Headless commerce: How a content & commerce strategy works
From 2019 Make It Big Conference
BigCommerce recently concluded its 2019 Make It Big online conference. This event brought together several leading ecommerce specialists, merchants and experts for a series of discussions on leadership, strategy and tactics. Our CTO, Shawn McCabe, was asked to present his views on headless commerce and how a content and commerce strategy works. You can view the recorded session below.
What are the benefits of headless commerce?
Watch the session
00:00 - Introduction
00:40 - Who is Shawn McCabe
01:12 - What is headless commerce
01:44 - What tools see the most success when utilizing headless commerce
02:52 - How headless commerce improves your customer experience
03:50 - How headless commerce affects your shopping experience
04:34 - Headless commerce in action (Telecom example)
05:50 - How small and mid-size brands benefit from headless commerce
07:03 - How are content and commerce intertwined using headless commerce
08:15 - Integrating a content and commerce strategy with marketing in mind
09:08 - What brands use content and commerce effectively
10:09 - How do you know you need headless commerce
11:34 - What do brands need to do to prepare for a headless approach
13:01 - Is your commerce platform truly open and extendable
13:38 - Due diligence checklist for headless commerce platforms
14:24 - How does a business know they should look into a headless architecture
15:33 - Security of your website and what that means to your business operations
16:42 - What is PCI compliance
17:53 - What other details does a headless commerce platform assist with?
19:33 - Be careful when using multiple platform plugins/extensions
20:59 - Don't want to be a software company? Don't build your software.
21:30 - Headless commerce - benefits for retailers
23:19 - Additional benefit for the user/customer experience
25:14 - How headless commerce creates credible brands
26:00 - What KPIs do headless architecture brands monitor
27:55 - The future of headless commerce
28:48 - Key takeaways for brands looking into headless commerce
About the video
In this video, Leah Spector (host) and Shawn McCabe (speaker) discuss all things content and headless commerce-related. Shawn dives into why businesses might choose a headless commerce architecture and the tools that are available to do this. He names the BigCommerce for Drupal integration as an option that combines BigCommerce for the store backend with Drupal as the content engine and possible front end.
Improved customer experience
Shawn discusses how headless commerce improves the customer experience because businesses can innovate and tailor their website front end to suit exactly the needs of the business and what their customers expect. This is most beneficial for companies and products that require much more than just a catalogue with cart functionality.
Complex sales flows
Shawn gives an example of a large telecommunications company and all of the complexity that goes into purchasing a phone. It’s not as simple as just adding a phone to your cart, the system needs to know who the customer is and their purchase history, whether they’re entitled to discounts and promotions, what their plan includes now and if any upgrades are available, and numerous other variables before checkout can happen. This complex buying process can’t be handled by an out-of-the-box ecommerce platform alone. It is possible, however, to achieve this through a custom front end which then passes the final order and customer information back to the commerce platform for checkout and fulfillment.
Implementing a headless commerce architecture
The discussion next moves into implementing a headless commerce architecture and some of the potential problems that need to be understood before getting started. For example, headless commerce uses APIs to send and receive data from not only the ecommerce platform but potentially other platforms for marketing, shipping, fulfillment and more. Platforms that don’t have an available API can be problematic because they can’t be integrated with the rest of the system. Even platforms with APIs need to be investigated to ensure that they have a full set of data available and good API documentation to work with.
When is a headless commerce architecture the right choice?
Knowing if and when using a headless commerce architecture is beneficial to a business is another topic discussed. Businesses often move towards headless commerce when they try to do something with their platform but can’t do it. When this happens, the business must work around the platform's limitations which might not be ideal. If the limitations are significant enough, headless commerce is the likely solution they need moving forward.
Other common reasons why businesses may adopt a headless commerce architecture are also mentioned in the video and are worth a watch.
The importance of PCI compliance
The PCI standard is the security standard for everything within the payment card industry. It sets the security requirements for both offline and online card transactions. Understanding and maintaining PCI compliance is a big deal that shouldn’t be overlooked. Shawn talks about what it means to be PCI compliant, what can happen if you’re not compliant, and how an online business becomes compliant.
Headless commerce and site performance
By using a headless commerce architecture, online businesses can gain an edge on overall site performance which leads to a better customer experience. Shawn gives the example of how today’s modern front-end technology is different from what we used in the past because today’s web technology allows for small parts of a web page to update on the fly instead of the entire page refreshing. These small changes are much more performant, mobile-friendly and allow for more fluid user flows.
The future of headless commerce
Leah and Shawn finish the session with how Shawn views the future of headless commerce, where it’s going and how it will change traditional ecommerce practices.
Are you ready to go headless?
There are three commonly used types of digital commerce architecture: Commerce-led, experience-led and API-led.
Our ideal architecture analysis is an online tool that you can use to quickly understand which architecture is right for your business.
If you think that you might be ready to go headless, this tool is a good next step.