Salesforce is a behemoth in the customer relationship management (CRM) space. With tools for customer service, communities, productivity and more, it's a solid choice for building relationships and boosting profits.
A couple years ago, Salesforce tapped into the ecommerce world with its multi-billion dollar purchase of Demandware. Salesforce integrated the entire platform and called it Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC). Now, merchants are talking about Salesforce headless commerce, a method of decoupling the frontend from the backend so that changes on one end won't affect the other.
Headless commerce actually has several meanings, structures and opportunities.
For example, many platforms can be decoupled simply so that the frontend content creators don't have to work hand-in-hand with the backend developers. On the other hand, decoupling the two interfaces can allow for pairing with other tools that may have strategic advantages.
Let's explore the topic and see how Salesforce headless commerce may help your business.
What is Salesforce Commerce Cloud?
Salesforce as a whole is a customer relationship management software. It offers products for the following:
Some of these products were created in-house by Salesforce, while others were acquired and integrated into the system (like the Commerce product, which used to be Demandware). The Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the main focus for this article, since we're covering headless commerce.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud offers a complete online store builder with the help of artificial intelligence for growing your revenue faster and automating many of your processes.
Here are some of the features and elements:
- Omni-channel selling to connect with marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.
- Connections for shopping experiences through modules for sales, customer service and marketing
- Personalized ecommerce campaigns to send out to your customers
- Conversion boosting tools powered by artificial intelligence
- Rapid processes for getting your products to market fast
- Quick, easy shopping cart and checkout modules
- Automation for delivery and payments
- A full, cloud-based platform for running your site from multiple devices and backing up your content
- Impressive tools for converting mobile shoppers through responsive design and one-click payments
- Options for putting the Buy button anywhere you want, allowing for a headless commerce infrastructure
As you can see, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is pretty comprehensive when it comes to building a store and making sure the sales start coming in. Not only that, but you get the bonus of artificial intelligence working for you.
Now that we know more about Salesforce Commerce Cloud, keep reading to learn more about how it offers opportunities for headless commerce with integrations, flexible features and more.
What is Headless Commerce, and Why Should I Care?
The most basic description of headless commerce is the separation of the frontend and backends of an ecommerce store. Some call the frontend the "presentation layer" and the backend the "ecommerce layer."
There are a couple primary reasons for decoupling the frontend and backend:
- To remove the connection between the teams running the backend and frontend. This way, the frontend content makers don't have to wait around for the developers to make changes for getting content released. The same can be said for the opposite situation, where the developers don't have to wait for content creators on their end.
- To explore more complete solutions that may be able to integrate with the ecommerce platform for improved content creation. An example of this would be integrating a different blogging platform with the ecommerce platform.
So, when we define headless commerce it typically has a few methods of implementation. This is particularly true depending on which ecommerce platform you're using.
In the case of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, merchants are committing to custom-built headless ecommerce apps that take B2C commerce beyond the traditional storefront.
Overall, you're able to maximize the flexibility of your online store with the help of APIs and developer tools from Salesforce. So, it's all contained in the Salesforce ecosystem, but you're able to integrate pre-made apps or make your own for the following reasons:
- To manage your inventory in a more organized fashion
- To personalize the entire ecommerce experience with the help of AI
- To experiment in a faster environment with the help of developer sandboxes
- To completely customize all of the touchpoints in your frontend experience — this ranges from mobile apps to online stores
Overall, headless commerce has a few meanings. But in terms of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, it's all about tapping into that API to make apps that improve the customer experience.
What's Involved with a Salesforce Headless Commerce Store?
If you plan on running an ecommerce store on Salesforce, or if you already utilize any of the Salesforce products, headless commerce is a potential prospect for you.
How would your configuration change compared to how you currently run your business? What does a headless commerce infrastructure look like with Salesforce?
The Salesforce headless design includes the following features:
- The use of artificial intelligence
- Integrations with a wide range of other built-in business solutions
- A strong focus on multiple customer touch points, such as user-generated content, mobile interfaces and social media
As for pricing, Salesforce currently asks that you contact its sales team to get a quote based on gross merchandise value. It offers plenty of affordable plans for smaller and growing businesses, along with support for large enterprises. It's also worth noting that some of the plans integrate perfectly with the Salesforce CRM. Once you get set up with Salesforce Commerce Cloud you then have the choice to go with a headless architecture.
Here's how a basic headless store through Salesforce would work, compared to traditional ecommerce systems:
The traditional commerce setup is represented by the "Commerce-Led" visual. It's where the commerce end of the website dominates the workings of the website. So, it serves as the frontend and backend, or at least dictates how the frontend is represented. The experience-led version incorporates a DXP, or digital experience platform, with the content and experience part of the platform being front and center and somewhat dictating what goes on in the backend.
Which one is the best?
Well, they both can technically use headless commerce principles, but neither have complete flexibility like a true headless infrastructure. In fact, you could connect to an API with both experience-led and commerce-led websites.
However, it's not until you completely decouple the frontend and backend experience and commerce systems when you're able to gain full flexibility and a true headless commerce platform. The graphic calls this an API-oriented system, where the apps you create for Salesforce Commerce Cloud are the driving force and completely customizable. The content and commerce modules are separated, making for a wide range of advantages.
With the Salesforce artificial intelligence, API access and multiple customer touchpoints, this configuration opens up so many options for ease of use and speed to the market. So, all merchants have connections to the API for the utmost control.
You can even get started learning about this with the Salesforce development documentation center.
4 Benefits of Decoupling the Frontend of Your Ecommerce Store From the Backend
With a well-integrated store and an API comes even more opportunity. You can open up several benefits when turning to headless commerce, including the following:
1. The Time to Market is Quicker
Frontend experiences are easier to manage and launch when working in a headless system. Businesses are able to launch new content and customer-centric experiences without the need to check with backend developers or wait around for the go-ahead from other people in the organization.
In short, the customer-oriented approach is crucial for responding to customer needs and delivering what the customers want in a reasonable amount of time. In addition, it's easier to communicate with your customers by accepting feedback from the other end.
Overall, growing companies need to be able to respond to market trends without hesitation. Headless commerce makes this far more possible than when working through a traditional commerce infrastructure, particularly with the Salesforce headless model.
2. You Can Save Time and Money With IT
Headless commerce means that non-developers can submit modifications to the frontend without having to get approval from developers or higher-ups in the company.
It gives more control to the people who actually produce the content. This is the way it should be, considering developers might lack the expertise required to relate with customers and understand the experience they want.
This removes needless support tickets, cuts down on interface changes and allows everyone to focus on what they do best. The IT team will undoubtedly approve of the headless system because they don't have to spend so much time adjusting the frontend for content additions. The content creators will also enjoy the freedom and speed to market.
3. There Aren't as Many Steps for Frontend Deployment
Most of the time in ecommerce you have to go through the IT team to make a change on the frontend. This is because all these modifications are affecting the ecommerce functionality of the site.
Headless commerce gets rid of that barrier, meaning that developers are no longer needed as much on the frontend, cutting down on work for everyone involved.
4. Employees Have it Easier When Adopting the Tech
As with all new technologies, many employees and business owners are reluctant to utilize systems because they either don't understand the new tech or don't want to learn about it.
Headless commerce is far simpler than the average B2B or B2C software. In fact, the whole point of it is to remove as many roadblocks as possible and let people do what they were hired to do. Developers get to work with their tools, and content creators and marketers get to stick with theirs.
Overall, a blogger or content creator doesn't need advanced development skills, or the approval of a developer, to do their job.
Should You Embrace a Headless Setup for Your Salesforce Store?
Headless commerce isn't for every company. Custom app development can get expensive for smaller, or newer, companies. Not only that, but the integration of new apps can potentially cause a more complicated interface than you had in the first place — so it's important that everything is implemented properly.
However, the majority of fast-growing businesses should benefit from the Salesforce Commerce Cloud and the headless commerce that goes with it. Here are some guidelines to help you figure out if your brand should embrace the headless commerce movement through Salesforce:
- If you already have a developer, or have the capital to hire developer, for app development through the Salesforce API
- If communication problems are arising between the frontend and backend workers
- If you'd like to save time and money by removing roadblocks between content creation and getting items to market
- If your brand is rapidly growing and should start off as flexible as possible to begin with
- If you'd like to create an experience-based interface for your customers
- If you want to connect with your customers at all touchpoints and remain flexible for new technologies in the future
As we mentioned before, Salesforce headless commerce isn't for all companies. However, it's a good idea to check out the possibilities if you're already using Salesforce as your CRM.