Headless Commerce: How to Get Started

The decisions Marketing Leaders can make now to accelerate their brand’s transition to future-proof e-commerce experiences. 

With consumer expectations rapidly evolving, marketing leaders for direct-to-consumer brands need to be more creative and more nimble than ever before. But in creating exciting new content for digital storefronts, marketing is often severely constrained - or even defined by the technology - that powers e-commerce operations. In a business that moves as quickly as online retail, this is a recipe for being overtaken by competitors. 

Modular or composable, “headless” commerce systems that decouple front-end and back-end systems offer a more flexible, adjustable and inherently future-proof structure for fast-paced innovation. (The MACH Alliance has a great breakdown for headless here). The challenge is how to begin the transition. Rebuilding a car is daunting; doing it while you’re already hurtling down the highway can seem downright impossible. But if you don’t start you’ll find yourself spinning off the road while competitors speed past you.

Fortunately, you can put your best foot forward with a series of repeatable decisions to ensure your organization makes steady, incremental progress in the right direction.

Needs analysis, not vendor analysis

It’s vital to understand - and stay focused on - what your organization requires before spending time evaluating vendors. What you need now will not be what you need a year from now, so expect to repeat this sequence at every step of your journey. Let’s look at the decision path to follow: 

Decision 1: Experience or Operations?

With a headless commerce system that decouples the front-end from the back-end, you can decide what aspects of the customers’ overall experience take priority. This decision comes down to identifying the most important problem you’re trying to solve: how customers shop — think personalization and content automation; or what they experience post-purchase — so think omnichannel fulfillment, distributed order management, or multi-channel inventory allocation.


Emily Pfeiffer, Sr. Analyst at Forrester, speaks about the dual cores of modular commerce.

Watch the full on-demand webinar with Myplanet VP, Platform, Katherine Jones, here.

From our perspective, the market first and foremost demands a superior pre-purchase experience. As you return to this decision path over time, operational considerations will rise to the fore, but the initial transition to headless commerce can start with how customers experience your online store.

Understanding how your current customer experience journey serves your business goals (or doesn’t) and designing it to achieve them is fundamental to all your subsequent choices. Traditional interfaces like a web browser and mobile app may be a necessity, but form should not determine function. Thinking broadly about your customer requirements (What do they value most?) and your brand requirements (What do we need in order to better measure and influence engagement?) will open up new avenues for a more complete and adjustable digital experience.

Decision 2: What features do you need?

By framing your business problems in the context of your customers, you can determine which features provide the solutions you need.

In the initial stages of adopting a headless commerce approach, your focus should be on assessing requirements, identifying gaps, and prioritizing the features you need. In the context of digital experience, this could include chatbots, social commerce APIs, or personalization AI, but it can also include digital asset management, search and merchandising, product information management, and much more. One feature that shouldn’t be overlooked is the ability to gather customer experience data, so testing and learning is built in from the start.Myplanet-Harry-Rosen-Case-Study-120-conversion-V2

Decision 3: What vendors?

Now the hard work really begins. Identifying vendors in the functional areas most needed now can seem overwhelming. With headless commerce, you will have a broader spectrum of options that can help you accomplish your goals. 

Crucially, you must be able to integrate the components. Although that is now more possible than ever — microservices offer unique components purpose-built to work together through APIs — a seamless, stable experience needs to be tested, and some components inevitably work together better than others. Working with a partner who has road-tested various components is key to finding only those that provide the features you need, and know that the integrations will work.


Defining and refining your roadmap

The decision path we’ve laid out above may at first appear straightforward, but as you begin mapping out a transition to headless commerce, it can become far less obvious or linear. The decisions you make about the future of your digital experience in some ways will run parallel to the current business you’re operating. It’s common for the newest crisis to become the highest priority to the detriment of the bigger picture.

Working with partners, whether they are system integrators, consultants or a software studio like Myplanet, will help ensure you define and stick to a roadmap that improves your business. They can also help you evaluate more complex scenarios and experiences. Those that plan, design and build proof-of-concepts reap the rewards in the long run — and they’re also better equipped buy-in from their organizations.

That’s why we created our Composable Consult to help brands like yours get started. Our process assesses your business needs, and applies headless tools to create a proposed architecture that lays the foundation for success.

Next step on your move to modular commerce banner


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