All Things Shipping
Feb 6, 2023

A Quick Guide to Headless Commerce

If you’re looking for a way to supercharge your e-commerce business, choosing a headless commerce platform is a great way to go. The problem is that many e-commerce entrepreneurs don’t have the know-how they need to leverage the benefits of headless commerce platforms.

Luckily, understanding and incorporating these solutions is easier than you think. Keep reading to find out what headless commerce is, how it works, and how to decide if it’s right for you.

What Is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce is the separation of the front-end and back-end portions of an e-commerce platform. Initiating headless commerce platforms gives you the freedom to create unique and limitless customer shopping experiences.

In other words, headless commerce is the platform responsible for making sales possible through channels like vending machines and kiosks.

How Does It Work?

The key to headless commerce platforms lies in the application program interface, or API. This technology is programmed to connect the customer-facing front-end to your business’s back-end.

One of the most successful headless commerce platforms in the United States is Redbox. The front-end kiosk allows consumers to quickly and easily choose movies to rent, pay for them, and receive the DVDs in a matter of minutes. Thanks to Redbox’s API, consumers take advantage of a user-friendly touch-screen interface.

When a movie is selected and rented, the API sends a message to Redbox’s back-end software. The software immediately gets to work to calculate the order total, save debit or credit card information, and update inventory levels. If consumers choose to share their personal information, such as their email address, the back-end API software also stores those details.

Traditional E-commerce vs Headless Commerce

Though the goals of traditional e-commerce and headless commerce are similar, the way they are achieved differs across the platforms. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two:

Traditional E-commerce

Traditional e-commerce platforms operate using a front-end and back-end platform that are closely linked together. The customer-facing front-end is most commonly a website or mobile app with a predesigned experience for administrators and consumers. Examples of this predesigned experience include pre-existing tools, ready-to-use website themes, and other web templates.

Headless Commerce

Headless commerce opens up a new world of possibilities for administrators and end users. By eliminating the link between the front and back-end systems, a fully customizable customer experience can be achieved. You can cater a customer experience that champions your unique business needs without making any changes to their databases.

Pros and Cons of Headless Commerce

There’s no doubt that integrating headless commerce is a great way to customize the customer experience. However, there are a few disadvantages you should be aware of, too.

Headless Commerce Pros

One of the biggest benefits of headless commerce is the ability to create a custom look and feel for your target audience. Website loading speed is another key element.

Did you know that 74% of web users reported that they would only wait up to five seconds for a website to load before leaving the site? Since the back-end of websites often carries the biggest load, separating them from the front-end allows pages to load faster, giving you a better chance of closing a sale.

Using headless commerce platforms can also mean saving time and money on IT support. You’ll enjoy more accessible customizations since your web team can apply changes with less reliance on developers.

Headless Commerce Cons

While the highly-customizable nature of headless commerce offers you more freedom, building the front-end out can be time-consuming and expensive. There’s also the potential you’ll need to pay even more for your web or development teams to troubleshoot issues that arise later.

Since headless commerce doesn’t use a front-end presentation layer, marketing teams need IT support to perform these essential job functions. This results in more time-consuming marketing protocols, which will require better pre-planning to achieve successful marketing campaigns.

Headless Commerce Use Cases

Migrating to a headless commerce model can solve many of your business pain points. Here are a few examples:

#1: Endless Customization Opportunities

Even though traditional e-commerce platforms offer a quick and cost-effective way to sell online, the customization options are limited. With headless commerce, you can easily and effectively customize the front and back-end channels of your online biz.

#2: Sell Across More Channels

Using these platforms simplifies the process of selling across multiple channels. You’ll be able to tailor each channel to your specific requirements without needing to use multiple tools and processes to do so.

#3: Employ Content Management Systems (CMS)

The elimination of the front-end presentation layer in headless commerce means that you can use popular Content Management Systems (CMS), like WordPress. This further contributes to an exceptional customer experience created with your target audience in mind. You’ll also be able to employ tools like a shipping API such as Shippo to make e-commerce shipping a breeze.

Common Headless Commerce Platforms

If you’re looking for a headless commerce platform to use for your biz, there’s no shortage of options out there. Here are some common choices:

Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus offers a cost-effective, easy-to-use platform that you can rely on. Thanks to their automatic updates and maintenance features, you can focus more on growing your company.


CommerceTools offers a seamless customer experience that makes it easy to add new touchpoints and create stunning customer-facing displays. This platform is the only headless commerce solution built in the cloud, which guarantees limitless growth for you.


You can customize your e-commerce store across multiple channels all in one place with Magneto. Run by Adobe, you can rest assured that this platform offers the fast, friendly support you’ll need to offer your customers a seamless experience.

Is Headless Commerce Right for My Business?

The best way to determine if this selling model is right for your business is by examining your most important needs.

Headless commerce is a great way to achieve your goals if you’re looking for a highly-customizable, user-friendly way to interact with your audience. However, if your customer-facing platform relies on frequent updates or you don’t have the budget to hire web-developing professionals, it may not be a good fit.

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Sarah Gage
is a Michigan-based freelance writer covering business, marketing, and technology topics. She is also the owner of Content Conquered, a B2B-focused content marketing consultancy.

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