Before beginning, we should make it clear that there are many tributary questions feeding into our title. Questions about Shopify Plus. About headless e-commerce, and the combination of headless and Shopify Plus, all flowing into the statement: “5 signs headless e-commerce on Shopify Plus is the way to go”.
If you want to go ahead with headless on Shopify Plus you’ll need an answer for all of them. However, we won’t be addressing all of them here. This is our disclaimer, making sure from the very start that you know whether this article is for you.
The questions we won’t be answering are numerous. We won’t be answering questions about the Shopify platform or Shopify Plus. We’re assuming that readers already know what Shopify Plus is all about. Whether you use it already, are intending to use it, or remain unconvinced – it isn’t really important. All that matters is you have some understanding of what Shopify Plus is and what the benefits of it are. If you don’t have this, please check out our thoughts on why Shopify Plus could be beneficial to you.
We won’t be answering questions about headless e-commerce either. Again, we’re assuming readers already have at least some grasp of what headless is. Not intricate knowledge of the coding behind it, but a general understanding of the difficulty and the benefits of headless architecture. If you don’t, read our basic introduction to headless e-commerce.
The question we will be answering is how to know if you’re in a position to make the jump. The difference between these questions is subtle, but important nonetheless. You could know all there is to know about Shopify Plus, you could understand all the wizardry that goes into a headless store, but you may still be unsure whether you and your brand are a good fit for the system.
So we’re going to give you 5 signs to look out for. If you recognise at least 2 of them in yourself and your brand, headless e-commerce on Shopify Plus is likely the solution to take you up a level.
1. You’re a digital native
You’re familiar with the digital world. How familiar? Well if you had to look up what digital native means, that’s not a great start. Don’t panic, you don’t need to know how to build a headless store all by yourself – would you be reading this if you could? But you do need some level of technical knowledge.
To start with, you need to understand the difficulty of transitioning to headless architecture. These aren’t minor adjustments being made. This isn’t an entry-level e-commerce store you’re building. Headless architecture is a very specific strategy to target high-level e-commerce goals and make very precise improvements. It takes a lot of (costly) developer time to achieve, so you need to understand exactly why you need headless architecture and why your current e-commerce system is inadequate. Without this understanding, you risk wasting time and money building a powerful system and not using it to its full potential.
What’s more, the process is very tech-heavy. You’ll be collaborating closely with a crack team of wizards, and even during the planning stage there’ll be a lot of technical lingo flying around the room. It’s best if you can (at least vaguely) keep up with what’s being said. Translating every sentence of every meeting will congest the flow of your project, and could even be detrimental to the final website.
2. You take e-commerce seriously
We don’t recommend headless stores to the newbies and first timers. Unless it’s a unique situation, you’re unlikely to want or need headless architecture for your first e-commerce store. Why? Because headless stores target very specific, very high-level e-commerce goals.
One of those goals is to build a digital flagship store. Just like a physical flagship, this is your brand’s centrepiece store – but set in the digital world. A one-off design that immerses the senses and delivers the very best in online experiences. These stores are about more than just selling your product or service to the customer. They’re a statement of intent. A message that your brand’s future is in e-commerce, and you’re willing to put in the time, money and effort to be at the forefront of possibility.
Flagship stores should only be interesting to brands that are: 1) already quite sizeable, and 2) fully invested in e-commerce. If you’re just starting out, or if you’re not yet dead-set on using e-commerce to its full potential (hint: you should be), then a headless store will be too much to handle.
For more information, check our project overview for building Caroline Roitfeld’s digital flagship store.
3. You want to prepare for the future
As we all know, technology is always on the move. Those that keep up are rewarded with relevancy whilst those that don’t risk falling into obsoletion. Headless architecture is the biggest leap forward in e-commerce in recent times, and we predict that it’ll be influential in further advances for the foreseeable future. With that in mind then, brands wanting to future-proof themselves should consider the benefits of a headless store.
But this isn’t just about clout. As e-commerce increases in significance, having a better store than your competition is more than just bragging rights. It’s about convincing customers to enter and spend their money with you in a marketplace that gets busier by the day.
Online shopping is already changing and it’ll continue to do so with greater speed over the coming years. Store features that are cutting edge today will be a baseline expectation or necessity tomorrow. If you fail to meet these, your business will suffer as a result.
Take just one example: voice activated search is on the rise, right?. This has consequences for the way search engines find websites. People don’t generally speak the way they type, so keywords are becoming less important for SEO. In their place, Google is taking site-speed and user experience into consideration much more when determining the order of results on a SERP.
Headless architecture affords websites the fastest speeds and the best overall UX, so is increasingly important to SEO results. And as we know, SEO results drive traffic, leads and conversion.
If nothing else, this example should demonstrate that e-commerce is an intricately connected ecosystem. Something like voice activated search might not at first glance seem significant to the future of your business. But the ripple effects it has on the ecosystem create big changes in the way people find stores and ultimately spend their money. You need a system that is capable of adapting to changes like this, and headless architecture is at present the best solution.
4. You need flexibility
Headless architecture makes possible a number of features that are otherwise cumbersome and inefficient. The most significant of which is multi-market scaling.
For reasons that we address in our article on multilingual Shopify Plus stores, multi-market scaling is difficult on Shopify. The platform is ill-suited to building multilingual and/or multi-currency stores, generally forcing users to forfeit either site speed or user experience. As has already been discussed, both of these factors are increasingly important to SEO. Therefore, multimarket Shopify stores on a traditional setup run the risk of being penalised by Google for their performance.
Headless architecture is the best solution to this problem. It’s probably the number one reason why clients come to us enquiring about a headless store. If you want to sell across multiple, international markets, you must make your store accommodating to each distinct customer base. That means supporting their currency and their language. Headless makes this possible, whilst simultaneously keeping speeds fast and performances high.
If you’re on the verge of bursting into a new market – or if you want the security of knowing that when you’re ready, your store is ready too – then headless architecture is probably for you.
5. You have the budget to invest
Lastly, we come to the cost. You might recognise a number of the previous signs in your brand, but unfortunately if you cannot meet the cost then headless may remain out of reach for a while longer.
Because it isn’t cheap. The technical requirements are dense and putting together sites of this magnitude takes a lot of laborious hours. You’ll very likely need an agency to build your store for you, meaning those hours cost money. Of course, each project is different. With different requirements and a different scope. So for an accurate estimate, it’s best to get in touch with an e-commerce agency and brief them properly about what it is you want.
To get a quote that’s as accurate as possible, you really need your brief to be the best it can be. If you’ve never written one before, or if you want some tips, read our article on how to prepare a website brief.
As much as headless is expensive, the rewards for having a first-class website are near limitless. Headless stores are powerful tools and as long as you use them correctly, the initial fee will soon seem more than reasonable.
For further detail on whether you might find headless architecture on Shopify Plus beneficial, read our article: Is headless e-commerce on Shopify Plus the way to go?
If you’d like to talk further about headless’ potential, or if you have a project in mind, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. Fill out an inquiry form here.
We can’t wait to hear from you!