Adam Chipperfield

Take a trip back to the early days of the internet when every website was built with HTML, CSS, and later, JavaScript. Now imagine how much simpler life would be if you could build your e-commerce website using these fundamentals. Confusingly, this is known as the "head" of a headless website.

The word "headless" comes into play when we look at back-end systems, such as Shopify. By disregarding the front-end of the Shopify ecosystem, which is defined and owned by Shopify, we're able to build our own "head" whilst picking and choosing the information we need from the back-end (or multiple back-ends). Put simply, merchants aren't tied to down to one platform for both content management and the user interface.

Why Should I Go Headless?

Get Around Platform Limitations

Every e-commerce platform has its own limitations. It's simply not possible to open an entire ecosystem witout losing out on future revenue opportunities from feature releases. Mostly the limitations merchants come across can be disregarded or worked around with the help of a Shopify Partner. However, Headless Commerce allows a merchant to have a completely customised solution as you aren't relying on a single system for all features.

The opportunities are endless. If a system has an API endpoint (a doorway to content and information) then it can be integrated into a headless ecosystem. For example, you can use JavaScript to fetch product information from Shopify, blog posts from WordPress and currency rates from Reach.

Design With Flexibility

The look and feel of your e-commerce website plays a huge role in not only your brand but the experience your customers have when browsing the storefront. Headless allows you to design without any restrictions providing your customers with a catered experience.

Due to the lightweight nature of front-end frameworks, advanced animations are becoming increasingly popular amongst headless websites. Libraries, such as GreenSock, can be utilised to add an extra layer of grandeur to your headless websites. Animations are definitely an optional benefit to going headless, but when executed correctly they'll help you stand out from the crowd.

Enhanced Integrations

The API-first nature of a headless website allows a merchant to plug in with any service that provides an API endpoint. This is something which has historically been difficult with monolithic e-commerce platforms, despite many services rapidly releasing extensions.

Getting the content and information you need directly from the horse's mouth allows you to heavily customise any integrations. For example, Klevu's out of the box Shopify search engine doesn't provide all of the customisation merchants need. Once you start to pull search results directly from their API you can craft custom experiences for your customers.

Additionally, you're now more open to platform agnostic integrations. A service you aren't able to integrate with Shopify natively may have an API which can be utilised in a headless storefront. This can even expand to your business systems, such as inventory management, CRMs and marketing platforms.

Get Online Fast

If you're deciding on a new platform for your website and need to get to market fast, headless commerce will allow you to retain your existing systems and back-ends leaving out the need for expensive migrations and lengthy imports.

Secondly, the barrier to entry for developing a headless website can be very low. Consider the previous example of building a simple HTML, CSS and JavaScript website. If your systems have the means to expose data through an API, you can connect your website and launch within weeks.

Create Personalised Experiences

If you build great experiences then customers will spread the word about your brand. Catering your storefront to a customer’s preferences can open a ton of opportunities, and with headless commerce this is more possible than ever.

Firstly, internationalisation, one of the most unacknowledged benefits of headless, can bring endless benefits for personalising a customer’s experience. Serving localised content and pricing can be achieved much more easily with a headless build, due to the fact that you can cater it to your business needs. For example, If you have an existing international storefront you can retain the existing URL structure due to the flexibility of headless commerce.

But primarily internationalisation can ensure your customers feel listened to. If a customer in Italy is being served English content this is likely going to steer them away from your website. Clearly not all merchants will want to appeal to Italian customers, but it is certainly a tool in your arsenal.

As we’ve already discussed there is a plethora of opportunity for integrations once you go headless. Partners such as Nosto and Exponea open up their platforms with JavaScript libraries and APIs to allow a merchant to personalise the entire experience.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

If you’re not familiar with the concept, PWAs are websites which are able to meet a certain set of standards that serves users with a mobile friendly, innovative and offline experience. If a website passes as a PWA users can save it to their mobile home screen and browse it as if it were a native app (without actually building an app).

The benefits of PWAs extend beyond the incredible performance, wider customer base and a familar experience. Send push notifications to a customer's iPhone to promote a flash sale, allow customers to browse without an internet connection and have assets cached on the device for a faster experience.

Go Headless

Headless has quickly become a huge player in the commerce industry because of the variety of doors it can open to merchants and Shopify Partners alike. It's vital that merchants keep up with industry standards in order to get ahead of their competitors, and Partners are here to help!

If you think this might be for you, or you would just like to know some more, get in touch today – I'd be more than happy to chat.