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Is Your Brand Ready for Headless eCommerce?

Thinking about headless? Maybe your eCommerce site has issues with speed and performance and you feel like you keep throwing money at the problem without getting the results you need. Or your competitors are eating your lunch because the marketing team can’t act fast enough – they have to rely on your overwhelmed technology team to build pages or change content. 

We talk with brands about these issues all the time. And we work with brands and technology partners to implement headless infrastructures to provide amazing eCommerce customer experiences (CX).

However, a word of caution. When it comes to headless, please ignore Nike and don’t “just do it.” Although headless gives us a lot to be excited about, it doesn’t mean your brand should dive right in. Instead, take time to carefully consider the tradeoffs as well as calculate the actual value headless will or will not deliver for your business. 

What is headless?

Headless is an approach to building an eCommerce infrastructure that decouples the front end of your website/user experience (what the customer sees) from the backend systems and platforms that store and serve up the data or content, which may include CMS, ERP, eCommerce, etc. 

What’s exciting about headless is that it sets you up for whatever the future will bring. It gives you tons of flexibility in where you deliver content and sell – through any number of touchpoints, from your website to IoT devices to connected cars. This is because you can make changes to your front end and create new storefronts without impacting your backend functionality. You can 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). 

Treat investing in headless as a business decision

Going headless should be a carefully considered decision. It should be implemented for a specific purpose and to support specific goals, which you should be able to clearly articulate. 

According to our friends at Pack, a company that provides front- and backend infrastructure for headless storefronts, “headless is an approach, not a solution.” Therefore, it’s important to first determine what you want to achieve and then consider if headless and/or other technologies can help you achieve those goals. Ask yourself: what are we trying to solve by going headless? What pain point(s) will headless solve?

What is the cost/benefit? You should be able to clearly show this as well. Pull some numbers to understand the return. 

4 reasons to go headless

While every business will have different reasons for going headless, the following are some pretty good reasons to explore.

Reason #1: Increase conversions

Ninety percent of shoppers say they will abandon a website if it’s too slow. So, site speed is pretty critical to your bottom line. Increased speed and improved performance support a better customer experience, which usually translates to increased conversions and higher revenue. Headless can enable the speed and performance you need. For your website, headless enables you to develop a progressive web app (PWA), a web application that provides a mobile-first app-like experience for websites, meeting consumers’ expectations for fast, intuitive, and seamless experiences.

In fact, Pack Digital reports it has seen its clients increase conversions by 20-40% and AOV anywhere from 10% to 45% after implementing headless, due to better speed, performance, and CX. 

Reason #2: Control your content and CX everywhere

eCommerce is becoming more competitive by the day, with more retailers coming online and marketplaces like Amazon dominating. A strategic way to differentiate your brand is through controlling the customer experience no matter where your customers interact with your brand. 

However, on your eCommerce site, more bells and whistles, like personalization, recommendations and subscriptions, and more complex content needs, like lifestyle content, video, augmented reality (AR), etc. can add complexity, reduce site speed, and make you more dependent on your technology team. 

If complexity is slowing you down, a headless infrastructure can make it easier for marketers to manage the front end and quickly create, deploy and manage content for your storefront, landing pages, and other touchpoints. 

Reason #3: Support an omnichannel strategy including m-commerce 

Headless gives you the flexibility to reach consumers and sell on any channel or device and sets you up for leveraging new channels in the future. Today, mobile or m-commerce is where it’s at. You have to provide a great mobile shopping experience to stay competitive – and a headless infrastructure enables a PWA storefront for an app-like experience online. 

How important is mobile? In 2021 it was estimated that nearly 73% of all retail eCommerce would come through m-commerce. This nearly 15% increase in m-commerce since 2017 was boosted by the pandemic; in addition, the rising popularity of social commerce is playing a role. 

Reason #4: Enable your ideal tech stack

The software doesn’t always integrate well, which can limit the options for your tech stack. Decoupling the front and back ends gives you a lot more options and flexibility when selecting the right tools for what you want to accomplish. Headless gives you a lot more control over your infrastructure to support creating the CX you want. For example, if you want to integrate a new PIM or OMS/order management system, you can more easily plug and play these technologies without having to re-platform. 

Potential drawbacks

After you determine how going headless would support your business goals, take time to consider some of the tradeoffs and potential drawbacks of making the transition.

Steep learning curve

There’s a learning curve to implement new processes and operations when you go headless. You won’t be living in “Shopify Themeland” anymore. The shift is a big one and can be challenging.

It’s critical to fully understand what will be different and how that will impact people managing the front end. A good practice is to have vendors come demo the new technologies you’re considering adding to your stack. Also, make decisions as a team about what the internal workflows and processes will be like and how to best get people familiar with the new tools.  

Additional cost

It’s becoming easier and more cost-effective to go headless, with new tools (like Pack) so that you don’t have to build a storefront totally from scratch. However, while headless is more accessible now, it’s still an investment. Costs will be different based on agency and experience. Working with someone with experience is important because headless is still relatively new.  

Headless makes the most sense for businesses that are ready to scale – not those still trying to find a product-market fit. Make sure you determine the return on your investment and feel confident headless will bring value.

Keep a cool head

New tools for building a headless infrastructure are making headless more accessible. More brands of all sizes can have faster websites and control their content in meaningful, future-forward ways. However, just because going headless is easier and more cost-effective than it used to be, you still should do the due diligence to ensure going headless will solve specific business challenges and bring value to your business. Want to talk to a team that’s well-versed in the headless space?  Reach out!