So you want to know the benefits of headless eCommerce. In this article, I’ll dive into both the advantages and disadvantages of going headless with your online store, based on years of experience helping top eCommerce companies make (and implement) this decision.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is headless eCommerce?
Let’s start with the basics. “Headless” means that your application’s frontend and backend are separate.
For this definition, it’s helpful to consider what headless is not. The alternative to headless is often called a monolith. Monoliths — like Shopify or BigCommerce — operate using a single system for both the front- and backend of the application.
So… why would you choose headless over a monolith web application?
Benefits of headless eCommerce
With headless, you can choose to work in any frontend and backend languages or frameworks. Choose your favorite content management system. Bring your preferred cloud provider. Headless is more flexible than monoliths in almost every way because they allow you to bring your preferred systems together.
Headless uses what are called microservices to keep your website running instead of operating as a monolith. In the day to day operation, this means that when something goes wrong, it typically only impacts the small portion of your application that is affected.
Compare that to using a monolith system like Shopify. When Shopify goes down, everything about your site is down with it.
On a similar note, headless also lets you easily scale internationally. Monolith systems are more costly to take global because different currencies and translations are never maintained on a single CMS.
Change or modify any tool
As your needs change, headless makes it easy to modify or change any tool or service. Since each element of your web application is configured as a microservice, it is easy to make changes without impacting other elements of your site.
Let’s say you’ve been on Shopify for a few years. Now you are expanding and you want to use Salesforce (or any other eCommerce cloud). With a headless system, it’s very easy to plug in and out with the new eCommerce cloud you want to use.
Headless also has the potential to be much faster than monolith systems, for multiple reasons.
You get to choose which frontend and backend you use, meaning if one system is too slow, you can easily swap it for the faster version. You can select the performance optimized framework and you have the flexibility to write efficient code. Also, separating the frontend from the backend reduces the amount of data that the end user’s network needs to process.
Another benefit of headless eCommerce is the ability to integrate with the best third party apps for user experience. You can build an application that isn’t limited to predetermined tools, allowing you to select the ones that are best for your unique users. +
Headless eCommerce allows us to easily control all the elements users interact with. Brands can get more creative with the content they publish on their websites to provide more user friendly design.
The flexibility of headless also lends itself well for following SEO best practices (and thereby ranking higher in Google search). Unlike a monolith system, headless lets you design your own URL structure, giving you a slight edge when it comes to ranking in SERPs.
Disadvantages of headless eCommerce
With so many moving parts, headless tends to be more costly to maintain than monoliths. As a result, many small businesses can’t necessarily afford to go headless.
Hard to maintain
For the same reason that it is costly, headless is also harder to maintain. All the moving parts means more upkeep to make sure every system and tool is doing its job. Microservices require more attention to detail.
Headless also requires more developers to keep it running. You’ll likely need to work with more developers and expect to create more custom integration than you would using a monolith system.
Now that we’ve gone through the benefits of headless eCommerce, what’s your take? Do you have a clear preference?
Still making up your mind? Read our other article about the pros and cons of headless.