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Headless Commerce — The Future of eCommerce is Decoupled



Headless Commerce

Traditionally, the front-end and back-end of any system are connected as it relies on a monolith architecture. The challenge, however, is to rewire the front-end experience every time a new technology is introduced. Imagine taking a year to build a new front-end for your eCommerce platform and realizing that a newer technology has disrupted the market. Wouldn’t it be a waste of effort and resources? To solve this problem, headless commerce is making its way into the market — an architecture that disconnects the back-end from the front-end.

This architecture offers the flexibility to experiment with new technologies — while ensuring speed to market and optimal customer experience.

73% of businesses claim that improving customer experience (CX) is a strategic priority. However, according to Forrester, only 1% of companies deliver excellent CX.

This blog will cover everything about headless commerce platforms and how you can take advantage of the architecture to scale up your eCommerce business.

What is a Headless Commerce Platform?

Headless commerce is the separation of the front-end layer (presentation-driven) from the back-end layer (functionality-driven) to deliver a seamless and customer-driven digital experience.

It is termed headless as the head of any eCommerce application, i.e., its customer-facing front end is disconnected from the back-end. That is — if the front-end is updated without back-end interference.

The headless commerce architecture allows stakeholders/developers to build and connect different ‘heads’ (touchpoints) to the back-end via API calls, giving a choice to deliver a unique experience to your potential customers.

The three building layers of headless commerce include:

Three Building layers of headless commerce | Headless Commerce

How Headless Commerce Works?

Headless commerce integration with your eCommerce strategy means that an eCommerce owner will have a product information management (PIM) or a content management system (CMS) to store and deliver product information. However, the front-end is no longer part of that.

In the case of headless commerce, retailers will have the flexibility to store all their website information in the back-end instead of operating the entire website as one chunk of technology.

A website owner can use APIs to push the desired content, products, and payment processing to the platforms where it gets delivered to customers: the platform could be any – mobile app or a website, and this, in turn, helps offer an omnichannel experience.

Components of Headless Commerce Architecture | Headless Commerce

Headless Commerce vs Traditional Commerce

The differences between traditional and headless commerce is illustrated in the following table:

Parameter
Traditional Commerce
Headless Commerce
Architecture Design

Back-end and front-end are connected

Design constrained

Front-end and back-end are disconnected

No design constraints

Development and Deployment Source code is long and complicated Follows the microservices architecture
Customizations Take longer to customize and adds load on the developers Easy to customize and introduce new technologies through API calls
Performance Loading time increase as compiling the long and complicated codes takes time Loading times increase as API calls are easy to call and execute

What are the Benefits of Headless Commerce?

Why headless commerce? Investing in headless commerce offers a competitive advantage as you get to speed up digital transformation in the eCommerce sector. Some of the most prominent headless commerce benefits include:

1. Offers High-Level Personalization

Today’s eCommerce experiences follow the personalization trend. Customers prefer to buy from digital commerce platforms that pay heed to individual preferences.

Top Five benefits of Personalization according to Marketers | Headless Commerce

To build a front-end that takes care of customer needs and integrates the latest technologies while ensuring speed of implementation — consider headless commerce platforms as a go-to option.

2. Offers Omnichannel Experiences

A headless commerce solution offers the opportunity to use the best and latest front-end technologies and push them across devices and platforms — whether it is a progressive web app, a website, an IoT device, or a mobile web.

This ease of pushing the desirable front-end wherever and whenever, in turn, helps offer an omnichannel experience.

Adobe recently found that companies with the most robust omnichannel customer engagement strategies enjoy a 10% Y-O-Y growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates.

3. Saves Development Time

Since the front-end is disconnected and does not require writing long and complicated codes, the development time of a headless eCommerce platform decreases. The changes can be quickly introduced, which is quite essential to stay relevant in the eCommerce sector.

The developers build and implement APIs without disturbing the back-end. This setting thus helps in faster and better development.

4. Faster Time to Market

With speed to development comes speed to market too. The newer front-end experiences can be introduced quickly and without much effort from the developer’s end.

The headless commerce integration also lowers down the cost of development — another add-on benefit that gives a competitive advantage.

Moreover, with headless commerce, the changes to the front-end are visible instantly without any delay.

5. Better Customer Experience

Customer expectations change rapidly, and to prove valuable, meeting the changing customer needs is imperative. With headless commerce, developers can get creative and offer customizations with a lasting impact.

Developers can also A/B test various technology integrations and settle with technologies that bring more conversions.

Headless Commerce


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The Best Headless Commerce Approach: Drupal + Magento Integration

What do companies like Mint.com, Wilson, and Acquia have in common?

Have you got an answer? No?

Well, all of these web stores are powered by the Magento and Drupal headless commerce integrated approach.

The Drupal and Magento CMS integration is a hybrid solution that delivers a powerful and engaging website. The integrated setup can move massive sales volume, personalizing the content based on demographics (gender, geo-location, age, etc.), customers’ journey, and handling substantial publishing flows.

The Drupal + Magento is a clean, robust, and logical way to go, particularly for any organization with a large sales volume that’s looking to implement clever marketing content.

Benefits of Magento and Drupal Integration

The major benefits of Drupal and Magento integration include:

1. Flexibility

Magento development, with its second version, offers the component-based structure of modules and flexibility. The modules provide the freedom to the developers to enable or disable the components that they want, thereby boosting the flexibility and performance of the Magento 2-powered website.

With Drupal, you can sell your products across the globe in multiple languages. Drupal is flexible, and its flexibility lies in the fact that the basic functionality and modules of Drupal come in 100 different languages. Thus, as Drupal says, “Build what you want, with the languages you know best.”

eCommerce fields like price, SKU, and stock should live in Magento. And product marketing information fields can be managed in Drupal.

When modeling these fields, it’s critical to consider the needs of the multilingual and global platform as certain teams may be in different time zones, using different languages, or have a-typical publishing flows.

2. Performance and Scalability

More than 40k extensions are offered as unique add-ons to Drupal and Magento digital commerce modules, with many more constant updates added daily to the Magento and Drupal headless commerce integration.

‘Speed’ is an essential parameter that plays a vital role in delivering a seamless user experience. Even a 1-second delay in web page loading can reduce conversions by 7%. However, with the Magento 2 upgrade, websites perform 20% faster than Magento 1, and in some cases, up to 56% faster.

Moreover, the highlight of Magento 2.0 is its improved performance and scalability over Magento 1.x.

On the other hand, Drupal is a highly scalable CMS. It’s easy to build a Drupal site that can be set up to auto-scale (add more servers during peak traffic times and shut them down when not needed). If you plan to grow your site, then Drupal 9 + Magento 2 can help you scale well to millions of users if the website is optimized well.

Scaling is built into the Drupal and Magento integration from the ground up.

Instead of pulling the product and promotional data required for display at render time, it is synchronized. The sync process uses an efficient and effective incremental method to pull product updates.

3. Security

According to Net Solutions’ State of Digital Transformation 2020 report, 37.3% of business leaders cite digital security as one of the biggest challenges organizations face on the road to digital transformation.

All eCommerce websites, irrespective of the platform, are attractive targets to hackers. Thus, Drupal follows a security-first approach with its dedicated security that quickly reacts to vulnerabilities found in Drupal core. The goals of this security team are:

  • Resolve reported security issues in a Security Advisory
  • Provide assistance for contributed module maintainers in resolving security issues
  • Provide documentation on how to write secure code
  • Provide documentation on securing your site
  • Help the infrastructure team to keep the drupal.org infrastructure secure

Approaches for Drupal and Magento Integration

You can go ahead with the following two approaches when you decide to integrate Magento and Drupal and embrace a headless commerce architecture:

1. Side-By-Side Integration

In this approach, Magento handles the eCommerce store, and Drupal takes care of the content; both platforms exist on the public internet. Both Drupal 9 and Magento serve pages of the digital experience to the end-user in the side-by-side approach.

The significant advantage of the side-by-side approach is its ability to make use of the existing Magento CMS modules having the front-end component.

The Network Infrastructure for Side-by-side Approach | Headless Commerce

Side-By-Side Integration Pros:

  • Maximizes the values of both platforms since both will work on their strengths
  • Magento extensions are unlikely to be complicated by integration

Side-By-Side Integration Cons:

  • Since two platforms are in total action in this case, thus, twice the attack surface than headless integration
  • Magento requires API-level tuning, and Drupal needs full-stack performance tuning
  • Two themes are required to be built and maintained

2. Headless Commerce Integration

In this approach, Drupal acts as a front-end of the website and Magento as the cart back-end. Visitors will always experience Drupal. In a headless integrated approach, the end-user interacts with Drupal, even in the shopping cart, which means Drupal 8 serves every page on your site.

In the Magento headless commerce integrated approach, the end-user interacts with Drupal, even in the shopping cart, which means Drupal 9 serves every page on your site.

The Network Infrastructure for the Headless Approach | Headless Commerce

Headless CMS Integration Pros:

  • Highly secure
  • Robust content marketing platform for editors
  • Fast time to market for content-first sites
  • Drupal and Magento themes cannot be shared

Headless CMS Integration Cons:

  • Despite Magento’s robust and modern API architecture, headless is not the most common use case
  • Forward-facing Magento extensions will assume Magento is controlling the glass (the platform building the web pages that the end-user interacts with) and may require additional refinements to work

Conclusion

Today, businesses are looking for ways to build content-rich shopping journeys, and thus they are looking for tools to deliver a seamless customer experience. Embracing the headless commerce architecture is the answer.

Most organizations prefer best-of-breed solutions. The integration of Magento and Drupal CMS combines the strengths of both platforms, and this harmony results in a powerful site, compelling brand, and a robust eCommerce solution.

Contact net solutions for help with headless commerce development

Lalit Singla

About the Author

Lalit Singla is working as Project Manager at Net Solutions since the last 5 years with over 10 years of experience in LAMP Stack. His expertise lies in Enterprise eCommerce and custom database driven development. In his free time, he enjoys listening to classical music.

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