The What and Why Behind Headless Commerce - InterWorks

The What and Why Behind Headless Commerce

Whenever we are encountered with a crisis, or situation which is not usual to what we are used, we are prone to change and adapt. COVID-19 has made us change and adapt to something which no one expected. And currently, there is not even one industry that is not affected. We can see and feel the changing speed of everything around us.

The IT world has experienced change as well, especially the world of e-commerce. Customers want to have access to all the favorite things that they use to do, such as exploring products, getting reviews, buying, etc. The world of e-commerce is constantly changing and businesses in this industry should be able to provide a custom solution. In this fashion, there is one commerce solution that provides services without having to invent new things from scratch every time. That’s headless commerce. In the following few lines, we will describe what headless commerce is, its benefits, and why its importance has risen.

What is headless commerce?

When we hear “headless commerce” we might think that it is something big, maybe something new that we have never faced before. Well, that is not what headless commerce represents and probably most of us have already worked in such solutions. The simplest definition for headless commerce would be a separation between the front-end (presentation layer) and the back-end (application layer) part of the e-commerce application.

What does separation of front-end and back-end means?

To understand better, we can make a comparison between traditional e-commerce and headless e-commerce solution. If we search on the internet we can find that there are already many different products that offer both type of approaches.

With the traditional solution, the user gets a platform that is tightly connected between the back-end and the front-end, meaning all the customization is limited within the solution itself by several layouts (themes), database architecture, even the technology itself. Whenever the client requires a new change on the product, the developer should modify the code, even the database to serve the new client’s need.

With a headless commerce solution, the developers have the liberty to create the front-end layer of the application in a more advanced and flexible way, using the most attractive technologies these days to match the client’s needs. In this way, the developer is not restricted by the application layer at all, all available resources can be used.

How does the headless commerce work?

The only thing that differentiates traditional and headless commerce is that in traditional commerce applications, all the traffic between the presentation layer and the application layer where all the products, categories are, is happening within the same application.

In the headless commerce approach, all the data that is represented into the application is collected by RESTful API which means the presentation layer is not tightly coupled with the back-end.

What are the benefits of headless commerce?

Headless commerce architecture has a lot of benefits. We will list just a few so that you can get to know it a bit better:

  • Better development adaptation
  • Flexible front-end development
  • Customization and personalization
  • Time-saving

1 Better development adaptation

Not all developers are fun to the change of their main expertise, which means sometimes the client can select their preferred e-commerce provider, but the developer might not be comfortable with the new framework or the technology. Since the headless commerce provides flexibility to the selected technology, the developers only need to connect to the commerce platform and retrieve the products. After that, the way of representing them on the real e-commerce application is up to the developer’s choice.

2 Flexible front-end development

Since in headless commerce the front-end part is decoupled from the back-end, the developer has many possibilities in selecting the most appropriate presentation technologies and fulfill client’s needs. In this way, the front-end development is not restricted to the technology of the back-end, so the flexibility is enormous. Developers can create customized forms, layouts even multi-front stores based on the client’s needs.

3 Customization and personalization

Since the headless commerce does not provide the front-end side, the developers can create their own personalized solutions. These solutions will be created from scratch allowing the developer to customize the experience as much as possible. They can create user matching layouts with different sections and possibilities.

4 Time-saving

When using headless commerce, all of the product-related records are coming from the cloud-based solution. Using the RESTfull API calls to retrieve that data and represent the front-end layer will significantly speed up the process and save more time. This means the developer does not need to create the whole backend-logic itself, including database structure, different entities and attributes, but use them directly from the wide range of possibilities.

What is our choice?

As we already mentioned above, there are many providers that can be used for integration of a headless commerce solution such as:

  • Magento 2
  • commercetools
  • Salesforce
  • Shopify Plus
  • BigCommerce, etc.

Recently we have been experimenting with commercetools and the experience it provides is nothing less but excellent.

Why commercetools? – The developer’s side

This platform offers a wide range of possibilities, which are really easy to use. One of the many is having the ability to created an e-commerce shop from scratch within two weeks period. Our team was able to integrate an e-commerce shop by using commercetools platform provided SDK’s and build only the presentation layer which in addition includes the checkout form and payment provider functionalities customized according to our needs.

As we can see from their documentation, they provide integration with many technologies such as Java, PHP, .NET, iOS and more, which demonstrates the four benefits that we have described above, we did not need to learn new technology, we managed to create our own front end layout using customized forms and flows and the best part was we did not waste a single minute to design database architecture for e-shop application.

Why commercetools? – The business side

On a business note, the ability for customization and the separation of front-end and back-end that commercetools offer, make the businesses that use it more competitive nowadays. As mentioned above, these possibilities enable fast delivery of an e-commerce solution, which in time like this one when we should act immediately, is of vital importance for businesses. Additionally, having a solution delivered in a short period of time means time-saving process, which on the other side results in low costs.

Commercetools Headless Commerce Solution

The commercetools headless solution is a platform responsible for all backend processes, calculations, and data storage. It exposes all data through a flexible commerce API. This makes it possible to attach all kinds of frontends (“heads”) from standard webshops and mobile devices to voice assistants and car commerce scenarios.

Benefits of Headless Commerce

  • Flexibility: Full control of the frontend, without having to adhere to rigid structures laid out by the software vendor
  • Speed & Agility: Experimenting and A/B testing new features fast without jeopardizing backend stability
  • Increased performance: Different touchpoints have different scaling needs, so separating frontend from backend functionality improves customer experience and is budget-efficient

Conclusion

To sum up, headless commerce solves many problems and speeds up the entire process of development. Not all developers are full-stack developers, some prefer to work only the front-end part and others back-end, which means this is a very nice choice where we can combine both types.

There are many pros that this commerce architecture offers, but there are also a few cons such as consuming more time to build the separated front-end part. But in any case, most of our clients want their own, unique solution which will distinguish them from their competition and spending a few more hours to achieve this goal is worth it.