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Headless commerce explained in 5 minutes

Sam Van Hees • 22 February 2023

Headless commerce is hot and happening. However, with all the talk it might also cause some confusion. This article will cover the basics of what headless commerce actually is.

What is headless commerce?

Monolithic commerce formed the start of shopping online. It provided an all-in-one solution for selling products and managing and publishing content on the web.

With monolithic commerce platforms, the frontend is connected to the backend. This means that making changes to the frontend requires the necessary changes to the backend. As a result, changes are hard to make, you need developers for everything, and IT costs are high. 

Headless commerce is the separation of the frontend from the backend. Meaning what customers see and interact with, the frontend is decoupled from the backend, the engines that drive your business such as fulfillment and the checkout. As a result changes to the frontend can be made without any limitations. 

monolithic vs headless commerce architecture

Headless Commerce Architecture

But if the frontend and backend are not connected, how do these two layers work together? With headless commerce, the frontend and the backend communicate with each other through APIs (application programming interface). APIs enable communication between different software solutions.

This gives brands the flexibility to integrate best-in-class tools such as a headless CMS, CRM, ERP, and other tools.

Below you can find a visualization of a typical headless architecture using Shopify as the backend.

headless commerce architecture example

Use cases for Headless Commerce

  • Enabling faster site-speeds

  • Integrate best-in-class tools such as a CRM and ERP

  • Eliminate developer dependencies

  • Create mobile-first experiences

  • Simplify international commerce with one code base to manage everything

  • Faster time to market since tech-stack and content are seperated

  • Greater control over the customer experience

  • Innovation, turn virtually any screen into a digital storefront, from web pages wearables

Should you go headless?

The answer to this question is quite simple, but it won’t help you much right away: It depends on your requirements. There are use cases where monolithic solutions work fine and where headless commerce doesn’t make sense.

To help you decide, let’s have a look at the benefits really quick:

Monolithic commerceHeadless commerce
Fast-site speed
No
Yes
Omnichannel support
No
Yes
API first approach
No
Yes
Fast time to market
No
Yes
Replaceable technology stack
No
Yes
Localization
Yes
Yes
Easy app integrations
Yes
No
Headless CMS
No
Yes
Control user experience / interface
No
Yes

Headless Commerce options

Other than using a regular/monolithic commerce solution, where you can use a theme, headless commerce requires you to build a storefront from the ground up.

There are however a few options when thinking about building your storefront. The biggest choice brands face is whether to build a storefront from scratch or use a storefront builder platform.

The first option is the completely custom route. When going for this option, eCommerce brands team up with an agency or in-house developers to build and handpick all the functions, microservices, third-party add ons and stitch it all together. Such projects require a large investment starting from 100K+. In addition, building from scratch means you are embarking on a 3-6 month process.

Option two is working with a storefront builder platform. Such platforms enable eCommerce brands to build their own headless commerce platform in a low-code environment for the fraction of the cost and time.

Here are some storefront builder platforms you might like to have a look at to find your best fit: Instant Commerce, Frontastic and Shogun. There are also other options out there, but looking at the features and concepts - those are the platforms you should have a look at.

What is Instant Commerce?

Instant Commerce is the #1 storefront builder for headless commerce that enables eCommerce brands to build superior online shopping experiences, fast and easy, with best-in-class technology. 

With our platform, you can build and launch headless storefronts up to ten times faster and cheaper than traditional solutions. 

Does your online store suffer from any of these problems?:

  • Frontend design limitations

  • Slow site speed across devices

  • Low conversion rates

  • Hard to manage multi-language and multi-currency stores

  • Developer dependencies

Then headless commerce might be the best next step for you. eCommerce brands using our platform to build headless storefronts see on average: 38% higher conversion, 70% increase in site speed and 10X faster time to market. 

Interested in learning more about what the Instant Commerce storefront builder has to offer? Request a live demo and get all your questions answered by one of our headless ecommerce experts. 

Get a live demo 👉 here!

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Author / Writer
Sam Van Hees
Founder & CMO

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