Headless Commerce With a Headless CMS: A Marriage Made in Heaven

A couple of decades ago, buying things online was a relatively straightforward process during the early stages of eCommerce. Customers would log onto their favorite websites, find a product they liked, go through the checkout process and wait for it to arrive at their door. Online shopping was typically done on a desktop or laptop and didn’t involve too many bells and whistles.

Well, those days are long gone, and the desktop isn’t the only thing companies need to concern themselves with. Shoppers today aren’t limited to just their desktops, laptops, or tablets but are now shopping on mobile devices, toggling through different social media apps, ordering products using their Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers, plus so much more. 

So how can brands cater to these digitally savvy customers? The answer is headless commerce. Let’s dive into how the eCommerce landscape has changed and why headless commerce is necessary for B2B and B2C businesses today. We’ll also explain how brands can use a hybrid headless CMS to support their headless commerce efforts. 

The Changing eCommerce Landscape

To say that eCommerce has exploded in recent years would be an understatement. The current eCommerce market stands at $3.3 trillion, and Morgan Stanley predicts it could reach $5.4 trillion by 2026

Why exactly is this happening? The short answer is: Consumers are demanding more convenience—and the most prominent players in the market are meeting that demand through the ultimate convenience creator, eCommerce. 

The digitalization of everything has been happening at warp speed over the past 2 years in particular. But when it comes to eCommerce, consumer demand is why that growth isn’t expected to slow down too much. 

Amazon’s domination of the eCommerce industry has meant that giving customers the ability to shop online isn’t enough for brands hoping to differentiate themselves. Instead, they need to cater to those customers’ need for convenience by making it easy for them to shop online using their smartphone, or the digital kiosk in a mall, just as easily as they would using their desktop.

What Is Headless Commerce? (The Answer to this Paradigm Shift)

Headless commerce separates the frontend of an eCommerce store from the backend. So the text, images, videos, and more that customers see when they visit a store are separated from the backend eCommerce functionality that handles things like the checkout process, inventory management, and more. 

Just like any other headless architecture, for example, a headless CMS, the frontend and backend communicate with each other through APIs. To truly create the best headless commerce experience, a headless CMS is usually combined with an eCommerce platform. 

The headless CMS acts as the centralized content hub, distributing product information, inventory data, documentation, videos, and any other relevant content to any device or touchpoint. The eCommerce solution facilitates shopping cart and checkout functionalities and may act as the frontend delivery layer (or developers can build their own frontend templates).

For brands to remain competitive, they must be available on the same devices and channels and, more importantly, ensure that their digital experience is not siloed. Instead, they must draw from a single source of truth to provide a genuinely omnichannel eCommerce experience. That’s what they can find with headless commerce and why many brands choose to go headless instead of relying on the traditional commerce model. 

How Is Headless Commerce Different From Traditional Commerce?

The traditional commerce model typically relies on a legacy or monolithic eCommerce platform to manage the entire shopping experience. The eCommerce platform comes as part of a monolithic suite that provides brands with an all-in-one platform that includes a CMS, digital asset management platform, analytics engine, etc. 

While this model was a popular option for enterprises before, it also comes with several drawbacks such as limited frontend flexibility and customization options, not much room for personalization, and it makes it hard for brands to adapt to changes in the market. 

Like other legacy systems, traditional commerce platforms include a templated design that is made for websites but not the modern omnichannel environment. Also, since it comes as part of a monolithic suite, integrating specific tools such as merchandising or product information management (PIM) software that can usually enhance the eCommerce experience is difficult. 

Headless Commerce Benefits

While headless architecture benefits are quickly realized by the IT team, moving to a headless commerce platform can also benefit other branches of the business. Some of the benefits include:

Unrestricted Front-end development: Traditional eCommerce solutions often restrict how developers can make changes. Since the frontend and backend are so tightly integrated, any change to one forces developers to make changes to the other. Also, any outages to one can affect the other. 

In a headless commerce environment, developers can create their own frontend from scratch without affecting the back end. They can also use the frameworks and technologies that work best for them to make that frontend.

Deeper Personalization: Traditional eCommerce platforms also limit how users and administrators can personalize content delivery, restricting data-based personalization to whatever data is within the eCommerce platform. When a headless CMS is in play, customer and product data can be pulled from CRMs, PIMs, and other third-party tools. This allows brands to build a truly personalized and localized eCommerce experience for their customers.

Future-proof: Traditional eCommerce systems struggle to adapt to new technologies and customer demands. With a headless CMS fueling the experience, the company is ready for any new technology, device, or consumer trend and can quickly adapt rather than fall behind the competition.

Consistent Branding and Messaging: The ability to maintain a consistent brand message when moving from the website’s content area to the eCommerce section can help convert visitors into customers. The flexibility that a headless commerce solution affords in developing a seamless frontend experience can give visitors the consistency they need and allow them to blend content and commerce. 

Lower Development and Maintenance Costs: A headless commerce solution can cost much less than a standard eCommerce platform and can integrate with third-party systems with minimal effort. With lower development and maintenance costs, and better documentation, firms that employ headless commerce can often see significant cost savings.

Easier Integrations: With APIs at play, brands can seamlessly integrate with best-of-breed third-party tools, Martech, and analytics engines. 

Headless Commerce With a Hybrid Headless CMS

While a pure headless CMS can help brands embrace headless commerce and deliver an engaging experience for their customers, opting for a hybrid headless CMS can make things easier for the marketers who need to create the content, product descriptions, and more for the eCommerce store. 

dotCMS is a hybrid headless platform that offers true headless functionality without hanging marketers out to dry. It features Edit Mode Anywhere for undisrupted editor experiences in headless, native, or hybrid environments with preview, inline editing, drag & drop, template editing, and personalization.

dotCMS also offers:

GraphQL Support: While our native REST APIs are great, dotCMS also includes GraphQL for more efficient and high-performing eCommerce integrations.

No-Code Content Modeling: Use the available content types or create your own type to organize content assets, permissions, and more. 

API Builder: The API Builder gives you the tools and the environment to create custom REST endpoints to support your specific interoperability use-cases, all that with LowCode scripting and no Java developer.

dotCMS: The Perfect Headless Commerce Companion 

The world of eCommerce has been moving at lightning speed for some time now. However, by default, eCommerce brands stuck using traditional content management systems will never catch up to modern brands or the Amazon behemoth. 

But with a headless commerce solution (and a hybrid CMS as the core of that solution), your brand can build an omnichannel eCommerce experience that’s worthy of your customer’s time, attention, and money.

With dotCMS’s marketer-friendly and API-first philosophy, brands are taking advantage of commerce tools and other integrations to build those experiences

Image Credit: Robin Worrall
August 12, 2022

Recommended Reading

Why Global Brands Need a Multi-tenant CMS

Maintaining or achieving a global presence requires effective use of resources, time and money. Single-tenant CMS solutions were once the go-to choices for enterprises to reach out to different market...

14 Benefits of Cloud Computing and Terminology Glossary to Get You Started

What is cloud computing, and what benefits does the cloud bring to brands who are entering into the IoT era?

Headless CMS vs Hybrid CMS: How dotCMS Goes Beyond Headless

What’s the difference between a headless CMS and a hybrid CMS, and which one is best suited for an enterprise?