Headless commerce Headless commerce is not a fad. In fact, it’s becoming the new normal. But how can you tell if headless is right for your company?

For many B2B and B2C companies, headless commerce is the future. However, before you go headless, there are a few things you should know.

What is Headless Commerce?

Michael Harvey of Corra says, “Headless is not a religion — it’s a spectrum.” Ultimately, headless means that your website’s back end is separated from the front end. But there are different stages to headless commerce.

First, there’s the decoupling stage. In this stage, you can detach the front and back ends and have the marketing and business working on the front end without constraint from the slow pace of the back end.

The next step in the journey is making the head agnostic. The head can communicate programmatically with the back end but doesn’t actually rely on what’s there.

Companies today are often at this stage: they’re thinking of the back end as a set of composable services. These companies are looking at the various functions the back end provides — such as checkout, product account, and product information — and thinking of them as discrete services to be consumed by the front end.


The Story of Salt Life and PWAs

Earlier this year, the clothing and beachwear brand, Salt Life, launched its PWA (Progressive Web App). This PWA means that the company’s application is able to take more progressive advantage of the browser it’s running on and can obtain app-like behaviors, such as working offline.

But why did Salt Life take a PWA headless commerce approach?

According to Salt Life’s Vice President of eCommerce, Larry Laska, using a PWA on the front end can tremendously improve site speed, which was an issue for their website. Larry realized that “all of these back end pieces that are loading inventory and loading proxies and loading all of this data…that's really where the memory load sits. If we just disconnect the back end piece from the front end, [then] the front end can focus on all the pretty, fun pieces that people see.”

After implementing the PWA into Salt Life’s headless commerce approach, they got their site speed down to under two seconds on every type of device.


The Benefits and Challenges of Going Headless

There are many advantages of headless commerce. Headless creates an opportunity to optimize a team around the front-end experience without all the historical constraints, allowing your sites to operate faster with more flexibility and autonomy.

However, headless commerce has its complexities. If you’ve decoupled or detached the head, you’re able to scale, but you still have many things happening in the back end that have to be orchestrated. Once you decouple the back and front end, you’re dealing with two tech stacks, and you’re often dealing with two disparate technical abilities.

So what can you do to deal with the complexities?

Adobe’s Head of Commerce Solutions Consulting, David Augustine, has some advice. He says, “It's really important that you work with [a partner] that really has put in the time. At Adobe, we have a reference architecture for PWA. We have a starting point, and you can take it and be up and running very quickly. But to build a really good, customized, industry-specific website — like what Salt Life has — you really do need to be focused on a really strong partner.”

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