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To become a value destination offering community, content and engagement from customers, a clunky CMS system is woefully inadequate for a lot of brands pushing a new aesthetic. If you want your online store to be content-forward (rather than using a standard template from your e-commerce platform), the solution is headless e-commerce.
In e-commerce, headless architecture refers to the decoupling of the front-end presentation (storefront) from the back-end ecommerce solution that manages all the processing in the background.
Headless e-commerce vs. traditional e-commerce
The Traditional E-commerce Model
Many brands still have their front end (storefront) and back end contained in a single e-commerce platform. This monolithic strategy has worked well for many decades, and most stores are still using it.
How Headless Architecture Works
In headless architecture, the front end and the back end are decoupled. They’re operated and updated separately.
Retailers with headless commerce architecture retain their CMS, or whatever other solution they use to store, manage, and deliver product information and content. The front end, or “head,” is gone. Decapitated.
Retailers with headless commerce architecture store all their product information in the back end CMS. APIs push it out to the platforms where it gets delivered to customers. The Head can be a store’s website, preferably mobile-optimized. Or it could be an app, Amazon, or a smart speaker like Google Home, maybe a smart watch, or even a smart appliance.
Retailers using headless architecture love the flexibility of being able to change their front end without having to make back end changes. They’re also still able to push their products and content to omnichannel product syndication feeds such as Shoppingfeed.
Types of Headless Architecture for E-Commerce
There are several headless architecture types to choose from.
Pure headless architecture for e-commerce
In pure headless architecture, the back end runs completely independently. Front-end developers are the ones creating the views customers will see. The down side, of course, is that hiring a developer to create all those front-end interfaces is expensive, consumes time, and will slow you down.
Pre-built headless architecture for e-commerce, with APIs
If you are less tech-savvy (or want to be able to push out faster than waiting for a developer to do it) there are pre-built options such as Shopify Plus that include a back end with pre-built APIs. Often these will have front-end templates already in place.
Your customization opportunities with this solution will be more limited, of course, but still more flexible than those you’ll find in the front-end templates on traditional e-commerce platforms. But if your business is heavily reliant on content marketing strategies where you really need to engage shoppers and get them excited about your stuff, you’ll benefit from a headless e-commerce solution that will give you unlimited ways to present your creative content.
The benefits of going Headless
Going headless to offer more experiential and content value is beneficial in several ways:
1. More customization and personalization.
Headless architecture lets you use your content-driven site to get increased engagement and interest from prospective customers when you’re speaking directly to what motivates them to want your products.
This approach affords the flexibility of a CMS like WordPress or Drupal with their content-rich themes, plus the security of a dedicated ecommerce platform with all of the transactional and tracking features.
3. Marketing effectiveness for innovation.
Innovations for speed and cost reduction help accelerate growth. Today, e-commerce managers must be able to get programs and campaigns up quickly, do A/B testing, and set campaign conversion goals.
A headless commerce platform will enable all this. Working within a more-familiar CMS speeds up productivity, when no one on the merchandising and marketing team has to deal with the back end.
Another way that Headless can reduce costs is that you can use a content- or experience-led strategy to draw in organic traffic, instead of relying on paid advertising. You’ll also see better conversion rates.
When should you consider Headless architecture for e-commerce?
It’s not for every business. Some e-commerce models work quite well on a single integrated platform. But if any of these conditions apply to you, it’s time to look at a Headless architecture solution.
1. When you’re already using a CMS you’re happy with
A lot of store operators already have a CMS they’re happy with, but wish they had more flexibility and agility to change things on the front end. This way you can keep the CMS you already use, and rely on APIs to connect it with where you’re running content on the front end.
2. When you want to more closely align all your content to your e-commerce site.
Here’s the example: In addition to your e-commerce site, you have another site that’s with content related to your products, such as a WordPress blog or an Instagram feed. Merging these two would allow you to centralize data and content in the back end, while pushing everything to one customized front end.
3. When Customer Experience needs to be the priority.
Much of traditional e-commerce architecture gets in the way of how your customer likes to experience your brand. Headless, with its focus on content and “stories,” is a friendlier experience to them than just looking at a catalog of items.
Decoupling from the back end enables you to experiment with different kinds of customer experiences, run A/B testing, and attract more organic search traffic.
Shoppingfeed and Headless systems
Many Shoppingfeed customers are now making the switch to Headless architecture. That’s an easy switch because Shoppingfeed is compatible with your entire tech stack. We act as a conduit of Inventory and order data, and as true middle-ware get out of the way of shopping cart systems so they always behave how you have configured them. Since we rely on your storefront to be the master record, we guarantee compatibility with any tool that connects to your Shopping Cart system to modify or manage your orders, inventory, or billing.
My mission at Shoppingfeed is explaining how to leverage e-commerce platforms and SaaS technology to e-merchants who just want to run their business and make more money.
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