Chief Innovation Officer, PIN Business Network
If your business sells online, undoubtedly you have shopped around for various platforms to run your online store. In most cases, subscribing to a traditional ecommerce platform is a quick and easy way to get to market quickly at a lower total cost of ownership than building your own custom online store. While this practice has made perfect sense for well over a decade, recent innovations and the emergence of omni-channel ecommerce have begun to erode confidence in the traditional platform strategy in favor of a more flexible approach known as “headless ecommerce”.
What is Headless Ecommerce?
From a technical point of view, a headless ecommerce solution separates the user experience (look and feel) from the underlying business logic and data structures that run the shop through an API (Application Programming Interface) allowing designers and coders to work independently. In a traditional platform environment, designers have little latitude to create compelling user journeys beyond that which the platform offers because the front end is integrated with the backend directly.
If your platform only has one way to display a product page, a user experience designer can only customize so far. This one-size-fits-all approach to user experience can lead to sub-optimal conversion rates and poor user engagement. For example, when using popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, the functionality of the product catalog is watered down to work for both businesses selling auto parts and for businesses selling coffee. Depending on the product, shoppers expect a user experience tailored to their product of interest. Traditional ecommerce platforms can only go so far.
By decoupling the user experience and the business logic of the store, user experience designers can customize how their products are sold without third-party plugins or extensions. The designer can focus on design first and craft a compelling shopping experience on any device and for any channel. The possibilities are limited to only the designer’s imagination, not by the pre-packaged programming of the underlying platform.
Why Headless Commerce?
There are a variety of benefits to moving to a headless model beyond just flexibility. Taken together the headless approach provides a competitive advantage.
1. Future Proof
As your business grows you can easily scale and add more functionality quickly and with little friction. Using a headless model, it is nearly impossible to outgrow your solution because you control how the solution is designed, implemented and even hosted.
Since a headless solution is just an API-driven platform, functionality and information can be extended into other distributed systems. For example, using the API which drives a headless solution, additional channels can be added over time including retail, wearables, and IoT to name a few. Back office integrations are a breeze because the information and data being exchanged are in a standard and repeatable format.
3. A Single Source of Truth
Wouldn’t it be nice to warehouse all your product information in one place instead of managing multiple silos of data that have to be continuously merged and updated? In a headless model when a change is made to product information it cascades to all implementations on the API. For example, if you are running D2C (direct to consumer) and B2B (business to business) channels as well as syndicating your content to a partner network you can change a product description, and everyone has it – in real time. No more spreadsheets, thumb drives and costly delays. When you introduce new products, they get to market in milliseconds instead of months!
4. Total Cost of Ownership
The initial cost of adopting the headless strategy will have a larger initial investment because of the customization opportunities available. However, after go-live, recurring subscription/transaction and maintenance charges are a fraction of a traditional ecommerce platform. Not to mention the inevitable “re-platforming” fees when you outgrow a traditional platform. Even better, you can determine where you host your store and get away from costly platform transaction fees that penalize you for success.
5. Code Base Agnostic
Developers are not required to use a specific programming language to implement a headless solution. Depending on the skill set of your development team or partner select the technology that best fits the organization and use case. As new technologies gain traction you can easily upgrade your store without having to migrate data and start over.
How PIN Commerce Delivers A Headless Commerce Ecosystem
Having been a platform for several decades, PIN Commerce knows the ins and out of how ecommerce works. A few years back we embarked on the journey to “un-platform” our platform and embrace the headless approach and provide more value and flexibility for our customers. Our headless ecommerce ecosystem currently drives commerce for many customers in many industries including automotive, aviation, tools, produce and more. Specifically, our platform extends into the following:
- B2B and D2C ecommerce
- eProcurement and punchout catalogs
- Product information distribution and syndication
- Product information management
For more information and examples of the PIN Commerce headless ecommerce solution, please visit pincommerce.io.