An Extensive Guide to Headless Shopify

John Ahya John Ahya August 25, 2022
12 mins read Last Updated February 07, 2023
A Comprehensive Guide on How to Go Headless with Shopify

To survive & thrive in the digital world, an eCommerce business needs to adapt according to the latest trends in the industry constantly.

Before some time, you created an eCommerce store using Shopify, one of the leading eCommerce platforms. However, now you have implemented all the essential features of the platform and want to scale further. How do you achieve it?

Is building an eCommerce store from scratch good, or is any other better option? Absolutely, there is. You can go with headless commerce.

Headless eCommerce is an architecture in which the frontend is decoupled from the backend without affecting it. Moreover, you might have heard about the benefits of headless eCommerce like unlimited customization, better integration, enhanced flexibility, and more.

After looking at the benefits of headless commerce, you might be excited to create a store using it. However, you might have several questions: Is it possible to combine headless commerce with Shopify? Are brands really adopting headless commerce for their store?

This question occurs because you have used Shopify to create a store due to its benefits like quick setup, mobile friendly, integration capabilities, and more.

Now, you don’t want to lose any of the existing functionalities of Shopify and integrate something new into it.

Hopefully, you can achieve these things by using headless commerce with your current Shopify store.

As a certified Shopify partner, We developed many stores across the globe. So, We know very well How to set up a headless eCommerce Shopify store.

In this blog, we will walk you through the basics of headless Shopify, the pros & cons of headless Shopify, and lastly, how to go headless with Shopify.

So, let us start.

What is Headless Shopify?

It means that the backend infrastructure of your Shopify store is separate from the front end. Hence, developers can utilize the frontend framework as per their needs. And this is possible by extracting data from Shopify using a robust storefront application programming interface (API).

When you decide to use headless CMS with Shopify, you have the same backend eCommerce experience that Shopify offers to your store. In addition, you change the head or “front-end” of your store with some new CMS to provide a better experience to the customers.

Shopify is the ultimate destination for all your eCommerce needs and offers various amazing offers.

  • A wide range of apps are available on the Shopify store for adding reviews, loyalty programs, customer wishlists, etc. You can install apps as per your needs.
  • Checkout from mobile using different payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.
  • Seamless order management & inventory.
  • Mobile responsive themes.
  • Highly secure and reliable.

As you move ahead with Shopify, you may discover some features that are not as per the mark. With Shopify, you can upgrade the eCommerce store to a certain point. However, if you want to scale further after that, it is not possible. Hence, Shopify headless is the option. Here are some of the reasons businesses opt for headless Shopify.

  • Quick loading of a site with instant page-to-page load time.
  • Ability to manage how the products get presented in the store.
  • Provide tailor-made experience right from browsing to buying.
  • Completely customizable URL structure.
  • Better optimization for site speed, images, and mobile.
  • Manage content effectively.

Besides these, there are various other benefits of headless commerce for businesses & startups.

If your core purpose is to expand your store, then you need an eCommerce store offering a customized experience and representing your brand.

As of now, you don’t have to build your eCommerce store from scratch. Shopify now has a built-in separation. It means you can integrate a front-end of your choice on your Shopify store. It has become possible because of Shopify’s storefront API.

Is Shopify a headless CMS?

It would be rather effective to say that Shopify possesses a CMS with headless ability. The main reason Shopify has become the favorite tool among retailers and businesses is its integrated services. The e-commerce platform consists of CMS, Theme Layer, & Editor, and all of these things unite well with all the other features available on the store.

Besides this, Shopify provides an option where all of these functions can function separately according to the requirement.

If you want to arrange information in an effective manner in your CMS, then Shopify offers only four predefined options.

In case you want to integrate a highly flexible third-party CMS into your store, you can approach a Shopify development company.

At Webdesk Solution, we offer a third-party CMS integration service where we configure your data according to your brand and connect it to Shopify over an API with headless.

After looking at the basics of headless Shopify, let us look at some of the pros and cons of Shopify headless.

Pros of Headless Shopify

Here are some of the benefits of headless Shopify for your store.

1. Customized URL for Enhanced SEO

The structure of the URLs is what helps users to discover information on your site. Hence, it is very crucial.

To allow Google to understand your product page fulfills a particular customer’s search, you require URLs to be flexible enough to hold comprehensive product descriptions.

Shopify is very rigid when it comes to URL structure. It only offers four predefined ways to set URLs for the product pages. Hence, you cannot add information that can be useful for a search engine like Google. A fixed URL structure sets limitations for an eCommerce store with a range of products. It further affects the SEO of the store.

Thankfully, headless Shopify offers control over the URL structure and helps you to improve SEO results.

2. Enhanced Website Speed & Conversion

Online shoppers are not stable as before. If a page takes more time to load, they leave it and visit another website. Hence, it is essential to have a website that loads faster. Moreover, a fast-loading site has a low bounce rate, more conversions, and good SEO.

Using Shopify’s traditional architecture, merchants depend heavily on third-party plugins and apps to integrate new functionalities into the store. After a specific point, the extra code added on your website because of apps & integrations results in reducing site speed.

On the contrary, in headless commerce, the frontend and backend are not coupled together. Hence, the site doesn’t have any effect on third-party integrations. All the content on the site gets displayed in an efficient manner.

3. Manage Content Effectively

By having a well-organized content management system, you can offer an omnichannel experience to the customers. With an omnichannel experience, any user can access your website seamlessly regardless of the device or the screen size.

Using a headless CMS along with the backend offers you the opportunity to publish across various devices and channels. A headless CMS allows you to organize different media like photos, videos, text, GIFs, or anything else without any hindrance. It provides you the freedom to add, delete, update, modify and share entire content from a central point without coding anything.

4. Provide Better Customer Experience

In the case of headless commerce, you have better customization and personalization compared to the eCommerce platform Shopify. Although Shopify provides a wide variety of themes that suit every business and are customizable, it becomes challenging to modify and offer unique experiences after some point.

With headless commerce, you can make your eCommerce store unique in front of the customers. You don’t have to rely on Shopify and provide the best experience without any constraints. You also can represent your brand’s image & identity effectively.

When you use a suitable programming language at the front-end, you ensure that your store integrates well with the PIMs, OMS, ERPs, IMS, etc. Besides this, headless commerce is backed up by APIs, meaning you can use APIs of various software solutions and connect them to integrate functionalities.

5. Faster Speed to Market

Using headless commerce, you can modify the frontend of your eCommerce store without doing anything with the backend or vice-versa. Due to its decoupled nature, you have an option to add functionalities as well as various integrations more quickly than in traditional architecture.

With a custom frontend, your marketing and the content team would be able to work separately without any need for the development team. Moreover, both teams can create content, add landing pages, and check various site layouts without affecting the backend. It provides you full control over the UI of the store and helps you to launch it quickly.

Cons of Headless Shopify

Here are some of the drawbacks of headless Shopify.

1. No Access to Shopify Apps & Themes

As soon as you stop using Shopify’s built-in theme, you might lose access to some third-party apps. All the well-known apps consisting of APIs will work well. However, apps without APIs would not get integrated with the backend.

Besides this, you won’t be able to access the Shopify theme editor. If you use a custom headless CMS, you need to get familiar with many things to build an extensive eCommerce store.

If you select a frontend-as-a-service provider, they will provide you with various pre-built integrations for your store. If you want to create a custom Shopify store from scratch, you can also hire an in-house team or an agency. They will create custom APIs that integrate well with Shopify’s backend.

2. Customization Causes Complexity

By including one more layer into the eCommerce stack, you have to deal with additional complexity.

If you determine to go with a custom frontend, you have to look after two platforms simultaneously. Due to this, there would be various third-party app compatibility issues with the backend when you choose to go with headless Shopify.

If you are a small retailer, then Shopify offers enough adaptability suitable for your business. If you plan to scale further, you require an in-house development team or an agency.

3 Ways to Build Headless Shopify Store

If you have decided to use a custom frontend for your eCommerce store, you have 3 options. You can choose the right option considering the requirements of your business.

1. Do it Yourself

Firstly, you can develop your own headless Shopify store with a framework. When you build your own architecture around Shopify, you would have complete control over the eCommerce functions. With this, you get more flexibility because you can go ahead with development or coding.

On the other hand, creating a headless Shopify store requires the necessary coding skills and experience. Generally, you need experience with the front-end and back-end of Shopify’s API.

For instance, Shopify utilizes liquid as a template language. When you choose to go headless Shopify, you cannot use the liquid. If you want to create a custom eCommerce store that is accessible via API, you should have knowledge of frontend frameworks like React or Ember. If you desire to build a custom website, you require knowledge of Next.js or Gatsby.

2. Build with an Agency

Secondly, you can partner with an agency having expertise with headless Shopify.

If you have done proper research and chosen an agency properly, you will have a chance to work with a team having expertise in creating headless sites that go well with Shopify’s back-end and are familiar with liable risks and the way to get rid of them.

Moreover, the agency can help you build a tailor-made store with headless Shopify or collaborate with a frontend-as–service vendor to create the store.

An agency will help you in every stage of the headless Shopify store development. It starts right from planning to design to development to testing and deployment. Thus, it converts your idea into reality.

The agency would also recommend suitable navigation and layout options according to the store’s requirements.

3. Use a Frontend-As-A-Service Provider

If you do not want to look after the research, design, development, testing, and development of the custom platforms and APIs, a frontend provider can conduct this for you. When working with a frontend-as-a-service provider, you would receive an extensive package using which you can look after the eCommerce store. Moreover, you can also modify the eCommerce store without any trouble.

Rather than a team looking after the various layers of the tech stack, the frontend service provider will look after the eCommerce and marketing concerns. It reduces your burden of looking at the store regularly.

Besides working with a popular platform, you also have the opportunity to work with an agency to redesign your site. Various frontend providers have collaborated with agencies having experience with website builders. Hence, they will ensure that your site runs well from start to end and create an entire site at a cost-effective price. If you want to know more about cost, you can read the complete guide on Shopify website cost.

The only drawback of this approach is that you lose control of several internal aspects of the technology stack. You wouldn’t be able to modify any of the code as per your need; you need to discuss well with the frontend provider about any technical and behind-the-scenes improvements.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Headless Commerce Shopify Store?

The cost to build a headless Commerce Shopify store starts from $50,000 and goes up to $500,000. It depends on the level of customization, resources used, people involved, tools integrated, and more.

The cost of building another headless platform like a mobile app can be around $99 per month only if you have created a custom Shopify storefront with an app.

Lastly, the cost of a headless Commerce Shopify store varies depending on the complexity. Here, not only have to pay for the development of the store but also various third-party integrations & any recurring costs for the CMS.

Popular Headless Shopify Store Examples

Here are some of the best eCommerce stores powered by headless Shopify.

1. Allbirds

Allbirds provides the world’s best comfy shoes, flats, and clothing made using natural materials such as merino wool and eucalyptus.

With the increase in the number of products, various categories, multiple variants, and diverse product availability across different countries, Allbirds’ goal was to provide personalization to users and a site that loads instantly. Hence, they decided to go with headless commerce.

Using a headless architecture, Allbirds increased the site loading speed and made it easy to use. Moreover, they also offered a personalized experience to the users.

All the sections on the homepage are presented according to importance. Out of various sections, Our favorite is one of the best sections displaying favorites for everyday, running, and summer.

2. Kotn

Kotn is a well-known sustainable clothing and home decor brand based in Canada. Their initial website was not headless Shopify. The company decided to use Shopify’s headless API to merge two stores. Now, the website runs on a headless CMS backed up by Shopify Plus.

With headless architecture, the company now handles storefront and provides a top-notch experience to users. They are now able to change the design as per the need. Moreover, the site speed is quick and remains the same during high traffic and festive seasons.

3. The Feed

At the early stage, the company was very suspicious regarding the speed and user experience headless Shopify offers to the stores. Hence, they decided to perform several tests.

The company built two versions of the website: one using Shopify and the other using Shopify liquid. They did an analysis and revealed that the headless version surpassed the liquid ones with a 5.24% high conversion rate and 10.28% high income per visitor.

4. Victoria Beckham Beauty

Victoria Beckham, a well-known English singer, fashion designer, and television personality created a luxury beauty & cosmetics brand with the name Victoria Beckham Beauty.

They first created a website using Shopify. The company aims to build a solid online presence and offer a premium experience to users. However, they faced many issues handling massive traffic and loading high-resolution images & videos.

The company decided to go headless to Shopify to get high flexibility in design, user journeys, and product organization.

With headless, they were able to create a high-performing single application. The development team used Contentful CMS to handle high traffic and ever-changing content. The site now loads quickly and has zero downtime in any season.

5. Peloton

Peloton is a well-known American exercise and fitness company. The company aimed to use the best-in-class technology and design to create workouts accessible to millions of people.

The company already had its Peloton app and workout technology to provide a better experience to users. They decided to use headless Shopify for the website in order to synchronize everything.

Moreover, Peloton has to update classes and integrate new features at specific intervals. All of the updates become possible with headless commerce.

Conclusion

We hope you have understood all the essential things related to headless Shopify. By considering the number of benefits Shopify headless offers to the websites like better adaptability and customization, we would observe more and more businesses adopting this trend.

If your Shopify store is expanding in terms of traffic and conversions, then going with headless Shopify would not harm you. On the contrary, it helps you enhance site performance and provide a better experience to the users.

Webdesk Solution is a leading Shopify development company that help many brands to build their store with headless Shopify. Hence, we can understand your business requirements and use the latest technologies and tools to transform your store into headless commerce Shopify.

John Ahya
John Ahya

John is the President and Co-Founder of WebDesk Solution, LLC. Living the digital agency life for over 10 years, he explores an extensive eCommerce world. He has immense experience in all major e-commerce platforms. Being a nature lover, he likes to breathe the fresh air on the hill stations during vacations.

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