How headless ecommerce architecture works

Headless ecommerce architecture and outstanding ecommerce flexibility

First – why is it called “headless” commerce?  

With a headless approach, the front-end has access to the back-end via the network through an API (Rest API, GraphQL) using a specific protocol. The touchpoints are usually called “heads”, and the system back-end is called “the body”. When the front-end’s work is separated from the body, this approach is called headless.

Differentiating the headless ecommerce approach from traditional ecommerce

When we talk about headless ecommerce, you first need to understand what it is and then assess the real need to move from a traditional approach to a headless one. As hot as new technology trends are, they must be justified before implementation. Headless ecommerce brings many benefits in application development and gives your retail business new opportunities to grow, but requires a high level of technical expertise from an in-house development team or a system integrator partner.

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How headless architecture works

In traditional architecture, front-end and back-end work together in the same computation process. It is impossible to run each of them separately there. In a headless approach, these are physically separated environments, also isolated within the memory of the server.  

Suppose a retailer has many channels for interaction with customers, including social networks, instant messengers, smartwatches, smart mirrors, chatbots, etc., then repeating the publication of content in each of these channels is not effective. In professional language, the channels for customer interaction are called “heads”, and the back-end is called the body. When the front-ends’s work is separated from the body, this approach is called headless. To publish the desired content in headless, the front-end interacts with the back-end via the API

Efficiently publishing content across multiple channels means that it is easy for developers to build new sales channels by following the same business logic. It has become easier to create new front-end applications using popular JavaScript frameworks such as React, Vue, Angular, or Microsoft technologies such as Blazor.

Headless is more flexible

Let us take a look at the server-side and functionality. In traditional ecommerce, the store template (front-end) connects directly to the server-side (back-end). This imposes some restrictions as you can only work within the functionality provided by the developers of this platform.  

In contrast, headless solutions are flexible and fully customizable. This means there is flexibility in both front-end and server-side development. Moreover, you can adjust your approach to different target markets and touchpoints. Headless ecommerce is undoubtedly the best when it comes to flexibility.

Is headless ecommerce right for your business?

Learn a complete list of headless approach benefits

A high level of knowledge is required

Traditional ecommerce requires little technical expertise from the retailer team compared to a headless approach. The main focus of the team could be on marketers, designers and copywriters. It is quite different for headless commerce. If there is no budget for hiring a large and experienced development team, the headless approach may fail. 

In short, to run and maintain a headless ecommerce solution, you need profound development knowledge or a partner with an experienced team of developers who can help. Another opportunity to implement a headless approach would be to switch to a real headless platform like Virto Commerce 3

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About the author of this article

Evgeny Grigul
Co-founder Virto Commerce

Evgeny has more than 14 years of product & team development. Before joining Virto Commerce, he was responsible for successfully creating and delivering project management products to the marketplace by managing technical risks and opportunities. Evgeny holds a degree in physics from Emmanuel Kant State University.