Headless, No-Code, and Legacy Commerce with Builder’s Steve Sewell

December 1, 2021
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Yellow background with the Tydo and Builder logos with navy blue text that says "Headless Commerce 101"

Headless, No-Code, and Legacy Commerce with Builder’s Steve Sewell

Steve Sewell is the Founder & CEO at Builder, a headless platform that helps ecommerce stores design new, digital experiences. In October 2021, Builder closed a $14M Series A round led by Greylock, with participation from Imaginary Ventures, Sugar Capital, and executives from world-class brands, such as Allbirds, Warby Parker, Everlane, and Harry’s.

We sat down with Steve to jam on the rapidly evolving wave of no-code solutions, how headless performance translates into revenue, and how to leverage data as a single source of truth. 

Legacy Commerce: Masters of None 

Traditional commerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce are strong on the backend, but they’ve fallen behind on the frontend.

Headless takes advantage of this opportunity by swapping out the antiquated front-end components of a storefront (i.e. landing pages, product pages, and blogs) with a custom stack that’s faster, modern, and elegant. 

Overall, headless outperforms traditional commerce platforms across nearly every metric that matters.

There are a seemingly endless array of headless platforms out there, illustrated by the recent flurry in funding activity.  In Steve's own words, while there isn’t a clear winner among new headless tools, one thing is certain: the commerce ecosystem will continue to gravitate towards headless options over legacy tools.

And now, brand owners are finally seeing the performance benefits of this headless wave in real time, and more importantly, they’re seeing how that performance directly translates into new revenue.

“To put it bluntly, legacy commerce tools are jacks of all trades, masters of none.” 

Phase One: Migrating to Headless

There are an increasing number of brands that simply aren’t a good fit for traditional commerce tools.

This cohort of brands tends to have complex business models and expansive product catalogs. Or, they might be experiencing performance issues—a common pain point among fast-growing brands.

If a storefront runs slow on mobile devices, consistently suffers from low conversion issues, or supports multiple locales, Steve suggests going headless. 

All of these headaches fall under the general category of performance issues—issues that headless solutions like Builder directly tackle by improving site speed and boosting conversion, LTV, and loyalty.

This is Builder's sweet spot. They offer the perfect solution: no-code software tools that enable teams to test, design, and scale powerful drag-and-drop page builders and headless CMS infrastructure. Plus, it integrates with any tech stack or legacy platform.

Before making the jump to headless, Steve recommends taking a look at revenue. More specifically, he suggests that headless brands should be doing at least $10M GMV. Why? So, teams can afford to hire an agency or full-time dev team to customize their new storefront. 

Before migrating to headless, Steve recommends running through this checklist:

  1. Figure out who’s doing the work. Do you have an internal dev team?
  2. If you need to hire, who will be the best fit—agencies or contractors?
  3. Evaluate cost, timeline, and tooling options. Is it simple or complex?

For context, Steve recommends bringing on at least 3-4 devs (internal or external) while scoping out at least three to six months for the project timeline.

"Start with Webflow or Squarespace first," says Steve. The site doesn’t need to be anything custom or fancy at first. Then, when the brand needs more customization and their GMV nears $1-5M, they can start seeking out headless solutions.

If a brand needs engineers but doesn't have the capital to hire them, Steve says to look into contractors or agencies.

Start with a contractor, and then once the brand sees the ROI, they can scale up and find an agency.

“As a rule of thumb, if you’re using a legacy platform and you keep bumping your head against its limitations, you should probably look into headless alternatives.”

Phase Two: Leveraging Data Analytics  

When brands start using headless platforms, the best way to measure success is to look at conversions both before and after making the switch.

The key data point to consider is dollars per visitor.

In an ideal world, a brand starts A/B testing for dollar per visitor at a website level. 

To do that, brands can send half of their traffic to the old stack and the other half of their traffic to their new stack. Then, they can get cleaner data and see which stack is giving them better conversions.

And, the highest converting stack is nearly unanimously headless. 

Steve also notes that the more custom a stack gets, the more custom the analytics dashboard should be, especially as it relates to tracking performance data.

“If your headless stack isn’t generating positive results, first check your data. Then, talk to your engineers and find out why. That shouldn’t be the case.”  

Advancing the Future of Headless

Previously, if a founder wanted to go headless for its clear performance benefits, they were entering uncharted territory. Just a few years back there weren't any clean, simple, and accessible headless tools that offered the ease of traditional commerce platforms.

However, with more headless platforms emerging, the no-code game is changing at a blazing fast pace.

Founders now need drag and drop functionality and the ability to visualize real-time feedback based on the customer journey and user testing.

In tandem, teams need to sync their existing back-end infrastructure in one place, and then customize it under a single front-end platform. 

At Builder, Steve and his team see how tech stacks are shifting to a custom, more modular feel.

What's the end goal? They're building a tool thatallows non-technical teams to seamlessly create and optimize on-brand digital experiences with a clear outcome in minddrive revenue growth

“Builder effectively marries the best that no-code and headless have to offer. The result? Improved speed, flexibility, and the ability to rapidly roll out new tests.”

Turning Insight into Action

Developing a fluid understanding of headless, no-code, and legacy commerce is key as it relates to building a brand's ecommerce strategy and executing against it.

The latter step—execution—is what ultimately separates a brand from the pack.

To get started, Steve recommends shifting quickly into action by building, shipping, and testing.

In the fall of 2021, Builder partnered with Sharma Brands to create an easy-to-use and customizable landing page.

Developing high-converting landing pages is a critical first step in migrating to headless.

It's conducive to rapid feedback, especially around what positioning and messaging is yielding performance benefits. To dive right in, click here to get started.



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