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Marketplace Trends
September 16, 2022

What is a Headless Ecommerce Platform?

Lindy Singer
Lindy Singer
Head of Marketing

Headless commerce is becoming another commerce buzzword. But many people don’t know what it means to be headless — just that they need to be.

The term headless ecommerce platform describes a type of ecommerce architecture that splits up a customer-facing front end, or the “head” (whether it’s a desktop website, mobile app, or social channel) and the administrative back end, where transactions are processed.

Commercetools CEO is credited with coining the term headless commerce, and the company is undoubtedly reaping the benefits. Commercetools was recently valued at $1.9B. Other headless commerce companies are seeing similar fanfare as the need to enable outdated tech infrastructure increases.

The buzz around headless ecommerce platforms is considerable, with many different types of businesses buying in. Amazon was built as a headless marketplace, while retail brands like Nike and Under Armour have also gone headless. More companies are expected to follow suit, too, including in other segments, such as business-to-business sales.

This article covers the following questions:

What is a Headless Commerce Platform?

A headless commerce platform means that the front end and backend aren't connected  — creating more flexibility.

Headless tech proliferates due to fundamentally broken experiences like social commerce, mobile commerce, catalog syndication, multi-vendor, and marketplace commerce. CommerceTech incumbents are at least 20 years old and built on rigid architectures. For example, all of the major ecommerce platforms were built before social networks and smartphones were a thing. Organizations can’t innovate on a platform that lacks the agility to respond to the shift in buyer expectations.  

On the storefront side, companies are locked into the limitations of the existing ecommerce platforms with frontends and template builders that don’t allow a differentiated customer experience. You will always be stuck at the pace of development of these platforms.

On the infrastructure side, companies want to get all the different tools off the shelf and build an experience that is specific and custom. This is particularly interesting to large companies with an extensive stack because they can easily stick a new module into their existing stack.

Companies today want a “composable architecture” where they can fashion their ideal customer experience but require a flexible backend to support their workflows to deliver that experience.

You can use a headless strategy to have the best-in-breed app for your OMS, PIM, CMS, CRM — everything. Ideally, they should all be API (application programming interfaces) native, connect to each other, and run off a centralized data system.

However, companies don’t necessarily want to create headless stacks by themselves. This can be a high-stakes investment, especially for a headless marketplace, which involves multiple vendors, each with their own inventory and orders. In response, tech startups are responding with different headless solutions.

What Are The Benefits of Headless Ecommerce?

Here are four reasons why businesses choose to go headless:

1. Customers want personalized shopping experiences.

However, when a business chooses an off-the-shelf ecommerce platform, they’re often limited to the front-end templates that are compatible with the overall system. With a headless platform, a website or app can be programmed from scratch, delivering the personalization that at least 80% of consumers expect. If a business runs a headless marketplace, it can create unique experiences for each of its brands.

2. Front-end changes can be deployed rapidly.

A headless ecommerce platform affords developers web-design flexibility and lets them introduce front-end changes at the drop of a hat.

There’s no time wasted checking compatibility with a legacy system that was developed decades ago. This allows a headless marketplace operator, whether they’re a multi-brand business or creating a multi-vendor experience, to experiment and respond to fast-changing customer preferences.

3. Headless has superior back-end integrations.

Businesses increasingly rely on best-in-breed apps for specific back-end operations — from managing customer relationships to storing product information — rather than a monolithic solution for all.

Uncoupling the front and back ends by having everything communicate via APIs lets companies deploy the best infrastructure tools without fear of breaking closely linked customer-facing websites.

4. A headless ecommerce platform means more conversions.

70% of consumers say page speeds impact whether or not they’ll buy from an estore. But because legacy platforms' front and back ends are so closely connected, companies burdened with them often require third-party plugins or integrations to incorporate new ecommerce functions. Over time, these can slow page-loading times, which is also bad news for Google rankings.

Headless Marketplace Platform Example: Nautical Commerce

Single-vendor operations seeking a headless ecommerce platform have many options, but the same hasn’t been true for businesses interested in launching a headless marketplace — until recently.

From day one, Nautical’s multi-vendor marketplace platform was built to be headless.

By choosing Nautical, companies that want to launch and scale headless marketplaces have a highly flexible solution without huge IT investment or millions in upfront fees.

We don’t force companies to adopt our templates or a specific coding language. Nautical is meant to empower businesses to create a dynamic multi-vendor headless marketplace with the best possible storefront.

We also don’t want to limit what’s possible on the back end, so our platform is designed to be compatible with a variety of other software platforms, whether they specialize in something we don’t or they’re leaders in their space.

Run Your Headless Marketplace With Nautical

Building marketplace infrastructure from the ground up is a long, expensive process. With Nautical’s flexible marketplace platform, you can use best-in-class ecommerce tools to launch your multi-vendor experience. Contact our team to start using Nautical's multi-vendor marketplace platform — headless.

Speak with a Nautical Marketplace Expert

Interested in quickly launching or scaling your multi-vendor marketplace without lengthy custom development timelines? Find a time to chat with a Nautical marketplace expert today!

Ready to Get Started?

Nautical Commerce dashboard graphic