#123: Headless eCommerce vs Traditional eCommerce
This episode features a conversation with Synim Selimi and Shkumbin Maxhuni of sogody.com. We discuss why headless ecommerce is outperforming traditional ecommerce stores.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- Headless ecommerce: what is it?
- The benefits of a Headless ecommerce store
- Why stores should use Headless
- Headless vs traditional e-commerce costs
- A/B testing of ecommerce stores
- And more
Links & Resources
About Our Podcast Guests: Synim Selimi and Shkumbin Maxhuni
Sogody is a martech company working on creating granular digital experiences to have clients convert without pitching. They work with international brands, including Samsung, Cheil, Creative CX, Thrasio and enable growth for many more ecommerce businesses.
Synim is the lead software engineer and Shkumbin is the head of design at Sogody.
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Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to another episode of the E-Commerce Coffee Break. Today we wanna talk about a topic that is floating around in the e-commerce atmosphere. Quite a while it's had less commerce. Now, why do we talk about this? We see a lot of, , e-commerce store coming to the market. The market is still growing massively.
We see also in the rising cost of to acquire customers there, and brands are focusing a lot on building better systems to get more personalized and more diversified experience out in the world. Also, we see the death of the third party cookie, so a lot of things happening there and it becomes more, more challenging for merchants to get into the market.
So different ways there. Obviously Shopify provides a huge platform. Again, there is now something called headless conversion. We want to dive into this and figure out what actually Hatless converse is and what the advantages is of going in this direction. So I have two experts with me today who can dive a little bit deeper in this than I can do this.
So there's Synim. He's the lead engineer and head of research and development at sogody.com and Shkumbin, who is the lead designer and strategist there. Sogody is a com company working on creating granular digital experience to have clients converting without pitching. They work with international brands, iSamsung, Cheil, Creative CX, Thrasio and enable growth for many more ecommerce businesses.
So let's say hello. Hello. How are you guys?
Synim Selimi: Hi. Hi Claus very glad, we can join and thank you for having us. Basically, , we try to, , get into, , headless a long time ago and we noticed that this now, right now is , a game changing trend. We just wanted to share some of our insights and thoughts about what headless is and answer some questions that, , store owners have been sending over from, , different, , parts of the world.
so yeah, thank you for having us.
Shkumbin: A pleasure to be here.
Claus Lauter: Yeah. Before we get started, give me a bit of a background. What got you into eCommerce? How did you get started in this whole environment? , What's your journey to get where you are now?
Synim Selimi: Sogar has been, a MarTech brand, , since I believe five years now. delved in different fields, but we noticed, about years ago that e-commerce was, , going to be a big thing, in, , tech.
So , we started to work , with, , e-commerce stores. We, explore different technologies. We explore different, , ways of building eCommerce. We were very lucky to have, uh, prepared team, , in terms of, , knowledge about technology. They knew about Shopify. So we started to dive deeper into Shopify and we saw an endless, , stream of, ideas there.
, About three years ago, we had an opportunity to, , migrate a Shopify store to, , headless, , because we had the expertise, we, went after it. It was a new thing to us. But , after we went through the struggle of trying to figure out some of the drawbacks, which, , Headless has, at the end we noticed, , two things, generally, which, Every store that we migrated to headless had, , a common denominator, which was, , increased performance and conversion rates at the time.
We didn't really understand why this was. Of course, we saw the performance, we could measure it by eye. All sites, all stores worked, , much faster than the traditional ones. However, it wasn't clear to us how the customer was experiencing this. So , it wasn't clear to us if, the headless itself was the reason.
Or, design capabilities that come with it. And yeah, with Comb bin, we, went back and forth and discussed how was this possible? How can single, , way of building, , stores, , have this much impact in, , customer experience? And comb bin, , started, , going, deeper into this and, , trying to figure out how that, , is working out.
And. Basically accumulated a couple of, , ideas, which is comb been, formalized into, , different strategies, , which yeah, he can probably discuss in more detail.
Claus Lauter: Okay, Maybe let's take one step back. Not sure if , all of our listeners. Know what Hatless Commerce actually stands for. Maybe give a bit of an introduction. What is Hatless Commerce and where are the differences between a usual , e-commerce platform?
Shkumbin: Yeah, certainly. maybe a bit, , about myself. , I'm leading , the team of designers in Sogar, we are working mainly on the optimizing. Customer experiences for our clients. And, , at the same time, we are creating, like sym said, the strategy from the first steps , of ideation up until the final results.
, during these experiments, , we saw this trend that, , headless stores had performing, really, really well, and, I'm very excited we get to talk more about it and maybe tell the differences between what is a traditional CMS and, , what is an headless, , approach. , on the technical bits, I think SY is much more capable than I am , to explain that.
, I will like to talk more about how it affects the whole, , design process. now what we learned is, Going headless is not just a technical solution. , it's rather a whole changing approach. , this changing approach then affects the whole design experience and the whole design process within a team.
, and that's what happened in in our team. We had the chance to work with multiple types of stores, multiple types clients. , I can certainly. List a few benefits that you get from going headless. , the first one comes to mind is the speed, , the speed of delivery, in a headless approach allows, , our team to really, , Just quickly, , create, , different iterations of front end experiences, , maybe at the same time that it took us to create a first iteration , on a traditional CMS or a, what is called a monolithic cms.
, therefore, , this kind of speed, lets us get real insight into the customer behaviors, which is really important to us and. Which then allows us to push the develop optimization. , if we put that into like a wider CX strategy, , the real like value , of headless, , lies within the. Whole process from implementation , of a headless store until the, , delivery , of the design. , the second thing I would like to talk more about is the, , scalability or how fast you can grow , with a headless approach. I already talk about all the migration, how easy it is. , it also allows growth in the design department as well, , because the architecture of headless CMS is, allows that growth, , For example, you can create libraries, especially if you're using sanity, which a lot of our clients are, , using a tool like Sanity, you can create a library that, , includes components, includes modules that can be reused, and , then you can put new content very, very quickly, , on different channels, different devices.
, then once you have that foundation, You can always scale up or grow or mature, let's say, that, , library by adding new elements, new components. And , that's actually what we did with , one of our, clients and their store. So we created the UI guidelines Enigma, then we translated that into a sanity library.
And, , that same library is being used to, , create landing pages, create funnel pages that really benefit , the store. Maybe the third, , thing is the freedom, the freedom that it gives our to our team and our designers. , it's simple as that. , it really gives you the flexibility and the freedom over a, , store appearance.
, Not just that it also affects the whole customer journey. In this case, with a traditional eCommerce store, , a lot of unnecessary work , was being put into, , formatting content for different devices, different channels. And this isn't about the case with pedals, , without the hard coded. Connection or correlation between the front end and back end. , headless just automatically, removes those formatting restrictions and, , it formats content based , on the channel. , so this, , gives it the designers more freedom to create unique, , user experiences. the, , on the other hand, for making us.
To work, , more efficiently and making the build process, , much quicker. Using headless also helps , the user experience overall. , we all know that a highly performance site is just a great user experience, and I believe soon , can, maybe talk more about the technical side.
Claus Lauter: Okay. No, I think she is a great summary and I think obviously with being on Shopify or , any other platforms, you're limited to a theme to a, , something that is within the system. And I understand Hatless gives you all the freedom and takes that away and basically keeps the back end. You're still doing your fulfillment and everything in the back end as you know it.
But the front end is a different one and more so, if I understand right, , the five benefits or so, which I think you have on Hatless, is , able to customize everything. You have faster loading time, you have more control, you can scale faster and probably you have less IT support, I reckon.
, Sy give me a bit of a, background from, , how does it work if you wanna move from an existing platform or Where you in the framework into a headless environment.
Synim Selimi: , that's a very good, segue, , clause. So, Most store owners ask this question, and at times it's very difficult to answer, , because it's, , from a technical , point of view, from an engineering point of view, , it's, , as simple as it gets. But the site owners, they're mostly concerned about how much they should invest in this.
Is it worth it? , What it means to go headless technically means that you build your site, , your frontend experience separately from whatever, , e-commerce as a service that you use, Let's say Shopify, Magento, v Commerce, all of that , it can be used as a e-commerce, as a service, you're building a customer experience to your own, , look and feel.
, separately, if you want to upgrade, you can do that Seamless. However, when discussing the cost and uh, what would it take to go headless? Usually how we have a, methodic approach to this. We usually go firstly through, , team, the design team, which, , does a complete. If not revamp, at least rework of the existing site.
As most, , store owners who decide to go headless usually use a theme which is predefined. And that predefined theme comes with his constraints and limitations. And then because we're going headless, we have the flexibility of design. , he and his team can be as creative as they want, , to build a unique experience.
So that's the first step , to going headless. It doesn't have to. Store owners have come with ideas to, , just do the same thing in headless. However, if you're gonna invest the time and effort, usually it's, wiser to do a complete revamp. , the second step would be to basically start the building, , the frontend application, the, single page application in uh, technology that of choice.
We've done, cats, we've done next. To be frank, , it's not that important at this point of time. Most headless technologies perform, uh, , significantly better than any other, , way of building, , stores. So choice of technology is not that important. , what we, , focus on is choice of the CMS content management system.
That's very important. Let's say we build a headless store. , looks great, works great. However, someone has to publish content. And the way that store owners publish content is very important to them, and it should be because, , a good CMS basically spares time , and can help a lot with , how quickly you deliver new features and new, , looks of , the site to the customer.
So what. You usually spend time Next is, deciding on a cms. , we've been working with, , sanity.io, which is the in market, , CMS for headless right now. We've done Contentful. We've used, many other technologies. , it depends on the customer. It depends on the level of configurability that they want.
Once we decide that, uh, cms, we can then build the CMLs from scratch. We can, , set schema and we can set how content is published ourselves. This gives the store owners the, , freedom to decide. What is configurable and technically anything can be configurable from button colors to, , orders of items, to what can be seen in mobile and what in desktop.
, that basically a, one of the, , requirements which we, , usually, , get from clients from Storers. Once that is done, we start building. With, , that information , we, had have two big integrations, which happen usually is the integration with the CMS and integration with the backend.
The backend can be anything. , We've grown, to, , like more Shopify because we have more Shopify experts at hand and usually Shopify provides less headache in terms of shipping, in terms of, different solutions. once we decide the back end, depending on the size of the store, if, a stoner currently is operating on a, eCommerce, , provider, be that Shopify Magento, or any of the others, we do a, , evaluation whether they should move to a better, solution.
However, given that headless is an investment of itself, usually stone owners decide to keep what is currently and they postpone the idea to migrate the backend, , after moving to Atla. Headless enables this opportunity that , you can decide on upgrading whenever you want once you go headless, and you can switch around from any, uh, backend solution to, , any other, uh, backend solution.
That's in terms of time, in terms of estimations, it's very hard to do. However, , Usually it takes, at least six months to do a complete migration to headless. , bigger clients have, , more requirements, smaller store owners can, expect this migration even earlier. However, to feel, satisfied in terms of quality and in terms of deliverables, , usually six months is a good,
Claus Lauter: Okay. No, sounds great. Now, I understand for Shopify you need to be on Shopify Plus, , to work with headless. Is that.
Synim Selimi: , not necessarily. However, it's easier to be on Shopify Plus, , they provide more, , backend integrations. There are workarounds to go headless, even if you're not on Shopify Plus. And, , we've considered and, done that for small owners. However, If you have the idea to invest in Atlas, usually it's , a much, uh, , easier migration if you're, , on Shopify Plus, because the backend, , APIs and all that, they're mostly, , available, , throughout the build process.
, but it's, yeah, Shopify Plus is a good to have, because it will, , certainly decrease the build time.
Claus Lauter: Okay. That brings me to the next question cause we're talking about Shopify Plus now. So if you're on Shopify Plus, or heading into this direction, obviously you are making a higher volume. You already have , a huge customer base. Otherwise it wouldn't make sense. Who's your perfect customer or who's the perfect customer to migrate to, headless.
Synim Selimi: , in terms of design, I think BIN can provide , a more concise, , answer in terms of technology, in terms of, uh, low balancing, in terms of, , all that. store owners who, , have a lot of traffic store owners who have customers which require, , very unique experie. A good, sign that they should move , to headless, own stores, which are very complex in terms of, products and variants. And in terms of, , the way that, , the, , purchase journey goes, they would, , probably benefit a lot from going, in a adverse approach. It'll provide them all the flexibility needed to have the customer journey as, , customer as possible without having to, , trade off performance.
Claus Lauter: Okay. One thing that comes to mind is a lot of merchants love their apps. , talking to a lot of app development companies, , apps obviously give you a broad range of features that you can add, and some of them are really like crucial to a good chop. How can you take apps or functionality from apps into a headless commerce?
Do we have to reinvent the wheel or can you just take what is there?
Synim Selimi: That's one of the. Things that one has to go through when, going headless. , some Shopify apps have, , SBA support. So basically , they provide integration for, , headless sites, others don't. However, there's always a way to integrate, , that is added through Shopify app in native build to the headless store.
, it needs some, , workarounds at times. It can be, , difficult with some Shopify apps, which. Built with legacy, , code, but usually , all the new Shopify apps and all the Shopify apps, which are mostly used. , their integration with hubs, , can take little more time. But, , is nothing that, would hinder the decision of, going headless.
, it takes a little more to get there, but it's not a drawback, which I would, , emphasize.
Claus Lauter: Okay. Now your headless store or the back end obviously will stay with Shopify or WooCommerce market or wherever you are now, the front end, where will that be hosted?
Synim Selimi: That depends. There are, , a couple of, , hosting, , possibilities. There's netlify that's versatile. There's a myriad of. Choices that, However, in terms of cost, in terms of, delivery performance, they're pretty much very similar. So basically you would host it in the cloud, , through one of these, , headless hosting providers.
We use all of them. You even use fair at times, , through their cloud failure pay pages, option. , however, that has not proven to be, an issue and it's usually. , through a part of the starter pack to go headless. One , would have to go through separate, , costs, pay the subscription to Netlify, or similar, , hosting providers.
But that's really insignificant in terms of amount, if you're, a small to medium store owner, , let alone if you have a big store, which would really, impact.
Claus Lauter: Okay, now question is how long or what kind of homework , does immersion need to do before going into headless? So what's the kind of thinking process they need to go through, , before they approach you or anyone else in starting with a project in implementing a headless converse store.
Shkumbin: Yep, certainly. So there are few, , things that you have to keep in mind before. Going headless. But of course these shouldn't, keep you or stop you , from learning more about, , headless and how it works and , if it fits your needs. , True. To be told, headless is not everyone's cup of tea.
, because, , depending on , the size of your store, your, , numbers, , it comes with a bit of, , issues and difficulties. But, , our team is always open to discuss that and see if you are The headless as an approach is, , meeting the client goals. , , always when we are onboarding new clients and , when they are trying to move to headless is, , what's really important is defining the goals of their business, , than calculating the costs, which is really important.
And, , finding a good support team. , Always actually, , boost, , the ROI and their sales. , when I'm saying finding a good support team, what's in my mind is all the issues that we had in our, , experience working with different clients, For example, new actors, , know how handles works and how, , an API works.
, another issue is the tools, , especially , in. Most of the tools don't really, , allow for designing, , for headless, , unless you are, , experienced with it. , also , in my experience, we saw that, , the ratio of designers to content people is about one to 10. , at least this was a case with maybe three, four stores that we worked with.
So, yeah, overall I, would. Dwell more into it, , learn, , more if pedals is the right decision to make before moving. That's pretty much it.
Claus Lauter: Okay, now. Sounds great. How can people approach you to find out more about hatless? I think , it's what more of a complex process, , to come to a decision to go that route, because obviously there's a lot of, , moving parts than to have a hatless store than to benefit from all the positive things that come with that.
, how's the process from your side if somebody gets in touch , with you guys?
Synim Selimi: usually store owners. , are reluctant to go ahead list first. So usually they try to keep operations with their current store. Then I think a very important factor is to find a correlation between site speed and conversion rate. Sogar is a more tech company, usually, , has done ab experiments, , AB tests.
And what we do is , we provide a couple of, , AB tests who. C firsthand was the, correlation between, , site speed and conversion rates. Some sites because of their, uh, audience, because of their customers, that's not relevant. In which case we wouldn't, , advise going headless because some types of, stores do not really rely on, performance.
Others. However, when this proves the case through our AB tests, we usually, suggest going headless because it happens that, , a small, increase in performance, In one of our clients at least, , had a huge impact in conversion rate about, let's say, , from, 0.2 seconds, performance increase.
It resulted in 7% increase in conversion rate. In that case, it's a no brainer that, , because the type of store was that you had to buy quickly. It was the type of item you had to go through and buy quickly. So if the customer was bored with the purchase, journey, they would basically abandon their cart and not go back.
, in that case, what we also provide a white paper, which we, , have, , built internally to, discuss how headless works and what its benefits are. We're also very transparent. The drawbacks. , there is a lot of, , development, which has to be done from scratch, but if done right, that spares a lot of development effort, , moving forward.
one case study is one of our clients, , which, We had a lot of development to, do, , midterm, but now, , we've cut down on, development effort, , quite a lot because everything is configurable and if they have an idea to implement, they can do it themselves, through cms, , through the sanity cms.
Store owners who want, , autonomy, who want to have more control over their store will gain this through headless, , with increased performance and, , flexibility. This is basically a design process, , which we go through. most, merchants have decided to, , go headless and at least.
, 80% of our, , clients have seen significant increase. Others have seen medium , to low increase in convert rates. However, that's not due to headless. That can be, at times difficult to factor in, from, , different environments.
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool. As we come slowly to the end of our coffee break, I think it was a very good overview to see what Hatless actually is and what the benefits are and also. Flexine. I think if a business becomes more complex in their operations, then hapless might be the right way to go because of the contr of the options that you can do that you usually cannot do in a framework with a normal Shopify storm.
So thanks for that. Where can people find out more about you guys?
Synim Selimi: we can find, , out more in our, , website.com. Instagram, , somebody com, Twitter, , LinkedIn if someone is interested in, that, , information. ,
Claus Lauter: Okay, cool. I will put a link in a show notes, then you will be just one click away. And I think it's a good, , idea just to get in contact, , with you and then get a deeper understanding if had less, converse is the right choice to go. Thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate that. And talk soon.
Synim Selimi: talk soon. Bye.
Synim Selimi: you.
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