The Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce

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

The shift from search and browsing to direct engagement with brands is a trend that we see as the future of e-commerce – Headless Commerce.

Talk Commerce Brent Bellm Part 2

Big Brands using Multi-storefront on BigCommerce with Brent Bellm

Part 2: Multi Store Disruption with Brent Bellm, CEO at BigCommerce


Brent Peterson: Just going back to multi-storefront, if we put all these pieces together, you have a solution now that will work across borders, across currencies, across languages maybe help us understand how big you’ve already helped us understand how big of a hurdle it was, but some of the solutions now that people can go to market with and the speed in which they could do it. 

Brent Bellm: Yeah. So one example I love to use. I think it might’ve been the first or second multi-store customer to go live with us in beta.

Brent Bellm: This was months ago. This was last year. It’s a company called The Bullet Group that has Motorola rugged phones. So these are phones that are dust-proof, waterproof, drop-proof, rugged phones, and another brand called cat phones, like Caterpillar phones that they sell all across Europe.

Brent Bellm: They launched. I think they’re up to I don’t know, 20 plus stores for each of those two brands that are selling different currencies, different languages, all around the world. And they did this in a headless way. Meaning they’ve got, I think a WordPress front-end is the design. And then the backend is BigCommerce multi-store and it’s a multi geo scenario.

Brent Bellm: Ted Baker is doing the same thing. Ted Baker just launched this great apparel brand. They have something like a dozen different stores, different languages, different currencies. Again, that’s the multi-geo use case. But you could also instead do a multi-segment use case. Like maybe your initial store sells to consumers, but then you wanted a B2 B store to sell to your wholesalers and your retailers.

Brent Bellm: You can do that with multi-store. You could also come up with different brands. Sub-brands promotional launches, a store that you spin-up and then spin-down. And the power of this is that when you spin one of these stores up, you can use the same integrations that were on your main store, all the investment you put into building that initial big store, integrating into your ERP or accounting system, your email marketing, whatever your payment solution is.

Brent Bellm: You don’t have to replicate all that work. You can leverage it. That’s really the power and the speed of multi-store, but I think it’s illustrative that those first couple of examples I gave you they have a dozen or more stores and they did it out of the gate. 

Brent Peterson: And I think the difference right now in the landscape of SaaS at least is the other, your competitors are all having to have a storefront and a different backend. And then they have to figure out how to manage all those multiple backends. 

Brent Bellm: That is correct. 

Brent Peterson: You’re letting the client effectively manage one place, one place to do everything and then distribute out those SKUs and even multiple currencies with different checkouts in different countries.

Brent Bellm: My understanding is that with Shopify, you can clone a store and it’s pretty easy to clone a store. You push a button. You’ve got another store. That’s like your initial store, same theme, same integration, same currency of that. You can’t do multi-store, which is one account. And then start changing all of that changing the theme and the currencies and the that have like same integration, same backend one account, one store, lots of storefronts.

Brent Bellm: You have multiple stores and we’ve always been able to do that too. This is much more powerful. This is. Very appropriate for many of the world’s mid-market and large enterprise businesses who do have multiple brands, segments, and, or geographies, but so many small businesses want to do the same thing.

Brent Bellm: And that’s one of the neatest things that we’ll be doing next. The announcement today is live launched for our enterprise stores, but we’ll be bringing this to our small business stores, our $30 a month for $80 per month. With our $300 a month plan, you’ll be able to click a button at a store, and boom, there you go. Storefront, I should say. 

Brent Peterson: So you did mention that these new things coming up for the smaller merchants. What else is coming up with multi-storefront? What are the things we have to look forward to? 

Brent Bellm: So in addition to bringing it to a small business and click of a button store addition, another major area of investment for us is in international capabilities within our native Stencil framework.

Brent Bellm: So having multi-language we already have multi-currency, but especially multilanguage and some other geographic capabilities built into individual stores. multi-storefront will benefit from this. If you’re using. Our native design framework and theming engine called stencil. If you don’t want those limitations today, then you can go headless with us and do your front end and WordPress or ContentStack or ContentFull or pick any other front-end framework.

Brent Bellm: We’re a leader in headless but we’re bringing some of that native in as well. And then a final release, which should happen next month. It’s March should happen next month in April is multi location inventory. So this is also going to be helpful because for businesses who have multiple warehouses and, or the addition of retail point of sale, we’ll have the full inventory API capabilities for you to use logic within BigCommerce to track.

Brent Bellm: Where is the inventory for each SKU, and then present that either to the customer. If the customer wants to make a choice, buy online pickup in store or within your shipping optimization to say customers located here closest warehouse is there shipped from that warehouse. So a multi-location inventory APIs are coming out soon and that’s quite complimentary to multi-storefront. 

Brent Peterson: The multi-location inventory is going to help in the omnichannel world. If somebody is trying to connect some of their outbound POS systems into BigCommerce, that’ll allow the, that inventory to be available to the storefront.

Brent Bellm: Yes. And today you can manage that logic outside of BigCommerce, but bringing it in is nice and scalable.

Brent Bellm: It’s the sort of thing that would let us, for example, we’re integrated in and partnered with point of sale platforms like Teamwork Commerce, and Square and Clover. Another differentiator from Shopify who has its own proprietary. One size fits all point of sale. We partner with the market leaders and EPASS now in Europe ISEL these partners can then integrate the knowledge of inventory counts that they have in individual stores into the API.

Brent Bellm: And then the merchant who may have remote ship warehouses that are outside the point of sale can integrate those as well. And so that complexity can all be orchestrated within BigCommerce relieving you from having to have an outside order management system or ERP that’s handling all of that. 

Brent Peterson: A lot of your enterprise clients are going to have an ERP there’s this enhances that allowing actually to connect multiple ERP is each store or each you can grab the inventory from each of those ERP systems with the with multiple inventory locations. So you’d have to have that. So that’s right. I think that, that gives another advantage to that. We did mention a little bit about headless and I’m always interested in headless.

Brent Peterson: Where do you think headless is going in the next five to ten years? Do you think the the idea of having a monolith where we have an easy added front end that’s part of the system. Or do you think a lot of stores are going this headless route? 

Brent Bellm: I think headless will only grow. For example, when people talk about the metaverse, if you start creating storefronts in the metaverse that won’t be based on pre-packaged themes coming out of BigCommerce or Shopify, you’ll be designing that outside of our framework and then integrating a BigCommerce in as a backend, more broadly.

Brent Bellm: There is a very rich set of frameworks and content management systems and digital experience platforms that companies can use for their front ends. I gave the Ted Baker example, they’re using BloomReach, which is a really nice design and experience platform. I gave the example of The Bullet Group using WordPress more than 25% of the world’s.

Brent Bellm: E-commerce. Our WordPress stores, right? And WordPress is by definition going to be headless because WordPress is a content management system without its own e-commerce backend. You need to use BigCommerce or WooCommerce or another headless backend in order to commerce enable a WordPress site. But you think about the the popularity of all these additional frameworks, NextJS and content management systems like ContentFull and ContentStack, the high end, Adobe Experience Manager, Drupal and Acquia ones.

Brent Bellm: We don’t work with like SiteCore. There are a lot of these and what they do is they free up the designers to do things that are more innovative, less constricted than, the templating engine coming out of the e-commerce platform. We’ve got great themes, and you can do a lot with your design and Stencil.

Brent Bellm: The vast majority of our stores are in fact designing within BigCommerce because those teams are great, but increasingly brands want to be unconstrained and they want to really innovate in their user experience. And this is the advantage you get with headless. This advantage is that you then now have to integrate your front end and your backend BigCommerce is the platform that makes that easy.

Brent Bellm: Our biggest competitor is commercetools, a German company that’s like at the extreme end of difficulty. Because it’s just this giant, API switching network and you need a point solution to everything that integrates you need your payments, integrated your email marketing, integrated your your catalog management, integrated your backend ERP integrated.

Brent Bellm: It is a nightmare. Whereas BigCommerce has all this functionality built in and you get to pick and choose which functionality in which of the thousand plus apps that are already integrated. You want to leverage. And so there’s so much less work to do headless and many of the front ends are so well integrated that we’ll soon be putting them into our channel manager.

Brent Bellm: You can just go in and click a button and say I want a new storefront. And for this storefront, you can choose differently with each one for this storefront. And I want to use WordPress or the storefront. I want to use ContentFull and Vercel for hosting. You can, that will all be configurable straight out of the BigCommerce control panel.

Brent Peterson: Do you see BigCommerce now as being the leader in that sector and people 

Brent Bellm: chasing you? It’s not just that. I see us as a leader. So does IDC when. And this is two years ago, but they had their enterprise report on headless platforms and they showed us as a leader. If I remember right, we might’ve been the only platform in the leader quadrant, which is a true platform rather than a microservices platform.

Brent Bellm: Like the other one commercetools. Is there maybe Elastic Path. These are all purpose built for headless commerce platform and they’re very expensive and hard to pull together. Whereas, BigCommerce was a full featured platform that starting six years ago said we want to serve the use case of companies who don’t use our templating engine.

Brent Bellm: The first two companies to go live with BigCommerce where giants Harvard business publishing, which is still headless with us today. General Electric. Those were custom front ends. And over time we’ve really built out our APIs, our connectors, our GraphQL capabilities. And so there’s no doubt that we’re fully invested in headless and.

Brent Bellm: It’s every bit our goal to continue to be the best platform in the world to do for most businesses to do headless commerce. 

Brent Peterson: So just a little bit about performance. You mentioned GraphQL and for the non-technical people GraphQL is a newer, let’s just call it one step above restful APIs where it’s much more performant.

Brent Peterson: The coverage on GraphQL is very large on BigCommerce and most things are available via of GraphQL, which gives you a better performance on your store, out of the box. 

Brent Bellm: That’s right, but there’s still some gaps. There are some, there are still some components of our product that don’t have GraphQL APIs.

Brent Bellm: We don’t have the full admin API infrastructure for just quickly provisioning a full store using GraphQL APIs. That’s all being worked on, it’s coming. 

Brent Peterson: Yeah. And then, going back to the admin and separating admin out, a lot of times the complexity that brings and you could still build it out with restful APIs, that’s right. So I guess as we close out today what are you most bullish about for BigCommerce in the next year, 

Brent Bellm: in the next year? Gosh, it’s so hard to limit. To one thing, you’re asking this question after the launch of multi-storefront. So I would have probably named that if you would ask me that question two days ago, but we’re on the other side of that announcement.

Brent Bellm: One of the things I’m most bullish about is international expansion. We were international from day one. The company was originally founded in Sydney, Australia, and only relocated its headquarters to the U S. Two years in when most of the customers were there. So they, they moved to the customers now are headquartered in Austin, Texas, but we’ve shown that we’re really good at hiring great talent and because of our open and partner centric approach, going into new geographies and immediately being able to successfully serve the local.

Brent Bellm: Customer and partner ecosystem. We did that spectacularly well, starting in the UK in 2018. I think it was that business. Absolutely booming. Since we expanded into Italy, France and the Netherlands last year and beginning of this year, Germany, Spain, and Mexico. Now each of those is off to a nice start.

Brent Bellm: So one of my aspirations is to get to a point where we’re competing and serving businesses in every country just about in the world of all sizes. I have a real passion for that. I was an international relations major in college and, ran PayPal Europe for four years. So this is an area where I really get jazzed.

Brent Bellm: We’re also a giant believer if I’m going to limit myself to two things. The other thing I’m most excited about is omni-channel selling. We bought a company last year called feedonomics, which is the leading feed management solution. In the world feed management is how an ecommerce company gets its catalog of products for sale from out of its e-comm platform or PIM or ERP and into the leading advertising channels, social networks and marketplaces that it wants to generate demand from and sales.

Brent Bellm: feedonomics is good, so good because they have, they serve something like 28% of the top thousand US online retailers. They not only connect you into Google shopping and Facebook, Instagram, and WISH, and Walmart and eBay and Amazon and Mercado Libre and all these other great channels, but they transform and optimize the data in each one.

Brent Bellm: So that your catalog looks exactly the way it needs to look to perform best on Google and then separately for Facebook and separately for eBay and each of these has different schema for text length, description, length, picture, pixelation, and feedonomics enables you to optimize for every one.

Brent Bellm: And what it does is it makes it really easy for a business to advertise and generate demand and sell in so many more places where your possible consumers might be spending their time and that drives growth. So between multi-store, which is creating more of your own storefronts to sell to customers and omni-channel, which is getting your catalog distributed to all the other places where consumers may browse the internet or shop, omni-channel plus multi-storefront, I think really is a one-two punch to help businesses succeed better on BigCommerce than they would elsewhere.

Brent Peterson: Yeah. And just as we close out here, I just wanted to make a comment on the challenges of going into new markets and how the open SaaS concept really helps to hurdle or get over those hurdles. It’s possible for somebody in Bolivia or Uruguay to build a BigCommerce store and then to have a custom

Brent Peterson: checkout made with a custom payment system. That’s a Bolivian bank and whomever is going to ship in Bolivia. Yeah. This is possible with BigCommerce where the majority of SaaS platforms, it is impossible. 

Brent Bellm: That is correct. Although we also want to compliment that with having pre integration into, one or more of the leading payment solutions in Bolivia.

Brent Bellm: So the merchant doesn’t have to go through that trouble if they don’t, if they don’t want to. Yeah. 

Brent Bellm: I was just making an illustration 

Brent Bellm: on that’s right. We have that openness and flexibility as part of open SaaS. 

Brent Peterson: That’s great. Brent, as we close out the podcast, I give everybody an opportunity to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like to promote today.

Brent Peterson: You’ve spent a lot of time promoting multi-storefront. Is there anything else that you’d like to promote that’s even non BigCommerce? 

Brent Bellm: Yeah, the only other thing I think I would promote that’s related to BigCommerce that I haven’t touched on yet is our B2B capabilities. B2B e-commerce is roughly as big as B2C and we’re full featured. We serve B2B really well. We have a B2B edition with a whole bunch of core B2B functionality that comes out of the box.

Brent Bellm: And so if you’re a B2B seller entirely or partially, we’re a great platform for that. 

Brent Peterson: Yeah, full transparency. We are a BigCommerce partner and we’re using the B2B edition and it’s fantastic. It works very well. Brent, thank you so much for being here today. It’s been such an enjoyable conversation and I wish all the best for multi-storefront.

Brent Peterson: It is a game-changer in the SaaS business. And I say that from a background of another platform that is multi-storefront. And I’m so excited to have this new feature inside of BigCommerce. 

Brent Bellm: Thanks for having me, Brent and congrats to your parents who named you very well. 

Christian Munch | Magerun Headless Magento

Welcome to this tech edition episode of Talk Commerce, where we explore how merchants, agencies, and developers experience commerce and the communities they work and live in. This week we interview Christian Mà¼nch, Head of Development for N98 in Germany. We talk about the history of MageRun, the Swiss Army knife for Magento. We talk about Magento and headless commerce and Christian helps us understand some alternatives to just going headless with a single app.