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Move over Amazon; headless commerce is taking over.

Move over Amazon; headless commerce is taking over.
February 17, 2021

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E-commerce has come a long way, with companies like Amazon and e-commerce platform builders like Shopify growing from tiny start-ups to kings of the retail mountain. As e-commerce continues to evolve and consumers get more tech-savvy, we are seeing a greater merchant adoption of headless commerce architecture that marries customer experience with full-scale e-commerce capabilities like seamless checkout processes and personalized experiences. Because of their flexibility and adaptability and in light of future e-commerce growth, businesses that support headless commerce are attracting greater investor interest. 

But what exactly is headless commerce? 
In simple terms, headless commerce is a website architecture that separates the front-end (which a customer sees) from the back-end with includes the e-commerce application. This separation helps merchants to be more flexible and consistent on the presentation of their website to their customers and creates less downtime when updating either end, as they are separate within the tech architecture. The front-end and back-end of the site communicate through APIs to ensure seamless data flow.

What is the difference? 
Traditional e-commerce generally uses a monolithic strategy of the same enterprise provider for software and hardware and features predetermined interactions and setups. In a real-world example, this architecture is similar to walking through a department store with predetermined aisles, where customers experience what merchants anticipate will be popular. From a technology perspective, this anticipation means the e-commerce platforms need to maintain large infrastructures that are predictable and can't be changed very often. In comparison, headless commerce has the flexibility to change and be responsive to customers and trends since the front-facing site is detached from the back-end infrastructure and can be updated constantly without disruption. 

Companies powering headless commerce

  • Big Commerce is an online marketplace company that powers the back-end of headless commerce architecture. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the company went public in August 2020 under BIGC. 
  • Fabric is a startup from Bellevue, Washington, that raised a $43MM A Round this month after raising seed funding just 4 months prior. Similar to Big Commerce, it provides an e-commerce platform for merchants to sell directly to customers.
  • Shogun helps build the front-end of an e-commerce platform with easy drag and drop functions and pre-made templates. In October, 2020, the Burlingame, California-based company raised its Round B of funding led by Accel Partners. It boasts 15,000 companies using its platform and 182% growth in revenues YOY. 
  • Nacelle closed an $18MM Series A funding round in January 2021 after raising its seed equity round in July 2020. The startup helps optimize e-commerce sites on the front-end for faster loading using progressive web applications (PWAs).
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