‹ Back to all posts
Post date
Estimated read time
4 minute read
Word Count

Your Brand’s Future: Headless PWA eCommerce

Consumers love a good app; in fact, I probably peruse my Amazon app every other day. From a business perspective, eCommerce brands often benefit from having a native app – their fast, intuitive and mobile customer experiences can lead to higher conversion rates. However, getting consumers to find and use your app in an app store has historically been a challenge; furthermore, research indicates that 25% of apps downloaded by mobile app users are abandoned after a single use.

What if you could avoid developing an app but still deliver native-app-like customer experiences, including offline capabilities, instant login, one-tap checkout, push notifications, and more? Awesome, right? This is where eCommerce websites are headed. Many, including those you know well, like Amazon, Nike and Target are there already and have been for a few years now. While this is fantastic, what’s even more exciting is where this is all going, beyond websites. 

Get ahead with headless progressive web apps (headless PWAs)

A progressive web app, or PWA, is a web application that provides a mobile-first app-like experience for websites. It just requires a “little” adjustment (ok, a lot) in how you’re set up. That’s the “headless” part. Many large eCommerce brands have implemented a headless PWA eCommerce approach, but it’s not necessarily for everyone – yet. However, it’s definitely good to have on your radar, as experts agree that headless is a groundbreaking development for eCommerce.

A headless setup essentially decouples the front end of your website/user experience (what the customer sees) from the backend systems and platforms, including CMS, ERP, eCommerce, etc. that serve up the data and content. The beauty of this approach goes beyond being able to increase site speed – although the nearly instantaneous page loads of PWAs are pretty amazing. 

Going headless opens up a new world of eCommerce opportunities. It enables you to retrieve data and content from backend systems and pull it into any UX on any device or platform using APIs (code that allows applications to talk to each other). This is key in a world where front end technology and the way people want to shop – from voice commerce to augmented reality – is diverse and changing rapidly. You want to sell products within a video game, in a connected car, via Alexa, at a kiosk or through a smart appliance? No problem. Your headless backend can support it. 

Furthermore, since the front end and backend are decoupled, you can modify the user experience without impacting backend systems. This means less investment and lower risk to try new things. 

How cutting edge is headless PWA eCommerce? It’s not only the big brands mentioned above; many DTC brands, such as Rothys, Manscaped and Victoria Beckham Beauty are also using headless PWAs for their eCommerce sites. With increasing adoption of PWAs, we’re approaching a tipping point for eCommerce where going headless won’t really be a choice anymore, if brands want to participate in next-gen eCommerce. 

SEO is A-OK for PWAs

Search engine optimization for PWAs isn’t an issue today if a PWA is implemented correctly. 

Successful PWA eCommerce sites use third-party static website generators like Gatsby, Next.js or Nuxt.js that let you build your website using JavaScript frameworks like Vue or React. Once deployed, the generators spit out pre-rendered HTML for Google to interpret for SEO. You can see this in action on sites such as Walmart and Best Buy that have great SEO and are PWAs.   

From DIY to SaaS and PaaS 

While early adopters likely did PWA development in house, now there are third-party tools and platforms that can help you implement a headless PWA eCommerce with less effort. While DIY is possible, we recommend working with an agency with headless expertise, as you’ll want to rethink your entire architecture and will need some new technology, like a third-party host for your eCommerce site (Shopify still powers the customer experience via Shopify’s Storefront API), as well as additional headless-friendly applications and some middleware. Using existing tools and platforms, while requiring higher up-front investment, can be the most cost-effective in the long term, eliminating complexity and saving you the headaches of updating and integrating software over time. 

Off with your head?

Going headless can be a significant investment, particularly for smaller brands, so it’s important to take a good, hard look at the potential return and what competitive advantages it would bring. However, if your brand targets Gen Z consumers who expect more cutting-edge experiences, it may behoove you to start thinking about investing in headless sooner than later so that you have time to be strategic – versus scrambling to catch up to your competitors. We’ve got some pretty strong eCommerce strategy chops and would be excited to help you determine if it’s your time to go headless. Contact us.