Headless Commerce Explained: A No-Nonsense Run-Down of the Popular Ecommerce Strategy

If you’ve spent time in eCommerce circles in the last few years, you’ve likely come across the term headless commerce. If you’re looking to cut through the buzzwords and get a quick and easy...


If you’ve spent time in eCommerce circles in the last few years, you’ve likely come across the term headless commerce. If you’re looking to cut through the buzzwords and get a quick and easy breakdown of the trend, look no further.

In this article, you’ll learn what headless commerce is, how it differs from traditional eCommerce and why it’s getting all the hype.

What is headless commerce?

Think of an eCommerce website as two parts: the part customers see and interact with and the part behind the scenes that handles the logistics. The former is often referred to as the frontend or display layer, and the latter is called the backend or commerce engine. These two parts are typically separated – the frontend runs on each user’s browser and the backend runs in the cloud.

In a typical commerce solution, the “head” is the frontend part of the equation and is provided with a corresponding backend. Headless commerce is a practice of using a backend service that does not have a corresponding “head”. This means that a brand can choose to use any technology solution for their frontend to integrate with the headless commerce service.

This opens a world of opportunities. A brand can pick the front-end solution that best works for their business strategy and audience. Since this is the layer of the website or application that customers see and interact with, this is an opportunity to create a true competitive advantage.

What are some examples of frontends that a brand might want to use? Some examples are a content management system (like WordPress), a digital experience platform (like Drupal) or a progressive web application.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg though; you can create custom frontend solutions that do exactly what you need them to in any language. Existing custom solutions can also be integrated with headless services, providing users the same frontend experience with a new backend service.

How is headless different from traditional commerce?

For decades, the traditional eCommerce model has tied both systems together in all-in-one monoliths. These packaged systems have the benefit of being simple to get up and running.

While having a single solution may seem simpler at first, it can complicate things. Some changes to the frontend can’t be accomplished without updating the backend, which could mean additional developer work. In a headless commerce model, brands have the freedom to modify their frontend to utilize the headless backend services however they choose.

Why is headless commerce taking eCommerce by storm?

Headless commerce can provide several benefits for brands.

First, they have a greater choice in what solutions to use. They can use a content management system or digital experience platform to create a cutting-edge website that stands out from the crowd.

By using a headless build, brands can make changes more quickly and help launch their stores quickly. This can make it easier to adapt to industry trends and changes. By migrating aging enterprise systems to headless commerce services, businesses can make their development teams more focused and agile.

For brands who are already familiar with or using a particular solution, headless makes it easy to add commerce where they need it. For example, a site that is already on WordPress can simply connect an eCommerce platform to its existing site.

Want to learn more?

This article is just the beginning of what headless is and can do.

For more information, you will want to check out this upcoming webinar on March 30th at 1 pm EST. In it, Dan Fertig, Global Director of Agency Partnerships at BigCommerce, in conjunction with Joe Cronyn, Senior Software Architect at JBS Custom Software Solutions, will share much more about headless commerce and how it's helping enterprise brands to take their eCommerce to the next level.

This guest post is written by Susan Meyer with BigCommerce in collaboration with Joe Cronyn, Senior Software Architect, with JBS Custom Software Solutions.

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