what is headless commerceWhen it comes to creating unique and noticeable experiences on a website, one thing comes to mind: flexibility.

With a continuous rise in experience-led commerce — that is, shops built more around the experience of shopping — consumers are spending more for tailored and compelling shopping experiences.

Next to the normal buyer decision-making factors like quality of a product, price, and buyer motivation, the process of browsing and selecting an item weighs heavily on a shopper’s decision.

The way your website acts and looks can make or break whether your customers makes a purchase.


What is Headless Commerce?

While optimizing your site’s shopping experience can be as simple as making sure your website is easy to use with UX/UI improvements, there’s more to it — especially as competition continues to rise, and more customers are purchasing online.

Historically, starting an online store went one of two ways:

  1. Monolithic Model: you spent a mountain of money (and time) custom building a website with ecommerce functionality.
  2. SaaS Model: you hosted your store using a pre-built software — which faced limitations regarding customization.

Headless commerce is the more modern route. In a headless model, the ecommerce website is built on a content management system (CMS) platform like WordPress, Drupal, or BloomReach — while the ecommerce functionality is run by an ecommerce platform like BigCommerce on the backend.

It’s a perfect pairing: The customization capabilities and familiarity of a CMS with the secure backend of a SaaS ecommerce platform.

This is what a headless commerce model looks like. The headless CMS and commerce platform are linked together with an API layer. Also known as an Application Programming Interface, an API is a software intermediary that allows two pieces of technology to talk to each other. With an API layer, users can perform limitless customizations and integrations, including other content distribution platforms, payment channels, and omnichannel strategies.


what is headless commerce

Having built 30% of all websites, WordPress is the most widely-used CMS in the world. The BigCommerce for WordPress plugin allows WordPress users to keep their website hosted on WordPress, while using BigCommerce to power their backend ecommerce functionality.


Benefits of Headless Commerce

Headless commerce brings content marketing to the forefront of the ecommerce strategy, which is important if you’re a brand that values the experience that shoppers have on your site.

Content-led strategies using headless commerce increased:

  • Customization and personalization.
  • Flexibility, familiarity and fund-savings for developers.
  • Marketing effectiveness for innovation without hurting backend processes.
  • Speed to market for international and omnichannel GTMs.


1. Customization and personalization.

As mentioned earlier, content management systems are powerhouses when it comes to customized content. Build off of a pre-existing theme, or start your design from scratch.

2. Increased flexibility and familiarity for developers.

With WordPress, Drupal, and other CMS platforms having built communities of developers that specialize in the platform, it’s easier than ever to find a development agency or freelancer to help you create best-in-class, cutting-edge content.

3. Marketing effectiveness for innovation.

A headless commerce approach makes it easy for marketers and merchandisers to innovate quickly, A/B test, and determine what ultimately works for your ecommerce sales funnel. Using a CMS platform  speeds up productivity, while using an ecommerce platform on the back end keeps your business secure.

4. Speed to market in new geographies or channels.

Once the system is setup, the headless commerce route connects to the overall data infrastructure, meaning it can be replicated while remaining optimized for search engines — even internationally.


Is Headless Commerce Right for You?

Selecting your content management system is a huge decision that weighs heavily on many different aspects and structures of your business, from your brand’s look and feel, to the developer community you pull resources from.

In determining whether or not headless commerce is right for your business — keep the following two things in mind:

  1. Where do you want your brand to grow, both this year and in the future? What functionalities do you need built to improve customer-facing experiences — whether that’s a mobile app, virtual reality, micro-brands, expansion to different regions, or more.
  2. If you’re currently on a CMS platform, what frustrations or limitations would you like to fix? If you’re on a self-hosted platform and see issues with security, compliance, and downtime, you may want to consider moving to a SaaS solution.


Summary: BigCommerce and Headless Commerce

All-in-one platforms aren’t a good fit for everyone. Instead, brands often want to pull together several different pieces of technology via APIs, to create their own ecommerce infrastructure, on their own terms, with their own customizations.

Headless commerce allows you replace any component of your business, whether it’s due to a business requirement change, or some new technology comes along.

Our plugin with WordPress is just the beginning — expect to see a rise in headless online experiences in the future as brands continue to demand adaptable architectures and customers demand a better shopping experience.


About the Author: Corinne Watson

Corinne is a writer and researcher at BigCommerce, where she works directly with agency and technology partners to bring their tools, services and ideas to the commerce industry at large with educational content.


About BigCommerce

BigCommerce is the world’s leading cloud-based ecommerce platform for fast-growing and established brands. Combining enterprise functionality, an open architecture, and rich app ecosystem, BigCommerce enables businesses to grow online sales with 80% less cost, time and complexity than on-premise software.

We’ve partnered with Ecomdash to give growing brands access to a web-based, multi-channel inventory control, sales order, purchasing, listing, drop shipping and shipping management software.

The simple-to-use software tool syncs data and information to/from vendors, sales channels, POS systems, suppliers, fulfillment centers, and warehouses. It allows merchants to easily add new sales channels and products without the fear of overselling.


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