Four51 was founded back in 1999 when the concept of headless ecommerce platforms and decoupled user interfaces were beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. Having been at the forefront of the SaaS explosion, we believed early on that there had to be a better way to deliver software than traditional on-premise deployments. No one, not even the analysts, knew what to call SaaS back then, but everyone knew that “less expensive” was better, “faster” was better, “configuration” was easier than writing code, and “the cloud” was changing the way we would connect apps to people. SaaS, like all successful software advancements, followed the pattern of removing complexity from software and allowing less experienced resources to more effectively deploy and use applications.
Traditional SaaS: Fast, Comprehensive and Custom….Pick Two
Traditionally, software choices have been bound by three parameters: Speed of deployment, comprehensiveness of functionality, and customization of user experiences. The problem is that you could only pick two of those parameters. SaaS is comprehensive and fast, but you forego customization. On-premise is comprehensive and can be customized, but it’s not fast to deploy. And you can build a custom app fast, but it won’t be comprehensive.
Our experience has taught us that SaaS is a great way to deliver comprehensive, highly verticalized user experiences and do it fast. That’s why SaaS is such a great model and why most software has moved there today. But what if you could take all the great benefits of SaaS and somehow add customization? We started asking ourselves that question about five years ago. If you could do that, you could break the bonds of traditional software and obtain speed, comprehensiveness, AND customization simultaneously. Answering that question is what led us to our commerce platform OrderCloud. Similar thinking by other platform companies like Twillio in telecom, Contentful in CMS, and Clearbit in business intelligence is beginning to redefine how apps are delivered and is ushering in a new generation of custom SaaS applications.
The Future of SaaS: Fast, Comprehensive AND Custom via Headless eCommerce Platforms
Much like the early days of SaaS, you’re starting to hear the buzz about “Headless eCommerce Platforms,” or also called “API-Based SaaS” and “API-first.” Headless eCommerce platforms are characterized by the absence of the front-end, or the “head.” Headless eCommerce platforms decouple the user interface from the back-end, making it possible for you to customize the experience to a whole new degree. They also allow for the creation of custom SaaS applications at a fraction of the time and cost of any previous method. It provides speed AND comprehensiveness AND customization. And when packaged with its own starter applications, built-in toolsets, and open source component libraries, it makes software more accessible, easier to deploy, and easier to customize than ever before. Headless eCommerce platforms are the future of SaaS. And they’re here today.