A marketer’s guide to headless eCommerce

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If you’re a marketer in the eCommerce arena, bounce rate and cart abandonment are probably among your least favorite words in the English language. These are prevalent issues undermining eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Because of their importance, making your customer journey seamless obviously should be at the front of your mind during every phase of every campaign. Perhaps it’s time to think about how headless eCommerce could help you achieve this.

Headless eCommerce has been growing in popularity in recent years. That’s because of its ability to streamline customer journeys and maximize the value that eCommerce businesses offer their target market. 

In today’s post, we’ll go through an overview of what headless eCommerce is, how it can benefit traditional eCommerce businesses, and what this could mean for marketers like you.

What is headless eCommerce?

At a basic level, headless eCommerce is a relatively new approach to managing an eCommerce website where the back end is separated from the front end apparatus, hence “headless.” This means that the site’s developers will be able to manage and update front-end elements, such as user experience (UX) design, social commerce, the internet of things (IoT) integration, etc. They can manage and update these elements without having to worry about limitations in the back end, as with more traditional eCommerce web design.

When developers are set free from considerations in the back-end apparatus, they’ll be much better equipped to create engaging, memorable experiences for their customers. This offers new features that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional, monolithic model.

The value of headless eCommerce is the way that it empowers you to take an omnichannel approach to your web design. This allows you to show your customers consistent brand messaging and provide them with a seamless buying experience across all channels.

The key benefit of headless eCommerce

When eCommerce was first taking off, the traditional, monolithic model for web design was all a store would need to meet their customers’ expectations. Sticking with this model will certainly keep your store functional. However, the development of new technologies and online shoppers increasingly expecting an omnichannel experience has now raised the bar. This trend is only expected to continue, and by adapting to headless eCommerce as early as possible, you’ll help your business stay one step ahead.

Gartner suggests an approach to technology that brings together multi-experience, user experience, customer experience, and employee experience. That’s because they’re expected to rank among the top strategic technology trends now and in the near future. This approach has been dubbed total experience (TX). It’s geared towards both improving the experience for all users and the outcomes for businesses that implement it.

Headless eCommerce encompasses a wide range of functions that can help a modern eCommerce business align itself with the rapidly changing expectations of customers. This includes leveraging WYSIWYG editors to develop personalized chatbots or efficiently updating both your website and mobile app. Doing so will ensure users get the same features and data across all touchpoints. 

While headless eCommerce is certainly poised to shape the future of online shopping, some marketers may have reservations about embracing it. This is mostly due to the relative complexity of its content management systems (CMS). It’s true that to harness all the benefits that headless eCommerce has to offer, there’ll be more moving parts in the CMS you’ll need to consider. You may find that your developers have to get more hands-on with their coding to ensure everything runs smoothly. It can also mean that designing and previewing new content won’t be as easy as with a traditional CMS, calling for closer relationships between departments.

The good news is there are a lot of headless CMSs on the market, and the competition is expected to stay fierce as more eCommerce companies move to a headless model. Take a look at Hubspot’s curated list of some of their favorite headless CMSs.

How marketers can leverage headless eCommerce

For marketers, headless eCommerce can help you avoid some of the challenges kicked up by having a front-end presentation layer that’s tightly integrated with the back end. A headless model will lift many of the limitations you face when trying to create a front-end experience that’s perfect for your customers. Here are just a few of the ways that marketers can leverage headless eCommerce and get the most out of their campaigns.

Cut down the time it takes to roll out new initiatives

As an eCommerce marketer, there are probably countless new initiatives you may want to launch or try out for your business. For example, new storefronts, mini-sites, or even an entirely new take on your branding. However, in a traditional, monolithic platform, you’ll be stuck with the display options that come included.

With headless eCommerce, on the other hand, these new initiatives will simply be another connection within your headless-friendly architecture. Create your desired front end in the headless CMS and all the data surrounding your customer accounts and product info will be pulled through from a single centralized collection. This is also known as a headless eCommerce API.

By being able to launch your new content using a single eCommerce platform, you’ll gain newfound flexibility with all your conversion rate optimization (CRO) and UX design endeavors. This allows you to speed up the whole process and test exciting new ideas that much faster.

Supercharge your content with greater CMS choices

With traditional eCommerce platforms, the built-in CMS they come with will confine you to using predetermined templates and themes on the front end. For content-driven brands putting a lot of stock in actively optimizing their content, this can create a lot of obstacles that can seriously dampen their content marketing efforts.

In an in-depth resource on Link Building, Hive19 explains the importance and benefits of well-optimized content on your website. “Successfully raising the topical authority of well-optimized pages is a marketing strategy that will drive improved rankings and result in greater volumes of traffic over time. [...] This is not a quick process but one that requires deep thought, expert analysis, and professional content generation.”

With headless architecture, you’ll have much more flexibility in terms of the way you present your most valuable content. This allows you to showcase your brand messaging in a way that isn’t possible in a monolith setup.

Get ahead of the curve with new technology and design conventions

As any marketer will tell you, you can have the most compelling ads on the web. However, if your site doesn’t live up to this level of quality, running those paid campaigns is going to be a waste of resources.

On-page SEO and UX trends never sit still, and if you find that your site is looking outdated and clunky compared to your competitors, you’re going to have to work quickly to catch up. In a traditional eCommerce model, this will mean having to update both the back-end and front-end elements of your platform at roughly the same time. This can often invite a whole host of technical hiccups and obstacles.

Adopting a headless eCommerce model will open up a much easier way to deal with these situations and future-proof your business as you scale. When a new UX trend takes the world by storm, you’ll be able to integrate new technologies, channels, touchpoints, and so on. The benefit is that you’ll be able to achieve this without having to find a completely new platform just to add a few new features.

A necessary step with long-term rewards

I hope you’ve found this guide to headless eCommerce for marketers useful as you work to optimize your customer experience and maximize the value of your brand in the eyes of your target market. Though the prospect of migrating to a headless model may be daunting, it’s going to be a necessary step in order to stay competitive. On top of that, there’s no limit to its long-term rewards for any modern eCommerce business.

Published May 19, 2022