Headless Commerce Isn’t Rocket Surgery

We have done monolith implementations, and we have done composable implementations. Any major commerce project has challenges. We believe the notoriety around composable's complexity isn't because it is harder than monoliths but because it is different.

As digital sales continue to set new records, companies hit a point where they dip their toe into the murky waters of What’s Next. They begin talking to vendors, sharing their list of grievances, and looking for answers. As composable experts, we often walk the company through their Let’s Imagine Story that headless commerce enables versus all-in-one monoliths. Sometimes companies see it, and they get it. Other times, we are met with disbelief. “There are too many vendors.” “I don’t want to own anything in the cloud.” “It is too complex.”

Is the myth of headless commerce’s complexity anecdotal? Is it good marketing from established players? Our team at Aries has worked in the e-commerce space for decades. We have done monolith implementations, and we have done headless implementations. Any major commerce project has challenges. We believe the notoriety around composable’s complexity isn’t because it is harder than monoliths but because it is different. At some point, you have a “Eureka!” moment.

The truth is that headless commerce isn’t too complex. The industry has covered up the challenges of multiple vendors or cloud infrastructure with clever names like “Digital Experience Platforms” and “Managed Services.” Monoliths aren’t built from scratch. They are assembled through acquisitions – vendors are bought and then forced to integrate. Sound familiar? The new parent companies repackage the technologies with matching logos and simpler names like “Commerce” or “Experience.” But why do these companies recommend hiring a partner for implementation if monoliths are supposed to be easier?

Whether it’s monolith or headless, integration is the challenge. A monolith pre-defines integrations and determines your approach. However, composable software is built to integrate – it’s in its name. To compose is to make up a whole – one of many that becomes your digital commerce. You decide the approach. Instead of diverting a river and fighting against existing forces, you are building a canal between two bodies of data. It’s planned and less chaotic. And integration becomes easier with a modern commerce platform than with a platform created in 2004, two years before AWS and three years before the iPhone.

More Vendors, Not More Problems

Let’s stop perpetuating that more vendors is harder. Monolith or headless – it’s all multiple vendors. If multiple contracts are an issue, lean on your partners in procurement. As leaders, consider this: When you pick the vendors, you choose the best solutions for you. When monoliths pick the vendors, they choose the solutions best for them. Do you think Adobe bought Magento because it was the best commerce platform for customers or because it filled an empty box in their portfolio?

Integrating your choices will require ownership, and ownership can be challenging if you have never had to manage infrastructure. It is why managed services are so popular. You pay for their cloud, their cloud engineers, and some extra on top, and in return, you never have to think about infrastructure. It sounds easy, but it complicates your business.

Ownership is freedom. Freedom to innovate, adapt, and test new opportunities or experiences. If you don’t own anything, you don’t own anything. Managed monoliths control your technology, your infrastructure, and your product roadmap. Headless commerce lets you take back control. It is a box of LEGO bricks. You build what you want, and if it stops working, you take it apart and create something new. Monoliths are a LEGO set. If you bought the pirate ship LEGO set, it is hard for your business to pivot if the market starts calling for spaceships.

headless commerce
Fun fact: LEGO is composable.

Less Risk, More Reward

Now we stand at the edge of an economic precipice. Businesses are looking to technology. The market won’t stand still, and adapting to consumer changes decides the winners and losers. With freedom, you control the journey and the destination. Headless commerce lets you test into success with lower barriers and less risk. Unless you want to commit to lengthy, expensive, and risky customizations, you depend on your monolith to deliver for your customers. Wait too long, and you may find yourself in the company of Blockbuster Video or Tower Records, infamous for not reacting in time to a changing market.

If your monolithic platform does not deliver, you can buy a supplemental vendor that replaces what you have with what you need. It will most likely be a headless SaaS provider since those integrate easily. Now you have a problem that only exists with monoliths: You own two things that do the same thing, and you pay for both. Except one does it well, and one doesn’t offer any value. The monolith’s feature is a seat warmer in Arizona; useless but included in the cost of the car. With headless commerce, you replace the vendor if the feature doesn’t provide value. It’s not complicated!

You can fit so many unused features in this platform meme
*Slaps roof of car*

Capability, not Complexity

Many times, supplementing the monolith is step one towards headless commerce. A company begins buying multiple composable vendors to replace poor-performing monolithic features, and the IT department begins owning infrastructure to integrate these vendors. Business is growing. However, things move too slowly because it’s becoming too complicated. Then, “Eureka!” It’s the monolith that makes everything so complex.

That is the actual difference: ownership and enablement, not complexity. Headless commerce is not rocket surgery. We have digital Stockholm Syndrome from decades of buying monoliths that can’t grow with us, resenting them as they depreciate, and then repeating the same broken cycle.  Have your “Eureka!” moment. Break that cycle!

Find out how Aries can bring the benefits of headless commerce to your company!