Businesses now purchase their B2C commerce suites via three primary modes according to the Forrester B2C Commerce Suites Q1 2017 report: an all-in-one commerce suite approach, a commerce suite with complimentary best-of-breed solutions and a headless commerce suite.
Whereas the all-in-one suite once dominated the space, headless commerce (also referred to as micro-services) is emerging as the latest way to purchase commerce capabilities with retailers moving towards cloud-based, service-oriented architectures that implement commerce solutions in a more modern and modular fashion.
Build what you want, when you need it
Traditionally, platforms come with a number of features, including content management, catalogue management, and the framework you need to build your eCommerce shop. These features are convenient for retailers that are looking to ‘plug-in and go’, but may not offer the flexibility some businesses require, particularly those that aren’t selling traditional products or are looking for more innovative front-end interfaces.
Rather than traditional eCommerce platforms, API driven platforms have the flexibility to allow you to build your own website however you want, without any constraints whatsoever. Want your site to look like a magazine? Or be entirely image-based? With headless commerce you can build a simple HTML service and then weave in whichever APIs you want.
These APIs call directly to cloud services to provide the relevant part of your platform, be it the catalogue, the content, the basket, etc. Each of the particular services you want to deploy are called directly from the browser, so they provide storage for your data. Equally, being cloud-based, they can store multi-devices: your site can be accessed through apps, the TV, the fridge etc.
They provide an extra API layer that create a bespoke interface to interact with the wiring of the platform. Some examples of these new platforms include moltin, commercetools, and SAP Hybris as a Service, aka Yaas.io.
Headless Commerce: The ravioli of the pasta world
I recently came across a metaphor for the evolution of software architecture that compared it to pasta, which I thought explained it nicely (and frankly who isn’t a fan of a pasta-based metaphor?).
Originally, your eCommerce architecture was like spaghetti: entirely intermixed and not at all organised. As time went on, it evolved, to become lasagne: everything was layered, one layer being for security, one for your UI etc.
Today, it’s closest to ravioli: you have lots of separate elements and you combine these individual pieces, taking whatever micro-elements you need or want and discarding those that don’t fit for your website.
Image by @benorama
Putting customer-experience front and centre
Headless commerce means that the experience of your site is no longer driven by the capabilities of your platform. Instead, your customer’s experience leads the way, and you then weave in the capabilities this needs afterwards. It allows all of your website options (desktop, mobile, app) to be connected on a single system.
It also creates a brilliant space for truly creative commerce, allowing for a unique experience and a highly effective way to engage your customers.
If you are considering purchasing a commerce suite and would like to find out more about headless commerce or other trends in eCommerce technology over a coffee (or a bowl of pasta!), please do get in touch.