[Guide] How to Build a Front-end for a Headless Commerce Architecture

Headless commerce has been a buzz word in the retail industry for a few years now, but not many have fully gone down the headless path just yet because it always required building a custom front-end from scratch, which introduces risk and lengthy timelines.

Now a Front-end as a Service offers an alternative to building from scratch – it reduces the time, costs, and maintenance challenges associated with going headless.

But before we get into that, let’s look at what it takes to build a custom front-end from scratch – or down the complete.

The Complexities of Building a Custom Front-End from Scratch

Many perceive a custom solution as the most flexible option, but in reality, most teams will spend their time building the foundation with frameworks, a hosting environment, and integrations that don’t have a direct impact on the customer experience.

The complexities of building from scratch

Download the complete Enterprise Guide to Headless Commerce Front-ends now to learn more.

When building a new front-end, you’re probably going to want to use the latest technology. On the web, that would be Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Learning to build with these modern technologies can be challenging because it’s not like building a traditional website. On top of the initial build, you should consider maintenance. Extending to new touchpoints like native apps will require maintaining and synchronizing separate codebases, and any future touchpoints will have to be explored and built from scratch.

With a commerce- or experience-led approach, the front-end is built on the ecommerce/CMS cloud or an on-premise solution. But in this new headless world, you’ll have to build and maintain a custom hosting environment and all the DevOps practices that surround that, which requires major investment to:

  • Set up, maintain, and improve continuous integration, continuous deployment, and testing automation, as well as keep up with the latest trends, best practices, and services.
  • Continuously update the build to incorporate new APIs, and research and test how to best apply these APIs to a retail environment.
  • Deploy and scale modern front-ends globally in a repeatable manner with complex systems such as server-side rendering, caching, and data pipelines.
  • Build in resiliency and constant monitoring across DNS, CDN, and multi-region deployments, which requires experience and effort beyond using public cloud/Platform as a Service.
  • Continually monitor underlying systems for security patches and vulnerabilities, and roll out patches quickly across the hosting environment

Finally, a custom approach requires building and maintaining complex integrations. If you were to replatform in this environment, the front-end experience would be safe because it’s separated, but all the integrations would have to be rebuilt.

The Benefits of a Front-end as a Service

A Front-end as a Service offers a better, faster path to a headless architecture and takes a best-of-breed approach to ecommerce. Instead of going at it alone, you get a foundation and tooling that shaves dollars and time off of your project.

Mobify’s Front-end as a Service includes three key differentiators that speed time to market, unlock agility across your organization, and enable your team to focus on building the brand rather than tooling.

Mobify’s Front-end as a headless approach.

Mobify’s Front-end as a Service offers a better, faster path to a headless approach.

Application Delivering Network

The Application Delivery Network offers a scalable, enterprise-grade cloud solution to deploy, host, and manage all high-performing front-end apps. It is built on cloud native and serverless technologies that auto-scale to support peak traffic and offload the stress of ensuring the same consistent performance globally no matter the level of traffic or shopper’s location. This ensures that you don’t have to worry about where to host your front-end experience or develop the DevOps practices to run a custom hosting environment.

Developer Tools

Mobify’s comprehensive set of developer tools empowers teams to build, test, and deploy amazing shopping experiences with Progressive Web Apps, Accelerated Mobile Pages, and native apps on a single codebase – ensuring you don’t have to maintain and synchronize multiple siloed applications. The automated testing framework includes performance, end-to-end, unit, and tests that reduce risk and enable retailers to make changes faster.

The average retailer deploys UX changes about once a month, while the average Mobify customer does 5 deployments per month. Since you’re building on an evolving platform, you’ll also get access to future customer experience technology so that you don’t have to build future touchpoints from scratch.

“Mobify has allowed us a lot more agility. We have seen projects, product, and new functionality go into the market way more quickly than we’ve ever seen before.”
– Charlotte Burrows, Director of Digital, Debenhams

API-Friendly Architecture

Finally, an API-friendly architecture integrates ecommerce, CMS, personalization, analytics, and third-party platforms to empower teams to easily add, swap, or remove any backend system. With this approach, not only is your front-end future-proofed, but you only have to update a single point of integration when you want to change a backend system. The platform’s data integrations also route all key shopper events back to third party marketing and analytics systems.

Mobify’s API-friendly architecture

The 3 key differentiators of Mobify’s Front-end as a Service are the Application Delivery Network, Developer Tools, and Integration Architecture.

“Mobify is the only company that offers a platform to build and manage your PWA front-end as a service. The technology slashes time-to-market and minimizes maintenance expenses by building on an ever-evolving Front-end as a Service.”
– Andrew Mottaz, Sr. Director of Interactive Strategy, Astound Commerce

Triggers: Replatforming, Redesigning, or Going Headless

If you’re replatforming, redesigning your website, or planning to go headless, download the Enterprise Guide to Headless Commerce Front-ends. You don’t want to end up back in the same place in a few years – having to start all over again on a new front-end experience, or layering on point solutions that result in a fragile house of cards. Break the cycle by introducing a Front-end as a Service that offers a faster, more affordable, less risky path to a headless approach. This will unlock agility across your organization, line up your backend systems side-by-side to activate the full value, and future-proof your customer experience so that you never have to start from scratch again.

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