Traditional vs. headless ecommerce platforms—which one to choose? Many online store owners are shifting to a headless ecommerce approach. This allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and customization in managing their website's frontend and backend selling experience. Headless ecommerce solves the problem of providing a consistent, personalized, and seamless shopping experience across multiple channels and devices for your customers. It's a platform strategy worthy of serious consideration.
In this complete guide, I will list the 15 best headless ecommerce platforms that will help you grow your online store and make it future-proof against technological change.
What Is Headless Ecommerce?
Headless ecommerce is an architectural approach that decouples the frontend and backend of an online retail system, allowing independent development and deployment of each component. In this model, the frontend, responsible for the user interface and customer experience, is detached from the backend, which handles business logic and data management. By leveraging APIs, developers can integrate the frontend with various backend systems, enabling flexibility, scalability, and customization, as well as providing a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels and devices.
Lightspeed Ecommerce is a cloud-based, headless ecommerce platform that helps businesses create and manage their online stores. You can optimize your ecommerce operations with features like product management, order fulfillment, and customer relationship management.
Why I Picked Lightspeed Ecommerce: Lightspeed Ecommerce is ideal for SMBs due to its comprehensive features, user-friendly interface, and scalable solutions that cater to the specific needs of small and medium-sized businesses, empowering them to effectively manage their online operations, streamline workflows, and drive growth.
Lightspeed Ecommerce has an awesome drag-and-drop website builder that’s easy enough that non-technical users can design and customize their online stores. The tool also has advanced inventory management features, including product variants and bundling, allowing you to really customize how your products are purchased. Lightspeed's multi-channel capabilities allow businesses to sell their products across multiple channels, including social media and marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, making it easier to reach a wider audience.
Lightspeed Ecommerce Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include its seamless integration with Lightspeed's point-of-sale (POS) system. This integration allows retailers to manage both their physical store and online operations from a single platform, ensuring synchronized inventory, unified reporting, and a seamless customer experience. The ability to bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar sales is a valuable and distinctive feature that sets Lightspeed Ecommerce apart from many competitors. Lightspeed Ecommerce offers specialized features designed specifically for the restaurant industry. It can help you quickly and easily set up an online storefront for takeout, delivery, subscription boxes, or reservations.
Integrations include PayPal and Stripe, shipping and logistics services like ShipStation and FedEx, and accounting apps like QuickBooks and Xero.
- Free plan available
- Multi-channel selling, ie. Amazon, Google
- No setup or transaction fees
- Limited customization options
- Phone support locked to highest plans
BigCommerce is an ecommerce platform allowing businesses to create custom-made digital storefronts. It provides users powerful tools for managing customer relationships, order management, product catalogs, and promotions. The user-friendly drag-and-drop editor makes it simple for users to customize their ecommerce storefronts.
Why I Picked BigCommerce: BigCommerce is a great open source choice for businesses due to its endless scalability, extensive customization options, and strong developer community support, allowing businesses to create highly tailored and scalable ecommerce solutions on their own terms.
BigCommerce's built-in content management system makes it easy for users to create and publish content on their digital storefronts. With headless commerce, businesses can quickly launch new products, add new features, and optimize their sites in real-time without worrying about technical issues or coding knowledge requirements. Its digital experience platforms allow merchants to increase customer engagement with dynamic, personalized experiences regardless of their device or channel.
BigCommerce Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include an open API and several available SDKs for developers to quickly and easily spin up projects, making it an ideal choice for businesses looking to launch an integrated ecommerce experience. The platform’s front-end frameworks allow users to create and customize the customer-facing part of their online store. Features such as intelligent storefront search, A/B testing capabilities, machine learning-driven recommendations, real-time analytics, and tracking help facilitate optimization across all channels.
Integrations include LiveChat, ShipStation, Georgias, Mailchimp, Quickbooks Online, Yotpo Product Reviews, Justuno, Brightpearl, Acumatica, ActiveCampaign, Hubspot, Klavyio, Shopgate, Printify, and dozens of other apps.
- Omnichannel marketing support
- Extensive design capabilities
- Helpful customer service
- Hard to troubleshoot technical errors
- Some custom styles are costly
Shopify’s headless ecommerce system lets you separate your frontend design from backend infrastructure, which enables you to publish to any channel and make any device a platform for your brand. There is an extensive knowledge base that will solve basic queries, as well as an active community forum.
Why I Picked Shopify: Shopify is a great choice for usability and ease of use due to its intuitive interface, user-friendly design, and extensive documentation, making it accessible for users with varying levels of technical expertise to easily set up and manage their online stores.
The headless commerce functionality provides total creative control across all touchpoints to deliver a cohesive customer experience. You can use your business software and content management systems to engage customers through custom storefronts like kiosks, wearables, vending machines, and billboards. It can also help you speed up your site performance with a web app that reacts like a native mobile app.
Shopify Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include its extensive App Store, offering a wide range of third-party applications and integrations. This marketplace allows users to enhance their online stores with unique features and functionalities, ranging from marketing and sales tools to customer support and inventory management solutions. The vast selection of apps caters to various business needs, empowering users to customize and extend the capabilities of their Shopify stores in a way that is unparalleled in the industry.
Integrations include Stocky, Apple Business Chat, Oberlo, Google Sheets, Mailchimp, Wave, Airtable, Slack, and 3k other vital business management apps. The product integrates smoothly with all the major marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
- User-friendly platform
- In-depth inventory management
- Multiple customizable templates + themes
- Monthly fee + transaction fees can add up
- Some plugins cost extra
OroCommerce comes from the same leadership team that built Magento and focuses on solutions for the B2B industry. Having said that, the platform can be customized to fit any B2B, B2B2C, B2B2B, and B2C ecommerce need. It operates on an open source philosophy and has a vibrant community that is constantly supporting each other.
Why I Picked OroCommerce: OroCommerce is a great choice for wholesalers due to its robust B2B features, including advanced pricing and catalog management, flexible workflows, and support for complex order fulfillment processes, allowing wholesalers to efficiently manage their operations and cater to the specific needs of B2B customers.
OroCommerce’s inventory management features let you conduct multi-website and multi-warehouse management. You can personalize catalogs and adjust pricing as well. OroCommerce lets you take your brand to the web and mobile with a platform that supports both headless ecommerce and traditional ecommerce. It integrates with CRM apps (such as Salesforce) and ERP apps (such as SAP) seamlessly.
OroCommerce Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include its advanced pricing and catalog management capabilities specifically designed for B2B wholesalers. It allows businesses to set up complex pricing structures, including negotiated pricing, volume-based discounts, customer-specific pricing, and contract-based pricing. Additionally, the platform offers extensive catalog management features such as tiered product pricing, configurable products, and custom catalogs, enabling wholesalers to efficiently manage their product offerings and tailor pricing strategies to meet the diverse needs of their B2B customers.
Integrations include Akeno, Epicor, SAP, Oracle, Infor, Microsoft Dynamics, and additional options using their Rest API, import/export engine, and using SFTP.
- Easy multi-website management
- Great product catalog system
- Strong B2B selling capabilities
- High entry, even for developers
- Limited user permissions options
Elastic Path is an API-first commerce platform that empowers businesses to create flexible, personalized, and seamless commerce experiences across various touchpoints. With its headless architecture and extensive API capabilities, Elastic Path enables businesses to innovate, adapt, and deliver unique commerce solutions tailored to their specific needs.
Why I Picked Elastic Path: Elastic Path's dynamic catalog management tools provide businesses with robust capabilities to efficiently manage and organize their product catalogs. With flexible product modeling, businesses can create and configure complex product structures, variations, and relationships. Elastic Path's dynamic catalog management tools allow businesses to easily update and modify product information, attributes, pricing, and inventory across multiple channels.
Elastic Path excels as a headless ecommerce platform by offering an API-first approach, enabling businesses to decouple the front-end presentation layer from the commerce backend. This allows for greater flexibility in front-end development, seamless integration with various touchpoints, and the ability to deliver personalized and consistent commerce experiences across channels.
Elastic Path Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include advanced revenue optimization capabilities, leveraging machine learning algorithms to dynamically optimize pricing, promotions, and offers in real-time. This unique feature allows businesses to maximize revenue by automatically adjusting pricing strategies based on customer behavior, market conditions, and business objectives, delivering personalized and optimized commerce experiences while driving conversions and increasing profitability.
Integrations include Advanced Commerce GrapheneHC, Ayden, Algolia, AWS Cognito, Authorize.net, Avalara, Braintree, Braze, Card Connect, Constructor.io, Covio, Google Merchant Center, Paypal, OpenAI, and other popular ecommerce, development, and content tools.
- Responsive, engaged customer support team
- Lightweight API for rapid development cycles
- Simple promotion and personalization engine
- Not appropriate for small biz/startups
- Can be complex to customize for new users
Magento Commerce equips developers to deliver tailor-made applications with a high level of customization based on the customer’s needs. This personalization can be enabled by experimentation. Magento empowers experimentation due to the systems being divided and not disturbing the operations of each other. The decoupled architecture facilitates new features and integrations at a fast rate.
Why I Picked Magento Commerce: Magento Commerce is a great choice for robust analytics due to its advanced reporting and analytics capabilities, providing businesses with comprehensive insights into customer behavior, sales performance, and marketing effectiveness, allowing for data-driven decision-making and optimization of ecommerce strategies. You can also export data directly to people’s inboxes, as well as get insights for average order value, lifetime value, and retention rates.
Magento’s inventory management features let you ship inventory to the right store at the right time. It lets you accurately track your inventory levels across multiple locations like warehouses, stores, and dropshippers. You can obtain a live count of your saleable stock. It also allows you to configure management settings globally, per source, and per product.
Magento Commerce Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include its ability to handle multi-brand companies with diverse product catalogs, efficiently managing offerings for different target markets such as B2B and B2C, and its built-in PWA Studio, which facilitates the creation and launch of progressive web apps that prioritize performance optimization and responsive design, ensuring exceptional user experiences across various devices.
Integrations include over 3,700 paid and free options, like EasyShip, eDesk, Facebook Business, Google Shopping, LiveHelp, Stripe, Mailchimp, Quickbooks, SendCloud, and Stripe.
- Interconnected to all Adobe software & systems
- Deep analytics with personalizable dashboards
- Free community/open source edition
- Comparatively costly vs other options
- Time-consuming for initial setup + launch
Commercetools is an omnichannel ecommerce platform that leverages headless ecommerce technology to create the foundation for evolutionary ecommerce architecture. It offers a point of sale functionality via cloud deployment. Its cutting-edge API approach powers retailers to create brand awareness by creating engaging customer experiences across multiple channels and also future-proof for emerging channels.
Why I Picked Commercetools: Commercetools has a big focus on scalability, in that they provide a microservices-based architecture, which sets it apart from traditional monolithic commerce platforms. By breaking down the commerce functionality into independent and scalable microservices, Commercetools offers exceptional agility and scalability, allowing businesses to evolve and adapt their commerce ecosystems rapidly. This unique approach enables organizations to add, remove, or modify individual microservices without disrupting the entire commerce system.
Overall, the solution contains all the important functions needed to run an ecommerce business, with the capabilities to constantly evolve and add new features. In terms of inventory management, Commercetools has features for tracking inventory, adjusting inventory, returns management, and multi-store management.
Commercetools Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include its API-first architecture, which places the API at the core of its platform. This unique approach allows for unparalleled flexibility and extensibility, enabling developers to build custom commerce solutions and integrations tailored to their specific needs. The API-first approach empowers businesses to deliver commerce experiences across various touchpoints, including web, mobile, IoT, voice, and more, while ensuring seamless scalability and agility.
Integrations include Contentstack, Cybersource, and Frontastic. It also works out of the box with DXPs and front-end CMS systems like Bloomreach and Adobe Experience Cloud.
- Easy to customize
- Pay only for what you need (microservices-based)
- API-first architecture from ground-up
- Additional integrations welcomed
- Require some coding knowledge for full advantages
Kontent.ai is a versatile Headless CMS designed to meet the needs of ecommerce businesses, providing a flexible content management system that seamlessly integrates with various frontend technologies. With its emphasis on ecommerce, Kontent.ai enables businesses to efficiently manage and deliver product content, promotions, and personalized experiences across multiple channels, driving engaging and conversion-focused ecommerce experiences.
Why I Picked Kontent: Kontent.ai provides a visually intuitive content modeling interface, allowing content editors and administrators to easily define and structure content types and relationships without the need for complex technical knowledge or coding. This unique feature simplifies the content creation and management process, empowering non-technical users to contribute and collaborate.
Kontent.ai is a robust and versatile headless CMS platform that empowers businesses to manage and deliver content seamlessly across various digital channels. With its user-friendly interface and powerful features, Kontent.ai simplifies the content creation and management process, enabling content editors and administrators to structure and organize content without technical expertise. The platform's unique focus on flexibility and scalability makes it ideal for organizations seeking a customizable content management solution.
Kontent Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include Content Variants and Variations, which allows businesses to efficiently manage and customize content for different target audiences, languages, regions, or any other custom attributes. This capability enables businesses to streamline content localization, A/B testing, and personalization efforts, providing a highly tailored and localized experience to their customers, all within a single content repository.
Integrations include Builder.io, GatedContent, Algolia, Bynder, commercetools, Gatsby, Cloudinary, Gridsome, Magento, Netlify, Recomby, Ultracommerce, SEMrush, Scaleflex, and other similar tools. You can also unlock more options with a paid plan through Zapier.
- Flexible, 'composable DXP' approach
- Easy-to-use content authoring
- Well-designed content types elements
- No library of website themes
- More native integrations welcomed
Contentful is a next-generation content-focused platform that works with a decoupled infrastructure and agile workflows meant to reduce time to market. It enables teams to unify content in a single hub and structure it for any digital channel. There is extensive documentation, user guides, and a supportive community to help you find your way.
Why I Picked Contentful: Contentful is a great choice for agile workflows due to its headless architecture, flexible content modeling, and powerful API, enabling rapid iteration, seamless collaboration between teams, and easy integration with various front-end technologies.
Using open APIs and strong integration capabilities, it can structure the content for multiple platforms and channels.It has an intuitive user interface and support for multiple spaces. This can be helpful for organizations that need separate projects for development, staging, or production.
Contentful Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include a robust and highly customizable Rich Text Editor that allows content editors to create and format content with a wide range of options, including text styles, embedded media, links, and more. Unlike many other CMS platforms, Contentful's RTE offers a highly extensible and flexible approach, enabling developers to create custom extensions and integrations tailored to specific content requirements, providing a unique level of control and creativity.
Integrations include Dropbox, Jira, Google Analytics, Commercetools, and other similar business tools.
- User-friendly platform
- Permissions are very granular and flexible
- Create custom content models suitable for complex data structures
- Slows down with large volumes of content
- Search & filtering could be better
Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is a comprehensive and enterprise-grade content management solution that empowers organizations to create, manage, and deliver personalized and engaging digital experiences across multiple channels. With its robust features, seamless integration with other Adobe products, and powerful content authoring capabilities, AEM is a leading choice for businesses seeking a scalable and customizable platform to deliver exceptional digital experiences.
Why I Picked Adobe Experience Manager: Adobe Experience Manager customer analytics is a powerful feature that provides businesses with deep insights into customer behavior, preferences, and engagement across digital channels. By leveraging data collected from various touchpoints, it enables businesses to analyze and understand customer journeys, segment audiences, and personalize experiences.
Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) serves as an excellent headless ecommerce solution by seamlessly integrating with popular ecommerce platforms, allowing businesses to leverage the powerful content management capabilities of AEM while utilizing the commerce functionalities of their preferred ecommerce system. AEM's headless architecture enables the separation of content and presentation layers, providing flexibility for front-end development and enabling businesses to deliver consistent, personalized, and immersive shopping experiences across multiple channels.
Adobe Experience Manager Standout Features & Integrations
Key features include dynamic media capabilities, allowing businesses to deliver rich and immersive digital experiences. Its powerful Digital Asset Management (DAM) functionality includes advanced image and video processing, smart cropping, automatic format conversion, and dynamic rendition generation. Plus, they have Experience Fragments in Adobe Experience Manager provide a unique and innovative way to create reusable content components. Businesses can create fragments that encapsulate specific sections of content or experiences and reuse them across multiple channels and touchpoints.
Integrations include Amazon SNS connection, BrightEdge Content Optimizer, ExactTarget, Facebook Connect, Generic Analytics Snippet, Microsoft Translator, Pushwoosh Connection, Salesforce, Twitter, YouTube, and other popular systems and services.
- Robust and scalable for large organizations
- Comprehensive digital experience solution
- Tons of content creation, curation, and repurposing tools
- Steep learning curve
- Not appropriate for small businesses
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Best headless ecommerce platform for small to mid-sized businesses
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|From $29/month and 2.59% + $0.49/transaction||Website|
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30-day free trial
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Adobe Experience Manager
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Comparison Criteria for Headless Ecommerce Platforms
What do I look for when I select the best headless ecommerce platforms? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria.
There are many key features, use cases, and niche specialties that make each headless ecommerce platform standout. I tried to pick a variety of options to make this list suite the needs of most readers. However, to be considered for this top list of headless ecommerce platforms, each tool must encompass the following core competencies.
- Robust API capabilities to enable seamless integration between frontend and backend systems
- Comprehensive content management capabilities to efficiently manage and deliver engaging product information, marketing content, and user experiences
Ecommerce platforms typically offer a range of key features to facilitate online retail operations. Some of the common key features include:
- Product Catalog Management: The ability to easily manage and organize product listings, including categorization, attributes, pricing, and inventory management.
- Shopping Cart and Checkout: Seamless shopping cart functionality with multiple payment options and a secure checkout process to facilitate smooth transactions.
- Order and Inventory Management: Tools to track and manage orders, including order processing, shipment tracking, and inventory control to ensure accurate stock levels.
- Payment Gateway Integration: Integration with popular payment gateways to enable secure and convenient payment processing for customers.
- Customer Management: Tools for managing customer accounts, profiles, and order history, as well as features like customer reviews, wish lists, and personalized recommendations.
- Marketing and Promotions: Capabilities for creating and managing promotional campaigns, discount codes, coupons, loyalty programs, and targeted marketing campaigns.
- Analytics and Reporting: Built-in analytics and reporting features to track sales performance, customer behavior, conversion rates, and other key metrics for informed decision-making.
- Mobile Responsiveness: Ensuring that the platform is optimized for mobile devices, providing a seamless user experience across different screen sizes.
- SEO and Content Management: Tools for optimizing product pages, managing SEO metadata, and creating and managing content such as blogs, articles, and landing pages.
These features may vary across different ecommerce platforms, and store owners can choose platforms based on their specific needs and requirements.
Well-designed headless ecommerce platform UI can significantly impact user satisfaction, productivity, and overall usability. It should be intuitive, visually appealing, and responsive, allowing users to easily navigate and perform tasks without confusion or frustration. A well-crafted UI enhances your experience with the software, reduces learning curves, and increases user engagement and adoption. It also plays a critical role in conveying information, guiding users through workflows, and presenting data in a meaningful and visually digestible manner.
Headless ecommerce should offer greater ease of use compared to other types of ecommerce platforms due to the flexibility and separation of frontend and backend systems that makes it unique. With headless architecture, developers should have the freedom to choose the best tools and technologies for each component, resulting in more streamlined development processes. This separation should also allow for independent updates and enhancements to the frontend without impacting the backend functionality, making it easier to control changes to your site as shopping experience technology advances.
Flexibility is paramount in headless ecommerce platforms due to their ability to adapt and evolve according to changing business needs and technological advancements. Headless architecture should allow for independent development and deployment of each component, enabling flexibility in selecting the most suitable technologies, frameworks, and tools for specific requirements. With the ability to quickly iterate and customize the frontend without disrupting the backend, store owners should reasonably expect to be able to rapidly respond to market trends, personalize the user experience, and experiment with new features and designs.
A key component of headless ecommerce platforms is support for integrating with third-party services and APIs, as well as the availability of extensions and plugins to extend the platform's functionality. This is one of the primary benefits of headless platforms. I would expect headless ecommerce platforms to be able to seamlessly connect to software like product information management tools, website builders, social selling platforms, warehouse management systems, shipping solutions, and inventory management software.
How much do headless ecommerce platforms cost?
What is the difference between headless and decoupled platforms?
What is an example of headless ecommerce?
What are the benefits of headless ecommerce paltforms?
Other Ecommerce Platform Reviews
There are plenty of ecommerce platform types to choose from. Here are some similar software review lists that will complement your research of marketplace platform. You can start with the overall best Best Ecommerce Platforms, which contain a little bit of everything ranked in an ultimate list.
Ecommerce Platforms by Business Type
- B2B Ecommerce Platforms
- Subscription Ecommerce Platforms
- Ecommerce Platforms For Small Businesses
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Ecommerce Platforms by Need
- Easiest Ecommerce Platforms
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- Cheap Ecommerce Platforms
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According to Gitnux, 60% of major retailers in North America are expected to adopt a headless platform by 2025.
Headless ecommerce is great for store owners because it provides them with the flexibility to customize the frontend, integrate with various systems, deliver personalized experiences, and scale their business according to their specific needs and market demands. Additionally, headless ecommerce is great for online shoppers as it enables seamless shopping experiences across multiple channels and devices, personalized recommendations, and a consistent user interface. That sounds like a potential win-win scenario that could net you better customer satisfaction, more control over the way your store website is built and run, and an increase in profits using this hyper-adaptable approach to selling online.
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