What Is Headless Commerce? Is It Right for Your Business?

Headless commerce could open new opportunities for audience engagement. Explore how this approach can accelerate your online operations and sales.

Headless commerce may sound like a business buzzword, but this concept is actually making a big impact among online retailers. In fact, Forbes reported that investors dedicated nearly $2 billion in funds to headless commerce tech over the past couple of years. 

If you're interested in entering the ecommerce space or expanding your existing enterprise, explore this guide to find out if headless commerce aligns with your business objectives. 


What Is Headless Commerce and How Does It Work?

Headless commerce describes website architecture that completely separates the website's message, look, and feel from its underlying functional elements. Your business will use a content management system to build the front end of the site. It can reflect the desired appearance and user experience, with brand-appropriate icons, images, logos, color palettes, and design. 

Next, you add a plug-and-play backend solution to handle the entire ecommerce endeavor. For this component, you'll select a payment service provider with a complete infrastructure that covers everything from security to checkout page to transaction management. 

An application programming interface (API) connects the front end of your website to the backend. For example, Pay.com offers APIs to interact with your brand's existing online ecommerce store and drive customer transactions.

Headless commerce infrastructure can give your brand the flexibility and freedom to stand out in the increasingly competitive realm of ecommerce. When you separate the two main components of your online presence, you can develop impressive omnichannel experiences that keep customers engaged with your brand across multiple platforms. 

Headless Commerce vs. Traditional Ecommerce

If you're considering the shift from traditional ecommerce to a headless commerce strategy, it's important to understand the major differences between these models:

  • Structure: Traditional ecommerce tends to use an all-in-one model that combines the front end and back end into one platform (sometimes called the monolith). 
  • Flexibility: You'll quickly be able to adapt and pivot to introduce new customer experiences with headless commerce. Traditional platforms require IT intervention, so it takes much longer to make these changes. They also limit customization compared to structures that separate the front and back ends of your ecommerce site. 
  • Costs: Development costs more with traditional platforms than it does with a headless approach. You'll spend much less time and money on innovation than you'd need to dedicate with a monolithic platform.
  • Integration: Headless commerce creates a seamless connection between separate systems, including content management, customer relationship management, and inventory software. Traditional systems tend to limit your available interfaces, so you could end up stuck with platforms that aren't right for your brand.

The Benefits of Headless Commerce

Your brand may benefit from these headless commerce advantages.

Easy to Learn

Your teams can adopt the necessary tech for headless commerce without a large learning curve. Since you'll have a solid backup infrastructure in place, you can use simple tools that don't require advanced tech skills for front-end innovations and updates. 

The flexibility of headless commerce lets you scale your ecommerce presence almost instantly whenever you're ready for a new endeavor. 

Reduced Investment

Headless commerce aligns with an agile approach for the front end, which means you can quickly tweak your content to match your current campaign and audience needs. In other words, anyone on your team can make visual updates to improve conversion with templates and other smart tools. 

You'll limit the need for backend development, facilitating faster rollout of new customer experiences. Headless commerce also reduces associated expenses such as infrastructure, hosting costs, and license fees. 

When you have a traditional website structure, making front-end changes affects the back end of the site, so upgrades and new experiences become prohibitively expensive for many businesses.

Total Customization

Despite their ease of use, headless commerce tools provide the robust functionality you need to drive engaging UX across platforms. This approach supports custom APIs so you can personalize each touchpoint based on your target market's preferences, interactions with your brand, and other considerations.

Quick Integration

Headless commerce tools facilitate third-party integration, which means it's easy to take advantage of resources and products from partner providers. It's much more difficult to do so in a traditional interconnected environment, where a change to one component of your website requires changes across multiple platforms. 

Faster Loading

Customers experience optimized speed on headless shopping platforms. Faster site load times translate to higher conversion rates since slow function can cause browsers to click away before they buy. If you see a high bounce rate in your web analytics, slow loading could be the cause.

Support for Omnichannel Integration

Omnichannel marketing strategy focuses on the customer experience across multiple channels, and it's associated with higher levels of engagement and conversion. 

A headless commerce platform provides the tech your audience needs to shop across multiple platforms, from their social streams to your brand's smartwatch apps and beyond. You can quickly test, iterate and improve elements like call-to-action buttons. 

What Types of Businesses Can Benefit from Headless Commerce?

Consider these factors to determine whether a headless approach is right for your ecommerce business:

  • Your existing ecommerce and content management infrastructure. If they're linked to one another in a traditional model, you'll need to scrap both systems to upgrade to a separate headless system. On the other hand, once you make the switch, seamless customization features let you swap out either your front end or back end while keeping the other component intact. 
  • You want to move into the omnichannel marketing space. This strategy involves integrating all your brand's marketing channels to optimize and streamline a consistent user experience. Omnichannel marketing is associated with higher conversion rates and increased sales compared to a traditional multichannel approach.
  • You want to improve the security of your ecommerce site beyond the capabilities of your current platform. Headless commerce allows you to pick Pay.com as your full-service payment infrastructure so you can benefit from our top-level compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
  • You're prepared to make a significant upfront investment. It can be costly to move into the headless commerce space, although most companies report a significant return on expenses associated with this marketing strategy.
  • You have a strong marketing team or a budget to outsource management. It's important to optimize your messaging across platforms and consistently provide excellent, engaging using experiences that reflect the quality of your products and services.

Headless Commerce Examples

TechCrunch reported on a headless commerce start-up called Swell that raised $20 million in capital in 2021. The platform features customizable storefronts, a library of APIs and a dashboard interface ready to plug into the back end and scale with small and medium-sized businesses. 

Another headless commerce tool, Twilio Engage, helps brands route client engagement and behavioral data through their customer service departments. The software uses messaging APIs to customize interaction based on the gathered information.

What's the Best Way for an Ecommerce Business to Accept Payments? 

Pay.com provides a simple yet powerful solution for ecommerce businesses. You can use our robust tools with your existing online presence, with the ability to customize a checkout page with your own message, branding, logo, color palette, and style. We make it easy to get started while offering high-tech features so our platform can scale with your business.

You can cater to customer payment preferences by accepting multiple payment methods with Pay.com. We support debit cards, credit cards, digital wallets and beyond - you just need to select the ones you want to offer when you set up your ecommerce account with us. 

Every transaction, regardless of payment method, benefits from our Level 1 PCI DSS compliance. You'll be able to ensure that your customer payment data stays private.

Click here to get started with Pay.com now.

The Bottom Line: Is Headless Commerce Right for Your Business? 

Headless commerce could benefit your business if you're interested in omnichannel marketing. You'll need to invest in the necessary front end and back end systems, but once you do you'll have the flexibility to drive engagement and increase revenue by creating countless creative customer experiences. 

This approach can also improve your store's security measures, especially when you work with Pay.com to accept multiple methods of payment. 


How can an ecommerce business accept credit card payments?

Pay.com puts the ability to accept customer credit cards in your hands, whether you have a brand-new ecommerce endeavor or a brick-and-mortar store that's ready to go digital. 

You can also allow your customers to pay with many other methods of payment, including debit cards, credit cards, and digital wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay.

Click here to create your Pay.com account now.

What is an example of headless commerce?

Any company can engage in headless commerce by separating its front end website platform from the back end online operations. Start-up companies such as Ordergroove build headless commerce customers can plug into their site's front end. Clients like PetSmart and Walmart create subscription as a service models to increase audience engagement and revenue.

Does every ecommerce store need a headless solution?

Your ecommerce store doesn't necessarily need a headless solution, especially if you already have a traditional infrastructure with an integrated front end and back end. However, as buyers increasingly emphasize the user experience, your brand may eventually need to upgrade to meet the expectations of your target market.

Is Shopify headless commerce?

Shopify is an example of a back-end solution in the headless commerce space. You can add this platform to your existing website so customers can shop and pay online. It's designed to work seamlessly with your online presence so you can build brand recognition while benefiting from transaction security and convenience.

Is Amazon headless commerce?

Amazon has adopted a headless commerce strategy to make its storefront available across multiple platforms and devices. For example, you can add items to the same shopping cart from your desktop, mobile phone, tablet, or even using voice commands through your Alexa device.

Meet the author
Andrea Miller
Andrea Miller has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. Specializing in business and finance, she has written for some of the major websites in the financial sector. Outside of work, she spends most of her time with her family and enjoys hiking, yoga, and reading.
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