headless commerce touchtribe


What is headless commerce?

21 februari 2022

From the first cautious purchase - and the even more cautious payment - online shopping evolved in ten years into a favorite activity of millions of consumers. They expect to be able to buy the right product or service quickly and effortlessly. Moreover, they have increasingly high expectations about the journey they take on the way to that purchase.

Curious about the whole story of why the future of e-commerce is headless?

That journey is no longer simply from A to B. It contains more and more practical, inspiring and valuable intermediate stops. Sometimes it runs through a handy barcode scanner that enables a quick repeat purchase. Or past a chatbot that can explain the key benefits of a new financial product 24/7. A shoppable video, in which you can instantly select and order your favourite shirt. Or an augmented reality app that determines your shoe size with millimetre precision, or shows exactly whether that particular lipstick colour looks good on your face.

Seamless customer journey

For consumers, it goes without saying that these valuable stopovers seamlessly connect with their journey to a purchase. Even if the range and available product info changes at a rapid pace. If they have researched their product via laptop, but want to purchase with their phone. Or if a large number of other consumers suddenly all want to order that new phone or popular concert tickets from your webshop at the same time. If all that works, the customer journey turns into an attractive and inspiring experience, with which the seller can really stand out from the competition.

headless commerce touchtribe
Gert van Vliet is managing director at Touchtribe

Gert van Vliet

Managing director


However, the ability to offer such an engaging and inspiring buying experience is not a given for many organisations. This is partly because many traditional e-commerce platforms are designed for that simple journey from A to B. As a result, adding relevant stopovers is often a difficult and time-consuming task. This lack of speed and flexibility represents a growing handicap in the battle for the rapidly more demanding consumer.

Persoon bekijkt een webshop op zijn mobiele telefoon

Eager organisations are therefore moving to a new kind of e-commerce platform. A new architecture specifically designed to add a relevant experience to the customer journey quickly and flexibly at any time. This new capability we call headless commerce. In this triptych of articles, we explain what it is, how it works, what the benefits and challenges are, and why headless commerce is the future of e-commerce.

The lack of speed and flexibility of a traditional platform represents a growing handicap in the battle for the rapidly more demanding consumer.

Headless is the architecture of the future

Every digital customer journey has a front and back side. The front side informs or inspires the customer in their journey towards purchase. At the back, the vendor organises the required content and the intelligence that determines at what time which content should be shown to the customer in which form. In a traditional e-commerce platform, these sides are inextricably linked. This means that any adaptation on one side, also has consequences on the other side. So any adjustment automatically means a risk of a less good customer experience.

Legacy software architectuur illustratie

We solve these problems with an innovative architecture, which we call Headless Commerce. This architecture completely decouples the front and back end, and makes optimal use of the cloud. Even at the back end, there is no longer an inseparable whole, but separate parts, which you can click together 'like Lego building blocks'. Thanks to this 'composable architecture', it is much easier to add new components and replace or change existing ones, without having to modify the rest of the platform. The speed with which you can respond to customer wishes and technological possibilities therefore increases enormously.

Uitbeelding Headless commerce architectuur

Headless commerce is API-first

A new chatbot, pre-purchase app, Alexa skill or ordering option via Instagram? Good idea! Only then, your developers also have to first adapt the applications that, on the back end, manage your content and customer profiles, process orders or enable secure payments. So the strong interdependence between front and back end also limits the speed with which your organisation can react to new customer needs or technological opportunities. 

Modern headless commerce systems remove this limitation by connecting applications with APIs. These software interfaces 'translate' the communication between the linked applications, regardless of which (programming) language they use. Thanks to the use of APIs, front and back end operate completely independently of each other, and communication between the various back end components is also optimal. Thanks to this 'composable architecture', developers can compile front and back end from the most effective and appealing applications as they see fit.

Developers are no longer limited by the 'straitjacket' of their back-end, but compose front-end entirely as they see fit.

Headless commerce is cloud native

The cloud is basically a ubiquitous, on-demand distribution network for applications that you can immediately start using and also dispose of at any time. The benefits of these Software as a Service (SaaS) services are well known. Always the most up-to-date application at your disposal, without the need for software upgrades. Optimal response times. Flexible scaling based on current demand, and only paying for what you use. And always access to your secure data.

With a cloud native platform, you always have the most up-to-date software, without expensive software upgrades.

To take full advantage of these benefits, headless commerce works with cloud native SaaS applications. After all, these are specifically developed in and for the cloud ('Born in the cloud'). This allows organisations to take full advantage of the strengths of the cloud, without the worry of maintaining or securing the necessary infrastructure. Furthermore, they do not have to install any software and do not need a licence or separate hosting. As a result, costs remain limited, transparent and predictable.

Gert van Vliet is managing director at Touchtribe

Gert van Vliet

Managing director