Headless Commerce vs Traditional Commerce: The Better Choice

Headless commerce is the way toward an intuitive, flexible, and customer-friendly e-store.

But what is headless commerce? 

And how is it distinct from the traditional commerce approach?  

In this article, we’ll explore the top differences between headless commerce vs traditional commerce and discuss when you should opt for a headless eCommerce solution over traditional eCommerce.

We’ll also tell you about an innovative platform that instantly addresses all your headless commerce needs.

Let’s dive in!

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Headless Commerce vs Traditional Commerce: An Overview

With the global eCommerce market projected to expand to $5.4 billion by 2026, online retail is here to stay. 

While traditional commerce lets you develop an inter-connected frontend and backend system, the headless approach provides more room for maneuverability

But how?  

Before we answer that, let’s look at a brief overview of both these approaches.

What Is Headless Commerce? 

Headless commerce is a solution or platform that delinks the front end from the back end of your eCommerce website. Doing so lets you develop any frontend experience for customers, unconstrained by your backend.

But how will the front end access your backend’s functionality if the two remain independent?

Simple – you link both ends of the system with an API or Application Programming Interface. 

An API uses definitions and protocols to communicate with the two endpoints of the headless commerce architecture. Additionally, APIs let you attach your front end across different devices and use cases.

So, what about traditional commerce? 

What Is Traditional Commerce? 

In traditional commerce or monolithic architecture, the front and back ends of the CMS (Content Management System) are interlinked, and any changes in one can impact the other.  

Traditional commerce platforms rely on vast libraries with ample internal dependencies. As a result, if you tweak the frontend’s interface even a little, it could mess up a crucial backend function. 

To counter such issues, you can develop predetermined frontend solutions that sync with the backend. While this limits customization, it helps the system function more smoothly.

Now, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of both these architectural styles.

Headless Commerce vs Traditional Commerce: Pros and Cons

Headless commerce and traditional commerce have their fair share of pros and cons. But the ultimate choice between the two depends on your resource requirements and business needs. 

Headless Commerce Pros

Here are the top benefits of deploying a headless eCommerce architecture:

  1. Omnichannel integration
  2. Conversion optimization
  3. Greater flexibility
  4. Improved scalability
  5. Enhanced customer experience
  6. Advanced security and fraud protection
  7. Low-cost customer acquisition

1. Omnichannel integration

A recent Insider study suggests that multichannel sales will account for 46% of all eCommerce sales by 2023

What does this translate to?

It means your customers desire a unified shopping experience across multiple platforms. For instance, a shopper might add a product from your online store to their cart but prefer to checkout only after a few days through a mobile app. 

Omnichannel integration combines online and offline sales channels like product distribution, client support, and marketing to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Since the frontend and backend communicate using APIs in a headless commerce system, it’s easier to integrate multiple channels into your website. This omnichannel integration helps synchronize data across eCommerce websites, social media, chatbots, and more.  

2. Conversion optimization

Delinking your frontend (presentation layer) removes the strain of maintaining integrations like email marketing or payment gateways from the backend.  

This will allow your website to load faster, deliver a better shopping experience to customers, and improve sales funnel conversions. 

Need proof?

Leisurewear brand, Public Rec, increased website load speeds by 52% and conversions by 26% with headless eCommerce.

3. Greater flexibility 

The most significant benefit of a headless commerce solution is that you can seamlessly incorporate new technologies (like AI-powered chatbots) and customize your website endlessly. 

A headless solution lets you build a responsive frontend tailored to your business needs, unlike rigid traditional systems. 

4. Improved scalability

As your business grows, so must your online store. 

It should be responsive to emerging trends and easily adopt the latest technologies.

Let’s say you launch an online store to sell sportswear. 

While you may start with a product catalog, you’ll eventually want to expand your site with fitness blogs, news updates, or tutorial videos. But growing your website by adding these multiple channels can cause an overload in a traditional backend system. 

In contrast, going headless allows you to scale your business without compromising the backend functionality.

5. Enhanced customer experience

Traditional e commerce platforms limit you to a handful of templates they offer, reducing your options for experimentation. 

Given the unlimited scope for personalization in headless eCommerce, you can provide your audience with a unique, creative customer experience.

Once you separate the frontend and backend components of your content management system, you’ll have more flexibility to experiment with different configurations in your headless platform. These configurations will align with different customer segments, allowing you to provide a fresh experience to clients even at scale.

For instance, the famous CPG brand Liquid I.V. customized its platform with headless eCommerce to achieve 400% year-on-year growth.

6. Advanced security and fraud protection

A recent Juniper Research study estimates that total eCommerce losses to online payment fraud will surpass $48 billion in 2023

As an eCommerce business owner, you can’t leave your customers open to such vulnerabilities and security threats.

Fortunately, your backend is decoupled from the presentation layer in headless eCommerce, lowering the probability of data breaches. 

In addition, a headless commerce solution also provides a slew of options to boost security:

  • Prompt rollouts of safety updates in response to threats
  • Improved PCI DSS compliance – Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are requirements that ensure companies accurately process and store customers’ credit card information. 
  • Speedy verification of customer data

7. Low-cost customer acquisition

Traditional commerce platforms offer you the bare minimum with cookie-cutter style storefronts and virtually no additional information. On the other hand, the agility of a headless eCommerce solution lets you incorporate content marketing into your customer’s purchase journey.

How does that help?

Content marketing is a compelling way of educating customers about your products, forging new connections, and building trust. Not only does this organically drives up demand, but it also transforms prospects into loyal customers who make repeat purchases. 

With a headless commerce architecture in place, your digital commerce store could feature among the top results on Google searches and attract greater traction from your audience.

Your site’s enhanced SEO (search engine optimization) also helps significantly lower your customer acquisition costs. 

But despite these fantastic benefits, a headless eCommerce platform also has a few drawbacks. Let’s check those out too.

Headless Commerce Cons

Two drawbacks associated with a headless commerce system include:

  1. Typically higher initial set-up cost
  2. Takes longer to set up and launch 

1. Typically higher initial set-up cost

As a headless eCommerce platform isn’t available prebuilt, you’ll have to design it from scratch. You’ll have to hire expert backend and frontend developers to create your desired architecture. 

But besides building the system, you’ll also have to shell out funds to host and maintain both ends of your system. If you’re a small enterprise with a limited budget, such hefty upfront costs may deter you from adopting headless architecture. 

However, you can easily offset these costs once your headless platform grows and generates revenue. 

2. Takes longer to set up and launch 

Unlike the ready-to-use templates in a traditional platform, you must meticulously design your frontend when following a headless commerce approach. You’ll also have to hire an expert front end developer to build your presentation layer.

Consequently, it’ll take longer to establish and launch your eCommerce brand online. But on the bright side, future customizations won’t be as time-consuming since your basic architecture will already be in place.

Now, let’s check out how the pros and cons of traditional eCommerce compare to headless eCommerce.

Traditional Commerce Pros 

Here are the top benefits of deploying traditional commerce architecture:

  1. Easy and affordable to set up
  2. Requires no web design expertise 

1. Easy and affordable to set up

Setting up your online storefront with traditional eCommerce architecture is a breeze. 

As a traditional system comes with prebuilt templates, you can set up your site independently without hiring any front end developers. Simply follow a drag-and-drop approach to create an attractive, user-friendly eCommerce store with just a few clicks.

Doing so saves you time and money and gets your digital commerce site up and running within a couple of hours.

2. Requires no web design expertise

You don’t have to be a web design expert or front end developer to launch your traditional commerce platform. You needn’t know web design basics or the nuances of how design changes affect user experience.

The prebuilt static templates provide a familiar experience to customers and can be integrated by simply plugging them into your front end.

But the merits of deploying a traditional commerce platform are often outweighed by its demerits. 

Let’s look at some of these cons.

Traditional Commerce Cons

Here are some drawbacks of using a traditional eCommerce system:

  1. Minimal customization capabilities
  2. Limited potential for integration 
  3. Challenging to adapt to different devices
  4. Takes longer to make changes to the frontend platform

1. Minimal customization capabilities

Limited customization capabilities often cripple traditional commerce systems. In the era of content personalization, these traditional systems fail to cater to evolving customer preferences. 

You can’t alter the presentation layer of an interconnected system without impacting the backend. Every time you change the front end, you’ll have to devise workarounds and undertake site testing to ensure nothing breaks.  

You’ll also need professional frontend developers to make any alterations.

2. Limited potential for integration 

Integrating additional channels or new technologies into your traditional platform might not always be easy.  

Given its inflexible design, your system will fail to benefit from the regular updates rolled out by tech companies. Of course, you can hire a front end developer to create workarounds, but the process will be expensive and time-consuming.

3. Challenging to adapt to different devices

Due to the rigidity of a traditional eCommerce platform, it doesn’t optimize well across different devices. A smooth-running website on a laptop may display distorted pages, trimmed drop-down menus, or missing icons on a tablet or mobile phone. 

4. Takes longer to make changes to the frontend platform

Traditional e commerce platforms have several design restrictions, making it difficult to edit their database or change the presentation layer. 

Your front end developers must also be careful while making changes, so they don’t prevent future upgrades or undermine user experience. As a result, even the slightest alterations to your traditional system can be time-consuming and challenging.

Now that you understand the pros and cons of headless and traditional commerce platforms, let’s see which approach suits you better. 

When to Choose Headless over Traditional Commerce?

Here are some situations in which you should consider adopting headless commerce:

  • You need to integrate multiple channels into your commerce platform
  • Your eCommerce business has scope for scalability
  • You require flexibility and improved customization options
  • Your eCommerce brand wants to prioritize customer security and privacy
  • You aim for better SEO and website performance

Though headless eCommerce is clearly the more versatile option, in some instances, traditional commerce is the better choice. This happens when: 

  • Your eCommerce business is small and sells fewer products
  • You have little to no coding or design expertise
  • You’re on a tight budget

If you’re working with limited resources, you may have to pick traditional eCommerce over headless architecture. However, headless eCommerce provides you with more freedom and flexibility in the long run.

So, how can you build your own headless frontend?

Pack: The Solution to All Your Headless Commerce Needs 

Given the advantages of going headless, it’s an excellent option for most eCommerce brands. But creating a headless frontend on your own can be challenging.

Besides, handling and scaling your headless commerce platform will have its fair share of pitfalls.

Is there a better solution?

Enter Pack — a Front-end-as-a-Service provider.

Pack provides a fantastic composable front-end solution where you don’t have to develop your front-end architecture from scratch.

Sounds perfect, right?

Some of the benefits of using Pack’s composable front-end are:

  • Greater control for landing page building, content management, and component reusability
  • Efficient development of complex features with React!
  • Easy integration of new and modern technologies
  • Quick workflow scalability and enhanced developer experience
  • Complete control over custom design experiences

Here are the unique features of a composable front end:

  • Complex catalog product grouping
  • Pre-integrated Shopify Plus checkout, accounts, third parties, and more
  • Knowledge sharing documentation 
  • Product bundling for bundle management

Build a Scalable Headless System with Pack 

Recent retail industry trends prove that seamless digital user experience is the future. 

If you want to keep your online storefront relevant and responsive to change, it’s best to switch from a traditional system to a headless commerce platform.  

But building your own attractive presentation layer from the ground up can be a headache.

Instead, engage with a Front-end-as-a-Service provider like Pack that delivers a composable front-end optimized for your business.

Ready to launch your own eCommerce business? 

Get in touch with Pack and begin your headless commerce journey right away!