Solutions Retail
November 03rd, 2022

Headless Commerce vs. Traditional Commerce — Why It's Time to Switch

If you want to enhance your front-end features and user experience, you might consider switching from traditional to headless e-commerce architecture types. However, determining the difference between headless commerce versus traditional commerce can help you determine which option is right for your company, customers, and customers. 

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What Is Headless Commerce? 

Headless commerce is a software architecture type that separates front-end code from the back-end to create a more customizable user experience. In this e-commerce type, your IT specialists will build user end pages unique to your business and applications, including separate pages for your organization's catalog, cart, checkout, and payment solutions. Because each page differs from your back-end functional infrastructure, IT teams can better interact with front-end features and functions without damaging system functionality. 

Headless commerce aims to create a more tailored and positive end user experience while offering increased benefits and options to companies and IT teams. Understanding this e-commerce solution can help your company determine if it is right for your needs, resources, and customers. 

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Advantages of Headless Commerce 

Headless e-commerce architecture can support businesses in several ways, making it an excellent solution for many organizations. Some benefits include: 

  • Customization: With headless e-commerce systems, you can create user pages that best reflect your functions and branding standards. Decoupling from back-end solutions makes it easy to make changes to front-end code without affecting other pages or functions. You can change as much as you want to match your company's goals and needs.
  • Flexibility: With the ability to adjust your front-end solutions as needed, you have increased flexibility for your website. You can implement different solutions that traditional e-commerce providers might not offer or follow your needs by creating exactly what you need. With a headless approach, you have the freedom to implement changes and pages that serve your resources and customers. 
  • Complexity: Headless commerce solutions are great for companies that need more complex internal e-commerce systems. When you want to build a unique infrastructure that can support your various functions, a headless front-end solution can help you increase your system's complexity. 
  • Innovation: A headless approach can offer more modern solutions and grow with new technology. Mobile solutions and pages have different needs and features to manage, but a headless system can help you create pages specifically for mobile applications. You can also implement and manage AI-powered solutions and chats with headless e-commerce, allowing you to assist customers in ways they expect. As new technology becomes more expected, you can implement changes easily to stay competitive and meet audience needs. 
  • Scalability: Like with easy innovation implementation, your headless e-commerce solution can grow with your company. When you want to expand, you can add new applications and capacities without inhibiting how well systems function for more consistent, reliable services. 
  • Audience: Headless e-commerce platforms are great if you have several highly-specialized audiences. This infrastructure approach allows you to tailor your content and pages more, so you can address more individualized needs with your site pages. 

When you want comprehensive control and customization, a headless approach is unparalleled. Your IT teams can better manage every aspect of your online pages for a better sales process that supports a more positive user experience for your customers and partners.

Disadvantages of Headless Commerce 

Like all solutions, the headless approach comes with considerations your company should know before investing. When you understand these downsides, you can determine whether your company can navigate them well enough to reap the many benefits. Some disadvantages of headless e-commerce solutions include: 

  • IT resources: To develop a quality and comprehensive front-end system, you will need an experienced IT team. Headless front-end applications require you to build them from scratch, making them great for custom solutions, but this option isn't attainable at every company. Assessing your IT department's strength and experience can determine if a headless e-commerce approach is right for you. 
  • Time: Building a complete front-end solution will take many hours of dedication from your developers. Even implementing updates will require your IT teams to change code manually. Before launching, you will need a comprehensive testing process to ensure everything runs as expected. You might need months of planning and coding before implementing your headless front-end solution, making it best for companies with time to spare. 
  • Complexity: Headless solutions have very complex infrastructures. Along with an experienced IT team to develop your user pages, you will need the right resources to manage and maintain your headless e-commerce system. Developers should be able to navigate code to implement updates to improve features and implement innovative functions your company wants.

The considerations for this e-commerce architecture style can help identify what resources it requires. If your company is a good fit for a headless approach, you might have less impact from the disadvantages. 

What Is Traditional Commerce? 

Traditional e-commerce types keep the connection between the front-end user pages and the back-end functional system. When you want to make changes to your front-end pages, you will likely have to go through the back-end code and systems to ensure functionality. Everything in a traditional e-commerce system will run through a single logic controller, which helps maintain consistency. When you want to use multiple systems with this model, you will often have to run them in a specific order. 

Advantages of Traditional Commerce 

While more companies are switching to the headless approach, a traditional e-commerce system can offer several critical advantages. You can better assess which architecture type best suits your business through the various benefits, including: 

  • Templates: Traditional e-commerce providers require you use templates when designing and developing your pages. Many companies benefit from this service because it better meets their IT availability and experience. Templates eliminate the need for complex coding and design. Your teams can just select which template and design elements work best for your company and users. 
  • Deployment: When you need to implement your front-end pages quickly, a traditional solution can help you deliver quality results. Because you set up a traditional e-commerce with templates and avoid complicated coding, you can easily deploy this option, helping your company meet customer expectations and timelines. When headless front-end systems can take months to develop fully, you can depend on this architecture type to support faster deployment. 
  • Simplicity: Compared to a headless infrastructure, the traditional e-commerce architecture style is simpler. Everything runs through the same logic controller and exists in the same place. When you need something easier to manage and build, a traditional e-commerce system can benefit your company. 
  • Cost: When searching for a more cost-effective front-end method, the traditional option can be great. Because it comes with everything you need to create and deploy it, you can spend less money on expensive development processes or IT specialists. 

These advantages can make the traditional e-commerce approach a solid selection for many businesses. Your front-end option should support the IT services available at your organization, from page creation to management. 

Disadvantages of Traditional Commerce 

As more companies favor headless e-commerce, they recognize the many considerations of the traditional approach. Whether you want to implement an online infrastructure for your business or switch to headless, the disadvantages can highlight what you can expect when using this approach. Some considerations include: 

  • Flexibility: One of the biggest challenges when working with a traditional e-commerce architecture approach is implementing changes. When you want to change the simplest details on your front-end pages, you must make extensive adjustments to the back-end's code. Your flexibility and freedom to make changes and implement them when you want becomes much more limited to your resources and time constraints with this e-commerce solution. 
  • Customization: Because your flexibility diminishes with traditional approaches, you will also have fewer customization opportunities. Your provider will limit you to their templates, making it challenging to create or implement solutions that match your target audience and end user. While templates can be a great help, this option might limit companies that want more creative freedom. 
  • Scalability and innovation: The simpler configuration of traditional e-commerce architecture makes it harder to grow with your company. When you implement this type, you will likely need to commit to the services and features you get. Implementing new features and technology will require complex coding and development that can take months and most traditional models are best for simple desktop pages. 
  • Testing: Making changes is possible with a traditional style. Because of the connected front and back ends, any changes you make to the front end will require you to make additional adjustments to the back. These changes increase your risk of functional errors, so you must conduct extensive testing afterward. Testing can take up valuable time, especially if it comes back with problems, causing development teams to return to adjusting code. 

While the traditional e-commerce approach can provide your company with a simpler service and quicker deployment, you lose the easy customization and increased flexibility that comes with the headless architecture. When you want to keep up with changing needs and trends, traditional styles might make this goal more challenging to meet. 

Key Differences Between Headless and Traditional Commerce

When comparing headless and traditional e-commerce options, looking at them side-by-side can help visualize the critical differences between them, including: 

  • Customization: Your customization capabilities and methods will differ depending on your architecture. When you want increased customization, choose headless. You can control every aspect of your front-end page, though you will need to code everything yourself. Traditional is excellent for people who are okay with using a template. Customizing the template will require very complicated coding on your back end, which can influence your functionality. 
  • Complexity: If your organization requires a more complex infrastructure to support your functionality and customer needs, you can create an individualized infrastructure with headless e-commerce styles. However, they can be more challenging to implement and manage without the right resources, so traditional supports a straightforward infrastructure where everything runs through the same logic controller. 
  • Implementation: Your company might value new technology and trends, like mobile deployment or AI implementation. When you want to upgrade and add features, you will need a headless option. The complex infrastructure can support more features and page types while allowing you to add only what you'll use. Traditional is great if you want a more simple approach and features. 

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Should You Choose Traditional or Headless Commerce? 

Both e-commerce methods can offer your company various benefits and options to deliver quality user pages for your partners and customers. The advantages and disadvantages can help determine which option best suits your goals, needs, and resources. 

In general, traditional e-commerce architectures are better for smaller businesses and start-ups. Because these organizations have fewer resources and less extensive IT departments, they benefit from the quick set-up offered by this option. They can spend less time and money on building pages from scratch while providing them with templates that can cater to their needs. Traditional methods can still offer excellent functionality, making them ideal for companies valuing simplicity and efficiency. 

Alternatively, larger companies will better benefit from a headless e-commerce approach. Because bigger businesses often have more available budgets and IT departments, they can better manage the increased demand required to build quality headless front-end pages. They can also pull more resources from other teams, like marketing, for more insights about their target audiences. With more information, they can better understand their end-users and develop pages that strengthen their relationship with them. 

When it comes to picking a solution for your company, knowing how your organization and infrastructure can support the two approaches can help you make a stronger decision and prepare you for implementing this strategy. 

Verte Headless Commerce and Supply Chain 

On the supply chain, a headless e-commerce approach can help you better manage supplier relationships and item orders with increased retailer visibility. With more customized front-end pages, you can implement solutions that integrate better with suppliers' existing pages and give them a consistent page they can use to interact with you. 

Verte offers Unified Commerce, a headless platform designed for vendors, to help them manage their supply chain. It comes with multiple integrated solutions to provide increased functionality, including: 

  • Integration Manager: The Integration Manager allows you to sell your products anywhere, from mobile devices to social media pages. You can better control how your front-end pages appear and function, enabling you to reach all customers. 
  • Order Management System: The Order Management System helps you better order and track items with automated tools. It offers increased visibility across the supply chain and allows you to monitor specified items so you know when stock is low. You can set automatic orders once you meet a certain threshold for more intuitive systems. 

Your visibility increases when you use a Unified Commerce Platform. The tracking capabilities help you learn about shipper patterns, so you can implement better strategies when you need more items. It will provide supply chain insights to help you understand various metrics about your purchasing habits. These insights can drive improvement goals and new relationships for a stronger supply chain for your business and partners. 

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Implement a Headless e-Commerce Solution With Verte  

When you want to create a headless e-commerce architecture, working with the right partner can ensure you build a system that supports your company, partners, and customers. Verte specializes in supply chain management and optimization, supporting businesses at every supply chain step. We can help you develop custom solutions and integrations for a more personalized approach to your unique goals and problems. 

Contact Verte today to discover how we can help you improve visibility and relationships across your supply chain with our platforms.

Chelsea Mori

Written by Chelsea Mori

Chelsea Mori is an experienced marketing and demand generation strategist with nearly 20 years of B2B experience. She oversees the strategic direction for demand generation, campaigns, and brand awareness programs to solidify Verte as a leader in supply chain technology. A multi-dimensional marketing professional, Chelsea has built a track record of driving new business through creative demand and lead generation programs.