Headless commerce took over all the web buzz, thereby creating a lot of misinterpretation and a dose of confusion. Here we will briefly lay out the origins of the headless approach, how it started, how it goes, a basic premise, and how it addresses different scale eCommerce. 

How did headless commerce kick-off?

To understand why headless is gaining widespread popularity, it's worth taking a step back to the origins and context of the tech revolution. It all accelerated with the broad smartphone adoption when scrolling and swiping became mainstream. With online access at hand came a change in consumers’ behavior, raising expectations for presence, alignment, performance, and accessibility. It quickly became obvious for monoliths, designed to handle a single channel, that implementing a small change without compromising the entire system takes a serious amount of time and resources. 

The beyond desktop and mobile-first era quickly arrived, requiring a constructive re-think of the approach on the eCommerce scene. To become responsive, the monolithic software needed a decay and a steady set up of commerce storefront that would set the pole position for swift activities. 

The wide spectrum of changes that demanded inclusion embraced internationalization, alignment with language specifications, integrations with 3rd party services, maintenance, and quick deployment at the front, multi-screen displays, adjusting the layout to the natural handholds and updates. It doesn't end there because a well-oiled machine has to work in harmony with Google algorithms, Core Web Vitals in particular, and the limited patience of online shoppers. 

All of the aspects that suddenly had to be taken into account multiplied, making monoliths commercially unviable. Continuous discovery, learning, and development became a vital part for every conscious industry player willing to thrive and compete in the market. Hence, specialization and domain knowledge became the key to cooperation.

[To dive deeper into the roots of the present eCommerce scene composition, below is a short review of the tech revolution launched in 2007, if you’re fine with the information above, you can skip the next part and jump into stats] 

A brief history of the time when everything changed 

To better outline the context, let’s quickly jump to 2007, a landmark when everything was reinvented. It was a year when Facebook went global, iPhone was introduced to the world, and the first code was committed to GitHub. The list goes on, Twitter, Kindle, Android, and I​​BM’s AI-powered system Watson went public, Airbnb was founded, and Google bought YouTube. It was also the time when public cloud computing emerged (Amazon Web Services started in 2006). Finally, the API course was formulated, and microservices were born. 

As technology has led the change, the consumer's behavioral patterns have evolved, and the way business and marketing is done has been transformed. The explosive technological boost was due to the cracking of the barrier of high entry, processing and storage costs, which made complexity accessible. Data collection has become easier and segmentation more complex. 

Still, the snowball effect of the technological boom generated many opportunities but also made it difficult for a single actor to keep up with every new release, update, and implementation. Time began to play an even more important role, hence building from scratch (or dealing with monoliths) was replaced by forming from ready-made, future-proofed components.

How is headless commerce reflected in figures?

eCommerce statistics provided by The State of eCommerce 2021, Kantar&Catalyst show:

66% of online purchasers value convenience over price; thus the shopping experience should be practical and smooth

42% of professionals indicate that improving the user experience will be the biggest opportunity in eCommerce marketing in the next twelve months

30% eCommerce professionals declare that creative content options will play an important role in revenue.

56% of millennials and 54% of Gen X online purchasers scroll past the Product Detailed Page, searching for the relevant pieces of information.

57% of shoppers favor shopability - the ability retail’s environment to translate consumer demand into a purchase, this includes shaping UX and influencing with content and performance
Source: The State of eCommerce 2021, Kantar&Catalyst

Note: The surveyed professionals also indicated a shift from a search for ideal solutions to a testing mentality, aggregating many small wins over time. 

In addition, according to Baymard Institute 75% of shopping cart abandonment is due to slow website load.

Essentially, headless commerce aims to respond quickly to such arising obstacles.

Differences between microservices and headless approach

Having explained the reasoning behind disrupted architecture in eCommerce, now it’s time to clarify what are the differences between microservices and headless commerce.

First and most important, headless means decoupling the front-end from the back-end and incorporating the API-first paradigm. Microservices, on the other hand, allow the platform and service-oriented architecture to be fully decoupled.

The whole idea of microservices is that each of them has an API that forms a communication protocol by agreeing to a contract that specifies how the players understand each other. So, it is clear what to expect from each side. Following this reasoning, almost everything can be "agreed" among different parties.

Having established the agreements, it becomes more efficient for the entire eCommerce architecture to apply changes and manage operational and marketing-based activities. Headless approach allows marketers (or merchants in general) to actively manage the front without engaging development forces.

As a headless environment advances at the pace, and the 3rd party apps flex to provide well-tailored functionalities, the greater spectrum of capabilities and freedom headless commerce provides.

What are the key benefits of headless commerce?

Establishing a headless environment unties merchants’ hands, allowing them to act without restraint immediately. From a big picture perspective, decoupling the system allows for unfettered operations on the front end without affecting the back end. 

Headless commerce provides advanced technologies to create visually pleasing, well-performing web experiences

This is practical knowledge for any representative working at the front of eCommerce. With the API-first approach, merchants can test new technologies and build their own tool kit, fitting demanding needs. Headless permits flexibility in content and experience delivery via connected preferable CMS.

A headless commerce platform does not block operations, whether it is a launch of a new product line, associated brand, or a new touchpoint addressing a different audience. Via a single tool connected to headless architecture merchants receive tones of freedom to deploy multiple sites and touchpoints. And it happens fast, in days, not months, without burdening the devs with tedious activities. Headless creates a space for better omnichannel shopping experiences. 

Headless commerce assures flexibility and tech balance for developers

IT administrators are assigned to support the business as it scales. With the growth comes new challenges that need to be swiftly approached to maintain performance. Scaling a monolith platform is problematic because of the joined nature. Headless approach future-proofs the architecture, so continuous iteration and innovation are secured. Flexibility and freedom of choice of the eCommerce platform that serves best one’s interests become easy, as the eComm engine can work freely with any frontend and 3rd party extensions. A distributed system prevents delays that would arise because of the number of deploys needed in a monolith and the associated risk of putting the entire shop down.

Headless commerce allows to better distribute the budget

The budgeting aspect is always a viable matter. Having an insufficient everything-in-one platform over the years of functioning causes biases and reveals hidden costs of out-of-specification supplies. Extra changes start to irritate and absorb resources wrecking the annual budget.

Due to the flexibility provided by the headless commerce approach, technical debt decreases. Thanks to this, business executives and marketers can easily follow and forecast how the money is spent.

Now it's time to dispel the growing confusion about headless commerce. 

What is the cost of headless commerce?

TL;DR: it depends.

Going headless means decoupling the front-end from the backend. And further improvements happen at the front of eCommerce. The backend could remain monolithic. One can take a headless approach no matter the eCommerce platform (could be Magento, Shopify, custom, or any other online shopping environment). The scale of the undertaking mainly depends on the held platform and the results the merchant wants to achieve. So, the total cost and time needed for headless implementation with a well-matched set of tools can be executed within a couple of weeks.

Does headless commerce have to be built from scratch?

As mentioned above, here to elaborate on this point, it varies whether a merchant wants to build a custom frontend and connect it to an eCommerce platform or use the frontend platform available on the market. You can make the best use of future-proofed solutions and prosper well, faster and in a cost-effective way. 

Although we are talking about a headless approach here, to question the logic a bit, headless must have an environment that binds the entire structure together and is responsible for proper and stable operations. So, headless should be nourished with a bodiless structure.

To better understand this sort of confusion, it’s all about establishing a standard, a gateway that enables easy integration allowing fast and convenient fitting of various tools supporting the storefront. And that was the main reasoning behind Vue Storefront. VSF is a missing link between headless platforms, 3rd party applications that future-proof eCommerce’s performance and flexibility.

Bodiless frontend for secure headless commerce

Bodiless frontend to settle headless commerce

To make a swift shift to decoupled commerce, merchants can apply a cost- and time-effective approach. Vue Storefront grants principles incorporated and supported by the MACH Alliance. It is a modular and API-first frontend for headless commerce.

VSF supports boundless operations at the front while remaining open for further customization. It does not become a blocker for advanced activities in the later growth phases. Besides, Vue Storefront stands at the forefront of IT integration, guaranteeing fast and stable further implementation. It all happens without compromising performance, thereby reducing unnecessary tech humps at the front. 

Why apply a bodiless storefront for headless commerce? 

Certain standards became a necessity for fast-moving technology demands. The answer lies in issues of future-proofing, warranty supply, time-to-market, and lost opportunity cost. Simplifying, without a well-thought-out and featured with default standard functionalities bodiless storefront, implementation of each of the preferred Headless CMS for eCommerce may happen individually. The headless transition then extends from extra days to extra months, thus delaying a fast and effective launch. Then follows the cost of maintenance and continued interoperability with subsequent updates. Bodiless storefront assures quick integration and provides freedom of choice when setting a preferable headless commerce tool kit. 

What degree of freedom is Vue Storefront referring to?

To work in sync with the eCommerce market and headless commerce in general, Vue Storefront can be integrated with key market platforms, Shopify, Commercetools, Magento, Commerce cloud, Shopware, BigCommerce, Elasticpath, Spryker, Sylius, and About you Commerce Suite. Setting a well-crafted frontend foundation Vue Storefront goes further. It can be connected with headless CMSs (Storyblock, Contentstack, Amplience, Contentful, Bloomreach, Magnolia, and Lexas CMS), payments (checkout, Adyen, PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, Klarna, ApplePay, GooglePay, and Mollie), and 3rd party services (Algolia, constructor.io, Talon.one, Cloudinary, Webeyez, Klevu, or custom) and new integrations are on the way. 

Learn more about our integrations from live projects:

Love Crafts - How VSF enhances commercetools 

Netatmo - a strong lift-up for Magento

 Pure Daily Care - Flexing Shopify with Vue Storefront

Vue Storefront platform is on its way to support the further headless implementation

Having established a well-functioning front for headless commerce, VSF decided to take one more step ahead and develop a platform that offers an optimized hosting environment. VSF platform is a cloud, an infrastructural component of Vue Storefront, that, aside from offering an optimized hosting environment, provides other added-value services. All within an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) application to easily set up, manage, control and monitor VSF-based projects. 

A bodiless frontend is a well-tailored ensemble for headless commerce 

Bodiless frontend for headless commerce is a hero no one asked for but everyone needed. In a world of rapid change, limited attention, and aiming high well-paired modularity becomes a stable supplement for performance, granting at the same time flexibility. Vue Storefront enables headless transition for any player. At the same time, as hungry for more storefront visionaries, we work on an even broader set of solutions well-matched with headless commerce for different scale eCommerce.