What is Headless Commerce?


In its segment, Headless Commerce is getting a lot of hype and buzz, but if you are still confused and wondering what it is, don`t worry, we will try to simplify it for you. Read on to get a grasp.

CEO and Co-Founder of Commercetools – Dirk Hoerig, coined the term Headless Commerce arguably around 2012/3.

In its simplest form Headless Commerce is a separation of the front-end and the back-end within an e-commerce application, enabling freedom of expression for brands to build or create whatever and however they want, ultimately affecting and ideally enriching customer experience, but there is much more to it. Let us delve further.

A brief overview

A Headless Commerce is an e-commerce architecture which depends on utilising separate platforms, one for powering the front-end of your store (everything seen by consumers), and the other holding the tech that runs the back-end tasks (payments, inventory, checkouts, etc.).

By separating the aforementioned platforms, Headless Commerce will provide greater flexibility in making variations and adjustments.

Your usual e-commerce platform`s scheme and purpose is usually limited with off-the-shelf themes, while going Headless will give you the autonomy to create fully customised e-commerce solutions, inducing an enhanced holistic experience for your clients.

Nowadays, with avant-garde technology, people access, browse and shop online with few simple touches from the palm of their hands, thanks to smartphones and other devices.

Businesses are aware of this, and thrive to make their presence felt regularly in the cyberspace by creating their websites, apps, promote on social media and provide e-commerce. Trades need to constantly revamp and keep in line with trends if they want consumers to notice and get attracted by their products or services.

Thus, technology needs to be utilised the right way to create a competitive edge, especially for organisations that rely on e-commerce as a key contributor to their business.

This rationale is leading to many trades opting for Headless Commerce for a better customer experience and inventory management.

Headless Commerce is also ideal when launching time-sensitive promotions, as the brand`s marketing team can quickly change layout, images and elements easily, without affecting the front-end, providing a memorable shopping experience to clients.

How Does it Work?

Most probably you are thinking but how will these two platforms (front and back-end) liaise with each other if Headless Commerce separates them?

They talk with each other, so to say, via APIs which are Application Programming Interfaces. Basically, APIs are like communication corridors between various software solutions. 

Therefore, in our case, an API will pass the information or request between a headless e-commerce store presentation and functionality layers. For example, when a client clicks “Add to Cart” button on the webstore, the front-end will send an API to the back-end to process the request. The back-end then will send another API to the application layer showing the client that their chosen item is now added to their digital cart.

Moreover, in a Headless Commerce framework, an API can pull information anywhere including wearable tech like smartwatches, IoT (Internet of Things) devices like smart appliances, TVs, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistants, apps, social networks and more.  This is why Headless Commerce is generating so much hype as it offers a practicable access for businesses.

Headless Commerce systems require an inventory system to cater for products and content, which system is usually linked with vendors, suppliers or wholesalers, centred on the supply network of the business.

Traditional e-commerce vs Headless Commerce

The above mentioned differ mainly in the framework, coding infrastructure and benefits obtained.

The traditional e-commerce also known as Monolithic commerce, is the e-commerce system we have been accustomed with until now. It provides a single, all-in-one solution for selling products, managing and publishing content through a combined front and back-end framework. You cannot change one end without affecting the other, thus presenting limits and challenges for developers to go around it. Manual intervention creates the chance of a human error, plus it is also time and resource consuming.

Strictly speaking the developers can create specific custom plugins or purchase pre-existing solutions connecting them with external systems, but the whole experience isn`t as seamless as it is with an API in a Headless Commerce system.

On the other hand, developers within a Headless Commerce environment have the flexibility to pull content using API to any endpoint, freeing up room for customisation and creating a more pleasurable customer experience.

Benefits & Drawbacks of Headless Commerce

Tempted about the possibility of implementing Headless Commerce? Take a look at these.


  • Almost-instantaneous page-to-page load times
  • Slicker navigational experience
  • Enhanced search engine visibility
  • Quicker time-to-market
  • Upgraded conversion rates
  • Advanced revenue


Rather expensive – admittedly Headless Commerce is far from cheap, as when you separate the front-end from the back-end, you now have two environments which both need to be managed and hosted, so twice the cost, with no guarantee of twice the return. Add to this upfront costs to set up, plus ongoing costs to test and implement say new customer touchpoints.

Customisation brings complexities – you are now dealing with multiple vendors and technologies, each with their own set of bugs and security vulnerabilities, requiring separate development teams and test cases.

Possibly difficult to manage – particularly for businesses without dedicated IT resources, it could be difficult to maintain.


Top tier priority, the first cardinal item anyone checks when evaluating the possible implementation of a new system is surely security.

However, Headless Commerce ensures integrity for your peace of mind.

Headless Commerce is made up of different structures working together by default, thus eradicating any leeway of an illicit user intending to instigate turmoil.


The key here is to evaluate the proposal, and decide if Headless Commerce makes sense for your business. If feasible, it offers a myriad of possibilities, flexibility and an optimal playing field for developers.

Headless Commerce provides a lot of leverage if you`ll be using this type of e-commerce technology, however it may be unsuitable or even overkill for some businesses.