Three conference attendees walk into a bar …

  • First one sits down and goes, “I just relaunched my company’s e-commerce site. I’m psyched. I put AEM in front of ATG, and I’ve got my FED’s crushing GMV growth. I do headless commerce.”
  • Second one sits down and goes, “I sell software. I blew away my quota. People love this MACH & FEaaS stuff more than they love BOPIS non-GMO lattes. I sell headless commerce.”
  • Third one stumbles through the crowd, knocking over chairs in a sports team mascot costume with a neck stump and goes, “Move over, people. I studied stage performance from the Stanislavski school of method acting. This is The Way. I am your savior. You need what I am because the most important thing in e-commerce is heads. I am headless commerce.”

The punchline? The punchline is: This isn’t a joke.

This is how the cult of headless commerce talks.

What *Is* Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is more easily explained when you settle on a frame of reference.

  • If you’re a VP of e-commerce who runs a website, then you *do* headless commerce by putting AEM in front of ATG, for example, or by having a native mobile app for shopping.
  • If you’re a VP of procurement who purchases components of a website, then you *buy* headless commerce by sourcing many things from many vendors (including a front-end PWA, an agile content management system, and an API-first commerce solution). You buy multiple products because the commerce product doesn’t come with a head (e.g., a front-end website). Engaging with you are salespeople from multiple vendors who collectively refer to themselves as “a wolf pack” that is *selling* to you.
  • If you *are* a headless commerce vendor (or a vendor with a headless commerce offering), then you offer an API-first commerce product that doesn’t include a front end. You might also offer a front-end product. But that’s a separate product with separate pricing.

The Gray Areas Are The Exceptions To The Above Rules

If you *are* a headless commerce vendor, you may include a decoupled front end with your API-first commerce product. The front end probably isn’t world-class, but it provides a convenient way to buy the tech that a brand needs to start doing decoupled headless commerce. But that front end is probably more akin to the cuff links that come free with your shirt — they’re good enough in a pinch, but as you become more sophisticated, you really want to buy stand-alone cuff links.

If You Need To Put Headless Commerce Into Perspective, Give Us A Call

Emily Pfeiffer and I can help you and your teams make sense of this and many other topics you need to understand to be future fit. Schedule an inquiry with me (for B2B) or Emily (for B2C) to talk about how modern commerce can help you deliver your digital strategy.

Forrester clients can read The Forrester Wave™: B2B Commerce Solutions, Q2 2022 and The Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Solutions, Q2 2022 to learn about the providers we evaluated and how they stack up.