Last Updated on
May 3, 2024

What is Headless Ecommerce - and Why is it So Popular?

Published in
Key takeaways:
  • Headless ecommerce is a setup where the back and the front end of a store are separated.
  • There are many benefits to headless ecommerce: more customization, better website performance, a wide selection of integrations, preventing vendor lock-in and more.
  • There are some downsides too, such as a steeper learning curve, higher initial costs, as well as dependency on third-party services.
  • Instead of a store, consider turning your ecommerce store into a website - with MobiLoud!

While ecommerce has its own set of rules and regulations, it’s not immune to advancements in technology. One of them is headless ecommerce - a tech setup that promises a lot. It keeps your developers happy, helps your website be faster and more agile and allows your business to share content more easily.

But does it live up to the promise and why is it so popular in 2024 and beyond? Let’s explore headless ecommerce.

What is headless ecommerce?

A headless ecommerce store is a website that is set up with a headless infrastructure. This means separating the front end (the part of your shop that people see in their browsers and on their phones) and the back end (the part where your developers do all the work).

headless ecommerce development

There are many reasons why headless ecommerce is growing in popularity, but the main one is that it allows for more customization options. This is why even brands such as Shopify and BigCommerce are adding headless platforms to their offer.

The benefits of headless ecommerce

“Separating the front and back end” may sound like a good tagline but it may not be enough to convince you to jump for a headless Shopify solution - which can cost thousands of dollars. So, here are some of the top benefits of running a headless store.

Better website performance

83% of online users expect a website to load under three seconds. That’s a tall order for any website, let alone an ecommerce store with thousands of product pages, images, payment processors, and fancy scripts.

Headless promises to reduce page loading speed with one of its main features - having a central content repository. This means that all of your content is loaded in one location, from which it is fetched to the front end, be it a website, mobile app, social media platform, or something else.

With almost 70% of shoppers saying that how fast a website loads impacts a decision whether to purchase or not, this is a serious consideration for a growing online store. With headless, your store’s website loads faster, your bounce rate is lower and your conversions are higher - what’s not to like?

Increased flexibility

Separating the back and front end makes for some difference for the end user, but even more so for your developers. With the layers split up, your developers have their hands untied when it comes to the design and functionalities of your store.

Traditional ecommerce platforms use themes or templates, where each functionality in the front end is mapped to a corresponding feature in the back end. For example, having product categories or tags.

This makes it simple to launch stores quickly and it’s precisely the reason why platforms like Shopify have reached their levels of popularity. You don’t need to be a developer to launch a store in one day.

But on the other hand, the customization options are fairly limited. If you want a fully customized store that looks how you want it to appear, this is where headless can help. With a bit of work, you can create unique, personalized experiences for your shoppers.

Rich integration options

Sure, online store builders have some integration capabilities, but you are still limited to what is offered on the platform. In headless ecommerce, integrations are done via APIs, which unlocks a world of possibilities. You’re no longer tied to a list of tools on your ecommerce store platforms.

You can connect with just about anything with API access: CRMs, email marketing tools, ERP tools, data analytics tools, and anything that comes to mind. In essence, all you need is an idea and a capable developer to make it a reality.

Omnichannel experience

All of the content for your entire ecommerce store is hosted in the back end. This is not limited to your stock, product info, images, and additional data that is required for your store to run.

It also means that every time you want to publish a piece of content, you can do so across every medium where your headless ecommerce store is connected. Your website, social media profiles, IoT devices or mobile apps. Your customers get the same experience everywhere they go, only optimized for that specific platform.

Future-proofing and preventing vendor lock-in

Ecommerce platforms take care of everything, from stock, to the website presentation layer, to the way payments are processed (and charged for). Sure, you may like all of the components now, but what about three years from now?

Headless uses building blocks for different aspects of your store, such as payments. If someone amps up the commission for payments and doubles it overnight, you can just change the payment provider in headless. A few lines of code and you’re done.

In a traditional store builder, you are tied to the tools and vendors chosen by the builder, for the length of your contract.

Shorter time to market

Have a complex setup on your BigCommerce store? You can’t launch anything until the developers have finished their work. Even if you want the website to be fully operational, the back end is causing a holdup.

With a headless framework, the front and back end are separate, which means that two or more teams can work on your store simultaneously. If you’re in a tight spot and need to (re)launch a store quickly, headless allows you to do just that.

Are there any downsides to using headless ecommerce?

Just like any emerging piece of tech, headless comes with its own set of challenges. There are not many, but here are the ones to keep in mind.

High initial costs: to purchase and set up an ecommerce store in a headless format, you’re going to have high costs in terms of the platform and the dev talent to set things up.

Integration challenges: using APIs unlocks a lot of options, but you’ll need someone capable who’s been there before. Also, each integration is unique, which means even more developer time spent on this task.

Dependency on third-party services: using something like BigCommerce is easier than headless in one way because BigCommerce handles all the processes. In a headless framework, you have to manage individual apps in charge of stock management, payment processing, website personalization, etc.

Content management system problems: just learning how to manage, create, and share content in a headless setup can be tough, especially for novice users.

Should you get a headless ecommerce store?

It depends.

If you have a small business and just want to get products out of the door with minimal development required, you should not look at headless ecommerce setups. They are overly complicated and would bring very few of the benefits mentioned above.

On the other hand, if you have a large store and existing frameworks like Shopify are limiting you in your day-to-day work, headless might be the way to go. You get additional customization options, unlimited integrations, and a better omnichannel presence, all with a little bit of extra development work.

And in those cases where you don’t want a new platform, you can talk to us. We can help turn your website and store into a mobile app - quickly and easily.

Get new purchases from mobile without breaking a sweat - book a demo and talk to us today!

Or better yet, see what your website would look like as a mobile app!

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