Is it right for your eCommerce business?

Add To Cart Podcast
Episode 3

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are rejoined by Josh Newport from Shopify Plus to discuss headless commerce. We quickly define what it is and then dive into the pros and cons of the headless model. We explore how retailers such as Koala and Adore Beauty have gone headless, Shopify’s position and how to get started to know if headless is right for your business. 

🎧 LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE:

Questions answered in this episode include

  • What is headless commerce?
  • What are the pros and cons of a headless model? 
  • How do you know if headless is right for your business?

🔥 HOT TIP

In this episode, we talk about the power of butchers paper! Headless architecture can seem really overwhelming but if you start with the most basic architecture and test potential headless models with your colleagues in a low-fi setting, you can get a guide on whether headless is feasible to explore for your business.

🔗 Links from the episode 

About your co-host

Josh Newport from Shopify Plus

Josh Newport leads Merchant Engagement for Shopify Plus in the Asia Pacific region, working with some of the largest brands on the platform. Josh has previously led digital strategy in agencies and advised clients across marketing, search and social.

You can contact Josh on LinkedIn

This episode was brought to you by…

Full Episode Transcript

Nathan: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Episode 3 of Add to Cart. My name is Nathan Bush and I’m the founder of e-commerce consultancy, 12HIGH. Joining me today on this episode will be Josh Newport, who heads up merchant engagement for Shopify Plus. And we’re going to talk all things Headless Commerce; what is it and is it right for your business?

But before we get into that, I just want to say thank you very much for everyone’s support in the first two episodes. By some strange miracle, we’ve cracked Apple iTunes Top 20 marketing podcasts for Australia. So, two episodes in. And to achieve that is fantastic and unexpected and means that we probably have to continue this on.

So, thank you for all your shares, especially those who’ve shared it on LinkedIn. And for those five people who’ve reviewed it on iTunes, that is fantastic as well. So, thank you very much for your support.

Also, thank you very much to Shopify Plus for continuing to partner with us on this podcast. We really appreciate your support and your input.

So, let’s get straight into the episode. We’re going to go straight over to Josh and we’re going to talk all things Headless Commerce. So, this was recorded a couple of weeks ago. And since then, there’s been a few things that you want to listen out for.

So, in this podcast, Josh refers to 820 thousand merchants on Shopify Plus. It’s actually just cracked 1 million merchants across Shopify. So, it’s an outstanding achievement that’s happened recently.

Also, one thing that they have announced is an integrated email solution within the Shopify platform. They’ve also removed support for the direct integration into the very popular email platform, MailChimp, which seems to be a decision that happened on both sides.

Now, we didn’t get a chance to talk about this, and I would have loved to because it works really well with our Headless Commerce theme. And it seems that Shopify have made a very distinct decision to try and bring everyone into the one platform, which almost goes against the Headless model. And I would have loved to touch on that with Josh, but unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance. So, we might have to come back to that later.

But for now, let’s get stuck into the episode. Here’s our conversation with Josh Newport. Forgive all the cheesy jokes, especially the Josh’s joke around Sleepy Hollow and the way we crack ourselves up over nerd stuff.

Hello, mate.

Josh: Hello, mate. Thanks so much for having me on. Appreciate it.

Nathan: Pleasure. Where are joining us from now?

Josh: I’m at Level 21 in the new WeWork building in Melbourne in a similarly purpose-built soundproof both for podcasting.

Nathan: Perfect.

Josh: Which is very handy. So, cannot hear too much outside. So, hopefully you can hear me loud and clear.

Nathan: I can. And that’s great because we’re very professional around here.

Josh: We are. I’m just waiting for Netflix to come call in and ask for some sort of series from us.

Nathan: Bound to happen.

Josh: Absolutely.

Nathan: All right. So, our topic today is Headless Commerce; what is it and is it right for you and your business? So, to get us started, Josh. Can you give me an overview on what your thoughts around what is Headless Commerce? Because it’s a term that we’re seeing thrown around a lot at the moment; everyone’s talking about it. Does everyone have a clear understanding of actually what it is?

Josh: Yeah. And I think you hit the nail on the head there with everyone seemingly talking about it. It’s interesting because it’s not actually something that’s super new; it’s actually been around for quite a long time. I think someone just gone and coined the term and it’s all of a sudden very, very popular.

So, really mean the Headless Commerce basics or definition is you’re de-coupling your front end customer experience from your back end technology infrastructure. So, the decoupling of your front end and back end.

Nathan: Beautiful. And the one thing that I am looking at it with and going, “Is it really, though? Is it a technology decision or is it a business decision?” Because I think you’re absolutely right (You’re spot on.) is that it is a decoupling from a technology point of view.

But to me, there’s a high level decision here from a business; whether you want to be tied to one platform and try and have that do everything for you, which has been the way it’s been sold in, from a lot of enterprise, especially the enterprise level. Or do you want to actually take control of your destiny, but in which case you almost become a technologist rather than a retailer?

Josh: Yeah, totally. I think the retailers that I’ve seen adopt this fairly early on, just very technology-first retailers. So, if the business is kind of driven by technology, that’s sort of where I’m seeing these decisions being made, I guess, in the first case.

I totally agree that it’s a business decision. There’s going to be a fair bit of cost involved in terms of set up and then sort of ongoing maintenance. And you need to make sure you have really the right infrastructure, internally, to be able to handle it. And so, I mean, resources like developers, you’ve got maybe some deeper pockets than some other retailers to make sure that you can maintain this.

So, yes, it is a business decision and it’s normally made from companies that are tech-first in their thinking and especially customers experience-centric, like everything’s around the customer experience. So, they’re kind of happy to maybe spend a little bit more and try and sort of mould this completely customer experience on the front end.

Nathan: Beautiful. So, I think we’ve already started touching on it, but I want to dive into what the benefits are for Headless. So, if we go, “All right, great. We’ve got it. That is the decoupling of the front end and the back end. There’s a high level of business understanding that’s needed here because it does come with pros and cons.” Can we talk about the pros first? Tell me about why people are doing this.

Josh: Yes, totally. I think there’s sort of three or four main probably benefits that a lot of retailers are chasing when it comes to something like Headless.

So, number one is probably something like flexibility. So, because the front end and back end are decoupled, you can deploy those rapid changes across your architecture a lot faster. And also if your back end have performance issues or needed maintenance, it means your front end isn’t going to go down because it’s completely separate.

The second one there probably is around customization and personalization. So, if you don’t have a front end that’s defined by a platform’s content management system, CMS, brands can typically create and cater a completely unique user experience for their customers.

And they can kind of do this in whatever framework that they like. So, I hear a lot of developers sort of talk about, “Oh, I’m a massive fan of React” or “I love UJA.” So, everyone’s got their own flavour of what they like.

And by going Headless, you’re kind of allowing your dev team or your tech team to be out to use the technologies and frameworks that they prefer. And in fact, I’ve heard from a couple of retailers that can actually be a little bit of incentive in terms of trying to hire a new developer or some developers into your team, giving them the flexibility to kind of be creative and do their own thing. So, I see that as a bit of almost like a hiring technique for some retailers; dangling that carrot of complete flexibility and customization.

Another really important benefit and I think, again, we’re hearing this more and more from retailers, it’s just speed. A platform is going to be packaged together with lots of features that may not be used by that retailer and that can have an effect on performance. So, by shifting that display logic to your client side and taking the back end functions away completely, you can typically see a lot of improvements around just pure speed.

And of the retailers I’ve seen that have gone Headless, those that, again, are really, really focusing on the speed aspect have normally built progressive web app or PWA to sort of handle that front end.

So, those are for the main kind of benefits. Another one might be scalability. So, some brands want to have like a micro services approach to their architecture. Because you’re able to keep the front end and back end separate, you can easily upgrade or customize your digital assets without compromising that performance. So, as your assets grow, you grow as well.

And I think it’s kind of less of a consideration for something like Shopify or like a platform like Shopify and that that’s kind of very scalable in itself.

So, whoever I have spoken to around Headless, I think the real main driver is probably just out and out speed and then looking for that customization aspect as well.

Nathan: Yeah, and I agree with everything that you’ve said and I think it’s a really good approach from what’s happening today. I guess where I get really excited about it is around what it opens up for the future.

So, there’s kind of two bits here. There’s the piece where people are looking at their current technology and whether it’s a big enterprise platform and going, “Shit, everything’s just so hard at the moment to get something in.”

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: Or they’re looking at one of their solutions and going, “Actually, I like what most of this does. There’s just something else that I wish it would do, but it’s not worth operating the whole system and going again.” So, I kind of see another benefit there being that it can make up for some of that.

Josh: Totally.

Nathan: But even more than that is some of the changes that we’re seeing about e-commerce is that your web store isn’t your only store and we’ll become more and more of that way, especially what we’re talking about in terms of omni-channel integration into store. And you guys are doing a lot of that yourself, especially in the US around integrating your depots.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: And also what we’re seeing with social and social commerce and making that available to customers. So, if you can have a really strong e-commerce engine is kind of how I put it and whether you see it as a front end or back end. But an e-commerce engine that kind of has all your products and your pricing and your promotions and ability to take payment, if that can plug into any marketplace, any social network, any Web app, even in-store, you’re in a much better place for the future.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. As you said, having that sort of centralized back end where all those back end functions are taking place and all that sort of complexity can lie and then opening up to have different experiences across different devices. Like I saw yesterday that Apple’s iOS 13 code is looking at their new AR glass sort of technology. You know what? What might that look like in the future?

So, yeah, you’re opening yourself up to greater flexibility. And as you said, as the channels continue to increase, from a retailer’s perspective, it’s going to sort of open up that chance to do that in a much easier way than maybe being completely owned by the platform.

Nathan: Is it going too far to say that a good Headless solution is the new ERP?

Josh: Oh, let’s not start this spark this big, big Headless chat again. I don’t think so. I think again, as I sort of said, this has been around for a long time and retailers like Koala did this like two years ago, three years ago and that technology was around before then.

It’s just become sexy again for some reason. You know, a lot of direct-to-consumer brands are wanting to go Headless because it’s the new thing, apparently.

Nathan: Do you think it’s because someone actually called it “Headless” rather than “Best of Breed”, which isn’t really sexy term as someone’s gone. “Oh, Headless. That’s cool”?

Josh: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s probably a big driver as to why we’re just hearing this more and more. I mean, if you go and jump into Google Trends, you do a search for “Headless” or “Headless commerce”, you’re going to see, for the last sort of year or two, like quite a bit of an uptick in terms of search trends there.

So, someone obviously has coined that term and probably feeling very good about themselves, as they say that bounced around everywhere. But it’s important that retailers don’t get swept up on it and they really actually take the time to understand the upsides and downsides of it.

Nathan: Well, hopefully they get swept up enough that they see “Headless” in the title of this podcast and they go, “Oh, that looks interesting. Well, I’m an idiot a bit on that.”

Josh: Yeah. Is this an episode of like podcast talking about Sleepy Hollow or are we talking about commerce technology?

Nathan: Beautiful.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: So, you mentioned Koala there before. They’re are obviously a Shopify Plus client and one of your key case studies around Headless. From a Shopify Plus perspective, I think that’s really interesting that you’ve gone out with the story around Headless and how Shopify Plus can enable that, rather than going out and saying, “Just come to us. We can solve everything for you”, which is almost the Shopify kind of story; making retail simple for everyone or accessible for a run. I can’t remember the actual tagline.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: But it’s about, “We’ll just make it easy for you.”

Josh: Make commerce better for everyone.

Nathan: Spot on. Totally be proud.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: So, if you go, “Shopify is all about just make it simple for me. Don’t make me think. I’ll add some plugins or some apps and we’ll actually get this thing pumping. I don’t have to worry about the ecosystem or the architecture too much.”

The narrative seems to change a little bit with Shopify Plus in terms of, “We’re a really solid e-commerce partner, especially for those medium to large businesses to accelerate your growth. But we’re not the only ones you need. We’re actually part of a network here.”

And you’ve held Koala up pretty high as a case study in Headless. Can you tell us more a little bit about how Koala approaches Headless and how that interacts with Shopify Plus?

Josh: Yeah, totally. I mean, I’ll sort of address the – You know, the kind of talking point here around Shopify is typically seen as that out-of-the-box solution and now we’re kind of promoting this ability to use our storefront API to better create your own sort of custom solution from a front end perspective.

And that’s really true. Like for the majority of Shopify’s customers, let’s sort of ignore Plus for now, let’s just talk about Shopify, that out-of-the-box functionality is incredibly important and allows very new businesses to scale up very quickly; to doing some decent revenue, maybe starting to hire their first couple of employees and seeing some really good growth.

It’s with our larger brands who are obviously typically the ones that are using Shopify Plus. They have larger internal dev teams, they’ve already scaled to a really good size of revenue and now they’re starting to look for that next step of speed, personalization, customizability, all the kind of things we talked about around the benefits of Headless. And we want to enable that for brands.

We’ve actually enabled it for a long time, we’ve just never been good at talking about it. So, a big focus this year for us was to actually kind of properly announce and create some materials around customer store fronts. So, if you go to our site now, you’re going to see a lot more resource there around Shopify’s capabilities with custom store fronts and enabling brands to kind of go down that path if they choose to.

I think ultimately Shopify wants to become that platform where you shouldn’t have to go Headless. You should be able to have a good enough experience that everything is fast enough. You can customize what you need all in the one platform.

Now, obviously, the larger you get as a retailer, the more complexity you have that’s innate to your business, there’s going to be a fair bit of, “You know, this logic for retailer X doesn’t translate across to this retailer here and this retailer here.”

So, we also kind of acknowledge that Shopify can do typically 80 percent of what you need to do. And we should leave the other 20 percent to you and create the extensibility for APIs for you to build that yourself.

Nathan: Because I think that’s a really interesting point, because from a Shopify perspective, because you’ve got such great market saturation, I can’t remember how many merchants you’ve got just on Shopify Standard now. It’s –

Josh: Just 820 thousand and growing.

Nathan: Yeah, it’s a crazy amount. And I think you’re starting to get to the point now where you can tell a Shopify site.

Josh: Yeah. Yeah, totally.

Nathan: Yeah.

Josh: There’s some typical tales; whether it be some common theme template, look and feel or you get to the checkout, you’re going to start to see a fairly familiar feel there unless you are really customizing that.

But yeah, I think customers are starting to catch on. I mean, even just for me, a couple of years ago when I started, people would ask, “Who do you work for?” And I say, “Shopify.” and it would be, “Oh, cool; Spotify. What do you do there?” And oftentimes I’ll just not bother correcting them and just say, “I work in the rock department” or something because it is easier.

Nathan: I’m in charge of Hip Hop.

Josh: I’m in charge of Hip Hop. Yeah.

Nathan: Yeah.

Josh: But today, I say, “Hey, I work for Shopify.” And people are noticing. You know, I was checking into a hotel the other day and they noticed my Shopify T-shirt on. They said, “Oh, you work for Shopify. I just started a store yesterday” and I’m hearing this more and more and more. So, this narrative and understanding of what Shopify is is really starting to pick up.

Nathan: Yeah. And so, I think that’s a really nice narrative for Plus then to go out with {indistinct 16:57} to say, “If you’ve graduated from Shopify or you just skipped Shopify, now we’re into the new module on experience, but we’re here to support you and still make e-commerce simple. But we’re one element and there’s lots of others to come into it and we can create a really personalized, customized experience.”

Josh: Yeah, that’s right. It’s definitely that understanding that, “Look, we still want to try and be that centre of your universe, in terms of making commerce easy for you, but yeah, we appreciate that with a larger retail are more complexity. There’s other systems there that sit in the architecture that need to all work together. And so, yeah, we especially see our larger brands really take advantage of our APIs and I think there is a focus internally to continue to have that API-first approach and build upon our APIs for further extensibility moving forward, so our larger retailers can continue to scale up.”

This episode of Add to Cart is brought to you by our partners Shopify Plus. They had a massive couple of months and have cracked 1 million customers who have used the Shopify platform.

On top of that, locally here in Australia, they just won a NORA Award. That’s the National Online Retail Association Award for the best e-commerce solution, which is a great feat because it is actually voted by retailers themselves. So, congratulations, guys.

What they’ve also got for you, which is a fantastic for today’s episode, is a Headless Commerce Guide. Now, we really love this guide because it summarizes a lot of what we talked about today, but it also is really realistic. The first chapter is actually called Headless Commerce Isn’t for everyone.

So, to get that guide go to shopifyplus.live/Headless, that’s shopifyplus.live/Headless. Thanks again to Shopify Plus.

Nathan: Can you give us some examples around Koala and how they’re using APIs and what kind of platforms and partners they’re plugging into to create that experience?

Josh: Yeah. Yeah. So, someone like Koala, they use our storefront API, which is sort of what’s powering that connection between Shopify and their progressive web app.

Koala then uses a third party Headless Content Management System called Contentful. So, there’s a couple of these sort of pure Headless CMS’s out there; Contentful was a fairly popular one. Prismic is another one that I’ve heard of a couple of times. So, that’s sort of where all the content sits and that is a purely API driven solution.

So, obviously, the team at Koala, they need to be able to maintain that. So, they’ve got, you know, phenomenal technology team in there that does that. And then they sort of build some of their own tech around this piece of tech called Gum Leaf, which has a lot of their last mile delivery.

Nathan: I see what they’ve done there.

Josh: Yeah, very clever. Yeah, very good naming conventions. Wait to hear about their odd on-site marketing tool called Drop It. So, keeping with the theme. Keeping very Australian, which we love. But yeah, they’ve got a fairly sort of complex architecture there and Shopify basically handles that checkout.

And then they’re starting to experiment with things like building their own cart micro servers to handle pricing promotions. And so, like they’re very experimental and very innovative and willing to try things.

I think Headless for them has been really, really sort of pivotal to their business, just the way they like to operate.

Nathan: And have they built the business from the ground up with a Headless approach or they had to switch at some point?

Josh: No, no. So, Danny, the founder, has sort of used Shopify throughout his career, and Koala started just using Shopify, scaling up. So, using themes and doing a whole bunch of modification with themes. Which I think a lot of retailers don’t realize just how much you can customize a theme in Shopify.

And I hear lots of people and I’ll show them a site on Shopify and they’ll be like, “What? That’s on Shopify?” So, yes, there’s these things you can do there.

So, started off as within the platform and then as their sort of development team grew and they really wanted to chase PWA’s. Again, Google’s a very big fan of PWA. They built that concept. And so, they wanted to sort of test going down that path again to try and improve speed, all in the name of creating the best and fastest customer experience possible.

So, I know from talking with him, that was a really big undertaking. And they’ll be the first to say, “You know, don’t do this lightly. There’s lots of things you need to consider.” But they really were one of the first in Australia to kind of do this. And so, I think a lot of people now sort of turn to them to ask questions around how they did it.

Nathan: Yeah, it’s interesting. I saw an article with Dan Ferguson, who’s the CMO of Adore Beauty, the other day and it was all about data. So, about how they can get a better view of the customer data across all platforms.

And from a technology architecture point of view, he put Headless right at the centre of it. But for him, his centre wasn’t necessarily the commerce platform. For him, it was the customer platform which they’re using a Marci’s.

Josh: Yep. Yep.

Nathan: And they said as long as everything’s flowing into a Marci’s, whether it’s from Magento to Helium, Google, AWS, they’re really happy with that being the centre of the world and everything else comes on top.

So, I thought that was an interesting approach where they are obviously an e-commerce brand, but for them, customer data is central.

Josh: Oh, yeah. And that makes total sense. Like yeah, obviously, again, their real, real focus on customer experience and you have to know your customers in order to deliver that really good customer experience. So, that makes total sense that your CDP or whatever you’re using just sort of house all that customer data and analyse it and learn who your customers are, should always be very central to your business.

Nathan: And for those who don’t know CDP?

Josh: Customer Data Platform.

Nathan: Thank you.

Josh: Another very hot topic at the moment.

Nathan: Yeah, we might have to do another episode on that.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Nathan: So, tell me about — we’ve talked a lot about the positives of Headless Commerce. What are the downsides? What can go wrong?

Josh: Yeah, I think if you don’t consider this properly, in terms of a cost perspective, a cost to the business, in terms of, if I’m going to say move away from a platform like Shopify, that’s sort of housing all my CMS. So, houses all my content and it’s presenting the front end through a theme. You know, if I’m going to move to a Headless solution, I’m now likely going to need another CMS. So, it would be another costs to the business there.

It’s going to be a API-first approach. You’re going to need to have some resource, preferably internally, that understands obviously how to utilize API. You’re going to have to have a development team or at least a very solid dev there that can build that for you.

Again, something like if you’re really chasing speed, having a progressive web app is probably the kind of head that you want to go for. So, cost to build that. And then cost to maintain it. So, moving away from maybe having a developer that can help with front end and back end with Shopify. Now, you might need a few sort of JavaScript developers that are going to cost the business a lot more; their salaries are just higher. So, there’s that that you need to consider if you’re going to sort of go down that path.

Nathan: Yeah. Again, they’re really good points. And I’d add to that as well. I think you kind of got the opposite situation then of when in a larger enterprise solution, people come to you and you go, “Can we do this?” And you go, “No, you can’t because it can’t be supported” or “It’s the amount of months to integrate it because it doesn’t exist.” Blah, blah, blah.

In this situation, people coming to you and say, “Can we do this?” And you go, “Sure, we can.” And what that can do is become really messy really quickly, especially if you don’t have clear owners around different solutions or different micro services that are connected up. But it also makes ROI harder to calculate.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: Because if you’re adding different micro services as you go, how do you measure the incremental uplift that each gives you?

Josh: Correct. How do you attribute it to this particular micro service had this uplift? Yeah, totally.

Nathan: Yeah.

Josh: It does become more complex. And so, I’ve just heard some retailers that, you know, they’re not small, but they’re not doing sort of really big numbers, maybe 1 or 2 mill year and they’re kind of maybe think about jumping on this Headless bandwagon and their kind of cautionary tale there is, “Hey, look, if you have some really good reasons to do this, totally something you can investigate. But first consider, are you really maximizing as much as you can get out of your platform today already?”

Again, if speed’s like a real factor, I’ve seen plenty of sites that they think they have a slow site and they go, “Okay, well, Headless is my solution.” And then you go take a look into their theme code and their theme files and you can sort of see, “Okay, well, there’s a massive a lot of bloat here and a whole bunch of maybe legacy code or things that you just don’t need there that are really bogging the site down and slowing it down.” So, you can probably see a lot of speed and performance improvements there first before you start to make the really big dive and get into Headless.

Nathan: Yeah. And it can be a big dive, especially if you’ve got big platforms that you say who are actually going to decommission these platforms.

Josh: Yeah.

Nathan: And they can often be tied, depending if you’re omni-channel or not, they can often be tied to other parts of the business that you then have to decouple and find other solutions for as well.

Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I think the other really important thing to consider is, is feature parity with the platform? And so, if Shopify is constantly releasing of new features into the platform. So, let’s take native video and 3D models within Shopify. So, when you announce that United will be releasing that into the platform and so if you’re using that platform, you can quickly add a video where you can add a 3D model to your site, which then if you’re on a Safari browser on your phone, you can then enable AR. And, you know, that’s like built in natively into the platform.

Now, we will release a central store for an API. So, it enables our brands that are headless and using that API to take advantage of this, but there’s more work there on behalf of that team to take that on. So, you’ve got to also take that into consideration that a platform like Shopify will be releasing features that if you’re using that platform, you can quickly take advantage of.

And I mean, I heard this point from a large retailer. Recently, they kind of talked about, you know, we spent quite a bit of money trying to build their own checkout. Shopify alone has 60/70 people just working on checkout. So, how can we build a better checkout than they can.

And so, there’s those things to consider as well, just if you’re looking to sort of go down that headless route.

Nathan: Yeah. Oh, great. So, let’s wrap all this up. Let’s look at who and when should consider a Headless solution. So, at what point? What are the things that you think have to be in order or the requirements of the business to really be seriously considering Headless?

Josh: Yeah. So, I think it probably has to be a combination of a couple of things. Like I kind of mentioned before, if speed is your only driver and you haven’t yet taken advantage of maximising performance through, say a theme or whatever platform you’re using, then that might not be the way to go.

Nathan: So, you’re talking when you’ve got a problem that could be a small problem that could be solved elsewhere, don’t immediately kind of go straight over to Headless.

Josh: Yeah, I think it’s going to be a couple of things that an outfitters really start to go, “You know, I should consider Heedless.” And there’s things like, “You know, I’ve already got an established infrastructure and it’s not easy to re-platform to another tool in our existing technology.” You might feel you’re moving slower than competitors and you can’t simultaneously make adjustments to front end and back end easily. Store front’s taking too long to load or users are bouncing before it’s unloading. Storefront theme or template isn’t as customizable as you like.

Nathan: I think you’ve got to have really strong ambitions to enter new markets or new channels as well if your current solutions is holding you back from entering those social commerce or the voice market or good marketplaces out there, then Headless is potentially something worth looking at.

Josh: Yeah, totally. Like smart mirrors, smart watches, vending machines, all these crazy like bits of tech that can actually be a channel for you.

Nathan: As long as your customers want it.

Josh: Yes, exactly. Don’t just do it for the sake of it. There should actually be a good reason there. So, if you’re starting to sort of think of — a few of those things are starting to add up, then that’s probably a good time to start looking at it as an option anyway and starting to assess the costs and benefits, everything’s a trade-off. And you’ve just got to determine whether that trade-off is worth it for you or your business and if it’s going to actually help you grow.

Nathan: The other thing I would actually add in there, too, is just to say also look at the team that you’ve got around you, because if you move to a Headless model, depending on how advanced you are in technology right now, but you have to look around at your team and what’s available to you to bring on board before you make the decision. Don’t decide to go Headless, pull everything apart and then go, “I hope we can get some people to bring all this together.” Have the people in place and the governance also around who owns what and how it will be implemented. Have that in place before actually starting work.

Josh: Yeah, totally. Like have a solid CTO or head of technology that really understands your entire architecture and all your systems working together before you go, as you say, pulling it apart and just for the fact of going Headless. Like you need to understand that whole stack and how everything’s working together because there’s lots of components there that are needed to make this work.

Nathan: Cool. So, just in summary there, if you’re a business that has multiple things that you are looking to improve, that can’t just be solved with your existing solution to improve the customer experience, if you’ve got customers that you know are moving beyond web and looking to interact with you in multiple channels, if you have the resources and the team structure to be able to handle kind of a technology integration like that, you’re kind of in a good spot to start considering Headless commerce.

Josh: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And there’s actually, as people jump on Google and search “Headless Commerce as flexible commerce” There’s a blog we actually have up on Shopify Plus that kind of takes you through what this is and who’s doing it. There’s a good amount of information there on what Koala were doing and kind of how they’ve approached it and some of the benefits that they see.

And there’s also a checklist in there that kind of touches on some of these elements. So, things for you to consider if you are looking to go down the Headless route.

Nathan: Beautiful. And if you were looking to go down the Headless route, where would you start?

Josh: Go and talk to Koala. No, I would –

Nathan: Sorry. Sorry, Danny.

Josh: Sorry, mate. Yeah. No, I — Where would I start? Again, I would be reaching out to retailers that have gone and done this already. And hear their war stories, because believe me, there will be some. There will be some that say, “I think we did this too early. I didn’t realize maybe some of the downsides or complexity.” And there totally would be some that say, “If you consider these things, it’s been really, really good for our business.”

But you want to understand all the things that we’ve just talked about. You need to consider. But I would be good talking to retailers that have sort of been there, done that, to learn the lessons that they learned kind of faster so you can make a better decision around whether it’s right for you.

Nathan: I agree. And I think, too, you can also test it without making any big decisions. So, you can say, “Hey, if we take out this platform (And literally with butcher’s paper.) If we take out this platform, how are we going to deliver everything that we want to deliver?”

So, actually like an architecture mud map and think it through and test it with other people in your business to say, “If we rip that out, what’s it going to do for this function?” Because there’s always things that you don’t understand of the downward impact that it can have.

So, I think some sort of rough mud map before you even start talking to solution partners is really, really useful.

Josh: 100 percent and base it around what is the end to end experience for your customer? Where are they starting and where are they ending? And by building this Headless architecture into your systems, is that going to improve that customer experience for a reasonable, you know, is it going to add to the value based on the cost it’s going to have on the business?

Nathan: Thank you very much for your insights there, mate. We’ve learned a lot about Headless Commerce today, and I think we’ve seen the benefits. Hopefully we have defined it. We’ve seen the benefits. We’ve also seen where can get really tricky. We’ve talked about a couple of retailers like Koala and Adore Beauty that are doing it really well and hopefully giving you some pointers on where to start and what to consider if you are considering a Headless journey.

Josh: Yeah, totally. And if anyone is more interested and has other questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or — that’s probably the easiest channel and I’m more than happy to chat on it.

Nathan: Or maybe just go straight to Danny at Koala.

Josh: Yeah, maybe just — his number is off. Yeah, go and ask him.

Nathan: Awesome. Thanks, Josh.

Josh: Thanks, mate. Cheers.

So, there you go. Everything about Headless commerce. And it’s not an easy topic. It’s certainly complex and requires much thought before diving in. And I hope that we’ve given you a few ideas and a few leaping off points, if you’re considering that journey.

And apologies, but not really apologies, because I did warn you about the cheesy jokes and our ability to crack ourselves up over nerd stuff. Upon listening back, there’s certainly plenty of that.

So, in between now and next episode, if you want more e-commerce insights and news, you can sign up to 12HIGH’s HIGH Mail newsletter by visiting 12high.com.au/highmail (H-I-G-H-M-A-I-L). We send about 2 newsletters every month. At the end of every month, we send an e-commerce month in review, which is a fairly detailed and lengthy newsletter around everything that’s happened in e-commerce. It’ll take you about 10 minutes to read, but we’ll give you everything that you need to know that happened in the last 30 days.

Until next time, you can follow Add to Cart across all the social channels; LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. You can contact me on nathan@12high.com.au (1-2-H-I-G-H). We are after any co-hosts who have expertise in a particular e-commerce area and any feedback that can help make this show better and give you more tips that you need to run your e-commerce businesses better and more profitably.

Until next time. We’ll see you then. Bye.