Ultimate guide to headless E-Commmerce

Online E-commerce is growing faster than ever, changing the business models of businesses, but also the shopping behavior of consumers. For major retailers and brands, improving the shopping experience and digitizing the business is the secret to rapid business growth. Traditional e-commerce platforms cannot keep up with growing business needs, which is why headless e-commerce is increasingly valued by brands, and it is revolutionizing the e-commerce industry.

What is headless eCommerce?

"Headless" is a vivid description. "Head" refers to the front-end, the layer of displaying data. It could be a website page or a terminal of various devices, such as mobile applications, IoT platforms, wearable devices or Vending machines etc. "Headless E-commerce" is a new type of web architecture, which decoupled the front-end and back-end, running as a separated system.

The independent Headless E-commerce storefront becomes a lightweight system, making online shopping with faster speed, more flexible, safer and user experience. For example, The Headless Shopify, merchants only need product management system and Checkout payment system as backend, the shopify storefront will be discarded.

How works the headless commerce, API-Drive

Since the frontend and backend of headless ecommerce runs independently, how to establish the communication between them? That's the secret for headless commerce: API-Driven. The backend provides the API (Application Programming Interface) for data, which will be used in development, so the frontend and backend will be seamlessly connected. Nowadays, APIs as a transport medium to connect various applications and digital IoT devices that allow the application to share data with other systems. Also, merchants use the APIs to implement the omni-channel strategy, without developing a new application.

headless shopify architecture

In addition, merchants can expand third-party applications to business needs, modern Digital Experience Platform (DXP) are the best solution for scale ecommerce, the common DXP such as:

  • Customer Relationship Management CRM

  • Content Management System CMS

  • Progressive Web Apps PWA

  • Shipping and Packaging Systems

Merchants can select the required SASS applications flexibly, use the API to scale their application, which avoids complex backend development, saves costs, but also promotes the shopping experience of e-commerce.

Monolithic vs Headless

Let's take a closer look at the difference between traditional e-commerce platform and headless ecommerce. Traditional online shopping is a complete e-commerce solution combining with front and back ends, this is a model calls Monolithic, which means, all functionalities, store design, shopping cart, payment system, product management and business extensions are unified in one platform and highly depend on each other. Its advantages are strong compatibility and out-of-the-box use, which lowers the threshold for entering the market. However, too much functional integration also makes the store bloated and slow, limiting the business development in the future.

Monolithic Ecommerce

  • Binding front-end and back-end, rigid web development framework,
  • The functionalities are highly integrated, limited modification authority,
  • Complex dynamic data calls and staled ecommerce technology, slows the page speed,
  • Templated store design, lacking of personalization,
  • Marketing flexibility and omnichanel are limited,
  • The security of back-end data requires enterprises to increase maintenance costs.

Headless Ecommerce

  • High Personalization and customization creating a great shopping experience,
  • Flexibility to choose a higher-performance development language,
  • Combine static pages with dynamic data to create a smooth shopping experience,
  • Add third-party applications such as DXP on demand, flexible extensions,
  • Reusable source code for omnichannel in different devices,
  • Good for technical iteration to maintain the competitiveness.
api driven headless commerce architecture

Benefits of headless eCommerce

Once you use decoupled headless commerce, it means that you are no longer restricted by traditional e-commerce platforms, and you have free permissions and customization to make your online business full of vitality.

Lightning-fast page load speed

The loading speed and fluency of the storefront are the most easily perceived parts by customers. In order to maintain their attention, the page jump speed must be reduced to 3 seconds or even less than 1 second. However, for traditional e-commerce architecture, in the design of Speed and mobile friendliness were not a priority at the beginning. Large images and forms, shopping cart design and cumbersome checkout process, especially on Black Friday, when the dramatic increase in traffic made the checkout process extremely slow and some customers eventually gave up.

The biggest advantage of the headless e-commerce architecture is the extremely fast response speed, sub-second page jumping, pre-rendering technology of static page generator SSG, [PWA progressive web program](/blog/ progress-web-application-pwa), and decoupling of front and back ends, which not only realizes Lightning-fast and creating a smoother shopping experience.

User experience leads to amazing conversion rates

Before headless e-commerce, achieving fast page loading and friendly interactive experience has always been the most difficult task of website development. Interactive experience means that more personalized design elements, even 3D animation and high-definition picture display are required. etc. These factors can make users experience more fun when visiting the website. But in traditional monolithic e-commerce sites, a better interactive experience means giving up fast page speeds. The headless e-commerce architecture achieves the perfect combination of user experience and speed, which can help merchants create an excellent user experience, thereby greatly increasing the conversion rate.

And this kind of friendly experience is not only limited to domestic customers. For large international retailers, multi-language and multi-currency make shopping easy. Thanks to the pre-rendered static pages in the headless e-commerce architecture, the static website is deployed to the edge node closest to the customer through the CDN node. Therefore, no matter what country you are in, you can visit the store smoothly, thus realizing the overseas business.

UX branding design

The completely independent store design allows brands to finally no longer be limited by templated page layouts. Using the cutting-edge development framework, the corporate culture, product characteristics and brand image are perfectly combined to create a unique brand style, improve customer loyalty, and bring more repurchase business.

Flexible business development

After more than half of the merchants have used the traditional e-commerce platform for one year, with the growth of business and traffic, the e-commerce platform cannot meet the business expansion of the enterprise. Whether it is content expansion or functional expansion, there will be certain restrictions. Plugin compatibility can make a site even worse. On the contrary, with headless e-commerce, all expansion becomes much easier, and retailers can expand flexibly according to actual needs, saving cost and time.

In addition to the above, there are many more advantages, such as,

  • Free website architecture, conducive to SEO optimization;
  • Static pre-rendering technology allows Google to index faster and improve network rankings;
  • The demand for servers is greatly reduced, and the cost is also reduced;
  • API-driven headless e-commerce no longer operates the database, and the stability and security are enhanced;
  • Integrate cutting-edge PWA technology to realize the transformation from website to mobile APP;
  • It is easy to carry out technical iterations and adapt to the future development of e-commerce.

Is headless right for your online business?

While headless ecommerce has much more advantages than traditional, not all online merchants need to use this tech stack. For start-ups or small retailers, who need to reduce costs and shorten the cycle of entering the market, traditional e-commerce platforms are the best choice, which fully meet their current needs. Headless ecommerce means big investment in the future, including IT teams and functional expansion costs.

When the merchants find that the current e-commerce platform limits business development, or in order to improve user experience to increase conversion rates, it’s time to seriously consider using headless commerce solutions. Although building a headless store from scratch is a complicated and tedious task that requires more investment. At the same time, the huge profits and positive brand effects which headless ecommerce brings far outweigh the development costs.

In addition, the use of the headless solution Frontend As A Service (FAAS) is emerging as a subscription service, and the monthly payment plan reduces the burden on enterprises which is a good idea for future ecommerce.

Why shopify is good for headless ecommerce

Shopify is already the most popular online sales platform at present, but you may not know that Shopify's platform architecture can fully meet the conditions of being a headless ecommerce, and developers can use the front-end API interface provided by shopify to achieve a powerful headless solution. The Shopify platform acts as the backend, handling product information and payment functions separately. With the development of headless e-commerce, more and more brands are using Headless Shopify as the basis for online e-commerce to achieve a more friendly shopping experience.

How to get start with headless ecommerce

Headless e-commerce is a customized solution. Most merchants are not familiar with headless solutions, and do not know how to start, how to proceed, and how to operate. Ask our experts for free project guidance. Frontend as a Service provided by HaiCommerce is a good start. It can not only greatly shorten the cycle for merchants to enter the market, but also prepares for additional expansion plans with the growth of merchants' business to meet different needs in different periods. To meet business needs, we will continuously improve the digitization and intelligence of the online business of enterprises.


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