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Why Headless eCommerce Is The Future Of The Retail Industry

Contributed by: Gareth Simpson, Product Manager @GroupBy


As a fast-moving industry with plenty of competition, retail is always on the lookout for the next technological trend that will shape shopper behaviour and increase their margins. These trends don’t always come to pass, and large retailers can be understandably hesitant to make expensive bets on whether or not a particular trend is the wave of the future when it could turn out to be just the flavour of the month. However, as I spend more time speaking with our customers, I’ve learned that what we call “Headless eCommerce” is no longer just a trend, it’s the dominant direction of the retail industry.

First, some context:

Historically, eCommerce companies were oriented around monolithic platforms. Generally deployed on-premise, these platforms can handle everything a retailer needs to get an online shop up and running. The appeal to customers is that of a one-stop shop; if there’s a problem with your search engine, or your merchandising tools, or your on-site analytics, you could call the same support line since everything you used daily all came from the same vendor.

However, the problem with a platform that does everything you need becomes apparent when those platforms effectively function as closed ecosystems. What retailers came to realize is that when they are only able to depend on one product to solve all of their problems, their ability to provide the best possible service to their shoppers is limited to what a single vendor can support. The retailer is locked into that vendor, and switching to a new platform altogether can be stressful and expensive.

The purpose of Headless eCommerce is to give retailers the flexibility they need to pick and choose the services they use to power their online shop based on what provides the most value to their business and their customers. In effect, headless eCommerce turns the retailer into the platform, allowing them to take back ownership of their customer experience. This enables the retailer to drive more value from their partners and providers since testing and even switching to a brand-new service becomes exponentially more accessible and less risky than it was in the platform era.

Explained simply:

Headless eCommerce is built on the concept of a microservices architecture, where complex business workflows and processes are supported by many granular components that perform individual tasks and deliver value independent of the other components within that workflow. Every service provided by the old monolithic platforms becomes its own API, and you can pick and choose which services work best for your business when building your online marketplace.

It would be easy to assume that eCommerce providers would not welcome the advent of headless eCommerce, and it’s possible that for some companies that may be true. However, GroupBy was conceived as an API-first eCommerce provider, and we are big believers in the value of headless solutions. The reason why is simple: we want to provide the most value to our customers. We want our customers to be able to pick and choose our services because they are the best in the market, not because you have to use one to get value out of the other. For example, our Searchandiser product works incredibly well on its own (just ask our customers.) However, pairing Searchandiser with GroupBy Enrich to improve the product data made available to the Searchandiser engine provides exponentially more value to the business overall. Our catchphrase on the product team is that each service should be “great on its own, but better together.”

We believe that the customer should get to decide what makes the best experience for their shoppers and their business, rather than be limited to whatever they’re able to get from a single provider.

If you’re interested in learning more about headless eCommerce or considering migrating away from monolithic platforms, please contact sales@groupbyinc.com for a conversation about what GroupBy’s API-first approach can do for your business.