In the early 2000s, enterprises were implementing monolithic architectures as their eCommerce solution as it fulfilled their business requirements within a single location. As times have changed and technology developed, brands looked for more flexible solutions that would meet the needs of the consumer along with ever-changing market demands. While a monolithic architecture may work for some, it can oftentimes be challenging to scale these types of solutions as well as make updates. Thus, the microservices or ‘headless’ architecture was born. 

Since its inception, headless has gone beyond a trend to become a route for online retailers looking to create a future-proof platform that can adjust with their business. According to a recent study by Gartner,  56% of enterprise organizations have adopted microservices architecture solutions or have planned or budgeted to deploy API-based or headless commerce architectures in the future. Nonetheless, headless commerce is here to stay. 

What is Headless?

For a headless approach, the front end of your eCommerce shop and the back end are independent from one another or ‘decoupled.’ Thus, the content and experience management system is separated from the business logic and functional layer (existing eCommerce stack, integration and commerce management). This architecture paves the way for ‘Experience Driven Commerce’ applications that are heavily focused on the use of customer data to optimize and personalize the customer experience and rapidly increase conversions without compromising the integrity of your eCommerce build.  

With a headless approach, businesses have the ability to commerce-enable any system, application, or IoT device, and seamlessly integrate with other content management systems. In addition, this type of structure gives businesses the opportunity to remain nimble as they’re able to pick and choose what features and functionality they need to run their business. Additional benefits of this structure include: 

Speed: With a headless architecture you’re able to make rapid changes to the back or front of your build without disrupting the entire system. Design changes, testing and optimization can be done without impacting the stability of your eCommerce solution. In addition, in a headless scenario you’re free of operating constraints, making it easier for front-end developers to work efficiently (this means lower operating costs + accelerated site updates). 

Flexibility & Adaptability: Parts of the system can be delivered without impacting the core commerce functionality since they’re decoupled, making it easier to make developments and updates over time as needed.

Personalization & Customization: With a traditional or side-by-side structure the ability to customize or personalize a UX on the fly is nearly impossible. Integrating a personalization solution allowing marketers to offer relevant promotions and offers to customers across each touchpoint. In addition, a headless solution empowers the marketing team as it enables constant content updates that support marketing campaigns without IT restrictions. 

Omnichannel: In today’s day and age, it’s critical to offer users a complete omnichannel shopping experience, from in-store to online to over the phone. The ability to identify users across many devices and using consistent ID’s for online and offline behavior allows for a seamless experience, and is critical in retaining and attracting customers.

Elements of a Headless eCommerce Environment 

To ensure adaptability and flexibility, it’s critical to have the ability to innovate swiftly. In order to do this, brands must have a ‘swappable’ architecture which is only possible in a headless environment, where your applications are decoupled. Below you can see how headless comes into action, as each piece acts as a swappable lego. 

Is Headless Right for Your Business? 

While a headless solution is a great option for many retailers, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are some additional factors that you should consider: 

  • Retailers looking to get online fast at a low price point may not be the best fit for a headless implementation. You’d have to consider multiple additions including an eCommerce solution, Search and CMS as opposed to a one-stop stack that fulfills all of these needs under a single umbrella. 
  • In addition, a headless implementation can require additional team members and developers to manage and execute, also affecting your total cost of ownership. 
  • Retailers would lack the technical support from a single software vendor. 
  • While headless solutions have been available to the market for some time now, the ecosystem of partners is still maturing. Retailers must be cautious in selecting third-party plug ins as they may not be suited for a headless environment. 

Scaling your Headless Return via ROX (Return of Experience)

Finally, understanding return of experience, or ROX, is key to gauging how successful a headless opportunity could be for a potential brand, and how best to scale the opportunity. ROX is the metric with which we measure the purchase experience of consumers. While Return of Investment (ROI) measures the amount of return on one’s investment, ROX goes beyond to assess multiple facets of a business to determine correlations that have decisive influence on customer experience, and ultimately affects your company’s bottom line. It’s our perspective that most organizations need to invest beyond customer experience (CX). Understanding how changes to customer experience impact your customers (in a positive or negative way), is critical in making informed choices in the development of your digital solution.

With a headless implementation, businesses have the ability to build their ‘perfect’ solution in a lego-like, plug and play format. Choosing what pieces are most valuable to drive your business and what you can live without. Understanding and achieving a high ROX is an important key to understanding what you should invest in, and how to review your potential headless solutions.

For more information on BORN’s headless solutions, please contact Mackenzie Johnson, [email protected]