Five reasons for headless commerce on the modern commerce stack

5 min read
November 8, 2021

The most exciting development in headless commerce is the modern commerce stack (MCS). Built for innovation and supporting a nearly limitless, future-proofed business model, the MCS has revolutionized how brands and retailers are using technology to deliver unique, differentiated experiences.

We see this firsthand, working with a diverse group of eCommerce companies, supporting them on their headless journey and helping them optimize their digital shopping experience. Here are the top reasons our clients choose the MCS: 

choice - speed - custom.- cost - evolution (4).png

But before we dig in, let’s explore headless commerce on the MCS, including how it works and why the customer experience has become so important.

Sweeping changes to eCommerce 

The pandemic has forever altered how we live and consume, pushing even more US shoppers to shop digitally, adding $105 billion in US online revenue in 2020, and accelerating eCommerce by two years.

Many merchants were caught on their heels. Webstore page loads were slow, latency was common, and customers were jumping off at the first sign of a neutral or negative experience. As a result, 75% of Americans changed brands during the pandemic.

In response, merchants shifted to a headless commerce model to provide an improved (and personalized) customer experience, delivering measurable and impressive results for the business. Here are some real-life examples:  

What is headless commerce?

For those new to the concept, headless commerce allows us to separate or decouple two important layers in the digital commerce stack: 

  • Frontend presentation layer that delivers content to customers across a range of devices

  • Backend storage layer where content and digital experiences are managed

With headless commerce, merchants can leverage new, more efficient frameworks, making it easier to deliver multiple robust storefronts that are bespoke, nimble, and fast.

Headless commerce on the MCS 

With headless commerce on the MCS, organizations are no longer tied to the components within their chosen (or any) commerce platform stack. Instead, these merchants can select from any tool or technology on the market. 

The Modern Commerce Stack approach to headless commerce involves looking at each piece of the stack (e.g. storefront, delivery and deployment, data orchestration, commerce systems, CMS, PIM, payments, etc.), independently so it can be chosen as the best option available for its specific function. 

For example, the MCS makes it easy to deliver lightning-fast storefronts using frontend frameworks such as Next, Nuxt, or Gatsby. Before MCS, developers had to build React or Vue applications from scratch. The new frameworks make this much simpler. 

The same is true of tools such as hosting or content management systems. In the early days of headless, developers had to build their own. With the MCS, merchants can buy best of breed and accelerate their project timeline, keeping their tech stack lean.

A critical enabler for the modular nature of the MCS is a data abstraction layer to unify communication between all the MCS components. This layer provides a consistent API for developers, reducing the amount of work required to orchestrate the data.

The modern commerce stack is build and buy

The modern commerce stack allows merchants to quickly compose a best-of-breed technology stack. Specifically, merchants should be looking at buying readily-available components that provide the baseline of functions (that are not core to their business) while using critical development resources to build out value-added components and features that allow them to differentiate themselves in the market.  

The takeaway? Spend internal resources on what matters most and let your developers build the features that uplift your business and use artifacts that already exist to reduce the costs and pains of managing infrastructure. 

Progressive web applications

So where do you start? 

The answer is Progressive Web Applications (PWA). 

PWAs are the first step in the MCS journey. For eCommerce, a PWA that is a single page application (SPA) using static site generation (SSG) will generate best-in-class site speed.

PWAs also support a gradual transition to headless commerce on the MCS. For example, a merchant can begin by swapping their storefront and adding a PWA without changing anything else in their stack to resolve immediate issues such as speed, customization, and agility.

With PWAs, merchants can achieve the speed and mobile-first functionality to support the very best customer experiences.

But as you begin your journey to headless commerce through a new PWA, keep in mind these top 5 reasons why it’s best done via the Modern Commerce Stack. 

Top five reasons for headless commerce on the MCS 

  1. Choice
    Prior to MCS, merchants who wanted a best-in-breed tech stack had to build most of it themselves, a time-consuming and costly model.  With the MCS, organizations buy market-leading components or use open-source tools to quickly compose a best-of-breed of stack rather than building them from scratch. Developers and merchants can drive greater productivity and build out differentiated features using the tools of their choice. 

  2. Speed
    Before the MCS, driving measurable improvements in productivity and innovation was extremely difficult. Although merchants knew what they needed to do to keep pace with their customers, they were often limited by their existing stack.  Today these organizations leverage developer-friendly toolsets (i.e. why wouldn’t you let your dev team code in their preferred frameworks, right?) and increase the pace of innovation and differentiation in areas that matter most such as user experiences and personalized storefronts.  

  3. Customization
    Due to speed and technology limitations, the burden of building and supporting personalized customer experiences was difficult and time-consuming.  With the MCS, merchants can make available multiple storefronts that personalize and provide feature-rich shopping experiences to every shopper, driving more conversions and increasing average order value.

  4. Reduced cost
    No longer constrained by a build-it-from-scratch tech stack, our clients use hosted and managed tools for a leaner tech footprint. Other approaches require full re-platforms, making for costly (and longer) projects and even costlier business process changes. A build-it-yourself approach essentially builds in technical scope and debt that will extend project timelines and result in maintenance and improvement costs over time.

  5. Evolution
    Before the MCS, integrations were hardwired into the tech stack, making change difficult.   The modular structure of the MCS leveraging a flexible data orchestration layer enables Nacelle clients to easily and rapidly adapt their headless commerce components to keep pace with the expectations of their customers.

Nacelle clients also benefit from greater overall efficiencies, upgrading tools or systems in their tech stack that don’t serve them, relying instead on the specific tools they’ve selected. 

The journey to headless on the MCS has opened up amazing opportunities for eCommerce merchants. No longer saddled with legacy tools and technology, our clients can future-proof their operations, delivering an excellent customer experience for a more profitable business.

For a deeper dive into the MCS and to learn how you can reap the benefits of truly headless commerce, read the ebook: What is the Modern Commerce Stack? or contact us.

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