February 3, 2021 | 8 Min
6 Ways Headless Commerce Makes Your CMS Better
Originally posted on Slatwall’s blog.
Those familiar with headless commerce know just how many benefits it can bring to your company’s Content Management System (CMS). Your CMS is a critical component of your eCommerce experience, but many companies aren’t able to use it to its full potential. Headless commerce represents a liberation of your CMS from your commerce platform; it’s a different type of eCommerce architecture that can drastically change the way you sell. Here are just a few of the ways that headless commerce can help you push the value of your existing CMS.
1. Complete freedom in content presentation
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional eCommerce architecture is how inflexible it can be. Companies may be experts at creating custom designs, layouts, and interactivity using their CMS tool, but options on the eCommerce side of things have been limited. As a result, the design process from content to commerce isn’t given the attention it deserves. It’s often toned down, creating frustration for both creative or marketing teams.
Of course, workarounds exist, such as CMS plugins or custom development. These solutions may work fine in the short-term, but they don’t scale as well when it comes to enterprise-level functionality and security.
Compare this to headless commerce platforms, which allow freedom across integration options. The headless approach separates your CMS from backend commerce functions, allowing both marketers and developers to make changes to each as needed.
In terms of content presentation, this means you’re integrating eCommerce into the presentation elements driven by the CMS instead of trying to make the eCommerce layouts “look like” the CMS. It’s all run through the same presentation structure.
Keep a running list of all your eCommerce specific layouts:
From there, consider how you’d like to build those pages. Headless commerce gives you flexibility and creative controls while also making it easier to connect commerce into standard content pages. This opens up plenty of new selling possibilities, such as the ability to sell products from a blog page, add promotional display to your press releases, and so on.
2. Better, more efficient customer experiences
Building storefronts efficiently means using the right tool at the right time for the right purpose. eCommerce platforms have traditionally been built to handle eCommerce specific tasks and anything else they’re trying to do, well, doesn’t quite measure up to platforms designed for that task. (See content management, email marketing management, etc.) Forcing a platform to act as if it were a content management system is a tough chore and a compromise at best.
A content management system-powered storefront leverages the concept of the “ask” to create experiences. Rather than the user being handed over to a storefront during a shopping experience, the content management system drives the entire layout and frontend and only “asks” the eCommerce system to do something or deliver data when it needs it, based on user behavior. Data and functionality are delivered to the CMS at the right time, no matter where the users are in the buyer’s journey.
The eCommerce platform is tasked only with performing the right function at the right time. The display is owned by the content management system. Responsibilities are clearly defined. The marketing and creative teams driving the experience with the CMS have more freedom throughout the process to build exactly the storefront they want.
In fact, the headless platform can act as a starter kit of best practices that assists with driving as much optimization as possible from the build process. Users can expect to see improved site speed, reduced build times, and better customer satisfaction overall.
3. Faster content presentation across channels
Headless platforms make it easy for marketers to share content across whatever channel makes the most sense for their customers, whether it’s on websites, mobile devices, applications, or social media.
Thanks to headless’ decoupled architecture, integrating APIs that let marketers push content across any type of multichannel environment. Compared to traditional commerce architecture, where each web page must be specifically built and optimized to be responsive across devices, the headless method allows you to set up as many sites, applications, and storefronts as you need – all without placing undue strain on your commerce architecture. It’s a system that supports a smarter, cleaner IT environment with less risk of sluggish performance or page slowdown, no matter how many commerce functions you integrate.
Each channel or storefront can be optimized for it’s unique environment or deliver challenges without eCommerce restrictions. Given the importance of speed scoring, optimized delivery and front end optimization, it’s critical to work towards an implementation that makes multichannel optimization easy.
4. Better alignment between marketers and IT
As anyone involved in eCommerce knows all too well, developers and marketers are sometimes at odds. It can be challenging to work together when both teams have different priorities and initiatives to manage.
Tightly-integrated commerce architecture limits each department’s ability to make changes without affecting the other. Platform and backend adjustments may affect what customers see in your CMS, and customer-facing updates aren’t always possible without substantial IT work in the commerce platform itself. But with headless, these two functions are separated and managed individually. Both groups are more able to move at their own speed.
Your marketing teams won’t have to rely on the development team to make changes to enable the creative, design and layouts they’re looking for. This opens up a world of flexibility for your company’s agility and helps your marketing team deploy new initiatives, products, or promotions at speed. With separated platforms, the changes managed by the development or dev-ops team are more limited in scope.
5. Upgrade (or migration) freedom
As they say, when one platform sneezes, the entire storefront catches a cold. When your CMS and eCommerce are tightly integrated together, you lose the flexibility to enhance one system without harming the other. It becomes a challenge to upgrade, update, and build when you need to.
Too often we hear about a storefront that hasn’t updated its CMS because it will break the eCommerce plugin. They become completely stuck, falling behind and losing their ability to operate as they’d like. The two systems are too connected.
True headless commerce offers a big boost to your CMS strategy by letting you work with whichever CMS you want.
Keep in mind that many CMS options allow for extensibility; it’s one of the selling points of having a platform in the first place. However, that extensibility means that you’re continuing to build on top of a platform where each piece is interconnected. One can’t be updated without checking on all the pieces.
This is a big benefit that some companies may be unfamiliar with, as many traditional commerce platforms come pre-bundled with CMS options that can’t be separated from the commerce engine. In other words, marketers get stuck working with a content presentation system that never quite meets their goals. Headless platforms offer a workaround to this problem by separating the front and backend functions. With backend commerce handled separately by IT, marketers can integrate whichever CMS they like – giving them more options in how content is presented and what they can do.
6. Simple security for each CMS implementation
A key advantage of headless comes from the fact that it’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) eCommerce. This means that specific functions – such as CMS security, patching, and updates – are handled entirely by the service provider. For companies running multiple storefronts, webpages, or CMS implementations, this type of managed security can bring big boosts to commerce efficiency. Marketers can save time by letting their commerce provider handle the details and reapply those hours to revenue-driving tasks. Your IT and development teams can spend less time worrying about security, patching, and updates of the CMS or eCommerce platform and more time investing in development and enhancements for the business.
Keep in mind that upgrades, core security fixes, and updates are easier to test and implement when they’re limited to a specific platform (CMS or eCommerce) and not across the entire storefront.
Headless platforms represent a different type of eCommerce strategy. This approach offers substantial benefits to a company’s CMS across system design, content deployment, and ongoing management.
Primarily, headless supports your CMS by opening up flexibility in the system. In turn, this makes it easy for marketers to select their preferred platform options, deploy new initiatives, push content faster, and overall, create more strategic alignment between IT and marketing goals.
Separating your commerce engine from the CMS allows for complete extensibility across platform updates or migrations -- exactly what marketers need to present content in a way that supports their customers’ needs.
As a SaaS method of eCommerce, headless supports security and efficiency across all commerce processes. Teams can let their commerce provider handle security, updates, and platform management, freeing them to focus more on development/sales-related goals that drive revenue for the company.
Stop Fighting Your CMS and Start Selling With the Headless Approach
The headless strategy doesn’t necessarily change the way your CMS functions – but it does change the way your marketing teams can put it to work. Headless commerce breaks down the barriers of traditional commerce architecture and allows companies to set up and deploy content through their CMS exactly how they want. It doesn’t sound like a revolutionary idea, until you see it in action. When you have the means to take complete control over content presentation, you may wonder how you ever got by without it.
Contact Slatwall to learn more about the benefits of a headless migration for your business.