Headless ecommerce and low-code application development are two increasingly advantageous technology frameworks — and they’re on a collision course for retailers.
Headless ecommerce architecture — enabling retail brands to decouple the front-end and back-end of their ecommerce platforms — allows new customer-facing features to be implemented far more quickly and flexibly than legacy processes. Low-code has matured to offer a compelling complement to this approach, snowballing the speed at which key ecommerce initiatives can be rolled out and iterated upon. Combining headless commerce and low-code empowers retailers to introduce and iteratively test new features at a significantly accelerated pace, making it possible to prove out and deliver ever more effective customer experiences.
The potent fusion of headless ecommerce and low-code is emerging just as retailers require it most. A Walker Information report found that customer experience is now the single most essential brand differentiator — a more important competitive differentiator even than competitor products and prices. Given this reality, ecommerce platforms that create welcoming and customized digital experiences can drive conversions and purchases more powerfully than any other factor.
The Benefits of Headless
A recent Yottaa survey of ecommerce leaders found that 62% are looking to headless commerce to improve engagement and conversions. By separating front-end interface applications from the back-end systems managing details such as inventory and order management, headless jumpstarts innovation.
Headless systems are essentially networks of APIs and segmented applications fulfilling specific functions. This structure makes it possible to flexibly upgrade or otherwise improve individual applications without needing to update the entire system. Each feature within these systems becomes independent, enabling a shift from waterfall to agile deployment processes. Innovative new features can be deployed, tweaked and redeployed with no systemic delays or obstacles.
From a front-end development perspective, headless allows designers and creatives to leverage their preferred tools. This gives these teams the user experience benefits they want, which directly translates to more tailored and effective experiences for the customer. Back-end developers also benefit from dedicated tooling and don’t need to care about the aesthetics of interfaces that customers will never see. By providing designers and developers with their own distinct tools and workspace experiences, headless ecommerce enables each group to operate more effectively, resulting in superior applications.
Low-Code Development Advantages
Low-code development equips developers with pre-coded functions placed within modules or containers. Using a drag-and-drop visual interface, developers pair these low-code modules and the data connectivity they need, building out new and improved solutions at 10X (and often much higher) the speed compared to the usual command-line code development.
Low-code also increases the speed of application deployment by democratizing that development. Many retail brands meaningfully expand their existing development teams by including individuals who might have lower-threshold skillsets but who are perfectly capable of completing successful projects with low-code tooling. Particularly as skillsets for more complex technologies, such as AI and ML, are expensive and hard to find, low-code can fast-track the use of these technologies.
Low-code modules also offer brands immediate flexibility and responsiveness to customer needs simply through swapping modules in and out as necessary. Low-code greatly reduces developer responsibilities around security as well, as each container-based module utilizes secured and isolated code.
Headless Ecommerce and Low-Code: More Powerful Together
If headless ecommerce systems have a shortcoming, it’s that they can be too flexible. The fact that retailers must add their own custom functionality for advanced ecommerce operations often leads to over-engineered applications. Complicated service-mesh-based integrations between systems also contribute to slow delivery and challenging maintenance. As a result, these projects commonly go over budget and sprawl beyond their completion timelines.
Low-code strategies provide a better path forward. Modular low-code tooling can deliver requisite functionality out-of-the-box and provide the coordinated middleware to enable headless ecommerce systems. Brands can tap headless APIs, existing modules and templates designed to get ecommerce capabilities to market quickly. APIs also make countless third-party technologies readily available, including powerful options from top martech providers.
Faster Innovation for Unmatched Customer Experiences
By teaming headless ecommerce with low-code development, retail brands can develop easy-to-operate systems and deploy full-featured ecommerce platforms within just weeks. From there, organizations can leverage customer data and rapidly execute upon opportunities for innovation, iteratively evolving key features. Through this process, brands can hone their customer experiences into the powerful, unique and competitive differentiators all but required for success.
Brian Sathianathan is the CTO at Iterate.ai. He’s also the co-host of This Week in Innovation, a podcast about the retail sector startup community that he co-hosts with retail industry analyst Jeff Roster. Previously Sathianathan worked at Apple on various emerging technology projects that included the Mac operating system and the first iPhone.