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What is headless checkout?

An emerging e-commerce technology is changing the way businesses sell their products online. Headless checkout decouples the purchase and payments experience from businesses’ websites and enables consumers to make purchases from virtually anywhere.

Whether buyers spot a product through an ad, sponsored article, email, or other method, the end result is almost always the same.

They navigate to the seller’s website, add the product to the cart, initiate the checkout process, then, more than 70% of the time, just stop. Customers abandon their carts for many reasons, but the prevailing one is a cumbersome checkout process. Most people don’t want to create accounts or spend time filling out personal, payment, and delivery information, so they leave the product behind.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There’s a solution that transforms the buyer experience. It’s called headless checkout.

Traditionally, online stores would use e-commerce platforms with built-in features that didn’t allow them to change the way their stores look. Not anymore. Headless commerce separated e-commerce stores’ front ends (what buyers see and interact with on online stores) from their backends (the system working in the background that powers websites), which unleashed a wave of innovation over the last decade. Most of this innovation happened behind the scenes and was not obvious to average consumers.

Headless checkout is one of the latest evolutions of headless commerce. Headless checkout separates the purchase and payments experience from online stores and enables buyers to make purchases from virtually anywhere. With headless checkout, buyers can purchase sellers’ products directly from a content creator’s review page, emails, sponsored articles, and through other digital avenues. That means if a buyer wants a product, they can purchase it on the spot. No redirects. No phone numbers to call. One click, and it’s done.

Before buyers and sellers can get the full benefit of headless checkout, sellers and content creators that take part in advertising and affiliate marketing need a way to show that buyers can checkout directly through content creators. Several payment platforms have buttons that store personal information such as name, shipping and billing addresses as well as credit card information to narrow down the checkout process to one or two clicks. With headless checkout, those payment buttons are integrated with the products being promoted across the web. That feature allows buyers to complete orders quickly, sometimes in just a matter of seconds without having to actually be on the seller’s e-commerce website.

Headless checkout is a game changer because it flips inbound marketing on its head. Headless checkout enables sellers to think beyond using emails, affiliate marketing, microsites, and other forms of advertising to simply drive traffic to their websites, where so many sales never get completed. Instead, they can focus on the most important aspect of their job, completing a sale. Doing so is much easier if a buyer can make a purchase when they first see the product and while they’re inspired to buy.

Headless checkout is a win for buyers, sellers, and content creators. Buyers purchase their items without any hassles, sellers generate more revenue than they would just using their websites, and content creators sell more products that drive incremental commissions.
Headless checkout revolutionizes how people buy things, but it does not replace the traditional shopping experience. It simply brings commerce to more people, where they are. Retail e-commerce sales worldwide totaled $4.28 trillion in 2020 and is projected to surpass $4.8 trillion in 2021. Bringing products directly to buyers and allowing them to purchase them on the spot is likely to fuel even greater e-commerce growth in the coming years.

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