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3 headless commerce platforms to run your business in 2023

Olena Teselko
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Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

eCommerce, like any other sector, experiences growth and changes over time. In 2023, online purchases already account for 20.8% of all retail sales worldwide, compared to 12.2% just five years earlier. And this percentage will only rise over time. 

Meanwhile, growth is impossible without adjusting to the shifting needs of consumers. What was enough 5 years ago is not enough today. Buyers expect brands to deliver seamless omnichannel experiences and be present across multiple channels. Headless commerce platforms, on the other hand, can provide all features needed to satisfy modern consumers. 

What exactly are headless commerce platforms

Headless commerce platform is a software solution that allows businesses to centrally manage an eCommerce store and sync it with multiple third-party integrations via API. 

Headless commerce platforms are distinguished from traditional ones in their architecture. In eCommerce, headless means separating the presentation layer from the backend (eCommerce engine). Unlike traditional (monolithic) systems, headless solutions use API (application programming interface) to provide communication between these decoupled layers. 

The presentation layer (frontend) is the part of your eCommerce site or app that users see and interact with. For example, website product pages or the mobile app's user interface are part of the frontend.

The backend is similar to the engine that runs the whole system. The backend includes everything from inventory apps and payment processing to a database of customers and shopping carts.

Image explaining the headless commerce platforms

What are the benefits of headless commerce platforms?

But why do you need to decouple something? Why can't you just remain with your established technology? While traditional solutions have been on the market for a long time, progress doesn't stop, and they can no longer keep up. 

The main reasons why businesses decide to switch from monolithic to headless are:

  • slow speed
  • content silos
  • limited omnichannel capabilities
  • high risk of ruining the whole system with a tiny update

Meanwhile, the key benefits of headless commerce platforms for businesses are: 

  • omnichannel capabilities
  • technical flexibility
  • seamless integration with third-party services
  • increased performance
  • enhanced security

This is possible by separating the front and back ends, allowing the use of different technologies, frameworks, apps, and integrations.

Fewer choices, less stress: 3 best headless commerce platforms

There are obviously more than three headless eCommerce platforms out there on the market. However, we recommend that businesses go with the best-of-breed options available instead of compromise. For this reason, we only selected the most prominent platforms that cater to businesses of all sizes – from small to enterprise. 

Top 3 headless commerce platforms:

  1. Shopify Plus
  2. BigCommerce
  3. commercetools

Now, let's dive deeper into each of them and discover what helped them get into this list.

1. Shopify Plus

Let's start with one of the most recognized cloud-based eCommerce platforms due to its stability and user-friendly dashboard. Apart from its numerous benefits, you can now use Shopify as a part of your headless infrastructure. 

Image of headless eCommerce with Shopify Plus

2. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a headless commerce solution designed to empower merchants with multiple tools and a vibrant app ecosystem. This SaaS-based eCommerce solution offers enterprise-grade functionality while maintaining a user-friendly interface backed by highly responsive customer support.

With its headless-ready architecture, BigCommerce seamlessly integrates with any frontend to deliver compelling and content-rich experiences, allowing businesses to build and expand their online stores with flexibility.

One of the platform's key features is its adaptable APIs and multi-storefront option, enabling businesses to thrive in various regions or launch multiple brands effortlessly. While BigCommerce provides an extensive range of built-in eCommerce features, integrating with specific tools may sometimes be challenging.

BigCommerce is a good fit for enterprise-size companies, as it embraces compliance and risk management.

3. commercetools

Commercetools is a platform built around the MACH architecture, which stands for micro-services, API-first, cloud-native and headless. The main ideas of this approach are building composable commerce and following the best-of-breed strategy.

By composable commerce, we mean that every stack component can be easily replaced and rearranged. At the same time, you can work on each element without affecting the other parts of the system. With this approach, businesses can tailor user experiences, allowing for greater personalization.

You can also customize the platform's functionality by adding various integrations via APIs. For instance, you can add custom fields, categories, shipping options, generate discount codes, etc. In other words, companies can personalize the tool for their teams and use only the needed features instead of having the whole scope of predefined functions.

Commercetools is a good fit for almost any type of company, be it B2C or B2B, due to its rich inventory management features and customization possibilities.

Headless CMS as a part of your headless commerce architecture

The bigger your company becomes, the more complex its tech architecture becomes as you need to implement more solutions for each business process. CMS, CRM, eCommerce platform, PIM, analytics, marketing integrations, and so on – this is even a short list of possible tools used by a modern merchant. However, a medal has two sides, as complication also introduces more risks, silos, and tech debt. 

Meanwhile, by embracing headless architecture, including headless CMS, companies can reduce "the noise" and select the best-of-breed tools, customize the overall tech stack, and juggle technologies without ruining the whole system.