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Headless eCommerce: Buy commodity and build innovation

Psst: we are hiring remote frontend developers and backend developers.

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There is a shift in the way we buy and use software. Most software is today rolled out as API services using a saas business model. Basically democratization of technology. You get full access to all features and pay for usage. No feature differentiation based on size. By creating a best of breed headless stack you can achieve a bigger focus on innovation rather than building and maintaining commodity services.

What are commodity services?

The term buy commodity and build innovation was introduced to me by the at the time CTO of the Economist, Mark Brincat. I have since kept that with me as I think it is a brilliant example of how to build an enterprise architecture by using commodity services so you can really focus on the innovation for your business. For the Economist innovation is focussed around selling and experimenting with different subscription services.

A commodity service basically means a service that solves a generic problem and gives access to it via APIs. For low level services you have the AWS, Google Cloud and Azure services. That is a given. For headless eCommerce use cases you get more or less single purpose service like:

Headless eCommerce architecture diagram

Best of breed headless eCommerce stack

When designing a headless architecture you want to pick the services that fits best to your business and integrate them together. As opposed to buying a monolithic software or service that solves everything. You pick the service that is best to solve a particular problem. The best of the best.

Benefits of a best of breed headless architecture are:

  • Freedom to use your favourite front-end framework 
  • Build a stack of best of breed services
  • Easily share services across all channel heads
  • Update frontend independently of services
  • Innovate and experiment with new channels

Build innovation with frontend middleware

The innovation for your business comes when you are stitching together your headless ecommerce. In addition to the tailor made frontend(s) you have the middleware layer that we typically refer to as the service API

The service API is where you connect the different backend services with your uniquely designed frontend. And this is where you add specific services like price calculations or voucher service. If you sell B2B your pricing layer can become complex and definitely an area you can differentiate. For high volume B2C services like seasonal clothes you might want to build a unique algorithm that prices based on popularity and stock to maximize your inventory management.

Using experimentation and data to continuously optimize your customers' journey is how you want to spend your resources. And not by maintaining and upgrading commodity services like you would with monolithic architectures.

Frontend middleware with service API