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What Is Headless Ecommerce? With 2022’s Top-Performing Example Websites

Headless Ecommerce is a type of website architecture that separates the back-end operating systems of an Ecommerce website from the visible platform customers engage with. 

This is often referred to as decoupling the back-end and front-end of a website. 

Initially, Ecommerce infrastructure was built for desktop computers. But now, as users conduct online transactions on iPhones, Androids, Tablets, IoT and voice commands, greater flexibility in Ecommerce websites is required. 

Because learning to run an Ecommerce business is one of my favorite methods of achieving financial freedom, I’ve put together this article that takes an in-depth look at headless Ecommerce. You’ll learn:

  • The different components that go into running an Ecommerce website
  • The pros and cons of using a headless Ecommerce approach to your Ecommerce business
  • How headless Ecommerce differs from traditional Ecommerce
  • The different features you can add to your website using a headless Ecommerce approach

And if you’d like to learn more, then sign up for my upcoming webinar, where I look at systematically growing $10/day passive income to $1,000/day!

Table of Contents

  • Front-end and back-end decoupling: What does it mean?
  • How does headless Ecommerce differ from traditional Ecommerce?
  • Why would I consider a headless Ecommerce approach?
  • Pros and cons of headless Ecommerce
  • What can headless Ecommerce do for me?
  • Examples of great Ecommerce websites in 2021
  • Headless Ecommerce frequently asked questions
  • Wrapping up

Front-end and Back-end Decoupling: What Does It Mean?

All Ecommerce websites have two fundamental components: the front-end and the back-end.  

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The Front-end

The front-end of an Ecommerce website is the customer interface. It’s everything the customer sees and interacts with when they land on the website. 

Consider this Ecommerce site from Kinsley Armelle as an example. When landing on the site, users are presented with various pop-ups and can also see the opportunity to chat. All of these features are the front-end of the website. 

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Because the front-end presentation layer is decoupled from the back-end commerce layer of this website, the retailer (in this case Kinsley Armelle) can deliver a rich and engaging brand-centric experience on her website.  

This enables the retailer to set themselves apart from their competitors because they can offer a unique and memorable customer journey. 

The Back-end

The back-end of an Ecommerce website is the infrastructure that stores data and provides the functionality of: 

  • Handling stock
  • Customer registration
  • Login 
  • Order management (adding discounts)
  • Managing transactions
  • Shipping 

There are thousands of data points that go into operating an Ecommerce platform. These include information on product quantities, product information, customer relationship management platforms that inform marketing logic, and pushing promotions and discounts — all of which require analysis before being presented to the end-user in the form of an actionable prompt. 

By de-coupling this processing from what the website visitor sees, Ecommerce retailers create a more enjoyable, more personalized and more targeted user experience. This boosts sales and increases customer retention. 

How Does Headless Ecommerce Differ From Traditional Ecommerce?

One of the best ways to decide whether headless Ecommerce is for you is to understand how it differs from the traditional approach to an Ecommerce website. 

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As shown by this image, traditional Ecommerce and headless commerce differ in front-end development, customization and personalization, omnichannel presence, flexibility, scalability, development speed, SEO optimization, and cost. 

Traditionally, Ecommerce was designed as a pre-made platform for building online shops. 

Traditional Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce come as an all-in-one Ecommerce solution. These platforms enabled Ecommerce retailers to build a page that had all processes necessary for conducting an online sale. 

While they are relatively easy to use, these so-called monolithic platforms obligate you to use them for both your front-end and back-end functionality. That is, the user experience (front end) is tied directly to the technical capacity of the platform (back end). 

This leaves very little wriggle room for personalization and customization of your Ecommerce store. 

While some consultants still recommend a monolithic approach to Ecommerce for specific brands, the slow go-to-market development times and rigidity are enough to deter me from using them. 

Why Would I Consider a Headless Ecommerce Approach?

The most significant benefit of a headless Ecommerce approach lies in your ability to offer a more bespoke and fluid online shopping experience for your customers. 

This, in turn, increases conversions, increases retention, and will also attract more customers. 

Customization and Personalization

Traditional Ecommerce platforms only offer a restricted number of layouts, themes and design schemes. This standardizes the user experience and prevents your Ecommerce store from standing out. 

If you instead opt for the best headless commerce strategy, you can separate your website from the dull, stale crowd and create a unique customer experience. 

Page Load Times

A study conducted by Google found that if a mobile site takes more than 3 seconds to load, 53% of visitors leave. This directly corresponds to lost revenue for Ecommerce entrepreneurs. 

By using a headless Ecommerce approach, you can significantly speed up your page-loading time, thus keeping more customers on-site for longer. 

Cross-Device Usability 

A hallmark of current online transactions is the variety of devices across which consumers are conducting online transactions. 

If an Ecommerce brand hopes to make upwards of 300 USD per day, it’s important their branding is consistent across mobile devices, smartwatches, connected cars, laptops, desktop computers and tablets. This is due to the behavior of online shoppers who often search for products and services on their mobile, then later revisit the website on their laptop or computer to complete the financial transaction. 

If the experience and branding are not consistent between devices, this reduces customer trust and familiarity with the brand, which is a barrier to them making the purchase. Headless Ecommerce addresses this. 

Design Flexibility 

As I’ve mentioned, creating a brand that sticks out in your client’s memory is vital to retaining customers and having them recommend your brand to their friends. 

With headless Ecommerce, you can easily modify small elements of pre-existing web pages without interfering with functionality, such as adding a new field for a promotion. 

Scalability 

You can scale your website without needing downtime for maintenance with a headless commerce approach. You can alter your website’s back-end and front-end without needing to worry about how one will influence the other. 

Adding a new line of products, for example, doesn’t take intense effort for coding, optimizing and adapting the updated site for your numerous channels. 

SEO Optimization 

Optimizing your Ecommerce site for performance in the search engines is essential to attracting organic traffic and boosting your revenue and sales. 

Traditional monolithic Ecommerce stores, such as Spotify, limit your ability to do this, particularly in the URL structure, where the platform fixes the URLs to a standard format. Headless Ecommerce architecture gives you complete autonomy over this vital part of running your website, which boosts the chance you’ll attract more diverse customers. 

Cost

Initially, the up-front fees for switching to a headless Ecommerce approach will be more than using a traditional method. This comes from handling two systems at once. 

However, further down the track, once you’ve familiarized yourself with operating your headless Ecommerce solution, you’ll notice a significant reduction in tech costs, as changes to your front–end won’t need pricey input from web developers. 

Pros and Cons of Headless Ecommerce

Pros and benefits of headless Ecommerce website architecture

  • The content management system (CMS) purely focuses on delivering content, which improves website performance and reduces its complexity
  • Facilitates easier modification and updating of the platform
  • Offers greater diversity in formatting, layout and design 
  • Faster development and production time
  • Offers a greater level of security, as only front-end code and data are publicly available.

Cons and drawbacks of headless Ecommerce website architecture 

  • Depending on the platforms you use, you might lose some functionality. Many Ecommerce back-end providers also offer front-end services, and by choosing to de-couple the two, native functions might be lost, such as:
    • Webpage creation and building
    • Content change previews
    • Merchandising capabilities might be lost
  • With a headless Ecommerce approach, you’ll be handling two systems, each with its own strategy, database and coding. 
  • Because there is more development required in headless Ecommerce, it might cost more to run the website.

What Can Headless Ecommerce Do for Me?

After all this talk of the flexibility offered by headless Ecommerce, I want to look at the exact features you can leverage that make your website stand out:

  • Detailed and unique product descriptions. Traditional Ecommerce platforms limit you to plain images and limited text descriptions on your products. With a headless Ecommerce approach to your website, you can add 3D imagery, videos and voiceovers that explain your products and give customers a closer look at what they’re about to buy. This significantly increases conversion rates. 
  • Color schemes and design. The last thing you want is to have your branding constrained by the display and design functionality of your Ecommerce platform. Unfortunately, this has been the case until headless Ecommerce started offering variety other than what monolithic providers were offering. You have complete control over your backgrounds, effects, fonts, color palettes, imagery and layout with a headless Ecommerce website. 
  • Extra features and pop-ups. Many Ecommerce websites benefit from features such as pop-up pinwheels offering promotions, e-mail signup lists that highlight a digital asset you are offering your customers, or chatbots that facilitate real-time communication between you and your client. Many of these desirable features aren’t available on traditional Ecommerce platforms. 

Examples of Great Ecommerce Websites in 2021

To show you what headless Ecommerce looks like in action, I’ve pulled together three of my absolute favorite websites that are killing it in 2021. Take a look for inspiration on how to layout and design your own Ecommerce website!

  1. Inkbox
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The guys over at Inkbox not only offer an awesome product — semi-permanent, removable and non-painful tattoos — but their website is clearly optimized for conversions and success. 

Notice how they can offer student discounts, rewards, 20% off for joining? All of these are features of a headless Ecommerce website that increase customer engagement and revenue. 

The clean, sleek design also makes navigating the website super easy and can be easily updated without interfering with the back-end. 

  1. Oliver Bonas
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Oliver Bonas is a lifestyle Ecommerce store that regularly updates its landing page. 

They keep their branding constant with the pastel pink, white, and simple text, but using a headless Ecommerce solution allows them to easily and quickly change the mood of the page. 

Ecommerce stores might do this to reflect the season, global events, or new product lines they have and want to highlight. 

The branded add-on in the bottom right corner of the website also adds discrete texture to the website while encouraging customers to interact and get a decent discount from their purchase. 

  1. YoungTribe
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This is hands down one of my favorite websites ever. 

The crew over at YoungTribe offer an Ecommerce experience like no other, selling lesser-known artists and mixtapes. 

The website leverages a really unique scrolling command and also offers customers the chance to stream songs they like while using the website. 

Being able to update the landing page with new and upcoming artists easily is essential to YoungTribe’s mission, so a headless Ecommerce approach is the only way they could create a website that brings their concept to life. 

I strongly urge you to nip over to their site and check it out —  you’ll find some excellent inspiration (and new tunes also!). 

Headless Ecommerce Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Headless Approach?

A headless approach to an Ecommerce website is where you decouple the creation and management of the front-end features that users interact with and the back-end technicalities that enable the website to function. 

Is Headless CMS the Same as Headless Commerce?

Headless CMS, or a headless content management system, is a content silo that stores data without a built-in presentation layer. Headless CMS is useful if the content stored is to be used by several different front-ends, or presentation layers. 

The back-end CMS can then be modified independently, which changes the material presented on the various diverse front-end layers. 

Do I Need a Developer for Headless Commerce?

Yes. To create a headless Ecommerce solution, you’ll need a developer to manage the project. This is so the back-end and the front-end of the website interact and perform as desired. Once the project is up and running, however, you’ll probably be able to manage the front-end design presentation layer yourself. 

Is Headless Commerce Right for Me? Who Should Consider Headless Ecommerce?

Headless Ecommerce is the way to go for brands looking to stand out from the crowd and offer a unique customer experience to their audience. 

If you’ve got a minimal product line and don’t regularly change or update your products, then a traditional approach might better suit your needs, as there is less modification involved. 

However, if you plan to develop and scale your Ecommerce brand, I’d recommend going with the headless Ecommerce approach. 

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, this article has given you insight into what headless Ecommerce is, how it differs from traditional Ecommerce, and which option you should choose for your Ecommerce site. 

The examples I’ve included show how beautiful, seamless and engaging headless Ecommerce solutions can be —  but there are plenty more out there. 

If you’re considering earning passive income or starting an Ecommerce business, then I’m offering a 100% free last-minute opportunity to sign up to my online workshop where we explain how to use the brand new “Silver Lining Method” to first start making 10$/day, then scaling to $1,000/day!

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Learn how to make passive income online

I've put together a free training on how we used the brand new “Silver Lining Method” To Make $10/Day, Then Systematically Grow to $100/Day, Then $1,000/Day & More…

About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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