A headless eCommerce architecture is one in which a site’s presentation-layer is decoupled from its backend. Going headless is one of the top initiatives for many retailers in 2019-2020 for three main reasons:
- To gain freedom from the limitations of frontend embedded in their monolithic eCommerce platforms, while reducing vendor lock-in and increasing agility
- To speed up their website significantly and improve SEO
- To easily support future use cases and endpoints
What to look for in an eCommerce platform as you upgrade your frontend
The key benefits of going headless include: frontend portability, website speed and SEO improvements, and support for future use cases. We have assessed the readiness of the leading five eCommerce platforms to support headless commerce and deliver Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and AMP websites.
We found that Shopify Plus is the easiest platform to take headless, in spite of not announcing explicit PWA support. Most of the leading eCommerce platforms limit portability, thus eliminating the primary benefit of going headless. This is not unexpected, as eCommerce platforms tend to lock-in customers for the future of their business.
Each platform also leaves site speed up to the developer, offering little to no tooling to assist to optimize websites for speed. In addition, Server-Side Rendering (SSR) and AMP are not supported out of the box, an omission that hurts SEO.
Specific limitations of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento, Shopify Plus, SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris), and Oracle Commerce Cloud
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud does not support AMP or PWA out of the box. Also, Pipeline implementations can be harder to support on a headless architecture.
- Magento’s PWA Studio and GraphQL are both new and only supported on Magento 2.3 or later. The PWA Studio is also geared specifically for the platform, so you remain locked into its ecosystem, which blunts some of the value of headless commerce.
- Shopify Plus does not support PWA or AMP out of the box, but there are Shopify Plus merchants that are running PWAs headlessly on the platform. However, some of these merchants have found they need a Backend For Frontend (BFF) to create microservices between the Storefront API and their PWA to optimize the APIs and minimize the amount of client-side logic.
- SAP Commerce Cloud’s Spartacus is extremely new, so there are few proof points in production. Like Magento’s PWA Studio, Spartacus is geared specifically for the SAP Commerce Cloud (Hybris) platform, so you remain locked into the platform's ecosystem, which blunts much of the value of going headless.
- Oracle Commerce Cloud (ATG) is another platform that simply does not support PWA or AMP out of the box.
For our full analysis, download the eBook.