eCommerce Solutions: Headless vs. Full-Stack

Written by
Mandy Trilck

In recent years, Headless eCommerce has gained momentum. Many established solutions, like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento, offer headless capabilities! API-first platforms are emerging, too, with headless in their structure. We’ll focus on both sides of the Headledd Model coin. Let’s see if it's an appropriate route for your business! 

What is a Headless Setup?

In its definition, a Headless Setup separates a platform’s back from the front end. Here, the back end relies on APIs to work. In turn, devs can create custom front ends and decide how to use data. Contrariwise, the front and back ends are explicitly interconnected in a full-stack approach. In this latter scenario, template management retrieves and displays data. Yet, a headless setup isn’t necessary for every business. It’s essential to understand its advantages and disadvantages. It'll be easier to decide if a site merits this approach.

Headless vs. Full-Stack eCommerce Solutions

What are the Benefits of Headless Setup?

1. Design

Many brands are wary of looking like another Shopify site to savvy consumers. Yet, Headless eCommerce allows designers and marketing teams to deliver unique shopping experiences. This benefit is excellent for brands whose image is central to their business.

2. Extensibility

Headless eCommerce platforms can connect to almost any third-party service with an API. You can upgrade, add, and remove services as necessary. Thus, there’s no need to pay for extra help or re-platform as the business grows. For example, in full API-first platforms, core commerce functions divide into microservices. Some of these platforms encompass Reaction Commerce and Elastic Path. A business can choose what they want to include in their sites. They can try services with little risk and only pay for their needs.

3. Omnichannel

eCommerce businesses are expanding beyond web and mobile apps. So, brands are adapting to whatever device customers are using. As a result, there are endless possibilities for connecting to a wide range of devices. These devices go from Apple Watches to even intelligent refrigerators!

4. CMS and DXP

A Headless Setup also allows for creative applications. These applications include Content Management Systems (CMS) and Digital Experience Platforms (DXP). Developers can use Headless CMS to extend product description capabilities. These extensions wouldn’t be achievable on traditional platforms. Brands using DXP often have a greater range of touchpoints to draw data and further customize the user experience.

5. Performance

Headless commerce can use modern tech stacks, such as the JAMstack. Speed is critical in eCommerce, especially in mobile performance. In this context, techs like Next.JS, Nuxt.JS, and Gatsby can deliver high-speed experiences.

6. Scalability

Small businesses may don’t have to worry about infrastructure concerns. But, as a business grows, these issues become vital to the equation. That’s why usage scales according to activity in a proper microservices structure. The company only pays for what gets used and doesn’t have to stress about outages.

7. Agility

Services can be quickly connected and disconnected. This easiness allows businesses can experiment and innovate faster. Further, if a service isn’t working out, removing it doesn’t need extra refactoring on the existing app.

Headless vs. Full-Stack eCommerce Solutions

What are the Downsides of Headless Setup?

1. Investment

Headless eCommerce requires developers to create a Front-End and connect the backend services. As a result, this requires a more significant initial investment. In the long run, this can be a worthwhile investment. Yet, not every business can do this when they’re starting.

2. Reliance

Custom solutions mean that businesses rely on devs or IT for maintenance and changes. These costs can be significant for a growing business.

3. Complexity

It can be easy to find developers who know the technologies standard in Headless Setups, like React or Vue. But, the stack will have more technologies and services to manage. A team will have to look after a broader range of techs and create an integrated QA system.

4. Structure

Microservices usually charge according to use, aka API requests. Yet, this approach isn’t more expensive than traditional setups or agreements. Even so, it will vary with different implementations and uses. Thus, it can be a negative point versus a full-stack structure.


Headless eCommerce allows a business to stay flexible and competitive. Some enterprise commerce companies are moving in this direction. Yet, other businesses have to assess this option with more caution. A small business may not need a highly creative and flexible solution. Often, benefits will not outweigh expenses. Yet, the Headless eCommerce ecosystem keeps growing. As a result, there are more ways to install headless solutions without higher costs.

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