Headless vs Monolithic eCommerce platforms

5 things to think about when considering moving to a headless eCommerce solution.


Mark Pinkerton

1/31/20233 min read

The key differences between headless & monolithic eCommerce solutions

As the world of eCommerce continues to evolve and grow, it is becoming increasingly important for business owners to understand the different technological approaches that can be taken to build & grow their online business. The two most prevalent models of eCommerce technology are traditional monolithic or headless/composable and it is important to understand the pros and cons of each in order to make an informed decision about which one is right for your business.

What is headless eCommerce technology?

headless (sometime also referred to as composable) eCommerce technology is a relatively new approach that is becoming popular among online businesses of all sizes. Essentially, headless eCommerce separates the front-end of an online store from the back-end, allowing for greater flexibility and scalability.

This means that businesses can use a variety of different front-end technologies, such as React.js or Angular.js, to build a series of custom user experiences, while still using a single back-end platform to handle all the underlying eCommerce functionality. This approach allows businesses to create a unique and personalized experience for their customers, while still being able to take advantage of the robust eCommerce functionality that these platforms offer.

What are the benefits of headless technology?

One of the main benefits of headless eCommerce is that it allows businesses to easily make changes to their online store without having to worry about disrupting the underlying eCommerce functionality. This is because the components are connected using APIs (Application Programming Interface - which is a set of definitions & protocols for building and integrating applications) to bring agility and flexibility benefits. Businesses can easily make changes to the design and layout of their online store, add new features, or even completely change the front-end technology that they are using without, having to worry about disrupting the core eCommerce functionality.

This approach also allows businesses to easily integrate with other technologies, such as social media platforms, analytics tools, and marketing automation software to create a truly personalized and seamless customer experience. This is also referred to as a “best-of-breed” approach. Modules within a composable world can be swapped in and out without the pain of the dreaded re-platforming project.

What is Monolithic technology?

Monolithic eCommerce technology, on the other hand, is a more traditional approach that has been around for many years. This approach involves using a single platform/provider to handle all aspects of an online store, including the front-end design and layout, the eCommerce functionality, and back-end management. This approach is often seen as less flexible than headless eCommerce, as businesses are often limited to the functionality and design options that the platform/provider offers. Sometime this approach can be a good choice for businesses that are just starting out, as it is often simpler and easier to set up than headless eCommerce.

This approach also allows businesses to easily manage all aspects of their online store from a single platform, which can be a great time saver and maybe administratively advantageous. Additionally, monolithic eCommerce platforms are shipped with a wide range of built-in features and functionality, which can save businesses time and money, however as businesses grow and their needs evolve the challenge for the provider is to keep pace with the market.

What are the different skills needed to manage Headless as opposed to monolithic eCommerce?

Managing a headless platform requires different skills from managing a monolithic eCommerce platform. These are likely to include:

1. Front-end development: headless eCommerce relies on a separate front-end technology, such as React.js or Angular.js, to build the user experience. This means you should have experienced front-end development skills to create a custom user experience.

2. API integration: headless eCommerce relies on APIs to connect the front-end and back-end of the solution. IT leaders need experience with integrating different systems and platforms via APIs to extract maximum value.

3. Back-end development: IT leaders need a good understanding of back-end development and be familiar with a number of eCommerce platforms that are used as the back-end.

4. Technical architecture skills need to be significantly advanced compared to monolith platform-specific knowledge, as you will produce your unique solution through the integration of multiple products & services

5. Scalability: Headless eCommerce allows for greater scalability, but the team need to have a clear vision & a clear path to scale the solution to meet the growing needs of the business.

In summary

both headless and monolithic eCommerce technology have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Headless eCommerce is a more flexible and scalable approach that allows businesses to create a unique and personalized experience for their customers, while still being able to take advantage of the robust eCommerce functionality that these platforms offer.

Created with assistance from our latest friend ChatGPT from OpenAI - edited by hand.

Headless eCommerce is a trending topic but how is it different from monolithic and is it for everyone?

image of man holding piece of paper with "headless" written upon it
image of man holding piece of paper with "headless" written upon it