Headless Commerce Guide

What Is Headless Commerce?

Headless Commerce describes the decoupling of the frontend, or customer-facing presentation layer, from the backend of an eCommerce solution, allowing each one to function independently.

The Headless Commerce Approach

Headless commerce is an eCommerce approach that decouples your platform’s frontend from the backend. In essence, it separates the platform’s inner framework from its presentation layer, allowing companies to completely change the way they present content, products, and the overall customer experience.

Headless means that you can use the content management system you already have to interact with your eCommerce platform. The design, content, and user experience are all controlled and managed by the CMS. Whenever there is a need to get product, order or account information, the CMS requests that data directly from the eCommerce platform.

Headless approaches have been around for years, but they haven’t been embraced by the larger eCommerce community until recently. The challenge of integrating an eCommerce platform with a content management system has always existed and marketers have been forced to compromise between a robust commerce platform with a built-in interface or a CMS system with a weak eCommerce feature set. Headless allows for a more flexible relationship between both systems – each playing to different strengths that they offer.

Today, eCommerce providers of all sizes are opening up their frontends to let their customers enjoy the benefits of headless implementations.

Headless Separates Front End From Back End

The primary advantage of headless commerce over traditional, full-stack approaches is flexibility.

Decoupling the eCommerce platform’s frontend gives the marketing team the freedom to design and build the layout they want without making compromises due to the platform’s limitations. This is a crucial element of the implementation to consider, as many companies struggle with balancing their platform’s capabilities with the expectations of their marketing teams.

Often, a marketing team will avoid addressing limitations head-on and run their webstore(s) on a completely separate system, with no link between the two. That decision, however, presents a number of challenges for operations, marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and more. And worse yet, working with separate systems usually means that neither are current, efficient or optimized.

The best philosophy is to subvert the problem altogether by integrating your content, browsing, research and checkout processes into a single website. Headless provides the perfect framework for this type of flexibility.

Compare the headless approach to traditional eCommerce, where platforms have virtually inseparable front/backends, and the advantage of a separate presentation layer is clear. It’s an approach that offers nearly limitless customization in how a company presents its eCommerce experience, including products, services, content, reviews, and more.

Maturing Your eCommerce Strategy

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that headless is “just a shopping cart” or some simple optimization. This isn’t just an upgrade—it’s a new way of looking at eCommerce that lets you customize your customer experience in a more sophisticated way.

But the benefits of headless aren’t limited to flexibility. Headless commerce is, by nature, supportive of multi-platform optimization. The loose integration makes it easy to bring mobile and responsive web elements into the fold. In this way, headless helps future-proof an organization and prepare it for the advance of eCommerce. This strategy is particularly valuable for organizations that have an existing website environment but want to enhance and build upon that platform.

Overall, this approach speaks to a more mature eCommerce strategy that’s flexible enough to adapt to changing storefronts, commerce systems, and consumer demands. Headless architecture offers the most efficient and adaptable approach to this type of integration.

Next Up: The Evolution of the Commerce Experience