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Navigating the Future of Ecommerce: The Power of API-Based Digital Commerce


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In today's fast-paced digital landscape, businesses are presented with a challenge: How can they seamlessly adapt and thrive in an environment where customer touchpoints are constantly evolving? 

According to the 2023 Gartner® Hype Cycle for Digital Commerce report, “The proliferation of touchpoints requires a multichannel, multiexperience approach to applications. This, in turn, requires the decoupling of the presentation layer from commerce services that an API-based approach offers.” 

What is API-based digital commerce?

According to Gartner, “API-based digital commerce (also commonly known in the market as “headless” digital commerce) is the use of APIs to decouple front ends from core commerce services and to integrate commerce capabilities within any touchpoint where selling is required.” 

Unlike older monolithic technologies, API-based digital commerce provides businesses with unparalleled flexibility, allowing them to create unique customer experiences on the front-end. 

Developers can use their front-end technology of choice to deliver high-quality content experiences and plug in an ecommerce solution on the back-end that manages all commerce functionality. 

Benefits of investing in API-based digital commerce

As an enterprise ecommerce business, there has never been a better time to invest in digital commerce innovation. With the expectations of modern consumers continuing to rise, the need for a dynamic and adaptable ecommerce solution becomes paramount. 

Here's why API-based digital commerce is a game changer:

Seamless multichannel experiences.

According to Gartner, “Recognition of the quality of digital experience as a key differentiator across multiple touchpoints (for example, native mobile apps, marketplaces, social platforms, in-store experiences, the Internet of Things, wearables, smart homes and vehicles).”

API-based digital commerce enables businesses to engage customers across a spectrum of touchpoints, from mobile apps and marketplaces to social media and beyond. This fluidity ensures a cohesive customer journey, irrespective of the platform.

Agile business flexibility.

The Hype Cycle report states that, “Organizations that have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, an API-based digital commerce approach could consider a product-driven solution rather than a platform-driven one. This will enable them to innovate and scale crucial capabilities independently without impacting other capabilities.”

By adopting an API-based approach, companies embrace a modular commerce architecture that can grow and evolve alongside their business. This agility is crucial in a rapidly changing market.

Personalization at scale.

Gartner mentions that “Decoupling the front end is a step toward a modern, modular commerce architecture that provides business flexibility and IT agility.”

Decoupling the presentation layer allows brands to deliver personalized interactions to customers, fostering a deeper connection and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Technical empowerment.

The report identifies that the “Maturity of front-end frameworks, single-page application (SPA) and progressive web application (PWA) as the dominant “next generation” of client-side, JavaScript-based presentation and the emergence of digital experience platforms (DXPs) requires digital commerce platforms to be fully API-enabled.”

The use of APIs, front-end frameworks, and digital experience platforms (DXPs) provides businesses with the technical tools needed to maintain control over the user interface and adapt swiftly to emerging trends.

Navigating the challenges of API-based digital commerce

While the benefits are clear, API-based digital commerce does come with its own set of challenges:

Integration complexity.

The Hype Cycle report states that, “Commerce experiences can be more complex to implement than single-vendor “full stack” solutions due to increased emphasis on integration efforts and governance of the decoupled front-end technology.”

The shift to API-based commerce requires meticulous integration efforts and governance of the decoupled front-end technology.

Business user control.

According to the report, “A key challenge is ensuring business users retain no-code control over the storefront(s). This adds complexity to implementations and the business UIs required to support presentations and processes.”

Balancing business users' control over storefronts with technical implementation complexity is a challenge that demands careful consideration.

API-first approach.

Gartner mentions that “Most vendors’ native commerce platform storefronts are shifting from server-side “themes” or template engines toward client-side SPA/PWA. Thus, some of the benefits of API-based digital commerce are becoming available from almost all vendors. But having an API is not the same as being “API first,” and not all the benefits of this new approach have yet to be realized.”

Not all platforms that provide APIs are truly "API-first." Choosing a vendor with a genuine API-first mindset is vital for harnessing the full potential of API-based digital commerce.

Unlock your ecommerce potential with BigCommerce

Enter BigCommerce, a leading name in API-based digital commerce solutions. We’re laser-focused on enabling enterprises with a future-ready, future-fit ecommerce platform.

As your trusted partner in growth, BigCommerce offers the tools you need to thrive in the modern ecommerce landscape. With our API-based platform, you can:

  • Deliver multichannel excellence: Seamlessly reach customers across diverse platforms, from web and mobile to marketplaces and more.

  • Cultivate business flexibility: Transition to a modular architecture that adapts to your business's evolving needs.

  • Personalize customer experiences: Craft tailored interactions that resonate with individual customers, forging lasting connections.

  • Embrace technical agility: Stay at the forefront of innovation with a platform that truly embraces an API-first mindset.

Unleash the potential of API-based digital commerce with BigCommerce. Join us in shaping the future of ecommerce and delivering unparalleled shopping experiences. 

The final word

In an era where adaptability is key, API-based digital commerce emerges as a beacon of innovation.

Ready to embark on your API-based journey? Explore BigCommerce's cutting-edge solution today and take the first step toward a future-proof commerce ecosystem.

Gartner, Hype Cycle for Digital Commerce, 2023, Sandy Shen, 17 July 2023.

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and HYPE CYCLE is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates and are used herein with permission. All rights reserved. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from BigCommerce.

Haylee Reed avatar

Haylee is a Content Marketing Writer at BigCommerce, where she partners with the SEO team to craft narratives and blog content. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and afterward spent a year abroad to pursue a Master's in International Management from Trinity College Dublin. When she’s not writing, you can usually find Haylee with her nose in a book, enjoying live music or scoping out the best local coffee shops.