As talk of headless commerce buzzes around the eCommerce industry, merchants are excited to consider its potential for their brand. It’s hard not to with the drastic performance and user experience success stories.
But as with any relatively new hot topic, there’s bound to be a level of confusion or disinformation that follows, especially when a subject is naturally complex like technology.
Headless commerce conversations are not immune to information relays turning into an unintentional game of telephone. So in this article, we’ve rounded up some of the most common myths about headless commerce to set the record straight.
Table of Contents
To kick things off, let’s start by defining headless commerce. The term has become somewhat watered down and we believe in a strict definition: Headless commerce is a type of website architecture that decouples frontend elements of your webstore—such as storefront design and presentation—from your backend codebase, including functions such as shipping and fulfillment, analytics, and customer data.
The concept of “decoupling” is the key aspect of this definition. That separation is ultimately what gives way to the benefits brands can receive from headless commerce such as improved website performance, best-of-breed software, static generation, and boosted eCommerce KPIs.
Here are some of the most common headless commerce myths demystified.
Myth: implementing a headless commerce solution is risky
Risky and lengthy data or solution migrations and overhauls are not a requirement to access a headless commerce solution. In fact, the right solution will be quite safe to implement and even safer and more secure once up and running.
This is especially important to merchants who are currently using a monolithic tech stack and want to make the jump to a microservices tech strategy. The thought can be daunting because it’s traditionally riddled with opportunities to experience data loss, improper transfers, and other human errors. However, using a headless commerce platform can mitigate that risk and accelerate the transition from a monolithic structure to a best-of-breed microservices approach.
The right headless commerce solution will work with the systems you already have in place by ingesting data from all sources, rearranging it into a universal schema, and then delivering the data through our APIs to your storefront.
Delivering this data efficiently enables the static site-generating process of your webstore. Static site generation gives way to site speed, performance, and site security by eliminating traditional origin server architecture. From there, code is generated in one codebase for all devices downstream.
In this model, as you scale you are able to remove and implement different systems while keeping the abstraction layer for your webstore. The platform does the work and enables best-of-breed microservices, relieving merchants of the risky challenge to switch to microservices without that fail-safe support.
Myth: all “headless commerce build” experiences are equal
Headless builds can have drastically different requirements based on factors such as company size and the skillset of your in-house development team. Not all headless commerce builds are created equal and experience with one may not translate to another.
For example, your team may have prior experience with a small headless build, but if your company isn’t the same size or scope as the previous project, they may not understand the issues with eventual consistency and scaling as your company grows—two things that can make or break your solution’s success.
The path to headless has the potential for many disastrous mistakes. Be sure to assess the experience of the teams that you're trusting to take your webstore headless, including your dev team’s coding and engineering best practices.
The success of your headless build—whether you build vs buy—is riding on engineering expertise, so make sure the approach is sound.
Myth: a sync between two monolithic systems qualifies as headless commerce
The term “headless commerce” has become watered down. As mentioned above, the strict headless commerce definition is a separation between the front end and the back end, however some commentary will say that and then refer to a solution that ignores that definition.
For example, an eCommerce platform that syncs and sends data to a different vendor's CMS is not necessarily headless if the CMS is also loading the frontend experience. The front end and back end may be "separate" in terms of vendors, but it will be irrelevant to customers who still won't have the headless PWA experience while shopping.
In order to do a headless build correctly, there needs to be a clear separation of the frontend framework and backend code, no matter which systems or solutions are used.
Myth: a headless commerce solution can’t scale and grow with you
The right headless commerce solution will be flexible, fluid, and support your growth and changing needs with a microservices strategy. Technical debt will always be a consideration when evaluating technology, and reducing debt can be an argument for headless commerce and a best-of-breed software approach.
If you’re using a monolithic solution and it starts to restrict your brand, headless commerce can open up the possibility of accessing other solutions. For example, Nacelle’s headless commerce platform lets you keep your existing eCommerce platform while leveraging some of the best-in-class solutions available in respective areas, such as a headless CMS or product information management (PIM) solution.
Getting in a microservices state of mind gives merchants the flexibility and freedom to cherry-pick tools that make the most sense for their brand. And when one tool no longer makes sense as you scale, you can easily eliminate or replace it.
A headless commerce platform that supports a microservices strategy reduces the risk involved with changing tools or moving away from a monolithic structure. Once implemented, it also unlocks communication and cohesion among those tools.
Myth: site speed is the only benefit of a headless commerce solution
The lightning-fast page load speeds that headless commerce and progressive web applications (PWAs) unlock does produce dazzling benefits that directly boost your most important eCommerce KPIs, including conversion rate and average order value.
But there are many other benefits to headless commerce and PWAs than just speed gains. The ability to go mobile-first and create a native app-like experience on a mobile browser can pay dividends, especially if your marketing team is investing money in social media advertising. Your ads may be working, but if users are met with a store not optimized for their device, they’ll bounce.
A headless commerce solution can also support your webstore during high traffic moments such as sales, Black Friday Cyber Monday, or influencer marketing efforts. By using Jamstack, a content delivery network (CDN), and static generation you can eliminate traditional origin server issues known for crashing or underperforming when overwhelmed.
Headless commerce solutions don't only shine on the frontend, there are also many behind-the-scenes benefits to the dev workflow. Traditionally, without a headless solution, the developers on your team are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining different codebases for mobile and desktop and the various APIs of your tech stack tools, such as your PIM and CMS.
Both your PIM and CMS each individually have their own type of API “limits.” API limits, or rate limits, enforce a certain number of API requests per second per user. This can result in painful “eventual consistency” which creates a lag time between the up-to-date information on the backend that’s making its way to what your customers see on the frontend.
Leveraging a true headless commerce platform can simplify and drastically reduce those issues. Not only will it consolidate backend management into one codebase across devices, but it can also ingest data from across your stack and allow communication between disparate tools and the frontend.
Some platforms such as Nacelle can also consolidate your various APIs, drastically improving eventual consistency—think a possible delay of seconds or minutes, instead of hours or days. This creates a clean, streamlined flow for developers and frees up time for other projects.
Nacelle does headless commerce the right way
At Nacelle, we are confident in our headless commerce platform. It was conceived by a team that experienced all the trials and tribulations of headless commerce at a previous venture. With his team, Brian Anderson perfected this model over and over for clients. They realized that creating a custom indexing layer for each customer was unrealistic to maintain.
Forming a new company, Nacelle, they converted their expertise into a scalable headless commerce platform pinpointing and alleviating merchant pain points.
Nacelle’s headless API for Jamstack developers acts as a motherboard for your tech stack. It pairs and integrates flawlessly with top frameworks such as Nuxt and Next. It’s also compatible with an array of popular eCommerce tools and headless CMS solutions.
By leveraging Nacelle’s platform, merchants are able to move from an outdated monolithic structure to a microservices approach in a safe and efficient way that sidesteps the treacherous journey of making that shift without support.