Once just a buzzword, headless commerce has come to take the ecommerce industry by storm. A ‘headless’ architecture is when the web storefront is separated from the backend systems, and each is able to function independently. This type of commerce architecture allows functionality and services to be called upon via APIs, giving brands the flexibility to create amazing customer experiences, and freedom to make these changes faster.
If headless commerce has peaked your interest, look no further for inspiration. We’ve compiled a list of 22 examples of ecommerce businesses who have made the switch to a headless architecture, and the benefits they’ve gained as a result.
Walmart was one of the first to adopt a headless architecture. With the goal of providing their customers with a faster, more immersive shopping experience, they first layered a decoupled front-end onto their existing ecommerce platform. Thanks to this new decoupled architecture, they were able to switch their legacy platform over to a microservices approach that provided them the freedom to implement best-of-breed functionalities. Walmart’s new tech stack helped to grow their ecommerce revenue to new heights, and solidify their position at the leader within their category.
Multi-billion dollar UK department store Debenhams knew digital was a key channel to combat some of the challenges facing the retail industry in the UK, but its legacy architecture and traditional software development methodology was too rigid to take its digital customer experience to the next level. The team decided to accelerate their digital customer experience by launching Mobify’s decoupled web storefront on top of their existing ecommerce platform. This allowed them to move to an agile, headless architecture by starting at the head. The team is now doing 8 times more deployments – which enables them to test, iterate, and learn much faster, and create a better digital experience for their customers.
As clothing retailer Zalando gained popularity, their legacy ecommerce system couldn’t keep up. Navigating microservices was like uncharted waters as there were limited examples at the time, and Zalando needed to be ready for failure. When they transitioned to a microservices approach in 2015, their system was made up of many different technologies, as well as some internally-built open source ones. It increased productivity and innovation by implementing flexible, comprehensive systems led by autonomous teams. Each team could work independently, which streamlined brand innovation and growth.
German beauty giant Cosnova, the parent company of Lov, Catrice, and the highest-selling global mono brand Essence, wanted a unified ecommerce experience across brands that could effectively scale to support peak traffic. “We wanted a complete headless environment to make it easier to add and change our customer-facing digital experiences across brands without disrupting backend systems or the overall architecture,” explained Cosnova Chief Digital Officer Dirk Lauber. By pairing Mobify’s decoupled storefront with Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Amplience, Cosnova is taking a best-of-breed approach that unlocks the freedom to experiment and continuously optimize the digital customer experience.
Because Amazon started as a small online bookstore, their original tech stack was built as a monolith. However, as their focus expanded and traffic grew exponentially, their monolithic architecture was unable to support the abundance of traffic. The number of developers increased, as did the size of the codebase, which resulted in an ecosystem of interconnected complexities. As more bottlenecks continued to appear and decrease productivity, growth became limited. Amazon knew they needed a way out of this slow-moving cycle, so they created a decoupled environment reconnected through APIs that were each responsible for a single function. These new microservices shortened the deployment pipeline, but they were still spending a lot of time on scalability and maintenance. This prompted the creation and release of Amazon Web Services (AWS) so they could automate these processes and focus on the big picture. This also resulted in the adoption of continuous iterations and increased flexibility.
6. Michael Kors
Multinational fashion retailer Michael Kors’ rapid international expansion drove the need for a website redesign and consistent brand experience across all platforms. They decided to take a headless commerce approach to streamline processes and provide a rich, seamless experience across all touchpoints. They are now able to innovate, test, and iterate on experiments, allowing them to significantly cut down on costs.
Blog turned global streetwear and lifestyle brand Highsnobiety was looking for a solution that offered a seamless shopping experience to supplement their roots in publication. They wanted a customizable solution to fuse the content and commerce initiatives that made their brand unique, so they decided on a microservices approach with a headless commerce system. This enabled them to quickly deploy the necessary updates to keep up with the latest trends, provide an amazing customer experience, and deliver it all at scale.
8. Best Buy
Best Buy reached a point where their architecture became so complex that deployment processes had to be planned months in advance and required more than 60 people in all-night sessions. They quickly learned this wasn’t sustainable, and began an initiative to decouple their architecture so that their team would be able to iterate at a faster pace and keep up with market changes. Instead of a complete replatform, they slowly replaced the old system one microservice at a time, which enabled them to reduce the risk associated with a complete rebuild. Best Buy attributes their success to not simply the new technology, but the new organizational structure, culture, and processes that went along with the headless approach.
J.Crew needed an ecommerce solution that allowed them to withstand demand spikes over the busy retail holiday season. They launched a decoupled headless commerce experience with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, leveraging their APIs for checkout, shopping cart, and promotions. Their new architecture enabled them to effectively scale and withstand traffic four times what the legacy platform could handle.
10. Bosch Power Tools
Bosch Power Tools needed to keep pace with the big industry players like Amazon. Their biggest challenge was creating personalized and unique user experiences at the local level, while also ensuring alignment with the global brand. Scalability and managing various regional CMS platforms was also a struggle – the cost of upkeep wasn’t worth the output they got from their legacy systems. They needed a flexible, efficient solution that would allow a holistic yet customizable experience for customers and users alike. Rolling out their headless solution incrementally, empowered them to quickly adapt to local markets on the front-end, while managing a single backend across the organization. Sunny Mallavarapu, Digital Transformation Manager at Bosch expressed the switch to headless was a no-brainer, “It was clear to see how headless brings value from a development, cost and scale perspective.”
11. Global Schoolwear
Global Schoolwear, a uniform supplier for hundreds of schools worldwide, realized they needed a highly flexible commerce platform in order to create customized experiences tailored to each school’s unique requirements. Utilizing a headless commerce platform with APIs enabled them to get the agility they needed to customize each experience and integrate the CMS and inventory management platforms. Thanks to the headless approach, Global Schoolwear can quickly make changes that would have taken a week to implement with their old architecture. They’re even able to launch whole product catalogs for schools “in approximately 3 days without a third party development team,” says COO Matt Khols.
Australian furniture retailer Koala wanted to create customized, immersive customer experiences online, and knew they could only do so by going headless. They separated their backend from their customer-facing functions and connected the two through APIs. This new microservices approach gave them the flexibility to select and use the functions relevant to their business model, and to make rapid updates with the front-end and backend teams working in tandem. Koala’s head of technology Richard Bremner noted “the speed with which the development team at Koala is able to deliver solutions from ideation to production is triple what I’ve seen anywhere else”.
America’s Pharmacy is a company that allows users to search for prescription drug discounts across 95% of pharmacies in the United States. Initially they only provided downloadable coupons, but sought a solution to support their expansion to incorporate ecommerce transactions. With a complex ecosystem of applications already in place, they decided to integrate Elastic Path’s headless commerce solution. It added transactional functionality by integrating seamlessly with their legacy systems and supported future growth.
Dutch train ticket vendor Eurail interacted with consumers exclusively online through their webshop, email, and social media and needed a solution that was user, developer, and B2B partner-friendly. The biggest challenge was determining how to implement their new CMS without site down-time. They decided on a microservices approach with commercetools where the transformation happened incrementally behind the scenes with no disruption to the customer-facing site. Thanks to their newfound agility, their team was able to deploy content without the help of IT specialists.
Icelandair was undergoing a digital transformation to provide a better customer experience, but the team wasn’t confident that their content management system could handle increasing traffic spikes after conducting load testing. The current system wasn’t sustainable, and they knew they wanted to go headless because of the agility and scalability benefits a headless approach provides. They turned to a headless CMS and are now able to add integrations with ease to continue with their other digital transformation projects.
Princess Cruises needed a flexible solution that could facilitate a seamless digital experience across many touchpoints. From their native app, to onboard screens, to daily newsletters, all their content needed to be personalized, translated into a variety of languages, and delivered quickly. They rolled out a headless solution to streamline content delivery and enable a great omnichannel experience. Guests can now access their account itineraries, see ship venue details, organize shore adventures, read on board restaurant menus and more, all from their mobile device. As a result, the company has seen a 71% penetration with 32% of guests registering for accounts via the app.
The Coca-Cola brand sells thousands of products at subsidiaries in every country of the world. A brand this successful and well-known needed a sophisticated ecommerce system in place to support its ever-changing initiatives. There were many disconnects between Coca-Cola’s existing legacy platforms across the globe. This was an obvious barrier to seamlessness — something Coca-Cola needed to improve to continue their large-scale growth. Their global IT group looked to the DevOps model and APIs and microservices to alleviate this challenge and create a single, unified system that could deploy changes rapidly in any location. They also migrated their processes to be more collaborative across teams, resulting in increased transparency and agility across the organization.
In 2011, when Ebay was dealing with gigantic traffic spikes — 75 billion database calls, 4 billion pageviews, 250 billion search queries daily — they needed a system that could support their 97 million active users. They needed an ecommerce system that could support their staggering levels of traffic and streamline their customer experience to stay competitive.The implementation of microservices allowed them to deal with the increasing complexities of the codebase, resulting in an increase in productivity.
Etsy struggled with performance issues on their legacy platform. Concurrent API calls were slowing down their server processing time. They also needed a system that could support the development of new features and channels to stay competitive, but they didn’t have the flexibility to do so with their pre-microservices system. Their new structure, now optimized for rapid changes, allowed them to deploy as many times a day as they liked.
Netflix was one of the early adopters of microservices. Before their switch to a decoupled architecture in 2009, their tightly coupled structure could be down for days due to a single mistake. That was when they knew they needed a change, and fast. They needed to improve their scalability, availability, and speed. Their migration to AWS allowed them to take on a cloud-based microservices architecture. Because each service was responsible for a different function, when an issue arose only the affected microservice needed to be repaired instead of the whole system. This reduced their outages and increased their availability to their 139 million subscribers. Another benefit of their new decoupled architecture was an increase in agility. They were able to independently service and deploy changes across departments resulting in increased performance and rapid company growth.
Multinational rideshare company Uber was once upon a time a small startup. Naturally, they started with a monolithic system because the functionalities were fairly simple: connecting drivers and riders, and bill payments with operation in a single city. As the company gained traction, so did complexities, and it soon became difficult for them to maintain their systems. Making even the smallest of changes required a complete overhaul of their architecture as each component was interdependent. They made the decision to break up their services into a series of smaller ones, making it easier to manage. Since each service acted independently and was responsible for its own function, it could be written in a different programming language and have its own structure and database. Their new microservices architecture solved issues with developmental processes, allowed for continuous deployment, and ultimately grew their business to what it is today.
The growth of Spotify cannot go unnoticed. They needed a solution that would scale to millions of users, support all platforms and touchpoints, and handle complex business rules. As more and more subscription services saturated the market, staying relevant and competitive became more difficult. Migrating to microservices gave them the flexibility and scalability required to resolve bottlenecks before they consumed the system, and allowed for constant experimentation with minimal failures.
We hope you found this list of headless websites inspirational. To learn how you could see similar results with a storefront for headless commerce, download our latest guide.