Revolutionize your online store:
The 11 best headless commerce platforms
By Diego Salinas Gardón
25th September, 2022
eCommerce isn’t just on computers anymore. Consumers increasingly find and purchase items through multiple channels like IoT and progressive web apps (PWA).
That means to stay afloat merchants need not just to grow their business but embrace these new technologies as well. Yet traditionally, adapting your business’ tech is lengthy, expensive, and requires large dev and IT teams.
This is where headless commerce comes in. It promises fast, flexible storefronts that allow you to integrate new technologies, scale easily, and expand depending on your needs without requiring much leg work.
In this article, we’ll dig deeper into how going headless can help your business and review the best headless eCommerce platform.
Table of contents
In this post:
What is headless commerce?
Headless commerce is becoming a popular topic in the eCommerce world, but there can be some confusion.
Basically, it describes any eCommerce solution that builds and delivers content without a frontend layer (or “head”). In headless eCommerce platforms, the frontend is decoupled from the backend.
Developers then use APIs to deliver content and their favorite framework, tools, etc. to build how content is presented to customers. In addition, developers can create and manage all functional components (i.e. products, banners, contact page, etc.).
👓 Read more: What is headless Shopify?
Why go headless?
Unlike headless eCommerce, traditional eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Woocommerce couple the frontend with the backend in one monolithic package. This makes building online stores easy for new store owners or non-technical-minded people.
However, it also makes it very difficult to update your store. Since the frontend and backend are one package, they impact each other. That means if you change the backend, that could change how content is presented.
You can imagine how this can cause adapting your site to be very tedious. Your developers would have to essentially re-haul your site to scale or expand. Integrating previous systems or adding new channels would slow your market time.
Headless commerce fixes these issues with one major change: decoupling. It promises the flexibility to easily add new functionalities, new channels, and maintain your store over the long run.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss some of the benefits of going headless.
With traditional commerce, you are constrained to a predetermined box of options. The architecture and toolset have already been chosen for you. It prevents you from choosing the best business tools and customizing your site for your specific customer base.
Headless architecture provides you full creative control over your store’s look and feel. You can build a truly unique customer experience, letting your store stand out from the crowd.
You’ll also have control over the administrative side of your site. You can personalize it and make it easier to use for your team. Additionally, your developers can choose their favorite tools, frameworks, etc, to build your site. That means they’ll be able to use what they know best.
Not to forget that any changes you make to your frontend don’t impact the backend. That reduces the risk of more problems down the road.
Unlock Omnichannel marketing
In the first quarter of 2022, Statista found that mobile website usage accounted for 58.99% of website usage worldwide. Clearly, having omnichannel capabilities is vital for today’s merchants.
But traditional eCommerce makes it hard to take advantage of this. Managing multiple channels with legacy platforms becomes complicated very quickly. You may have to replicate your entire content library to build omnichannel experiences continually.
Headless commerce platforms, on the other hand, scaffold omnichannel experiences. You can integrate any channels (mobile, IoT, wearable devices, etc.) into one place without replicating content. That means you can reach more consumers with your products faster.
All headless commerce solutions must, by definition, have an API (like GraphQL). These enable interaction between devices, applications, and data, and lets them communicate with your site’s backend.
For merchants, that basically means you can unlock seamless interactions with other platforms. You can add your brand to different devices to quickly reach more customers and opportunities. This integration will not take forever to be completed either. Your developers could complete it within hours, massively improving your time to market.
This also lets you integrate your existing systems to build digital experiences, all in your favorite programming language. You can bring over systems from product information management, enterprise resource planning, and inventory management.
Ecommerce is more popular than ever, and it’s still growing. There are new trends, products, and technologies seemingly every week. That means you need to scale quickly to remain in the competition.
Traditional commerce, though, presents slow and tedious scaling. Its coupled approach makes it very rigid. Launching new functionalities to your store means having to rehaul your entire site. In a constantly moving market, you can’t afford to fall behind.
Headless commerce architecture differs by helping you keep up. It enables rapid deployment of updates. As the frontend isn’t tied to the backend, you can make changes to your frontend without impacting your backend at all.
In addition, this flexibility supports fast integrations of new technologies when they arise. Developers can build new customer experiences, including new storefronts, in a matter of a few days.
🤖 Read more: Headless CMS de-mystified
Is headless commerce the same as composable commerce?
If headless commerce is the idea, composable commerce is the theory behind it. Both focus on having a decoupled website that increases flexibility and control. However, composable commerce takes it to the next level.
Stepping back, we discussed how headless architecture enables developers to pick and choose their favorite frameworks. Yet, it can be limited.
For example, your business needs may change over time. Tools that used to suit your digital commerce store in the past might not keep up with you in the future. Also, you’ll have to rely on a platform partner to complete items like same-day delivery.
Composable commerce, on the other hand, focuses on the entire system. It allows you to continuously switch out tools without impacting other parts of the systems. Your developers can pick the best-of-breed components for your business as it grows. This provides a completely customizable approach that helps your system continuously serve you.
Read more: What is composable commerce?
Best 11 headless commerce platforms
Now that we’ve discussed headless commerce, let’s go over the best headless eCommerce platforms to choose from.
Commerce Layer is an API focused headless eCommerce platform. It boasts a powerful order management system that allows you to easily add shopping cart functionalities to your site or mobile app. This includes global shipping and making any page shoppable across channels, including wearable devices.
In addition, Commerce Layer offers customizations for almost every element of your site.
Has APIs for global shipping
Great omnichannel shopping cart functionalities
Integrates well with most headless CMS
Can be costly for new store owners
You have to chose the enterprise subscription to expand to over 5 markets
Doesn’t have pre-made templates
Growth: $649 per month
Enterprise: Custom Amount
Headless commerce live: Non-stop dogwear
When Non-stop dogwear’s current stack wasn’t helping them scale their business internationally, they turned to Commerce Layer’s headless commerce capabilities.
Its architecture gave them the flexibility to try new business models. Today, they offer shipping to 74 countries and saw their online sales tripled.
With Commerce.js, you’ll have a modern, API-driven headless commerce infrastructure for developers. Founded in 2016, it focuses on being able to help eCommerce businesses, from startup to enterprise-sized, create great digital commerce experiences.
Its backend has powerful, enterprise-grade APIs that help you build anything from shopping carts and upsells to VR commerce experiences across channels. You can quickly customize items like checkout depending on a customer’s location as well.
Great omnichannel functionalities
Good for small eCommerce stores
Has VR commerce capabilities
The free subscription plan has transaction fees
Has a very simple UI
May not be best for very large businesses
Pro: $79 per month
Rise: $349 per month
Enterprise: Custom Amount
Headless commerce live: Leon and George
One company that started with Commerce.js is Leon & George. Since they started with headless commerce, they started with creative control over their store. This allowed them to quickly build and implement a French storefront in a few days.
Basically, Elastic Path is an API-first, composable, and open-source headless eCommerce solution. It focuses on reducing the difficulty for enterprise companies looking to go headless by providing experiences with all the bells and whistles.
It includes a Product Experience Manager (PXM) that enables merchandisers to build new catalogs without depending on a dev team. PXM will also offer suggested promotions, pricing strategies, and variations.
Plus, it has a broad toolset to help you integrate most microservices.
Good for enterprise headless commerce
Offer product management
Has easy microservice integrations
Steep learning curve
Lacks user experience friendliness
Can be time consuming
Cost is based on your business's scale, timeline, and implementation and is available upon request.
Headless commerce live: Swisscom
Swisscom’s traditional eCommerce platform prevented innovative user experiences. As a result, they looked to Elastic Path to move to a headless eCommerce platform. Not only were their customer experiences transformed, but also their PWA and customer support system.
As a fairly new platform, Deity is an all-in-one solution for composable and headless commerce. They emphasize providing you complete control over your data, tech, and service stacks, giving you more flexibility and freedom.
With Deity, you’re given pre-built solutions for seamless integrations. They also offer starter templates for PWA, including mobile applications.
In addition, their commerce composer and orchestration tools enable you to unlock composable commerce with a firm foundation. It includes letting you integrate new API-based services without hassle.
Very simple to use
Great customer service
Features awesome composable commerce capabilities
Can be costly to have premium support
It’s a new platform
Doesn’t have a large community
Enterprise Commerce Platform: Starts at 30,000 Euros a year or $29,980 USD per year
Implementation service: Price available upon request
Headless commerce live: Consortium
After finding it hard to have multiple storefronts with their commerce engine, Consortium decided to work with Deity. They provided Consortium with a pre-packaged, headless PWA that massively reduced their need for an entirely new frontend development team. Also, they helped them integrate multiple storefronts into one backend.
Focused on business growth, Fabric is a digital commerce platform with a composable, headless architecture. They have many APIs that provide simple integrations for orders, shipping, inventory, and more.
Fabric highlights PWA functionalities through their APIs. That includes helping you streamline your inventory information and data to every channel. You can then connect any channel to your online store and update them from one point.
Best for mid-market stores
Great omnichannel management
Doesn’t have a large community
Is a fairly new platform
Not the best for new merchants
Price is available upon request, but they do offer a demo.
Headless commerce live: GNC
GNC’s old mobile e-commerce app wasn’t sustainable for the long run. They turned to Fabric to build a brand new app with headless commerce architecture. Expanding omnichannel experiences let them customize their reach to younger audiences and other opportunities
Adobe Commerce, Magneto's new face is a headless platform that boasts customization and organization. It helps you build custom, unique applications depending on your customers’ needs. Plus, since it stores omnichannel experiences on the cloud, you can combine brick-and-mortar and digital shopping in one place.
One element it highlights is rich analytics. You’ll receive insights into average order values, retention rates, and overall lifetime value. It can all be easily sent to an inbox as well.
They’ll also provide a detailed inventory management system that tracks your stock across locations, including stores and warehouses. It’ll let you understand what’s available as it’s tracked in real-time.
Allows for custom integrations
Great for digital and brick-and-mortar commerce
Offers advances analytics
Requires advanced technical knowledge to get the most from it
Has a high cost for ownership
Can be to implement
Pricing depends on your revenue and starts at $22,000 per year.
Headless commerce live: Shoebecca
Shoebacca desired to drive business growth and optimize a giant product catalog. They streamlined their inventory with Adobe Commerce, providing more organization to handle their catalog. In addition, adobe commerce helped them expand their omnichannel and user experiences, resulting in a 30% increase in sales.
Nacelle is a headless solution that promises to improve your backend functionalities. It can also integrate with all popular headless eCommerce platforms (i.e. Shopify Plus), eliminating the need to migrate.
With Nacelle, merchants can optimize their site’s performance with improved speeds, conversion rates, and decreased ownership cost. Not only does this help with performance, but it also helps with future-proofing your site.
Other key features include PWA, comprehensive data orchestration tools, and a unified API.
Best for medium to enterprise-sized stores
Can integrate with your current tech stack
Can help you with composable commerce
Not great for small businesses
Is a fairly new solution
Doesn’t have a big community
Price is available upon request, and they do offer a demo.
Headless commerce live: Ballsy
Ballsy, a Shopify Plus storefront, wanted to go headless to improve frontend page loading and implement PWA features. Nacelle enabled Ballsy to keep its original store design and have an entire second decrease in mobile load time.
They also have smooth integration with many headless CMS platforms, especially Contentful CMS. Medusa can work with Contentful to offer rich data, multilingual support, and more.
Features awesome composable support
Ingrates seamlessly with contentful cms
Only has simple storefronts
Lacks community plugins
Requires integrating with Contentful CMS for many features (i.e. multilingual support)
Premium Support: Custom Price
Headless commerce live: Tekla
Tekla faced difficulties scaling with their traditional commerce site. They turned to Medusa to upgrade to a headless . Medusa's powerful third-party plugins and automated RMA flows helped Tekla scale to 50 markets and six currencies and improved their SEO.
As a GraphQL-first, open-source headless commerce platform, Saleor can help you build dynamic and blazingly fast storefronts. They are focused on helping your business expand and scale by scaffolding multi-channel, multi-lingual, multi-currency, and multi-warehouse capabilities. It does this by having an administrative dashboard powered by business logic that manages your team and your products.
To add, they also have a great product configuration tool. You’ll receive dynamic product tables that lets you quickly manage your products’ attributes, and an inventory tool that configures all product types to your inventory.
Meticulous admin dashboard
Facilitates international expansion
Great product configuration options
Requires advanced technical knowledge to be used
Lacks an active community
Doesn't have ready-to-use extensions
Pricing for all plans are based on monthly orders. At the lowest:
Open Source: Free
Startup: $695 per month
Pro: $1795 per month
Enterprise: $6795 per month
Headless commerce live: Pfeiffer & Frost
After dealing with an old PHP system that didn’t suit them, Pfeffer & Frost wanted to migrate to a headless system. With Saleor, they learned more about their system and how to use it for their business needs. They learned how to easily manage their developers, metadata, and applications.
Crystalize is a blazingly fast headless commerce platform that has a focus on products. With a GraphQL-based project information modeling (PIM), you can create and deliver unique customer experiences with rich data, all in one component. They’ll also provide rich marketing content, transcoded images, and videos hosted on their own CDNs.
To add, Crystalize is event-driven. That means you have control over how product fulfillment, physical and digital, is orchestrated.
Offer rich content
Has their own CDNs
Has experience with digital products
Slow time to market
Not the greatest for smaller projects
Requires technical development
Atom: $299 per month
Crystal: Custom Price
Headless commerce live: MyRevolution
MyRevolution worked with Crystalize to make better shopping and subscription services. Turning headless enabled MyRevolution more control over their customers’ experience, which let them tailor shopping experiences. Overall, this led to a conversion rate increase of 72%.
Vue Storefront differs from the other headless digital commerce solutions in that it’s written in vue.js and can be connected to any eCommerce platform. As an open-source frontend framework, it helps you curate customer experience, including PWA and offline functionalities.
It also lets you customize and replace any front-end component, from images to custom HTML. This reflects their composability focus, including a library of 100% customizable components built for eCommerce.
Good for mobile UX
Offers offline elements customizations
Built by an independent company
The implementation process requires advanced technical knowledge
Can be complicated for new store owners
Pricing is available upon request but they do offer a free demo.
Headless commerce live: TALLY WEiJL
TALLY WEiJL looked to Vue Storefront to move away from traditional ecommerce. They especially were focused on curating a store that brings in younger, Gen Z customers. Headless enabled them to build modern PWA functions, leading to a 131% mobile revenue increase.
It's not just the big players that can succeed in eCommerce. If you're willing to make the necessary changes, including implementing a headless commerce strategy, your business can thrive in today's market.
We offer headless commerce implementation services that can help get you up and running quickly with all the latest features and technologies.
Learn more here or contact us today to discuss how we can help jumpstart your business’s growth in this rapidly changing digital age.