It's 2020 and eCommerce as expected not much has changed in the growth of online marketplaces and stores except that they are now growing at a rapid pace than ever before.
However one thing that has been consistently changing over time is the technology empowering the stores. Now a days website is not the only way to sell your products online. With the availability of so many ways a customer can buy from you, it's easy to say that website is just one of many available sales channels. Voice Assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Now, Smart devices like Apple Watch, Smart TVs etc..
The software you are using for your eCommerce store must provide you with enough features so that you can leverage the power of these channels for your store sales without maintaining separate inventory and order history for each of them. Headless eCommerce is one feature that can help you achieve this.
What is Headless eCommerce?
The term Headless in case of a software means an application which has been designed in such a way that it's front end is totally decoupled from the backend systems. It means that the UI pages of the front end website are totally independent of the underlying technology empowering the application logic.
A headless eCommerce software similarly provides eCommerce functionality such as Cart Management, Catalog Management, Order Management, Customer Management, Supply Chain Management etc. without specifying or depending on the technology that will be used for showing eCommerce data to the end user.
How is it different from traditional eCommerce?
Traditional eCommerce software were designed in such a way that the backend systems a.k.a. the application business logic and the frontend systems a.k.a. UI pages are written with the same code base. The communication between backend and frontend is tightly coupled. The business logic must specify that UI page that'll render the data generated by the application. This restricts the designers to choose the technology they wish for user experience. e.g. Traditional eCommerce Software like OpenCart and nopCommerce have their view rendering mechanism tightly coupled with backend.
A headless software on the other hand exposes Application Programming Interface (APIs) and doesn't restrict designers to use the technology being used for showing the data to end users. This means that now the data delivery to end user is not just restricted to HTML pages as opposed to traditional software. The same API can be utilized by Voice Assistants, Smart Devices and IoT devices.
Benefits of Headless eCommerce
1. Decoupled Frontend from Backend
The frontend and backend are totally decoupled from each other. This makes it easier for different teams to finish their tasks independently. The backend developers don't need to worry about the display of their data. They just need to verify that data being returned is in a format that's consumable by the frontend designers.
2. Better Integration with external services
Because the core exposes API endpoints, it becomes easier and better to integrate headless software with your existing legacy systems without worrying about their compatibility. The data exchange between integrating systems happen with common data formats like JSON or XML.
3. True Omnichannel
Every operation that's available can be performed by calling an API endpoint. This means that the same backend system will be used by different sales and marketing channels thus maintaining consistency across all of them. Create a mobile application or create a progressive webapp. The ground is yours.
4. Future Proof
It's 2020 and more and more new channels will emerge as the sales channels. While a traditional system will require a lot of rework to actually use the modern channels, the headless system ensures that new channels can be used as soon as available by changing minimal to nothing.
5. Rich User Experience
You can customize the user experience however you like with a headless eCommerce. For example, you want to show your products on your existing CMS system? You can do that. You want people to place orders on your store with their voice? You can do that. You want people to share their product preferences with their friends? You can do that too. The possibilities are simply limited by your imagination.
Of-course. Every coin has two sides. With great power comes great responsibility. While the cons in headless don't outweigh the pros, there are still some cons.
1. Limitation to Widget based UI
Because the UI is separate and backend has no control over frontend, you are limited to the available widget areas supported by the UI framework. And controlling those widgetized components from your backend would require some rework.
2. Additional Maintenance Costs
You have to maintain additional costs for your presentation layer components in addition to the backend software. The costs increase with each additional sale channel that you wish to implement. The counter argument however can be that the same costs would be incurred in the traditional system as well. So call it Even (I mean literally)?
3. Difficult Debugging
The frontend consumes the data provided by the backend. Therefore any exceptions or broken code at the backend will be difficult to identify by the frontend application.
Is EvenCart Fully Headless?
Even better. It's hybrid. EvenCart was written from ground up with developers in mind. We are developers. We love developers.
Therefore while writing it, we made sure that those who like to use traditional eCommerce system with modern technology stack, they should be able to use it like that. For that purpose EvenCart includes with it Liquid View Engine, a custom view engine written using DotLiquid.
However for more advanced folks, who want only the API part of the software, we give them the flexibility to enable Headless mode with a click in the administration. Activate it and you'll find that your front end no longer displays anything. It's the APIs that empower everything then.
Headless is the next best thing happened to eCommerce. And those who truly want to remain in competition and want to allow a true multi-channel eCommerce experience to their customers, should really think of moving to Headless. It is indeed your cup of tea.