: this term has nothing to do with you losing your most significant body part and everything to do with one of the most exciting breakthroughs to happen in the commerce world. 

To put it simply, a headless platform means that the frontend (typically what users see and interact with, also known as the “head”) is separated from the backend of a website (where data like product information and customer details are). But, as you’ll discover, the beneficial effects for online retailers of adopting this system encompasses so much more.  

So what makes headless commerce so exceptional? And why are more and more commerce retailers adopting it?

Architecture that’s built ready for traffic peaks

There’s no getting around discussing website traffic peaks without including the mother of them all: Black Friday. Taking place the day after Thanksgiving, this originally American tradition of frenzied shopping and scrambling after discounts has now become a global phenomenon – and one that causes the most stress for online retailers. 

Campaigns, promotions, new prices and basically everything else pertaining to this day must be carefully planned out months in advance in order to be rolled out in time, causing many IT teams to dread this time of year. Even after all that planning, websites can still glitch or crash.

Modern commerce platforms, on the other hand, are built to handle traffic peaks due to Black Friday – or any holiday or shopping event – so that shopping experience for consumers will run smoothly and stably, ensuring no lost revenue. The headless architecture behind many of those modern commerce platforms also enables online shops to be flexible enough to build and roll out their campaigns immediately on whichever omnichannel touchpoint they desire, which is especially useful when offering short-term discounts. 

Or they can easily tailor and modify the frontend of their touchpoints to respond to what captures their shoppers’ interest in mere hours. These personalized promotions and interactive experiences create an excitement in shoppers that can translate into increased conversion rates across all channels.

Retailers are more competitive than ever

Unprecedented times could make a strong case for being the buzzword of 2020 thanks to COVID-19. The virus has impacted so many facets of our lives, including our purchasing behaviours – and nobody saw it coming. Yet brands that could swiftly adapt their business strategies to this new world order have thrived.

When COVID-19 hit, Vistaprint experienced a significant decrease in orders for traditional printing jobs. headless commerce enabled us to pivot the business to provide much-needed products [face masks] to the community.
Jim Sokoloff

VP, Vistaprint (Cimpress)

As the above example shows: we never know what life will throw at us. Headless architecture on the other hand, can agilely respond to these unknowns rapidly – whether they are new trends, the latest technologies or quickly introducing new products due to world-changing pandemics.

That’s because frontend content can be launched quickly without costly backend developments; retailers don’t have to roll out an update to the entire system, plus changes and optimization are often instantaneous. So consumers are getting what they want at a far more accelerated pace.

Companies are slashing their acquisition costs

Is acquiring new customers putting your costs through the roof in paid advertising? A recent survey found that overall customer acquisition costs (CAC) for B2B and B2B companies have continuously risen over the past five years by almost 50%. In other words, paid media rates are increasing while their effectiveness is decreasing. 

Instead, imagine being able to draw in organic traffic through better strategizing with content-based experiences. Indeed, this is the way many online retailers find new customers and drive meaningful engagements. And what’s the strategy retailers use to create a content-led online store? That’s right: headless. 

Because headless technology is so agile, it allows trying, testing and experimenting with different templates and experiences, such as running A/B tests. This allows companies to better understand customer needs by seeing what content results in the most conversions, ultimately decreasing their reliance on paid advertising.

Headless online retailers are truly omnichannel

Laptops, tablets, mobile phones, wearables, smart appliances, chatbots, virtual assistants – the number of digital touchpoints is enough to make one’s head spin. And what’s more, new channels, devices and touchpoints are constantly emerging. So how has this impacted consumers and their expectations?  

Reports have shown that nine out of 10 consumers desire an omnichannel experience with seamless service between communication methods. They also found that customers who have excellent experiences are more willing to: recommend that company on social media (83%), buy more products and services from that company (89%) and go out of their way to purchase from that brand (82%).

The above proves that omnichannel marketing isn’t just beneficial to brands – having an omnichannel strategy is imperative. Customers now expect to have this experience.

With traditional commerce models, multiple channels must constantly be updated, and separating systems doesn’t give a seamless user experience. Conversely, a headless system uses APIs to push the information from the backend to create a memorable customer experience on any screen or device. That means consumers have more channels to make purchases from, with each channel having an optimized interface to interact with, vastly improving their shopping experience.

Now that we have a modern headless platform, this is where the real fun starts, where we can enable omnichannel features and functionalities. This points to doing a lot of things right.
Tomas Antvorskov Krag

Director eCommerce, Bang & Olufsen

The final word

Going with a headless system in commerce isn’t just a passing fad; the most successful and competitive companies in the retail industry are using it right now. Now businesses favour web technologies that are agile, adaptable and endlessly customizable – all the hallmarks of headless commerce.

And thanks to headless systems, online retailers are staying more competitive, attracting more customers organically through more up-to-date, engaging content and giving consumers the omnichannel retail experience they expect – without disrupting the experience due to traffic peaks.

Their ability to swiftly deploy any content they want to any screen they desire has completely upended industry expectations and has resulted in a new status quo. As for other online retailers? They must either adapt to these new circumstances or risk getting left behind in the dust.

Want to experience what headless is about and how easy it is to work with? Sign up for our fully functional 60-day trial with the Leader for Headless Commerce according to the IDC MarketScape!

commercetools author image Stephanie Wittmann
Stephanie Wittmann
Head of Communications & Content, commercetools

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