Headless Commerce & Headless Checkout: Are They Right For You?

Bolt Team


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Graphic illustration showing headless commerce which separates frontend from backend for Ecommerce

Many brands are investigating if headless commerce is a good solution for their needs. But, there’s a lot of uncertainty out there about what it actually is. Let’s go over what retailers need to know about headless commerce, the benefits and challenges it offers, and how Bolt works with headless commerce architectures to deliver delightful shopping experiences.

What is Headless Commerce?

Headless commerce means your online store has a separate frontend and backend. Your backend typically handles merchandising, fulfillment, payment processing, checkout, and other sales functionalities. The frontend handles the interface your shopper interacts with on your site or on whatever destination they shop on. The two work independently of each other but interact through APIs or other connecting software.

When done right, the headless commerce architecture gives retailers a single location to manage the “back-office.” From there, you can use separate tools to manage your storefront, including your website and any other place you want to sell. It potentially allows you to more easily embrace things like social commerce by using remote checkout to turn social media surfaces into delightful checkout experiences for the shopper.

By contrast, traditional eCommerce platforms have a monolithic architecture that combines the backend and frontend. Additionally, each component is typically interdependent on the others, making performance and feature updates slow. For example, if you wanted to improve the checkout components, it may also require additional updates to the cart software and inventory management software.

What Headless Commerce Isn’t?

Headless commerce shouldn’t be confused with cross-channel sales. Headless commerce is the foundation for building a modular shopping experience that will allow you to customize your site to sell to anyone, anytime and anywhere.

While API calls and headless enablement may make your cross-channel initiatives easier to complete and goals easier to achieve, the first step is to ensure your checkout is modular, headless and relatively tech agnostic.

What Are The Advantages Of Headless Commerce?

There are three main benefits of using headless commerce: the ability to deliver a better shopping experience, speed to market, and overall flexibility to choose the best tools. Let’s dive into each of these below.

Deliver better shopping experiences

Let’s say you’re browsing social media on your phone and just finished watching an organic testimonial of a product. You’re excited and ready to buy. Often, the next steps are:

  • If there’s a product link, you tap on it
  • You land on the retailer’s website and may even have to switch to the browser app
  • You add the product to your cart, then have to type in name, credit card information and billing address on a small mobile screen
  • If you complete the purchase, it’s often tough to go back to what you were doing on social media.

Because the frontend and backend of the store are separated, a headless commerce architecture lays the foundation to greatly improve that experience. Let’s look at that scenario with a headless commerce backend architecture that’s extending its storefront to social media feeds through remote checkout solutions like the one offered by Bolt:

  • You see a product review on social media and are excited and ready to buy
  • The social media post itself has a buy option with one-click checkout
  • You complete the purchase in seconds, creating the beginning of a positive relationship with the product’s brand
  • Your social media experience isn’t disrupted and your product is on the way.

It’s not just about social media. Headless commerce is a flexible and scalable architecture approach that helps you create storefront experiences that meet your customers wherever they want to discover and engagement with your products. That could be your website, a digital publication, a video game, a QR code, a chat experience and much, much more.

Speed to market

Headless commerce also makes it much easier to get initiatives out the door. You can use your existing content management system in the backend to publish updates and it can quickly move to your various storefront surfaces.

This makes it much easier to test out new platforms, publications and services on the front end. Headless commerce allows your brand to quickly jump into a new social media platform or news publication that’s trending. You can also quickly launch optimization experiments on your frontend and incorporate the results much faster than you could with a traditional commerce platform.

Even better, this can often be done with minimal backend development if you choose the right partners and software providers.

Avoid vendor lock-in

Headless commerce gives you the flexibility to choose the best modern tools that fit your business’ needs. That means you can select the best-of-breed software to build your online stores, as well as choosing tools that let you transform nearly any digital surface into a great shopping experience.

It also means your development team can choose to work with the languages and frameworks they want. And you can do all this while still running your backend from a single location.

With the traditional commerce platforms, you are typically stuck with whatever features and services they offer. Their roadmap moves slowly too, as they’re having to account for all the backend services and features, as well as how that impacts the frontend.

What are some challenges with headless commerce?

The flexibility headless commerce offers can also lead to complexity. Instead of a single vendor for your online store, you might have three to five. That could lead to additional costs, as well as more complex integration and implementation.

Typically, brands that choose headless commerce are larger in size and have sophisticated development teams to help handle APIs and integrations. It’s not just for large organizations though, as brands of all sizes can partner with companies like Bolt, which offer solutions that do a lot of the technical heavy lifting for you.

How Bolt + Headless Commerce Helps You Win The Modern Shopper

Bolt essentially takes a “headless” approach to building one-click checkout for any digital surface your shoppers want to buy from. Using this approach helps us build amazing one-click checkouts experiences that are consistent across platforms, with both headless platforms and traditional commerce platforms.

When a customer is ready to buy on nearly any frontend, they can navigate through Bolt’s checkout UI with no redirects or page loads, cutting the checkout time in half. It allows the customer experience to remain seamless and standardized, while still providing the flexibility to tie into multiple different retailer platforms and architectures.

Having an amazing one-click checkout experience will increase conversions. That’s very compelling in a digital shopping world where nearly 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned.

The Bolt Network also gives brands access to more than 10 million shoppers who can check out in a single click, even if they’ve never been to your site before. This is particularly important in a headless commerce world because your shoppers are discovering and engaging with your products all over the place.

Bolt SSO Commerce provides an industry-changing identity solution that unites your store accounts with Bolt accounts. This leads to more store accounts for retailers and a simple, unified account experience instead of a lengthy registration process. Those store accounts give you more valuable first-party data to use in your personalized omnichannel experiences.


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