How to go headless without the hassleRead now on "How to go headless without the hassle"

Back to overview

Headless commerce explained in 5 minutes

Sam Van Hees • 25 April 2022

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 frontend as a service platform.

The first option is the completely custom route. When going for this option, eCommerce brands team up with an agency to build and handpick all the functions, microservices, third-party add ons and stitch it all together. Such projects require a large investment ranging anywhere from $85K to $500K+. In addition, building from scratch means you are embarking on a 3-6 month process with your agency.

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

Here are some frontend-as-a-service options 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.

Instant Commerce

For eCommerce brands who want to scale, Instant Commerce is the no-code headless storefront solution that enables faster-site speeds, higher conversion ratios, and eliminates developer dependencies.

With our unique dynamic components (block) approach, you can create a superior shopping experience in a no-code environment. 

Instant commerce has seamless out-of-the-box integrations with Shopify, Storyblok, Google Analytics, Klaviyo, Algolia, Gorgias and many others. 

Summary

Headless commerce offers a solution to the many limitations of monolithic commerce. It is undoubtedly the future of eCommerce. If you feel that your current webshop is limiting your ability to provide a unique customer experience, or if your conversion rates are being hit by a slow webshop, a headless solution is something to take seriously.

We would love for you to give Instant Commerce, the leading front-end-as-a-service platform, a chance. Feel free to get in contact and reach out to our team below.

Author / Writer
Sam Van Hees
Founder & CMO

Get our best content in your inbox

We’ll send you a bi-weekly update via email full of eCommerce tips, trends and resources.

We won’t put any spam in your mailbox, promised.