What the Heck is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is the decoupling of front end and back end of an ecommerce application in an attempt to enhance customer experience. But, why is this trend emerging? What are the benefits?
March 23, 2022

What the Heck is Headless Commerce?

On March 23rd at 12pm EST/9am PST, Searchspring hosted a 1-hour live webinar with an expert panel from eHouse Studio, Pack Digital, and Searchspring where we focused on creating a seamless and branded user experience using headless technologies. 

You might be asking, what the heck is headless commerce? You’re not alone. It is one of the most misunderstood new concepts in the ecommerce world today. In short, headless commerce is the decoupling of the front end and back end of an ecommerce application in an attempt to enhance customer experience. But, why is this trend emerging? What are the benefits? Where is the best place to start?

These are all important questions. To help you answer them, we broke down the webinar in the following ways:

  • Defining headless commerce
  • Exploring the benefits of headless
  • How to get started
  • Real-life headless examples

Ready to give headless commerce a try? Watch it today.


Welcome, everyone.


Thank you for joining us today for the Searchspring webinar, What the heck is Headless Commerce?


It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves. We hear our clients ask.


We’ve heard asked at conferences so we thought we’d tackle the question.


What the heck, is headless commerce? So we’ll answer that question.


We’ll talk about we’ll define it by answering the question. we’ll explore some benefits of headless commerce.


We will talk about how to get started in headless commerce. And we’ll give some real-life examples.


But first, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Jason Ferrara. I’m the Chief Marketing Officer at Searchspring.


Thank you for joining again.


Before we go any further, what I’d like to do is, I’d like to answer the question, What the heck is Searchspring, If you don’t know that.


So, you know, it Searchspring, We really, we focus on the e-commerce shopper experience, all of us as e-commerce merchants in the business of e-commerce, understand how much a shopper hates it when they go to a website, and they can’t find what they want.


You know, usually, the outcome there is, they leave, they don’t come back, and it Searchspring our focus is driving an experience such that the shopper loves the site, wants to come back and does come back.


We do that by providing site search, product merchandising, personalization, and insights about your shoppers and their behavior.


And offering those things drives a greater shop or experience.


That’s what we do at Searchspring.


And I just thought I’d mentioned that, but next, and probably the most important part, today’s webinar is to introduce our panelists. So, I’ll lead by example here, and turn on my camera. There I am.


I would like to introduce our panel of experts. So why don’t it’s way more compelling when they introduce themselves, so I will have them do that. Aaron, let’s start with you, a quick introduction of yourself, and then we’ll move on to Andrew.


Awesome. Aaron Quinn, I am the CEO at E-House Studio.


We are a top Shopify Plus agency partner. So we work exclusively with Shopify Plus, obviously building e-commerce experiences. We do design development, really helping clients migrate onto the platform, all in and kind of custom experiences. And then after, obviously, that work or onboarding a new client already on the platform, We transition into strategy, CRO, new feature enhancements, and speed and performance, and things like that.


So we work with that plethora of brands across different verticals, but definitely, you know, focus in health and wellness, fashion, apparel, beating cosmetic, no sporting goods, home goods, things like that, and then obviously, partner with Searchspring and pack as well.


Thanks, Aaron, appreciate it. Thanks for being here. Andrew, how about you?


Yeah! Thank you. Searchspring, for having me. Exciting to be here.


So I’m Andrew, I run strategy and operations, over at Pack Digital, a front end platform built for headless commerce. So we are a head to head list, which we can get into. So just for some background, I come from the agency world.


Was involved in a lot of Shanghai projects, building up custom themes, trying to push the limits of, you know, Shopify development starter pack to transform a better way to develop out front ends on Shopify, which really led us to just exploring building and react and you know, looking at PWA.


So that kind of launched us into taking a headless approach.


So over the last three years, been building lots of headless stores, first, starting out from, you know, building starts from scratch, and using different frameworks, different handlers, content management systems, playing around with workflows.


And then fast-forward to today, we kinda took all of our learnings and findings and now have really, a product ties approach to building headless stores through our front end platform.


Basically what that means is our platform allows merchants to easily build and manage a modern storefront.


Yeah, looking forward to the computation. And that’s a little bit about us.


Great. Thank you, And I’m sure Will will lean on your expert opinion here as we move through. And last but not least, my colleague will, so we’ll why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.


Folks, I’m Will Warren, I’m CTO at Searchspring for e-commerce space for the last 12 years, And I’m responsible for building our APIs anytime hagglers projects that we have. So I’m looking forward to talking to you.


Will is, the first person that I went to and asked the question, what the heck is headless commerce? So it’s great to have you on, and the great to have you on Aaron and Andrew. I also want to introduce our producer, Charles Summers, He’s behind the scenes, he’s moving the slides around, he’s fielding your questions and making sure I see them.


You’ll hear me talk to Charles once in awhile, so I didn’t want you to think that there was a person you didn’t know behind the scenes. There it is.


It is Charles Summers. So thank you, Charles.


Let’s do a quick check of the agenda.


So we have a number of poll questions peppered throughout the the session today. We love poll questions as panelists because they give us an idea of you all as, as participants where you are, or your understanding about topics, that sort of thing.


It is also a great way to interact on a webinar.


It is pretty passive, event. Sit there and listen, So we want to make sure that you have some buttons to push and some things to look at while we, while we do that, we have some polls for you to fill out.


And let’s see, we’re also going to, so as I said before, we’re going to cover headless commerce. Will define it.


Will explore the benefits, how to get started, and give some real-life examples. You know, context is always great.


So giving those examples is is important. And at the end, we will leave time for Q and A I know that Charles has put a couple of comments in the, in the sidebar there.


And I’ve mentioned it a few times, but if you have any questions, please let us know type those into the questions tab and we will see them and get to them during the course of the webinar.




I want to mention quickly some of the research that we’ve been doing at Church Spring about important topics for e-commerce professionals, whether you’re a merchant or whether you are an agency technology partner. There are some high ticket items. These high ticket items, we’ve been in the research we’ve done looked at for this year. Headless technology was number nine on our list.


Just because it’s nine out of ten, doesn’t mean it’s not important.


I think the, you know, the, the, the margin between each one of these 10 is pretty slim. Everybody is very concerned about headless technology, what it means for growth, and really what it means for providing an experience for the shopper. Right? That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing to provide an experience for a shop. So that’s where we get the concept of why should we talk about headless? Which is showing up as important in our research.


Let’s jump to our first poll.


It’s a pretty simple poll question, but it could have pretty serious ramifications for our conversation. So do you know what headless commerce is?


Yes, No! And sort of, I love that. Love that answer! So if you’d go ahead and start responding to that poll, you can see the answers coming in now.


Good, keep them come, and we’ll give a few more minutes here, more minutes, A couple more seconds, I should say.


Just about at everybody who’s on the call, Thank you! Alright, so here’s what we got.


Yes, 20%, glad you’re here.


Glad, you know, Sort of 48.


I mean, you know, I think you’re, obviously, you’re basically in the majority there, being the majority there, and no, 33%.


I appreciate your honesty and hopefully we can get to a spot where you, those that Mark Noe leave this session with.


Yes, and exactly what to do, which takes us to the first part of our of our panel discussion, defining headless commerce.


So before we get into the to the actual definition, anyone on the panel have have thoughts about the answers to that poll? Pretty simple question, I mean, do you know what it is yes or no?


Or sort of any, any surprising things there?


I think, sort of was the expected answer.


Because I think I will try to back my my soapbox on kind of the term in general.


But yeah, I mean, I can take a stab at the definition.


In my mind, I mean, headless is anytime you’re using a different technology for your backend and your front end.


So I agree define front end as the presentation.


So, you know, the site experience clicking around navigating the site and the back end would be where you’re managing the store.


So you’re managing your products, managing, you know, order management, inventory management, sort of stuff.


So a lot of people call and there’s a lot of different names for this, right?


People call this decoupling the backend and front end separation of those layers, an API approach, modular, composable, all sorts of words for it.


So I think they all kind of mean the same thing, but I think that the literal definition of headless is just ripping the head off the platform, and then using something else, besides the platform as, as the presentation.


So I think my soapbox hardness is I think that’s why headless is kind of a confusing word.


Means chopping off the head.


It doesn’t really talk about what the actual solution is, which is where the benefits lie, for the most part.


So some people interpret this, is, like, flexibility for different hands, Right?


So you have your website, You can have an app, you can have in-store, kiosk, or whatever.


Um, but I think most of the time, you know, especially when people talk about, let’s say this time about building website as a progressive web app, as a PWA.


So I guess just to set the stage where I’m coming from the Angular momentum from is really know, headless to me. It would mean replacing the front end as you’re building an app or a web app.




Maybe to put it, because of Shopify renewables on Shopify.


If you’re running a store, you’re using it for back end orders, you know, product management, all that sort of stuff.


In the front end is your theme, and so handlers will just mean replacing that theme with anything else.


That’s, that’s my that’s my spiel.


Yeah, excellent, Andrea, Thank you.


And I know what I love so much about that definition is, then you use other words to define terms decoupling and separating and modular an API. Like, there are other ways to talk about this that actually mean the same thing, which is really important. We don’t feel lost when we’re doing that. Erin, anything to add to that? Definition?


Yeah, I mean, I totally agree.


I think there’s headless has been a different term that’s been used at different periods throughout kind of the years For different purposes, where, You know, It used to be a way to, to leverage one aspect of a tool, and not have to replace another, but get the benefits of another tool. So it kind of was this mix and match.


And I think the term that we’re really the reason why people are talking about it right now is this, is the overall, it’s the Progressive web App experience, where, where we’re doing a lot of the loading upfront in that initial kind of load. And then, subsequently, as each click happens, we’re really just loading that data that needs to be loaded specifically to that product detail page, and none of the other stuff that we’ve already loaded or we have already seen. And so, with that, religious translates to is a much faster experience.


And so, that’s what I think, a lot of the, there’s a lot of terminologies, But it really comes down to people kind of go like, oh, that’s the, that’s the fast way of No loading a site Essentially.


Yeah, I mean, that’s what we’re doing, and it’s just taking it in a different approach, and You know, there are similarities to like what an app experience in app experience would be in terms of how that performs in terms of data being passed back and forth, and, and things like that. But ultimately it’s, it’s, it’s really about that that performance and speed for the end, consumer experience.


Great, thanks for that.


I appreciate it, and we’ll, I’m thinking in terms of thinking in terms of, you know, building something that is, that has had let’s thinking. in terms of managing that development, but then thinking about the user experience. You know, what’s your, what’s your experience with with headless? And that’s sort of the build out of that.


Yeah. It’s a great question. I think the most correct, because headless meaning has changed over time.


So you knew what it was 20 years ago, which was like, the computer doesn’t have a monitor, is what it used to be, like a sap application that has APIs behind it.


An engineering perspective, whenever we’re building something, is nearly always better to build a headless approach.


Like you should build your UI next to your API, and then people can use that if they want.


But then you have the ability to expose those APIs to your customers, and they can do whatever they want with it, which gives them a lot of flexibility, and new opportunities to expand into different markets and use cases, A really cool idea. And it’s like, you can’t practice engineering.


Yeah, excellent. I know what is so intriguing to me is that started wanting to define headless, because it’s a way to build an experience for a shopper. But I think what I got from all three of you too is, it’s the way to build a better experience for a merchant as well, right? You’ve got this flexibility on your end, too.


two, offer an experience that is, is what’s in your mind’s eye is what makes it the best experience for a shopper. So I think there’s, there’s dual experiences here, the shopper, and the and the actual merchant who’s building it out and that’s, that’s really interesting. Yeah, yeah, and I think just to add on that, I think that the Progressive web App, please, definitely is the element of addressing the front end user experience.


So I think, you know, with kind of the rise in mobile, we’ve got client center, 80, 90% mobile traffic.


It’s, it’s, how can we begin to experience that Is something that they’re expecting and used to in navigating applications.


And then yes, on the on the merchant side as well, no, taking a headless approach means you get to define everything around how you manage the store, the workflow.


So I think, you know, that that’s kind of the magic balance.


Because on on one sided equation, the flexibility is great because you can build whatever you want, but that means you, the burden is on you to figure that out. So you have to, you know, really make sure you’re making the right decisions.


Building something that’s going to be easy for you to manage and give you the development efficiency you want.


So that’s, that’s, you know, why we work with clients to kind of help navigate, you know, the waters of having that much flexibility.


Yeah, for sure.


Yeah, I think it’s one of those things that can be a great experience for the merchant and can also be a really horrible experience for the merchant when done wrong, And I think that way no new technology entering into the market, like pack and things like that are are aimed at giving us the benefit. Without having to deal with the ramifications of what a lot of people, know, may have as stereotypical issues in the past or challenges or things like that.


So, you know, it’s not that This is necessarily being invented it.


It’s almost similar to kind of the, you know, the SaaS model with e-commerce in general, which is, we don’t have to re-invent the world. We just need a way of getting the benefits. And we need to do that in a way that’s really easy for the merchant as well. And so that’s where we’re really kind of seeing that shift in the market is bringing the barrier and the difficulty. No entry point down, so that we can get those benefits in other ways.


Great. All right. We had a question come in from, from a listener. I love, it sounds like I’m an old Timey radio program. We got a listener who?


David Coin, so he gets this question here, is can you give an example of a non headless platform infused, being a longtime developer? Is this an issue using a platform like Shopify?


So I think as we get to definition, this is what it means, it might be nice to take one other step, which is example of an of an of something that isn’t, isn’t headless andry right.


Uh, so I would say by default, Shopify is it had lists because they provide a head and that had is the online store and the theming and the development work you can do on the front end.


Because Shopify


has a great set of APIs, you can take a headless approach to it, meaning that you can, you have the option to not use that theme and that liquid engine and use their APIs to build an alternative to a theme.


Um, so I would say Shopify is kind of a good way to talk about this because there is a way you can do it non headless way, which is what the vast majority of Shopify stores are built as.


And then there’s also a way where you can just not use their front end and use something else like like a PWA.


Um, I think there’s, there’s also arise of platforms out there, that, I would say, maybe, are competing with Shopify and they take a very purist approach to headless, where they don’t even provide you any any sort of head.


So here’s a here’s a platform with, know, when you hear some APIs, you go figure that out, that would be like a true definition of a headless platform.


But, you know, the most of the platforms out there, and Shopify big commerce that, you know, all of those are our, you know, big, big systems that really provide everything, including the head, but give you the option to go ahead.


Hopefully not.


Great. Thank you. And Will anything to add there in terms of the headless and products and examples?


Yeah. Just lack of anything that Oracle produced is like getting hacked or a non … application, really difficult to use one UI and your company, they bought the most part. Those kinds of applications, like, I wish I didn’t have this UI on the walk.


Yeah. That, that’s a good example.


And I’m sure that people, if it’s not Oracle, can, can think through, oh, I’m using a product like this for my work for my site, and I get that. Great, thank you, David. Thanks for the question. Really appreciate it. Let’s move on to our second poll, because I think we’re at a point now where we want to push this conversation a little bit further. So, Charles, if you can load up that second poll for us?


And the second poll question is which of the following do you think is the most impactful benefit headless commerce?


Improve speed load times, providing unique experience or brand affinity, more control over the management of content workflows that make sense.


Let’s see, we’re working through everybody’s voting. It’s really nice. Thank you so much for voting, we’ll give it a second here.


Almost ready? Few more votes coming in.


Yep, There we go. Charles, thank you.


So improve speed, load times, 30%, provide unique experience, 33 more control over the management of content, 30 and workflows. That makes sense.


7%, so pretty evenly distributed around the first three and workflows. That makes sense. Not none. None, a lot of takers on workflows, that makes sense. So let’s start with, with that, in terms of panel discussion.


Uh, Andrew can start with you, anything, in those, in those results that you see that is interesting Or surprising?


Yeah, I mean, I think, I think it’s interesting that the first three were kind of distributed.


But I don’t think the option B is anything to be ignored.


So I do think that, you know, this, this headless approach can address, you know, all these things.


I would say the the world that we live in within kind of Shopify brands that are that are really trying to push the limits is, know, those those brands that maybe, you know, build a custom theme maybe slapped on a bunch of apps that the platform and no development workflows. And then also site speed really takes a hit as a result of that. So you know that that is usually a ruling that we see. Merchants hit where, you know, the way that they’ve built out the storefront, the religious kind of done damage to the page loads in performance. So, I think that’s probably where A lot of conversations start. And then that ends up opening. the conversation of, you know, how are you managing that store? How are you managing the content?


What is your development workflow in staging environments? and all that sort of stuff.


If you end up kind of going down the path of headless, like, all of those conversations are going on up to be discussed, because you can really start to establish those.


So, yeah, I think, I think this is, you know, you’re good because it, it addresses all of these things.


Really depends on what the brand’s pain points are and ultimately why they would want to go down this path.


And it’s usually kind of one of these four mm, hm.


So, you make me think of a question, Andrew, based on your response.


And that is the importance of, I’m an e-commerce company, a merchant, to map out their flow.


I don’t know if that’s something people actually do habitually, or if you’re just jumping right in and you know, I’m blown all my products on the database and I’m start a cell and I’m really excited.


You know, maybe, we’ll just take a, take a stab at like, the important, So, kinda mapping out that workflow.


I would imagine is, is, it’s important, I just don’t know how many people are doing that.


That looks a lot of stuff, we think about it generally at spring, is, identify personas that are going to hit your site, that you can then, built specifically to.


You might have a specific type of shopper that you’ve identified as an asset, requirements and desires that you want to meet, aye.


Adding that flexibility to meet their needs, specifically, which you might not be able to do generically in Shopify, gives you, opens up a lot more possibilities to uniquely position your brand and your experience.


What that uses in tentative and what that desires are, which you have the most amount of knowledge about, something that you start with a large number of customers, A cart unique, A, tailor that experience for all different kinds of shoppers.


Whereas brands in boutique stores, they know who they are, a lot of that value is a lot more time making that fit the shoppers.


Great! And by the way, it’s It’s not a question, but I know at least one of the 7%. Because Megan just responded, in the questions, Q workflows are key with a giant, exclamation point. So That’s really nice to see. And we know she’s She’s one of the 7%. Let’s talk! A little bit about the benefits of of headless. We’ve touched on that here and there.


But let’s talk about some some benefits of building this very specifically benefits of building a headless, a headless environment. So, let’s start there, and maybe, Andrew, like, What’s kind of the top?


I don’t know, your top three benefits.


Yeah, I mean, I think, I think, in my mind, that the benefits are really going to be around site speed, marketing agility, and then establishing that workflow.


So, I think, again, you know, it kinda boils down to where the brand properties are.


When brands come to us and are really focused on site speed, it’s usually around giving the best user experience from that mobile user that’s coming across the site and making sure it’s fast, snappy, easy to shop.


So I think building in a headless environment where you’re using React and progressive web apps gives you that opportunity to make the, you know, site experience, You know, much more improved.


I think from a marketing agility standpoint, building something that allows, your marketing team does still have, control over.


Page building, standing up landing pages, continuing to test various funnels.


Know that the last situation is you wanna get yourself in, is building a store that is fast, but you take a step backwards in terms of ability to manage it and move quickly.


And then, you know, the third east there is, is maybe just Developement efficiency and workflow.


So I think, you know, usually a kind of like criteria point for us, win-win panelists kinda starts to make sense.


Those brands that are just hammering out their Shopify thing.


Maybe they’re no spending hundreds of hours on elements, or paying an agency to really try to push the limits on speed or push different functionality. It kind of begs the question of, you know, what is all that time and effort going towards? And is there a benefit to building in React and possibly having some more efficiencies and building complex features? I think those are kind of the the three points that usually come up and it’s like benefits And what is trying to be achieved by taking this approach.


Sure, Erinn, any anything yet?


I mean, I would just agree. I mean, I think back to the poll. I think if there’s almost a cause and effect of the conversation as well, I think if you look at, you know, B, which is like, build a great experience, and then a have a really fast site as well. I think the reality is, is that as E-commerce, and especially DTC, has evolved a B2C Brand has to create that experience. Which means we have to leverage more than we ever have before.


You know, I’ve I’ve heard stats at like 70% of what’s actually impacting pagespeed is things like external services, external scripts, tracking pixels, things like that.


So, what that means is, like, the code and the content, even when done well, it’s still only like 30% of that overall impact.


And so, what that leaves the brand kind of thinking about is: Do we do we had care of ourselves, or start to, you know, curb the experience that we want to create or we want to deliver? Or the tracking that we want to do in an effort for speed. And so, that becomes that choice for, for our brand.


And so, I think, know, and sometimes that choice isn’t easy to make, and you really can’t, you know, people expect live chat or loyalty or things like that.


And so what that does is after you squeeze the marrow out of everything that you can because you can certainly build a standard Shopify site and have great improvements over their old site or where they’ve migrated from a platform. I mean, it’s certainly not to say that they’re not fast.


I mean, we see people cut things that need and make, you know, 25% improvements with significant effort on an existing site, but you do hit that point where you can’t: you can only squeeze as much as you can squeeze out of the lemon. And so you have to start looking at other avenues to go, how do we do that, And that’s where these, these approaches have really come into play, which is, how do we give that high level of experience?


And yet, the high speed and what I mean experience is all the bells and whistles that that customers have come to expect.


As well as speed, I think, is really the relationship that we’re seeing. And that’s where the benefits, I think, really start to come into play. Obviously, there’s others in terms of publishing workflows or?


no other things that are, you know, low internet, and being able to still use the site? All those things are really key, but generally that’s where 90% of the conversation is.


Great, thanks. And, you know, we’ll, I want to, I want to ask you a specific question, because I, I’ve been involved in conversations with you about this type of thing, but I know that, in your role, you talk about that a lot.


Like, how do you squeeze the the most out of what you’ve got?


And then at what point do you say, Kate can’t squeeze out anymore? Gotta look at some other, some other avenue for, or speed, or experience. And what’s that process like?


I think, I think of it as others geographic my arms like a tradeoff. When I ask the mine site, and then drop in performance somewhere on that.


So if you want a very highly customized end to end up with a very slow JavaScript blocking things, like page load time.


Final interaction times one plus NaN, which is really terrible.


Things, you look at like a headless implementation, coupled with a progressive web app implementation. You can get off and end up in a plane And I think that’s super important.


Just didn’t make, because you can, like, like, I mentioned, on the call, if you just stay on Shopify and deal with liquid template, you can move down to some point. You’re going to be like, Right now, we have to do something different, and that’s why I really want to start considering an implementation. So you make these tradeoffs anymore?


That’s something that we thought about. Kind of the SDK.


That’s not grievance producing program, called Stack, you mentioned the React, react based implementation framework that allowed to build these things with that headless API back at super cool. And that.


Think about it from that perspective. How do you have a district?


Yeah, And just just a bill on that, too.


I think, I think they’re, every merchant kind of has their own journey through, through Shopify, and they hit guardrails at certain points.


And I think part of that is a product of how easy Shopify makes it to build out stores and scale yourself, right?


Where we’ve seen brands go from zero to a million to 10 million, to 20 million with, with, you know, very little, you know, development effort. And part of that is just the ability to go, go in, add apps, You know, customize and kind of hack around your theme. I think there’s a huge benefit for that, especially early on, Right, You need that agility, You need to build experiment and see what’s working. What’s not.


But, I think, you know, at some point, you definitely will hit kinda that ceiling, to your point where you really need to think about, All right. Let’s let’s build this thing holistically. Let’s think about what features and functionality we’re trying to prioritize, what is actually moving the needle forward.


And just, you know, instead of kind of going down that kinda Frankenstein system wrap really like building things holistically.


Cigarette your setup to kinda payback, hit that next growth curve.


It makes me think, and something we have not talked about yet is the analytical nature of the decision point to get into headless or maintain your existing trajectory. You know, Will’s talking about building graphs, you’re targeting, but, you know, all of a sudden, we’re gladly adding all these things in, but then all of you look at the data. and you can see that maybe the experiences or so.


Maybe touch on that.


briefly, like the analytical nature of getting into this is it just one day, you say, oh, well, we’re going to build something headless now?


Or is it really the progressive up until a certain point? You don’t need it and then did the analytics tell you?


Yeah, that’s, that’s a tricky one, because it’s, you know, every merchant kind of has their own journey, like I said.


And I think, over time, you end up kind of going down this path, know, whether it’s working with an agency, Whether it’s, you know, doing custom development now through some outsource team. But as your needs grow, you can end up in this situation where you’re just dumping a lot of development time and trying to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze as much out of it.


And then there’s also, like, admin burden, right?


Like, how, how often do you need to go to a developer to do things that you should be able to do on your own?


And as, as that grows and you become more reliant on either custom development or the codebase is really fragile, or any time I try to do this, it breaks that.


I think when you get enough of those, it starts to kind of lead into, All right.


We’ve got a really, you hit reset on, on our entire workflow. And that’s usually what leads to kind of an infrastructure like this.


Are there any drawbacks? I mean, I think up to this point, we’re talking about this is important. This is something we should do. It helps build experience or their drawbacks to to building headless.


Yeah. That’s an important question. So we’re obviously, very biased on how this should be done and what is a scalable way to build these stores.


I think the biggest drawback to headless, kind of like I said earlier, is that you are just removing the head, which means the burden is on the merchant to figure out what that is.


And that means that, you know, you could go down a path where it becomes very unscalable for you, or you rely on a developer to, you know, build out a new content management system, or an infrastructure that only they’re able to manage.


So again, the last thing you want to do is go down this headless approach without a plan, or the right partner on the right product to actually accomplish the goals you’re, you’re setting out to.


You know, I think there’s, you know, when I think about drawbacks, it’s, it’s that trying to kinda like venture down this path yourself.


And then there’s, there’s also things that, you know, you don’t want to take for. granted that, Shopify makes very easy, right, simple things, analytics, and product teams, and all that sort of stuff like that.


Those are kind of things we, you know, learn the hard way. I’m on that stuff, kinda figure that out, doing it, you know, the first second, third time.


But, I think, I think it’s just, you know, there is inherent risk of doing this on your own. And so I think that’s, that’s kind of the world that we’re trying to navigate when jumping into this in general.


Erin, you think there are drawbacks here? I’m in New York. You’re nodding.


Agree with Andrew, but it’s not anything.


I mean, I don’t know if it’s drawbacks. I mean, it’s just things to keep in mind. I mean, I think, you know, again, And It is more complex, right? And it’s, it’s usually for a more complex merchant. And, so, that means we.


No, it means more development time, more development expertise, or skill development, which, at the end of the day, means more cost, right? So there is more cost. And in terms of that, Doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ROI, certainly not, but it, there is, no, there is a barrier of being able to cross into that, to be able to go, OK, look, we’re gonna make this investment upfront. I think, overall, just more complexity. So, you know, some merchants.


It’s, it’s absolutely not the right fit because they’re not, you know, they’re still trying to really understand, to Andrew’s point, like how do we build a brand, what do we do?


Flexibility, the ability to install an upsell app and just have it run is really important for them.


That we get a lot of workflow benefits. That’s not one of them that we get, right?


We we now have integrations that we have to have integrations that work with Shopify, that work with pack as a headless perspective or we need to create them in some cases which just means a little bit more effort.


So that’s where, you know, there certainly are drawbacks, I would definitely agree in terms of like, going it alone.


We’ve seen a lot of experiences, where people have asked the question, like, do I really need a platform?


Can I do this myself, and I would say absolutely, like you need a platform because there’s no reason to learn all these bumps and and cracks on your own. And that’s where the platforms are really kind of coming into play, which is to address some of the additional time.


Difficulty, the expertise, is how do we bring that level down?


In all honesty, very much like Shopify has done in their own world, which is how do we make it easier to launch your store? Now, we’ve just evolve to how we make it easier to do, you know, a headless, you know, PWA experience in e-commerce, Shopify is many, many years ahead. So there’s still a lot of work to be done to make that easier. But that’s certainly what we’re talking about. What’s exciting about the trajectory in terms of where we’re getting. Certainly, there’s additional software costs, again, that you have to take into consideration because you still have, you know, in most of our worlds, you still have Shopify now. You have the platform hosting, things like that, that you’re taking into more consideration.


Personalization, 1 to 1 personalization is a little bit of a bit tricky, more tricky conversation in a, in a PWA experience, just by the nature of how we’re delivering content.


Andrews, right? I think, you know, analytics was always something years ago was really scary and PWA, but, again, that’s something that leaps and bounds now really isn’t an issue, but it’s still things that we’re educating consumers and merchants on like, No, we can do this. It’s not the way that used to be. It’s, you know, the platforms are, there are. other platforms like, olive are things like that that are leaning into even make that easier to. So, it’s really in and around that I think it’s it’s it’s the roi of it. And if that’s there, then it’s great.


Well I want to ask you a question about complexity, and this is going to lead into our third topic, but.


If I’m if, as a listener to this conversation, I hear a lot of benefits about headless. I’ve just heard a whole, you know, a stack of things that are, could make it potentially complex or that I need to consider.


Well, how do you think through simplifying that, so that I can get started, rather than, Oh, my gosh, that list of complexity from Aaron makes me think, I am not quite ready yet. You know? How do you think about that simplification?


Ah, when I think about e-commerce, specifically, I think of it as race, that you’re a news event, and I’m like, you are not only competing against Amazon, who is obviously a very large competitor is trying to destroy everyone.


But also, all of your competitors.


We haven’t had groups like that.


The distance between you and your nearest competitor is only as fast as you can move, and it’s not painting you all, right? It doesn’t just finished it while the platform is going to add features as plugging at some point.


And now, all this innovation like it with a pot, is now just a click away on Shopify and things like that. So you have to be continually innovating on top of these things.


And in order to do that which talks that JSON point of complexity, you be able to move XP. And so the headless Implementation London’s Tate, and the code that we use has to be maintainable, changeable, and continue to be updatable, hostile, choosing a good partner to work with people.


Like, no, what the acronym PWA dashboard that puts your head and shoulder implementation, even though it’s not a new technology, most people, client, browser side way of doing things in the background and having the most experience possible.


So from a complexity standpoint, keeping that in mind, you’re in a race, and the speed at which you can move in a ship, you aren’t your talk, and it’s not just the initial time implementation of game live, but all of the things you’re going to want to do.


Yeah, that was a long answer to your question. No, That’s good. That’s great point. That’s a great point, and I want I will touch back on that just a second. I want to launch a couple more polls, though, because I think it will take us to it’ll take us to the third part, into the fourth part and we can set that up and then and then bring this home. So the poll here is have you started using headless technologies? Let’s just get a lay of the land landscape of the of the people who are listening here.


So votes are coming in, and let’s see here.


My notes straight, let’s see, we’re just about there with everybody.


Yeah, this looks good, Charles. I think we can close it out because the numbers are pretty consistent.


So we’ve got 27% of listeners at, yes, 65, no, but we’d like to start at 8%. No. So let’s pause on any reaction to that for now, and then girls.


Put up the second part of this poll, which of the following e-commerce platforms do you use?


So let’s see where we are, where we are there.


And the combination of those answers will lead us to the next, the next part of that conversation.


Votes are coming in, so thank you very much for doing that.


Love it, glad you’re so engaged with us and really appreciate the questions, are always great to, so thank you for for putting those questions.


All right, and I think, Charles, we’re about where we’re going to be there. So Shopify Plus 56, Magento 2, 13 Big Commerce, six and something else, 25. All right, great. So here’s what I wanna do before we talk about a number of overall reaction to those.


Those polls, or the majority of these people, were, no, but we’d like to start exploring this.


So, the first thing I’d like to talk about is, how, how did we get started?


How did the people listening today get started with, with using this technology?


I mean, Andrew, it’s probably as close as a phone call away from you, but the reality is, somebody’s gonna want to do something maybe different. So what’s, what’s the, how do you get started? How do we start?


That was kind of cute queued up perfectly for us, too, but, um, so I think, before even jumping into that, I would first ask the question of what is the goal you’re trying to accomplish, because I think it’s site speed.


Great, that’s one thing.


If it’s content management, that’s another. If it’s development workflows, that that’s another.


So I think it’s, it’s really making sure you’re intentional, intentional about what you’re trying to accomplish.


Um, if it is kind of going down the path of, no, really want to improve site speed when I’m working in ways, not sort of stuff like that, is, basically why we exist, It’s just, too bring that barrier lower to getting a PWA up and running. And just de risking the entire approach. So you don’t have to go down this path of doing it all yourself.


So know, what our platform provides, it’s like, it’s as easy as like signing up, you connect your Shopify so we can pull in your product data. You get a starter theme with that’s React and next Js based, and you can kind of be off to the races and developing.


That solves a lot of headaches and backend work that we’ve been building for the last couple of years.


So no, I think I think the one thing I would caution on is just this I think is just a bad idea in general.


We’ve seen lots of, you know, just unique approaches to head lists.


We’ve seen people take a headless CMS and try to shove it into a Shopify theme and we’ve seen that without without a ton of benefits.


So I think that because there’s so many different flavors and angles and way you can approach had lists, I think it’s just starting out with what’s the goal you’re trying to accomplish and then choosing the right, right technology to actually address the goal.


Think, you know, there, depending on what that is, there could be a way to ease into it. And maybe there’s a technology you can start to leverage and get live sooner, or it might be a larger overhaul project to really kind of take over the whole experience as a PWA.




So Erin, I am You guys keep saying fascinating things. I keep writing notes down here. And Aaron, I’d like you to respond to some of those notes that I’ve got here. So you know the best way to get started.


What’s the goal be intentional choose the right tech?


And I editorialize by adding something that says get help, in terms of those four things. Anything you want to add, or add some color to those? How do I get started?


Yeah, I mean, I think You know, obviously, we have a lot of these conversations with with, with brands. And I would totally agree. I think one going headless, for the sake of, I’ve heard about it. And I saw an article where going that is.


It’s like putting yourself on a diet for no reason, just other than somebody else is doing it. It doesn’t really have value.


You need to have an understanding of, obviously, goals are important, but it’s not about goals. It’s like, what is the system that you want to, to build and create? And then, ultimately, how is that going to help you achieve some of those goals.


I think one of the things that we talk to brands a lot about is, is it’s so easy to get caught up, and I think that’s where, again, few years ago, I mean, we saw a lot of situations which were, um, not good situations, and it had less experience where people weren’t even really sure why they got their, how they got there, or they inherited it, Or somebody built it before them, and they’re like, I don’t even know why it’s like this. Or we’ve got to CMS’s. I don’t even know why that stuff happened, right?


And so, now, I think getting them back to Andrew’s point, really understanding what’s your goal, where do you wanna go with this? Why are you doing this? Is everybody on board listening to all the different stakeholders? Right?


It’s really easy to get enamored by the engineering workflows and processes and technology, but at the end of the day, the e-commerce team, the marketing team, they’re gonna have to run this thing and drive it every day. So, what’s that experience like for them? So I tell people, For us, it’s, yes. Obviously, talking to a platform, Talking to an agency partner, we’d love to talk to people. But talking to somebody who’s, who’s doing that type of work, but then also getting in the weeds about what is day-to-day Look. Like, what does it look like for us to do a big content update, or what would an experience be like to publish the spring line, or this summer aligned? Or how do we do AB testing? Again, understanding what that looks like.


Because the worst thing that you can do, we see it all the time, right? Just because it’s a better technology, doesn’t mean people are going to be comfortable with that. And that’s where you don’t get the buy in, and you don’t get the benefit of it.


So really making sure that you include those other, know, stakeholders in the conversation, so they can experience it, because that’s where I would say the big difference in terms of headless approaches is what is the admin? What is the publishing experience? What is the non technical experience is almost what bubbles up quicker than any of the development experience conversations. That’s what either makes it or breaks it for people.


From a day-to-day standpoint, even when the speed is super fast, that’s what, what people hear about most quickly. So definitely get those people involved, get them, demo’s, get them involved in the conversation.


Excellent, excellent points.


And I was, I laughed a minute ago when you said that.


Because, you know, when I’m not doing this, I am, you know, managing a marketing team internally at Searchspring. And we’re putting together websites and content and were the victims of something’s growing. And we’ve got a lot of stakeholders and a lot of users and we want to make changes. And so this is applicable to lots of different conversation.


Your car so many? Yeah, I mean, search in particular, I mean, if you talk about Searchspring and a headless experience, you know Searchspring experiences to allow people to know, do I have to write an algorithm to wait something or read Jack’s to wait something?


No, you’re clicking buttons to wait it down, That is so key to people’s day to day jobs and their efficiencies to move nimbly. So it’s, it’s not just in that one question. It’s really understanding the workflows that you’re going to have and what do you need to do. So that way, whatever partner you’re working with is going to be able to set you up for success.


Not the shiny new tool that it’s that’s not going to hit, hit all the marks for you.


Thank you. OK, so I’ve got, we’ve got time for about two more questions, one from the audience, and one from me. So, I’ll hit the audience question first.


We’ll if you can just take a take a quick stab at this one, which is, what is a PWA? It’s funny because right before the session in our little prep session, we were talking about, how do we make sure we define things so that people understand and here we go. What does a PWA, you know, is it different from a website or just a different way of creating a website really well for a question?


Thanks for that, for that question. So we’ll start there, and we can we can go round, if needed.


I think, and, again, you take this one, like, a couple of applications.


Fantastic. Alright, Andrew, Over to you, ready, or not?


I would say, so a PWA is an application as opposed to a website.


So I think the trend right now, I think Erin mentioned earlier, kind of static site generation, which basically means, instead of have any Shopify environment where you click on a product page. And then it fetches from Shopify database, brings it back, and you’re going to have this loading experience.


When you statically generated site, all that data is stored in the browser, which allows you to have very rapid, you know, transitions between pages. So I think that’s the biggest thing for me.


Speed and performance benefit.


The, like, popular frameworks that are doing this our next Js and Gatsby. If you wanted to take a look a bit further into those.


But, you know, again, this is kind of the core reason why Headless has become such a trend in such a hot topic is, you know, people are just addicted to those sites. Be that such a better experience. And How do I translate that to my, my e-commerce site? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as a little Shopify add on and it’s magic, There’s just a lot of, you know, technical implications that you have to go through to get that sort of technology.


So yeah, I think that’s a good question, and maybe a failure in defining that upfront. But, yeah, Progressive web, app, totally different from a traditional website.


Cool. And it doesn’t matter to me when we answer the question. It’s just that we get it.


Thanks for that, for that thorough answer. And then we have time, just a little bit of time, for one more, one more topic.


And I want to I want to give the audience some a specific example.


Maybe Andrew, you’re arrogant to this question, to like a client and a good example of that clients, you know, journey with you and using coming in at one point and becoming a headless, headless e-commerce site. You know, just give us an example of that as a way to end.


Yeah, Yeah. So, you know, we have a few case studies on my website. Clothing being one, Liquid ID, beekeeper, unnatural. There’s there’s a few out there that we can, we can share to just see the experience.


But usually the journey, you know, with, with a lot of our clients is scaling on Shopify. And taking advantage of all the benefits of, you know, being able to move quickly and experiment with apps and really establish themselves as a brand.


Lot of nice, you know, companies either ended up having, I didn’t House Development team, or, you know, when an agency that they were working with, and just hit a ceiling with regards to, kind of all the things that we had talked about, whether it’s slow sites be, you know, or performance, really fragile code. Base difficult to manage content. And that’s really when they kind of took that leap, So a lot of the clients and the case studies that we have, where are those that really took that approach it, like, let’s just convert everything to a PWA so we can, you know, set ourselves up for the next trajectory of growth.


So, yeah, happy to, you know, share, share website links, and all that good stuff as a as a follow up.


Excellent. Thanks. Erin. Any any last comments? But we’re at the top of the hour, so I want to make sure that we know. But I’m nothing for you.


No, No. Just thanks for thanks for having me.


Yeah. And you’re welcome. We’ll any, any last comments?


Nope. I am. Good.




Excellent. Well, thanks. I want to make sure the audience knows if you want to talk, Feel free to reach out to Aaron or Andrew or will to talk about headless. If you want to talk about surfing, you can reach out to Erin, Andrew, as well. I’m sure they’ll be happy to talk surfing with you, and I’d like to tell you about our next webinar coming up on April 20th.


Enhancing e-commerce site search, so obviously, something very near and dear to Searchspring heart, but great topic, nonetheless, in terms of the things you can learn about. your, your shoppers, and their experience, and their journey through your site.


So thank you for that. That’s coming up in April. You can register for that now.


Erin? Andrew, will, thank you so much for joining. Really appreciate it. Great descriptions. Great information. Thank you for sharing, and so freely doing that.


Really appreciate it. And we will talk soon.


So, thank you, guys.


Thanks, everyone.


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