September 17, 2020

How commercetools Headless Is Different

6
Minute Read

As sought after as headless solutions are, business leaders still have questions about how and when to go headless. Let’s dive into what headless is, how it makes a difference, and specifically how a commercetools implementation can help.

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Headless

Headless commerce is a hot topic right now, especially commercetools headless development - and with good reason. It addresses the challenges that brands face in providing omnichannel experiences for customers. 

Today’s customers shop through multiple touchpoints, from social media to mobile phones to smartwatches and voice assistants, like Alexa.

As consumer shopping habits have evolved, so must eCommerce platforms. Headless commerce is a viable solution for businesses looking to stay innovative and continue to enhance their user experience, increase their revenue, and boost their bottom line.

Yet as sought after as headless CMS solutions are, business leaders still have burning questions: How do I know if headless is the right choice for my company? At what point should I go headless? What does headless implementation entail? 

Let’s dive into what headless is, how it makes a difference, and specifically commercetools' benefits and how implementation can be a game-changer for your business, thanks to their unique approach to headless.

What is Headless Commerce?

You’re familiar with traditional eCommerce platforms. Headless is different in a few significant ways. The most important differentiator is that headless eCommerce is far more flexible than its counterpart.

This is because headless commerce solutions are de-coupled, separating the front-end (or the “head”) and back-end systems. Each system can function independently of one another, allowing the front-end content presentation layer to stand apart from the back-end content management system (CMS). 

Traditional CMS and Headless CMS graphic

By de-coupling the front-end experiences from the back-end functionality, front-end developers are no longer married to the infrastructure and coding that comprises the back-end. They do not have to use built-in templates and themes, and can create unique, customized user experiences.

Meanwhile, developers can focus on ensuring deliverability of content (everything from products, blog posts, product videos, customer reviews, and more) across multiple devices and screens.

Traditional CMS and Headless CMS comparison graphic

Headless commerce works by passing requests between the presentation (front-end) and application (back-end) layers. It uses application programming interface (API) calls to communicate between the two layers.

Here' a commercetools example: a customer clicks “Purchase,” the front-end sends a commercetools API call to the back-end to process the order. The back-end sends an API call to show the customer that their order has been completed. This eCommerce API serves as the “body” of your system, to which you can attach many “heads” (or buyer touchpoints) as needed.

Your functionality (inventory management, payment processing, order processing and shipping) remains separate from your user interfaces, but the two communicate with API calls.

Consequently, headless commerce architecture is explicitly built for the new age of eCommerce.

commercetools’ Unique Approach to Headless

commercetools is a visionary headless commerce platform. It’s 100% global, and many of its key features set it apart from other headless solutions:

  • 100% Cloud Native - Making it accessible from anywhere in the world, limitlessly scalable, incredibly flexible, and easily backed up. 
  • 100% API-First/API-Only from Day 1 - It connects to all front-ends and applications, without disrupting back-end systems. 
  • Zero-Downtime Deployments - Boasting over 100+ releases per year, commercetools has zero-downtime deployments.
  • High Availability - Their Service Level Agreement (SLA) guarantees that they’ll have the server up, connected, and functional at least 99.8% of the time. Many providers don’t offer an SLA, and while commercetools is legally required to meet that 99.8% SLA, their actual performance is 99.99% year over year. 
  • Robust Performance - With a 100ms API response time, it’s a quick-performance solution. 
  • GDPR Compliant - GDPR is a regulation that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens. Noncompliance can be incredibly costly. Thankfully, commercetools is fully compliant. 

The commercetools platform also offers a catalogue of 300+ API endpoints, which you can utilize á la carte. Its Merchant Center comes with PIM, and an intuitive user interface that lets you manage product data, orders, and customer data for all retail channels.

In fact, Forrester Wave B2B Q2 2020 noted that commercetools is a strong performer, while Adobe and Salesforce remain merely leaders. Additionally, commercetools was named a Visionary in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. This marks its second consecutive year to that appointment. 

Gartner awarded commercetools receipt of this top honor for a few reasons:

  • Consistent, high customer ratings
  • Easy to do business with
  • Customers have access to skilled solutions and technology partners through commercetools
  • commercetools has the highest score for modular and interoperable use cases, so that you can quickly scale your business while minimizing risk
  • Their track record is proven across a wide variety of industries, from B2C and B2B to gaming, grocery, auto, manufacturing, retail, travel, and more.

commercetools & Accelerators

Equally important is the fact that commercetools headless has the fastest time-to-market, in part thanks to accelerators, which can cut the time to launch down to just a few weeks.

A few accelerators:

  • Contentful - Almost like a starterpack, you get your front-end components, components for configuring your commercetools, and components to configure your content editing.
  • Launchpad - Get an enterprise-level B2B eCommerce storefront in as little as two weeks. It integrates with your commercetools solution to get your eCommerce business up and running, with all of the enterprise B2B features you need, and ongoing support to drive your eCommerce.
  • Curbspot - A new, affordable, no integration, rapid deploy solution for businesses that need to offer contactless pickup to customers.
  • Design System - A Design System increases efficiency in design, development, and testing phases. Technical teams rely on reusable DS components and templates to build pages, reduce time to launch, and improve accuracy during implementation. This can accelerate a headless launch. 

Is commercetools Right for Your Business?

While commercetools is an incredible platform that pays off in the long run, it’s an investment of which you want to be certain.

So how to tell if it’s the right fit for your business?

Here are a few key questions to ask:

  • Is your company enterprise-level?
  • Is your organization digitally mature?  
  • Are you utilizing a cloud platform?
  • Have you incorporated use of microservices? 
  • Are you already operating on a headless architecture?
  • Would separated front-end and back-end systems allow you to deliver more meaningful customer experiences? (i.e. run multiple, separately branded experiences through the same platform; offer shopping on different touchpoints. etc.)

If this is the first time you’re reading about headless, if you aren’t planning to leverage cloud platforms, or if your teams aren’t working cross-functionally, you probably need to take a few other steps first. 

But if you’re familiar with headless and cloud solutions, and consider your business to be intermediate or advanced when it comes to digital maturity, then you’re ready to consider commercetools.

Case Studies

Let’s look at a few case studies of how a commercetools implementation immediately benefited businesses.

Case Study #1 

The Company: A global retail leader needed to bring 7 different brands and over 7,000 stores in 44 countries into one common platform.

  • The Challenge: In order to achieve this, the businesses needed to utilize a cloud environment where the underlying engine was the same for each brand, while the top layers were brand-specific. By de-coupling the back-end and front-end systems, each brand could create a unique identity, without needing to maintain multiple platforms. Additionally, the interface had to be intuitive so that marketing and eCommerce teams could create brand experiences with the least possible dependence on IT.
  • The Solution: The business combined the BloomReach Digital Experience Platform (DXP) with commercetools’ headless platform to create the digital channels they needed.
  • The Result: Now, they are an innovative retailer that handles all 44 countries worth of business on a single platform.

Case Study #2

The Company: A global leader in manufacturing and distributing, this business has 27 subsidiary companies worldwide.

  • The Challenge: The software the company used for product configuration is exceptionally sophisticated. Their software also needed to be integrated into a webshop system.
  • The Solution: Since the commercetools platform is built natively on APIs and is deployed using flexible microservices, the implementation of the product configuration and ERP processes was easy and seamless. 
  • The Result: The commercetools software enabled a highly personalized self-service B2B commerce process this company’s business customers. 

commercetools Sites

In addition to case studies, exploring how some brand used commercetools to launch new and improved websites can help you determine if commerce tools is right for your business. Here are a few examples to consider . . .

Dawn Foods

Dawn Foods is an international partner for bakers and other food professionals, producing thousands of products, employing over 5,000 team members, and operating in over 100 countries worldwide.

Yet as their business grew, so did their customer base. With new customers came new customer expectations, and Dawn Foods realized that they needed self-service options for customers, so that they could easily manage their accounts, browsing, and ordering.

Dawn Foods worked with commercetools as their back-end solution, and Contentstack for the front-end, providing flexibility and meeting both business and customer needs.

B&S

B&S is a wholesaler and distributor that focuses on niche consumer goods. Because they offer such a wide variety of products, and have a broad customer base, they had websites for numerous brands, many of which were outdated and unpopular. B&S recognized that they needed to refresh their approach.

So, they used commercetools' headless solution, and Bloomreach's digital experience platform to create a sustainable omnichannel business model.

Next Steps

Interested in learning more about how a commercetools implementation can transform your business? Talk to the team of experts at Object Edge today.

About the Author

Mayur Shetye

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