12 June 2023

The commerce solution of the future is API-based

With an increasing number of channels for consumers to shop online, it is important that businesses can keep up technologically. This is where headless commerce can be a huge advantage for you.

AUTHOR

Jacob Ringbo

Principal


The modern consumer buys digitally. They can buy everything from groceries to homeware and clothing via their computer, mobile or in-store screens. With so many different channels, it is no wonder that headless commerce is becoming increasingly popular for e-businesses. And it is not hard to see why. Headless commerce gives your business the ability to optimise your processes and maintain the latest and most flexible frontend without changing your backend.


What is headless commerce?

Headless commerce is an online commerce architecture where the frontend and backend of an e-commerce platform are separated from each other and communication between them is solely via APIs. In this architecture, the frontend is the interface that the customer uses, while the backend is responsible for all commerce functionalities.

By separating the frontend and backend, your business can focus on developing a customised frontend optimised for your audience and marketing needs without having to worry about the underlying technology that powers the commerce platform itself. This allows you to create a more flexible and customised user experience.

With headless commerce, you can integrate your e-commerce platform with other systems and third-party applications because the APIs are very well-defined, well thought-out and good at communicating with other systems. This can help reduce development time and make it easier for you to create an omnichannel commerce experience.


What is the difference between headless commerce and headless CMS?

There are many similarities between headless CMS and headless commerce, as the principles and most benefits are exactly the same. You can bring the two together under an umbrella called headless architecture.

The main difference between the two is that headless CMS focuses on managing and creating content, while headless commerce focuses on e-commerce and sales. So, the concept is the same, but CMS focuses on delivering content, while commerce focuses on delivering commerce functionality.

Commerce has had really good APIs for many years because commerce naturally needs many integrations (for example, shipping, payment, order management, customer systems and inventory management). Showcasing APIs has therefore always been a part of commerce, unlike CMS, which has only received a lot of attention in the last five years.


What are the benefits of headless commerce?

When you separate the backend and frontend, many new benefits open up in the way you work in your organisation.

  1. Flexibility and adaptability: By separating the frontend and backend, you can customise and develop your platforms according to your business-specific needs. The APIs allow you to work in a more isolated manner with the technology, which makes working with the frontend more flexible. You are no longer tied to a specific frontend technology.

  2. Scalability: A headless commerce architecture allows you to scale up or down according to your needs. You can add or remove features and services as needed without affecting the backend. You can also scale your frontend and backend independently of each other. This can be a great advantage if you have periods of extraordinary load, such as during product launches or Black Friday.

  3. Omnichannel: With headless commerce, you can create multiple sales channels that all use the same commerce system. This makes it possible to create an omnichannel commerce experience where your customers can interact with your business across different channels and devices but still get a cohesive customer experience. This gives you greater control and makes it easier to streamline your customers' interactions with your product.

  4. Higher performance: The online commerce platform can focus on efficient and flexible commerce functionality, while the frontend application can focus on delivering an optimal user experience, creating higher performance. By minimising load time, you give your customers a better experience.

  5. Faster time to market: It is faster and more efficient to make changes or introduce new functionality to your solution because the frontend work is isolated from the backend. The result is an organisation that is better equipped to react quickly to new ideas or changes to existing initiatives.

  6. Personalised customer experiences: Headless commerce makes it possible to customise and optimise the customer experience. You can customise the look and functionality of your frontend application and personalise the customer experience according to their preferences and needs without being limited by the backend. This gives you an important advantage to differentiate yourself from your competitors and gives your customers a much better experience with your brand.

  7. Better security: The backend of the platform can be kept separate and protected from the frontend, reducing the risk of hacking and cybercrime.

Overall, headless commerce can provide you and your business with a more flexible, scalable and customisable online commerce experience that can be tailored to your needs and requirements. When you separate the frontend and backend, you give your organisation new opportunities that can save you time, resources and money. Headless commerce can require more development resources and maintenance, as a customised frontend needs to be built and maintained. This is not necessarily the best solution for all businesses. Typically, this will be of most interest to larger organisations.


Who are the big players in the market?

The four commerce platforms I mention here all have in common that they are cloud-based headless commerce solutions, meaning they can integrate with a variety of applications and platforms and can be used with different frontend technologies. This gives you the flexibility to build an online commerce solution that suits your specific needs and requirements. It is worth noting that 'headless' can vary in scope. Some platforms may offer more flexibility and customisation than others.

Commercetools:
Commercetools is a cloud-based platform that can be scaled up to handle large volumes of transactions and traffic. This makes it ideal for businesses that are growing and need to handle increased traffic and volume. It also utilises SaaS-based MACH principles.

Out of the four mentioned here, it is the only one that was designed as 100% API-based from the start, while the others have adapted to APIs. This makes it one of the best platforms on the market and one of the fastest growing in popularity.

Commercetools has only been on the market for 10 years, which is significantly less than its competitors. As a result, the platform has a more modern and up-to-date design that makes it easier to work with in general.

Adobe Commerce (Magento)
Adobe Commerce is a cloud-based platform that can be scaled up to handle large volumes of transactions and traffic, making it ideal for large organisations that are growing and need to handle increased traffic and volumes. It also offers a comprehensive functionality package to help you manage your entire e-commerce process from a single platform. This includes functionality for product catalogues, order processes, payments, shipping, marketing and reporting.

Adobe Commerce has been on the market for a long time and is a very complete commerce platform that can solve most needs. It has been successfully used by both small and large organisations and has therefore proven that it can deliver. However, it is also a slightly older platform that was not designed as either a headless or cloud service, and this can be noticeable in some situations. It is also important to note that using the Adobe Commerce headless solution requires additional technical expertise compared to more traditional uses of the platform.

Salesforce
Salesforce offers three different commerce platforms: B2C Commerce, B2B Commerce and B2B2C Commerce, which are for B2B companies that also want to sell directly to customers. They also offer separate products for order management, customer portals and payment. With Salesforce, you can create industry-specific solutions that combine multiple Salesforce products to provide specific data models and workflows.

Salesforce can be a very complex commerce platform to work with. This is partly due to the fact that Salesforce offers many different products and services that can be combined in a variety of ways. In addition, over time, Salesforce has acquired a number of companies that now make up their services. This means that their products are not built from the start to work together, but instead have been adapted to work together over time. This can sometimes be noticeable, but the strength of Salesforce is that it offers an incredible amount of functionality.

Shopify
Shopify is mostly used by small B2C businesses, but with Shopify Plus, an expanded version of Shopify, they certainly should not be ignored by large and medium-sized businesses.

Shopify Plus is built on a cloud-based infrastructure for faster performance and higher availability. The platform is designed for smaller online businesses but can handle high traffic, allowing you to handle 10,000 transactions per minute. However, the platform still has some issues with scaling. Working with test environments is difficult, which is not good for large organisations that require a stable platform.

Shopify Plus gives you a greater degree of customisation options than the regular Shopify platform. You can customise the design and functionality of your online store according to your specific needs and requirements. The platform also supports checkout customisation, integration with third-party tools and the development of customised applications. It is also Shopify Plus that provides access to the platform's headless APIs.

Shopify has so far only worked for small businesses and has had problems with companies outgrowing their platform and switching to another commerce system. However, Shopify is currently focusing hard on entering the enterprise market, so it should not be forgotten or underestimated as it could become an important player.

It is a rapidly evolving platform and one of the fastest growing commerce platforms on the market. To continue this growth, their platform includes a wide range of products: Shopify Payments, Shopify POS, Shopify Shipping, Shopify email, Shopify Markets, Shopify Fulfillment Network, Shopify Capital, Shop Pay Installments, and Shopify Balance.

Others
Of course, there are also a number of other great commerce platforms that offer headless commerce and could be a good match for your business. We have picked out some of the biggest and most complete ones that all large enterprise companies should consider when looking for a new commerce platform.


Want to know more?

Then please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are always ready for a no-obligation chat about your business needs and how headless commerce can contribute to your business. You can contact us here.