Despite economic slowdown, the eCommerce industry continues growing exponentially. U.S. retail eCommerce sales for the fourth quarter of 2022 reached $262.0 billion USD. And by 2027, eCommerce is projected to reach 27% of global commerce!
With the quick uptick of the market valuation — due largely to the pandemic — comes the increase of software and tools available to brands to improve their stores. As an eCommerce business owner, the problem then becomes deciding on what technology to choose, or even where to look.
Headless commerce is the most recent tech revolution in the eCommerce industry, and we'll focus more on it in this article. We'll also have a look at some of the best headless eCommerce tools that exist in the market today.
This article will guide merchants and brands looking to build a robust, lean eCommerce tech stack, and it serves as a starting point if you're interested in learning about how to build a modern eCommerce store using CloudCannon as your CMS.
Headless commerce is a buzzphrase in the eCommerce world, but most people are not aware of its real meaning.
Put simply, headless commerce platforms operate using a headless architecture.
But what does this mean?
Headless architecture decouples the software’s frontend and backend, allowing either side (or both sides) to communicate using APIs. With such a powerful platform, users can build customer shopping experiences using the frontend of their choosing, and connect that to backend services like inventory management, discount calculations, pricing, taxation, and other business functions.
Headless commerce platforms are responsible for all the backend services which allow online merchants to easily connect it with multiple frontends, delivering content to websites, mobile apps, smart devices, voice assistants, and digital signage in both online and brick-and-mortar stores.
By contrast, traditional eCommerce solutions have a predefined frontend tightly coupled with the backend, constraining merchants and forcing them to build their storefront using only the templates provided.
Modular eCommerce is a further extension of headless eCommerce, where each backend service is provided separately to deliver data to frontends using APIs. Instead of having one backend server performing all functions, you now get the flexibility to use any features in the form of microservices.
To take advantage of modular eCommerce to its full capacity, you’ll need a headless CMS like CloudCannon to serve as the foundation for your digital storefront. Using a headless CMS and an eCommerce platform together enables you to leverage your entire brand to create omnichannel customer journeys. This combination is perfect for high-trafficked brands that can benefit from immense performance improvements compared to using a traditional CMS.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using a headless CMS like CloudCannon for eCommerce, compared to a traditional CMS:
Headless commerce allows you to publish content anywhere you need, and allows you the freedom to add publishing destinations in the future. As a brand owner, this helps you sell and publish your content to a variety of channels without worrying about backend functions.
Traditional commerce is mainly built for websites and apps and cannot accommodate the rising needs of businesses to publish content on other modern channels. Even if you try to scale the traditional commerce solution to other channels, it will be expensive and will still remain non-scalable.
With traditional commerce, you are locked into a predefined user experience that restricts your brand from offering personalized product offerings to your customers.
On the other hand, headless commerce has no frontend, so it’s completely up to you to define and develop the user experience from scratch. You can choose to customize the front-end to any degree you choose. As an online brand owner, this helps you create super personalized experiences for users and add localized features.
In a headless approach, the backend and frontend are not tightly coupled with each other. Each component in the backend can speak to different frontends using APIs or using Git. This setup allows you to integrate and communicate with any platform or third-party software. And not only that — it means your system is highly agile, scalable, and flexible enough to support new technologies as they arise.
Traditional commerce, on the other hand, is a tightly coupled system with little to no room for other integrations.
While choosing an eCommerce platform to facilitate headless architecture, you’ll need to consider many factors, such as:
We’ve already curated a list of the best headless commerce solutions based on critical business features to look for in these platforms to ease your work.
Based in Québec City, Canada, Snipcart is an HTML/JS-based shopping cart solution.
By adding a few lines of their custom code, you can sell products from your existing website. It’s suitable to all sizes of businesses.
Best suited for people who want to sell from their website with no complex integrations. If you are planning to create an MVP site, Snipcart is your go-to option.
Based in Ontario, Canada, Shopify Plus is one of the most trusted brands in the eCommerce industry. It powers over 10,000 world innovative brands. It is a super scalable, secure, and reliable platform that provides all tools necessary for omnichannel marketing. It's easy to build and customize storefronts with limited technical knowledge.
Shopify Plus can handle high traffic without affecting the performance and user experience.
It includes some out-of-the-box functions required to leverage the headless approach in the best way.
Shopify is best suited to high-growth, high-volume enterprise businesses and fast-growing brands.
BigCommerce is a leading SaaS headless eCommerce platform that lets users build their businesses with ease. It has beneficial offerings like high-performance, customization, ease of use, and simplicity. With a customer base spanning 120 countries, they have partnerships with leading headless content management systems.
It’s best for retail businesses of all sizes. Brands can create eCommerce websites using customizable themes/templates and manage sales through centralized dashboards.
Founded in 2016, Commerce.js enables businesses to rapidly build their front-ends and pair them with headless infrastructure for eCommerce. As part of headless Commerce.js, you get additional features like a custom checkout option, ease of creating multiple storefronts, and a powerful dashboard to manage your sales. You can easily create no-code landing pages or shopping magazines as microsites to include them in your storefront.
Best suited for entry-level and D2C eCommerce businesses.
Commerce Layer is an advanced solution for developers to build modern eCommerce business stores. You can create websites from scratch, pair your own POS software, integrate eCommerce into mobile apps, wearables, voice devices using Commerce Layer.
Moreover, it offers some exceptional benefits like creating multi-vendor eCommerce and creating subscription-based models for your business.
Best suited for fast-growing, digital-first brands looking for futuristic solutions.
Vue Storefront is an open-source, progressive web app (PWA) aiding in headless eCommerce solutions for businesses. Since you can create native-like web apps for your store, downloading them on mobile becomes quick.
Vue Storefront also has many contributors and has a good amount of community modules available for users to add various services or improve the user interface.
It’s best for enterprise businesses looking for progressive web apps.
Crystalize is a lightning-fast headless platform using native GraphQL API for PIM. Google rewarded it for creating super-fast loading websites that play a crucial role in uplifting eCommerce SEO. Having product information and content management in one platform enables you to sell and market more easily. You can pair any front-end smoothly within less time, allowing businesses to create a subscription model.
It’s best for creating tailor-made experiences based on data and to sell products and services on a subscription basis.
Fabric is one of the best solutions in the market. For proof of that, it was rewarded as the most innovative 2020 B2B Retail startup for its achievements in providing headless commerce solutions for D2C and B2B brands. Without re-platforming, you can build your entire business within a few weeks using the platform. It is a force multiplier proven to grow digital revenue by up to 3x for retail businesses using eCommerce.
Since the tool is tailored for growth, it’s best suited for established and ambitious businesses that want to grow fast.
Best for enterprises ambitious to hit growth targets and leverage flexibility and agility to gain competitive advantage in the market.
Ecwid is a free-to-start headless platform powering online merchants in 175 countries. It is one of the best solutions that provide many offerings like marketing, responsive stores, multiple stores to sell, and much more, even in their free plan.
If you are not sure about having your digital store yet, then Ecwid is a great place to test the waters of an eCommerce business. It can fit nearly all types of businesses.
If there’s one thing we all can be certain of, it’s that the future of eCommerce is most certainly going to be headless. Jamstack is a thriving ecosystem of tools and platforms that leverages headless CMSs like CloudCannon. The Jamstack architecture enables both developers and non-developers to build a solid eCommerce store using a best-of-breed tool stack that allows users to build a storefront using the tools they know and love.
CloudCannon advocates the Jamstack approach and integrates well with all of the tools we presented above to help you build an eCommerce site from scratch, or integrate eCommerce elements into an existing site. However, we know that it can be overwhelming to choose the best tools for your Jamstack project with so many options.
If you need more help choosing the best headless commerce tool for your brand, read more about the huge range of options within the Jamstack ecosystem, and browse some of the tools you can use to build the eCommerce storefront of your dreams. And whether you’re an experienced Jamstack developer or you’re just starting out in the static site world, remember that CloudCannon has a tier to meet your needs.
Give your content team full autonomy on your developer-approved tech stack with CloudCannon.
Jaimie McMahon · 27 Nov 2023
Jaimie McMahon · 17 Nov 2023
Zach Leatherman · 14 Nov 2023