Solutions must at the end of the day offer elegance, a term that is often overlooked in the eCommerce space — a desire to bring convenience for the admin and a seamless session for the end user. The result must blend agility, efficiency, and adaptability on the entire interface.
In the early days, all enterprise eCommerce platforms were designed to run solely on computer browsers, where majority of the audience was absorbed. As such, other touch-points like mobile, social media, wearable tech and assistants weren’t considered as a sales source or didn’t exist at all.
The layout and product pages were created with vast manually-coded HTML to achieve the desired result. It worked nevertheless, since the sales volumes were low, though it couldn’t last the test of the evolving landscape.
With more digitally enabled devices stacking continuously, the need to recognize the broader picture arose. More and more businesses started to adapt their web shops with other channels and made the shift towards sophisticated solutions to support larger product ranges and maximize revenue.
To be able to differentiate and compete at the highest level, top brands started choosing the best breed of architectural performance, one that serves the purpose of higher organic traffic, increased sales, and thus better revenue — integrating content management and eCommerce platforms.
The monolithic solutions that existed were effective when you had minimal digital touchpoints. For the service providers nowadays highlighting their brand across multiple devices is the norm, thus they need a more customer-centric commerce platform, powered by API’s and that is your “headless commerce.”
A trend witnessed in recent years is the dwindling demand of the traditional static model, given the need for higher performance, cost, efficiency, and results. As a result, API-first Headless eCommerce is gaining momentum.
Let's now go through all the intricate details of each architecture.
Traditional Commerce aka a monolithic model; the front and back end are not separated, giving the merchant a rigid solution built with a pre-determined front end, thereby requiring any front-end change to reflect on the back end as well, concurrently.
The backend is where the website design and customization applications are stored, with a traditional approach the editors are writing & publishing on the back end of the same system, that your visitors are viewing.
Simple tweaks on the front end require modifications on the back-end code as well, due to it being reliant on each other, this may mean shutting down or redeploying the entire site; thus, changes can’t be made in real time, resulting in time wastage.
If the back-end experiences any errors, performance issue or requires maintenance, then it may cause downtime on the live site. They do not adjust to change very well, which limits the ability of the business to respond to market opportunities.
A traditional model offers templates that look and appear the same in presentation and feel. While setting this up may seem effortless, on the customer side it is very generic, which then results in higher bounce rates and cart abandonment issues due to the cookie-cutter feel on the page.
A rich and captivating online experience that a visitor hopes to find, takes a beating. Something that repels customers and waives the faith of superior brands towards traditional eCommerce.
Customization is the biggest concern in a full stack eCommerce architecture and becomes difficult to maintain, especially in a multi-touchpoint scenario, also restricts the type of content that one can post, such as videos and rich imagery.
Since most companies try separate commerce solutions, this creates silos which cannot be easily supplemented; something that’d result in inconsistent behavior; which over time manifests into a high risk of failure.
The downside of slow go-to-market timelines and high development costs in this typical commerce setup eventually drifted many brands and made them look elsewhere to better connect with their audience.
Let’s look at some of the key benefits this architecture offers:
- Traditional CMS is ideal for blogs, personal sites, and basic company sites; that do not require any substantial modifications.
- It is comparatively easy to develop, manage, and publish text-based content quickly.
- The design is also simplified within a traditional CMS platform, with built-in themes and standard templates.
- Includes a front-end that can be edited and customized as and when needed.
A summary of what the traditional model is made up of:
Decoupled CMS is made up of headless commerce, making headless a subset of decoupled commerce. A decoupled CMS is “headless” and then some, meaning it gives you all the benefits of Headless CMS.
In a Decoupled scenario, the back-end is used for content creation and storage, and the front end for consuming data and presenting it to the user through some interface. In a decoupled CMS, the two systems are housed separately.
It is also known as a Hybrid Headless CMS whereby your content is managed separately, yet it comes equipped with front end tools like templates in case you ever want to use them.
Also, like in the case of a traditional CMS, the back and front end are not tied. A scenario that sees changes made on one side to not reflect on the other side.
Decoupled is also known as the best of both the worlds, where you have “chopped off” the head, yet you haven’t completely attached the head from the “body.”
In a headless architecture after preparing the content via the editorial tools you’d need an API call to publish it. It assumes the front-end developer team will be able to handle the content with the set of tools.
Whereas in a decoupled environment due to the availability of templates, the content management becomes easier since you could effectively start somewhere.
A decoupled CMS is therefore looked at as being more pro-active, since it prepares content and pushes it out, whereas a headless CMS is more reactive since it waits back for some process to ask for it.
Decoupled has content management, storage backends and easily delivers content from the database through a web service or API.
The crucial difference between Headless and Decoupled is in the presentation layer: unlike decoupled, headless does not have a defined presentation environment.
- In a decoupled environment you can use WYSIWYG editing, get content previews and other content publishing tools, something that you are robbed of in headless CMS.
- Decoupled CMS is the best of both worlds: you have templates to work with like in a traditional CMS you get the flexibility of a headless implementation.
- Future-proofs your website implementation, since the user interface side is more resilient in the face of changes.
A summary of what the decoupled model is made up of:
Earlier sites were only a source of content but have recently ventured into retailing and as such with the Headless option they could sync the same content with the commerce engine without the need to redevelop the whole site. Disconnect front-end from the back end, chop it off entirely. Hence “headless.”
Headless is one of the most prominent concepts when it comes to developing eCommerce sites, something that separates the back end from the User Interface but connects the two through a set of web services.
"Headless" concept came to the surface when eCommerce over multiple points (Omnichannel) became a growing concern. In the past, eCommerce was primarily performed on Desktop; as a result, both front and back end were coupled, and the sales were relatively simple.
Headless Commerce is something in which the content is separated from the logic and functional layer, making it a viable solution for many businesses looking to prioritize content going ahead. Push content into the front end isolated from the management environment.
Focus resources on customer interactions without worrying about impacting critical systems such as payment processing or product databases.
With headless Commerce you can efficiently manage the content and deliver it to any channel, something that the traditional CMS couldn’t support, giving us the flexibility of content, custom code, the editing interface and templates in a single environment.
Now, since we need to display content across multiple devices, the traditional CMS became unsupportive, and the need to design a new form of CMS took hold, something that wouldn’t influence the style or manner, in which you present the content.
If the front and back end are tied (full stack), any change executed on the front end will affect the back end as well which then costs time, money and introduces risk.
Headless only focuses on providing content through its API (Application Programming Interface). The API makes the content available, independent of the channel and device. Write your website or mobile apps using any programming language; in the process lending higher scalability to your e-business.
The customer touch points are anything that the customer effectively interacts with, to achieve some purpose on a given site, which could be the apps, the screen, forms, voice interfaces and so on, that visitors use to interact with your business.
Headless Commerce architecture is something that realizes the need for CMS with eCommerce and allows for both to co-exist without any conflict. In other words, decouple the front-end customer touch points from the back end operational systems that we use to run the business.
So, keep your existing content but still expand your eCommerce offerings without disrupting the entire business.
- Headless eCommerce lets you integrate with any system, without any significant redevelopment.
- With UX being the clear focus for any brand going ahead, you want to invest in Headless architecture as it helps you to deliver a rich User Experience.
- Only replace the components of the architecture or the system that need any replacing, letting you have a more tailored development of pieces. With a clear divide between customer concerns and system concerns, you can focus on the underperforming / performing resources.
- Easily run promotions on the site without a full system reconfiguration. Compartmentalizing different functions of your commerce environment ensures that risks associated with one API remain isolated, preventing impact on other systems.
- Platform upgrades, performance fixes, applying new functionalities, integration, and the addition of new features take less time in Headless CMS; because of the openness of the architecture.
- Businesses relying on heavy content, visually stimulating rich media, highly personalized content and are continually upgrading-going through a series of changes can implement “Headless.”
- The ability to make changes regularly, measure the impact of those changes, and then optimize the site based on those results, the sort of experiments critical in winning customers.
A summary of what the headless model is made up of:
Content pages and data don’t directly oppose each other and are certainly not mutually exclusive, we just need to find a way to mesh them together, and that is how “headless” emerged.
CMS handled the content side of things to augment and develop user experience, the eCommerce platform dealt with the massive transactions, and both integrated to achieve customer convenience
The headless architecture utilizes the power and functional maturity of both. In headless Commerce by detaching the front and back end, then allowing them to communicate via API enables changes to be made on either side (even in parallel) without being interfered/blocked by each other.
In Headless form of eCommerce, front-end developers can make the necessary front-end changes, and backend developers no longer need to fret over these changes breaking backend rules and logic. Now, make a change to some part of the frontend and leave the backend components alone.
Meanwhile, merchants can focus on conversion optimization, without upsetting developers, proving to be a big win. Performing A/B tests is far more flexible, enabling the brands to learn which version creates more traffic and drives higher conversion, are all possible through “Headless.”
The ability to run tests even during peak seasons, without disrupting the overall experience by shutting down the site is the principal advantage of headless commerce. Swiftly work with your internal team to test user flows and find the ideal conversion funnels for successful results.
Decoupled CMS uses templates and tools typically seen with traditional CMS, many of these tools are not available in headless CMS. However, headless systems allow more control over how the content appears on each type of device.
Headless cannot present the content to the end user on its own since it is content only data source, something that Decoupled can maneuver with ease.
Headless is “API only, UI anything” making it possible to present the content to any device or channel, not limited by a predetermined user interface.
Then, the rigidity of the traditional eCommerce model made it difficult to use content management solutions to their full potential, since the back and front end were coupled; which in turns slows down innovation.
We can help you to figure out which architecture works the best for your business model.