The Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce: What It Is, How It Works, and Why You Need it!

In today’s e-commerce landscape, shoppers are browsing and buying online in new ways.

They’re not just searching for products with keywords; they’re using shopping apps to browse and buy directly from brands. They’re not just looking at static images of products.

They’re watching videos about them on social media. They’re not just buying from desktop computers.

They’re browsing from mobile devices and voice-activated platforms like Amazon Alexa. This shift from search and browsing to direct engagement with brands is a trend that we see as the future of e-commerce – Headless Commerce.

Read on to learn more about this new way of selling online.

What is Headless Commerce?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of headless commerce, let’s first look at what a headless commerce platform is. Headless Commerce, in a nutshell, is the direct or automated selling of products by brands (and retailers) to consumers. Traditionally, e-commerce platforms have been driven by a single source of data — the product catalog. It’s where products are listed and their images, pricing, and other information needed to sell them. But with headless commerce, there is no product catalog. Thus, the platform is “headless” — i.e., with no (or very little) dependence on data connected to products. Headless commerce is a break from the traditional e-commerce model, in which sellers create a website and populate it with product catalogs. This was needed during the offline era when online stores were just “virtual storefronts” with no connection to inventory or customer data.

How does Headless Commerce work?

With headless commerce, the product data is tied directly to the sales channels customers use to purchase. This means that when a shopper buys a product on a seller’s site, that product item number is tied to payment and other customer details, such as shipping information. This allows a seller to process one transaction tied to all the customer details. The seller doesn’t need a product catalog on their site since the data tied to each transaction is directly linked to the sales channel where the shopper made a purchase.

Why you need a Headless Commerce platform?

The rise of mobile shopping and voice-activated platforms like Amazon Alexa has changed how consumers shop — and it’s become clear that the traditional e-commerce model is falling behind. Headless commerce is a new way of selling online, built with these shifts in mind. You may be out of luck if you currently have a product catalog-driven commerce site. You need a headless commerce platform. This new online selling method works best with product data — not product images or data. Product data is used to create unique content tailored to each shopper and is the basis for personalized experiences on websites and apps. Product images and information, on the other hand, are very rigid, and can’t be updated as easily as product data.

Who need headless commerce?

Any retailer or brand that wants to engage with shoppers at a more personalized level and with greater customer data insight will benefit from a headless commerce solution. While larger retailers will likely have the resources and IT infrastructure to adapt their current commerce platforms, smaller brands clearly need headless commerce. For example, a growing footwear brand may want to focus on engaging with customers on social media channels like Instagram. However, the company may not want to invest heavily in building an e-commerce website, which would require a product catalog and other capabilities. A headless commerce solution would allow the brand to focus on engaging with customers on social media and provide a seamless, personalized experience that drives sales from the channels where shoppers already engage: Instagram, Facebook, Shopify, and more.

Wrapping Up

There’s no question that today’s e-commerce landscape differs from where it was even a few years ago. With shoppers engaging increasingly on mobile devices, voice-activated platforms like Amazon Alexa, and social media, there’s a clear need for a new way of selling online. That’s headless commerce. This new way of selling is built with these shifts in mind and works best with product data — not product images or data. With a headless commerce solution, retailers and brands can provide a more personalized experience that drives sales from the channels where shoppers already engage.

You can listen to a great interview on some of the different approaches to headless here


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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