The current state of retail can be described in one word: competitive.

More brands moving their businesses online, paired with the rising cost of customer acquisition, makes the online landscape a make-or-break environment for both budding and established brands.

This chart from Statista shows the increased digital advertising spending from 2010 – 2021 (2019-2021 being projections) in millions of U.S. dollars.

Because of this, brands are now required to build strong digital experiences for their customers, outside of the general scope of traditional marketing and advertising. Technology capabilities need to assist brands and bolster that strength.

On a global scale, diverse businesses can only benefit so much from a monolithic, all-in-one solution when it comes to creating flexibility in their brand presence. While a simple, functional model is often a reputable starting point, it’s not suited for brands that are interested in rising above the competition.

Every business has unique needs — a fashion brand has a different marketing strategy, back-end business requirements, and logistical structure, compared to a furniture retailer or a B2B software seller.

All of these brands have one thing in common — they need to provide a good customer experience. But in order to truly outsmart their competition and delight their customers, they need to create captivating, content-first experiences that make customers happy enough to spread the word about their products.

This is where headless commerce really comes in handy. By ripping-and-replacing the front- and back-end of an eCommerce experience, brands now have the ability to produce tailored storefronts.

Simply listing your items online in a storefront is no longer going to cut it. Customers are searching for an experience wherever they shop, whether it’s online or offline. Take retail for example: more and more stores are hosting events or pop-ups to help activate their shoppers.

Popular direct to consumer (D2C) brands like Everlane, WONE, Outdoor Voices, and LARQ all have one thing in common: their product is only a fraction of their message.

The Everlane brand prides itself on sustainability. With peeks into their factories, a focus on cost transparency, and a pledge to remove plastic from their shipping packaging, Everlane makes a compelling case for plenty of like-minded shoppers to seek out their products.

Everlane website

Luxury legging manufacturer WONE creates exclusive, limited-edition “drops” of different products, only available for those with an access code.

WONE Website

Athletic wear company Outdoor Voices’ Instagram feed looks less like a clothing brand and more like a travel guide — and that’s intentional. By building their brand message around the things you can do in the clothes, rather than the clothes themselves, the brand is capitalizing on the experience-led lifestyles that many young shoppers love.

Outdoor Voices Instagram

Touted as the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle, LARQ’s sustainability-driven small line of products are beautifully designed and marketed.

LARQ Website

A new innovation: Headless Commerce

Headless commerce is the key needed to unlock hyper-specialized content for innovative brands. They don’t need to start from scratch to build a shoppable experience — instead, they can plug a shopping cart directly into what they’ve already become familiar with and built a brand off of. Pair this with flexibility: instead of being locked into the themes and design limitations of an eCommerce platform, simply add shopping cart functionality to what already exists.

Last year, BigCommerce announced the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin that connects the WordPress CMS with the powerful eCommerce backend from BigCommerce. Using this plugin, WordPress users can add a commerce experience into their WordPress site, allowing them to sell items and drive revenue off of the existing content they’ve already built out.

Headless Commerce: an example

Surf Ranch in Lemoore California is the so-called “Disneyland for surfers.”

At Surf Ranch, surfers can ride actual waves and test different types of boards.

The team at Firewire Surfboards knew that they wanted to add an online shopping experience that mimicked the thrilling and fun experience that shoppers got at Surf Ranch.

They chose to use WordPress as their CMS and BigCommerce as their eCommerce platform.

This set-up allowed the Firewire team to plug an eCommerce experience into a WordPress environment where their existing experience and understanding of the surfing buyer’s journey could capitalize on sales and brand loyalty.

What’s next in Headless Commerce?

With a recent announcement BigCommerce has taken it a step further — announcing headless commerce integrations with several of the most popular CMS platforms outside of WordPress: BloomReach, Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager, Acquia ACF, and React + Gatsby.

BigCommerce is tearing down the already-flexible walls of software-as-a-service (SaaS) eCommerce by allowing its functionality to be consumed outside of the platform walls, and inside the familiar structure of a CMS platform. BigCommerce has focused on delivering an enterprise-grade eCommerce platform outside the SaaS walls, accessible via API and GraphQL, and embeddable wherever it’s needed, regardless of vertical, geographic location, or size of business.

About the Author: Corinne Watson

Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services, and ideas to the commerce industry at large with educational content.