In an era when innovation is key to survival, the pressure is on brands to deliver relevant experiences on every channel where customers want to shop. Those that are serious about winning market share are switching to headless commerce.

What is headless commerce?

Headless commerce is an approach to e-commerce that allows companies to become more agile and flexible, speeds up time-to-market, and gives brands the ability to deliver rich, tailored customer experiences.

Headless vs. traditional commerce

A headless approach focuses on background processes, making data available to separate frontend applications via commerce APIs — infrastructure, pricing, checkout, and security run in the background. The frontend and backend communicate with each other via simple API calls. This setup allows businesses to tailor the exact experience they want to create for customers and administrative users.

Meanwhile, traditional commerce platforms, also known as monolithic, or legacy commerce offer a one-size-fits all solution for both customers and administrative users. This means front-end developers cannot easily customize or make changes to the front-end design or features provided by the out-of-the-box solution and even minor changes can mushroom into lengthy, complicated projects that eat into valuable developer time.

The benefits of headless e-commerce

Slow, awkward processes are just one reason why so many brands are now waving goodbye to traditional, monolithic platforms — the benefits of headless commerce are manifold.

1. True omnichannel experience

In the US, 75% of consumers are now researching and purchasing both in-store and online. Fortunately, headless architecture allows brands to flex in the moment and deliver a consistent omnichannel journey. With inventory, data management, and payment processing decoupled from customer-facing content, you can seamlessly show up for customers wherever and whenever they interact with your brand.

2. Faster ROI

As headless architecture enables quicker deployment, you hit the ground running, can get your campaigns faster to market — and look forward to a quicker ROI.

3. Enables internationalization

Headless architecture opens a world of opportunity. Quite literally. Retailers with a global presence can expand into new territories and integrate preferred payment methods, currency, and languages with speed and agility.

4. More cost effective

Commerce cloud platforms require less maintenance and IT resources, so in the long-term it makes better business sense to go with this cost-effective solution.

5. Can improve website performance

Headless architecture supports quick and seamless connections between services and APIs —and as a result, pages load much faster. Slow load times equal lost business. According to research by Google, if a website takes more than three seconds to load, 53% of users will leave and move on to another site.

6.Long-term sustainability and future-ready

By design, headless technology is future-ready. Its flexible structure allows organizations to jump on trends and expand their offering across new channels and devices as and when they become flavor of the month.

7. Seamless adoption of new delivery models

Legacy e-commerce platforms that were designed with desktop users in mind, offer limited delivery options. Meanwhile, with a headless e-commerce solution, you can create checkouts that offer a selection of pickup and delivery options. For example, by implementing map widgets you can give customers the option to choose a store, choose to shop online at that store, and/or choose BOPIS (buy online, pick-up instore) when they check out.

8. Ease of integration

Thanks to API connections, headless integration is as easy as clicking LEGO bricks together — APIs connect frontend and backend and any third-party services, while remaining separate. For example, a new payment method can be added by simply making calls to a specific API. This ease of integration opens the door to trialing and experimenting with different features or experiences on your site — and implementing — or nixing these quickly.

9. Improve online customer engagement

Headless architecture allows you to personalize customer experiences quickly and seamlessly, through a combination of relevant content and intuitive AI powered search tools that encourage repeat purchases. With 88% of buyers now saying experience matters as much as products or services, investment in this area really pays dividends.

Getting started with headless e-commerce

Sitecore OrderCloud is a cloud-based, headless, API-first e-commerce platform that empowers you to customize ordering experiences across your customers’ preferred devices, channels, and apps.

The e-commerce space is changing rapidly — with this composable, future-ready solution, you are fully equipped to keep up with emerging customer demands on different B2X models and marketplaces and scale your commerce business for success.

Sitecore is helping some of the world’s biggest e-commerce brands to meet and exceed their revenue targets with a solution that offers endless freedom for growth. Discover more about Sitecore OrderCloud and read our guide to headless e-commerce vs. monolithic e-commerce to find out why future-facing brands are taking a headless approach.

Fiona Hilliard is a Content Marketing Manager at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn