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Imagine this: Your eCommerce store has maintained profitability over time, and you’re gaining new customers every day. But eventually, you notice some issues.

Maybe customers are complaining about your store lagging, or your conversion rate drops suddenly. What would be your next move?

If you’ve hit a wall while running your online store, it might be time to consider headless eCommerce to get your business back on track.

In this guide, we’ll go over what headless eCommerce is, how it differs from traditional frameworks and how it can benefit your business.

What is headless commerce?

Headless eCommerce covers both the front end and back end of your website and connects the two with the use of API keys.

Headless commerce is an eCommerce framework that allows you to separate your webpage’s front end from the back end. This means you can modify your eCommerce store’s appearance without changing how transactions are processed and vice versa.

When you separate your front end from your back end, you can customize your eCommerce site a lot more. This framework also allows you to manage multiple storefronts (e.g., websites and apps) effortlessly, all from a single back-end system.

Whether your main goal is to customize your digital storefront or run several stores from the same back end, headless eCommerce can enhance your website’s user experience. Let’s explore how it works.

How headless commerce works

Headless commerce gets its name from how the framework is structured. Since you’re decoupling your front end and back end, you’re removing the ‘head’ of your eCommerce store.

These two separate structures are built with their own frameworks (e.g., React) and are then connected to each other with application programming interfaces (APIs). This API layer allows you to access your back end from multiple storefronts that each offer a unique touchpoint to your customers.

Headless eCommerce has been around for a few years, but it didn’t gain much traction until 2020, when it emerged as an eCommerce trend. Accordingly, the average number of channels customers used to complete their buying journeys rose to 10 in 2021, up from five in 2016.

Since then, small businesses and large corporations alike have been using the headless architecture to deliver a more cohesive eCommerce experience to their customers.

But while headless eCommerce offers impressive new features, it’s important to recognize the benefits of a traditional eCommerce system so you can choose the best framework for your online store.

Headless eCommerce vs. traditional eCommerce

Besides headless eCommerce, you also have the option to build a traditional eCommerce store. There are several differences between headless and traditional eCommerce. Let’s explore them in detail.

Traditional eCommerce

With traditional eCommerce, the front end of your store is connected to the back end. This means that changes made to the back end could affect your store’s overall appearance.

While traditional frameworks aren’t as flexible as headless eCommerce, they usually come with templates, so you can choose from different storefronts and gain access to tools such as WonderSuite’s WonderCart.

Traditional commerce solutions are often described as monolithic, meaning your store is one giant structure. Because of this, your website has more data to load at once. This could increase page load speed, potentially costing you a lot of customers.

According to a 2022 Portent study, websites that load in one second have a conversion rate that’s three times higher than websites that load in five seconds. As such, you need to prioritize speed. A fast website hosting provider like Bluehost can help you optimize your website for more conversions.

Lastly, traditional eCommerce stores are built using a centralized content management system (CMS), including WordPress and eCommerce solutions that enable you to build an online store. While these platforms offer less customization, your website will be ready for use in no time.

Headless eCommerce

With headless eCommerce, your store’s back end is separated from its front end. While this may mean more coding languages and tech stacks if you’re building your site from scratch, it also means you have more choices in terms of customization and integration. For instance, you can build some parts of your store using a CMS and integrate plugins and APIs for more flexibility.

Because these systems are not connected, you can make changes to your front end without touching the back end. This allows you to update your store with smaller, more frequent changes.

It also means customers don’t have to load unnecessary content when shopping in your store. Instead, their browsers will only load the data they need at the moment. For example, if visitors are just exploring your store’s homepage, their browsers won’t load the checkout page data, boosting page load speed.

Due to its customization capabilities, headless eCommerce enables you to deliver a consistent customer experience across different channels. This really shines when developing stores for mobile apps. While traditional eCommerce stores can’t match the look of an app, headless commerce solutions can.

Headless eCommerce allows you to integrate your store with third-party tools. These include customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other software that streamline the customer service process even during peak hours.

A 2022 survey by Emplifi found that 53% of buyers left a brand after a bad customer experience, while 81% said they’d jump ship after two bad experiences. With headless eCommerce, you can optimize your online store for more conversions.

Is headless or traditional eCommerce right for your business?

The eCommerce framework you choose will depend on your business needs. If you plan to scale your business quickly, a headless framework makes more sense. Headless eCommerce allows you to expand your online presence into multiple channels, so you can grow your dedicated web store, sell on TikTok, and sell on other marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, all at the same time.

The headless eCommerce framework can also be a great fit if you’re running a large store that requires frequent updates. So, if you decide to add new products, add product categories or update prices, you won’t have to drastically alter your store to implement these changes.

Conversely, if you’re generating passive income from a side hustle, a simpler, traditional eCommerce store could make more sense to you. Traditional stores involve less effort to set up. You can install an eCommerce plugin, choose the theme you like, upload product images and set prices.

With the traditional framework, you don’t need to worry about APIs or ensure your eCommerce platform works with your CMS. Traditional eCommerce is a great fit if you’re running a small-scale online store that operates on one channel, such as a website.

If you’re still not sure which option to go with, it’s a good idea to consider the main benefits a headless eCommerce system offers.

Benefits of headless eCommerce

While traditional commerce is still a major player in the online business landscape, there are a lot of pros to the headless commerce approach.

Improved user experience

As discussed earlier, a headless eCommerce framework doesn’t need to load up your entire shop whenever a visitor clicks a button. Instead, it loads only the sections necessary for things to work. This significantly reduces page load times and enhances user satisfaction.

Headless commerce stores are also less cookie-cutter. You can build a store with the features and functionality you need, designing the layout to meet the unique needs of your target audience.


With headless eCommerce, it’s easier to scale your business up or down. Changes are made in small increments, so you don’t have to worry about your online store crashing because you added a new product category or removed an existing one.

In addition to your website, this format also works across several other platforms. You can build a custom store on multiple social media platforms by working with the integrations those companies offer.


Headless eCommerce offers more personalized experiences than a traditional store. You can change the layout of your store, set different rules for mobile and desktop devices, and even include multiple checkout options.

You can also customize your store based on the channel a user is browsing from. For example, if a customer is shopping from Instagram, they’ll see a slightly different version of your store than if they were on your app or your main eCommerce store.

Omnichannel capabilities

One of the main reasons so many enterprise-level organizations are excited about headless eCommerce is its ability to adapt to multiple channels. This framework allows you to build an online store that works on the web and in your app. You can even integrate your store into social media platforms.

Examples of headless eCommerce websites

While it’s one thing to read about the benefits of headless eCommerce and how it works, it’s another to visualize the front-end experience this framework delivers.

Here are three examples to inspire you.

1. Target

Target uses headless eCommerce to offer a seamless omnichannel experience on multiple channels.

First up is Target. This American retail corporation boosts its online sales by focusing on the digital experience of its customers. It uses a headless eCommerce solution to create a consistent experience for everyone, with a similar look and organization across different platforms.

It doesn’t matter whether shoppers are on Target’s main website or using the app — they’ll get a similar user interface regardless.

2. Lancome

Lancome offers exceptional experience across multiple channels, including Instagram.

Next up is Lancome. This French beauty company runs a simple yet elegant online store where visitors can shop luxurious skincare, makeup and fragrance. Its front-end presentation is consistent across different platforms.

In addition to its website, Lancome uses Instagram’s store features, which allows it to integrate its online store with new channels to reach more customers, regardless of which ecosystem sales come from.

3. Staples

Staples customizes its app’s front end with its headless commerce system so mobile users can find what they want faster.

Staples, an office and printing supply retail company, uses headless eCommerce to customize its offerings. While its website makes it easy to order online and browse products or store locations, its app is organized a bit differently.

The homepage boasts several widgets and displays its navigational box at the center so customers can navigate with ease. Staples highlights services customers are actively searching for, including UPS shipping and passport photos.

Now that you’ve seen some examples of what a headless eCommerce store looks like, let’s go over how to create one.

How to create a headless eCommerce store

There are several ways to go headless with your eCommerce store, depending on your level of experience. For this tutorial, we’ll focus on how to create a headless eCommerce store using a CMS.

Please note that this is different from using a headless CMS. Unlike headless eCommerce, headless CMS means you only control the back end of your website, and it doesn’t necessarily help you with an online store.

If you’re ready to create a headless eCommerce store, follow these steps to get started:

1. Set up your web store

If you’re yet to set up your web store, now’s a perfect time to do it. Once you’ve signed up for hosting, registered your domain, and started building your website, you’re ready to set up a headless eCommerce platform.

Consider choosing a beginner-friendly CMS like WordPress. Powering over 43.2% of all websites, WordPress currently ranks as the world’s most popular CMS and offers all you need to create a fully functional eCommerce store.

Build a website easily with Bluehost’s WonderSuite templates and blocks.

When you use WordPress, you can easily build your website with Bluehost’s WonderSuite. This unique page builder lets you choose templates that align with your brand’s personality. Then, you can customize your pages with WonderBlocks, designing beautiful websites effortlessly.

2. Choose your WordPress headless eCommerce solution

Next, navigate to your WordPress admin dashboard and select which eCommerce platform you want to work with. WooCommerce and BigCommerce are two of the most popular options.

Install WooCommerce

Due to its ease of use and flexibility, WooCommerce is a popular choice for beginners and experts alike. This open-source eCommerce plugin allows you to convert a regular WordPress website into a professional online store. However, it defaults to a more traditional eCommerce architecture.

Out of the box, WooCommerce works with templates, similar to other page builders. You add a product to your catalog, customize the product page and provide product information.

In addition to the settings within the plugin, many premium WordPress themes work with WooCommerce too. While this plugin offers advanced customization options, it still links your store’s front end to its back end. You can change this by using a headless architecture, such as the WooCommerce API.

Download WooCommerce from the WordPress plugin menu and set up the platform for headless eCommerce.

To install WooCommerce, go to your WordPress dashboard and visit the plugins directory. After installation, you’re ready to set up your WooCommerce store.

Install dedicated headless eCommerce plugins

If you’re new to the headless framework, BigCommerce is an eCommerce plugin worth considering.

BigCommerce offers the benefits of headless commerce with the simplicity of WordPress for your front end. Simply install the plugin and connect your online store to other platforms where you want to sell products or services. These include online marketplaces (e.g., Amazon and Walmart) and social media platforms (e.g., Instagram and Facebook).

BigCommerce offers headless eCommerce at scale for WordPress users.

While BigCommerce is a great option, it’s missing key features like customer segmentation and product filtering. However, you can include additional eCommerce functionality in your store through third-party installations.

Besides BigCommerce, other popular headless solutions you can work with include:

  • Swell: An API-first eCommerce platform designed to help you customize your website’s shopping experience for all users.
  • CoCart: An intuitive WordPress plugin that helps you separate or ‘decouple’ WooCommerce from WordPress to create a headless store.

3. Generate your API

Next, you want to generate your WooCommerce REST API. To do this, navigate to the WooCommerce Settings in WordPress.

Navigate to the Advanced tab in settings in WooCommerce to begin setting up your Rest API.

Go to Advanced, then look for the REST API heading at the top of that submenu.

Create a new API key for your store by clicking the add key button.

Click the Add key button to generate a new API key for your store.

Enter your key details and generate your API key after you have edited your information.

Input a few details about your store and set user permissions. Finally, click the Generate API key button to create a key URL and QR code you can share with others.

This key allows you to access the back end of your store from multiple front ends. For example, you can have two websites using the same WooCommerce back end. You can even connect this API to an app or social media store, linking your store’s back end to other platforms. All you need to do is add the API to the platform you want to use it on.

A headless eCommerce store isn’t just for enterprise-level businesses or web developers with advanced coding knowledge. Even if you’re a beginner, you can still build a scalable digital storefront if you use the right tools and methods.

Final thoughts: An in-depth guide to headless eCommerce for businesses

As the eCommerce landscape rapidly evolves, headless eCommerce is gaining momentum among savvy business owners who want to enhance their websites’ user experience while staying competitive.

When you incorporate a headless commerce architecture into your website’s plans, you’ll create a future-proof store that can adapt from one platform to the next. This enables you to build a customized eCommerce store that quickly responds to dynamic customer demands.

While a scalable, adaptable store is essential for business growth, it’s nothing without a fast and secure website. To start your eCommerce business on the right foot, sign up for Bluehost’s WooCommerce hosting — you’ll get all you need to set up a high-performance web store.

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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