Headless commerce

Headless commerce lets ecommerce brands split out their front-end (like their online store) from their back-end systems (like inventory and order processing). 

This makes it easier to quickly make changes to their front-end.

What’s headless commerce?

For an ecommerce business, being able to experiment and make changes to their online store should be an important part of their growth strategy. 

To explain headless commerce, you’ll first need to know what we mean by front-end and back-end systems. Front-end means the part of your ecommerce tech stack that a customer interacts with directly - like the user interface (UI) of your online store. Back-end systems are the processes and tools that a customer never sees or interacts with directly, like your order fulfilment tools.  

In a traditional ecommerce setup, these two systems are closely integrated, making it difficult to make changes or updates to the front-end without affecting the back-end.

Headless commerce splits out front-end and back-end systems. This makes it possible for businesses to make changes to their UI without having to worry about it affecting anything else.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of headless commerce?

These are some of the benefits of adopting headless commerce:

  • More flexibility: By separating the front-end UI from the back-end systems, businesses can make changes and updates to the front-end without affecting the back-end. This makes it easier to experiment with different design elements and user experience (UX) approaches.

  • Integration with other systems: With headless commerce,you can integrate with other platforms, such as customer relationship management (CRM) or marketing automation tools.

  • Improved customer experience: By allowing businesses to easily make changes and updates to the front-end, headless commerce can help improve the overall customer experience.

But, as with anything, there are drawbacks to headless commerce:

More complexity: By breaking apart your front and back ends, you’ll have to deal with a complex setup. This can be challenging for businesses that aren’t familiar with this type of setup, and you might need in-house developer support.

  • Greater reliance on APIs: Headless commerce relies on APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to transfer information between the front-end UI and back-end systems. This means that if there are issues with the APIs, it can bring down your entire ecommerce setup.

  • Extra development and maintenance costs: Headless commerce requires more development and maintenance effort, as it involves building and maintaining separate front-end and back-end systems. This can result in additional costs for businesses.

  • Lack of built-in features: Traditional ecommerce platforms come with built-in features, such as a checkout process. With headless commerce, these features will need to be built and maintained separately.

What types of ecommerce businesses would benefit from headless commerce?

Headless commerce can be a good fit for a variety of ecommerce businesses, including those in these categories:

  • Fast-growing businesses: The flexibility of headless commerce makes it well-suited for brands that are growing rapidly and need to be able to quickly make changes to their ecommerce operations.

  • Brands with a strong focus on customer experience: By allowing businesses to easily experiment with different UX approaches, headless commerce can help DTC brands deliver a better overall shopping experience for their customers.

  • Businesses with a need to integrate with other systems: Headless commerce makes it easier to integrate with other systems and platforms (like other ecommerce marketplaces for instance). This could make it a good fit for those that rely on integrations to power their operations.

Does Shopify support headless commerce?

Shopify supports headless commerce. It has a feature called ‘Storefront API’ that allows developers to build custom storefronts using any technology stack while still using Shopify as the back-end system. 

However, Shopify isn’t a fully headless ecommerce platform. This means that brands using Shopify are still going to be limited to the features and functionality provided by the platform. To fully take advantage of the benefits of headless commerce, businesses might want to use a more specialised platform or build their own back-end system.