The Top 5 Headless eCommerce Platforms to Consider in 2022

Headless Commerce’s adaptive approach to online retail has made a seismic impact on the industry in recent years. The general consensus? Headless is now best practice, and is the future of eCommerce.

With funding accelerating (over $1.65 billion in 2020-21 alone) and platforms such as Shopify, alongside many major brands making the switch to this architecture, it’s clear that Headless is here to stay.

In the simplest terms, Headless Commerce decouples the front and backend architecture of stores, leveraging APIs to keep everything in communication. With the presentation layer detached from background processes and functionality, the system becomes truly channel-agnostic, allowing for content to be pushed quickly, creatively and flexibly across a wide range of customer-facing endpoints.

For more on Headless eCommerce architecture, dive into our Demystifying Headless Commerce article.

The result of going Headless? An expanded ability for customization, true omnichannel capabilities, increased scope for integrations and better scalability. It's easy to see why brands are falling head(less) over heels.

Wondering how to choose a Headless Commerce platform? Let's explore five of the leading Headless eCommerce platforms. Naturally, we at Rotate° can recommend the right solution for your unique needs (in our Discovery Phase).

Commerce Layer

Commerce Layer is a powerful commerce API aimed at a wide range of fast growing businesses – from single product DTC through to international brands. It's the flexibility of Commerce Layer that really sets this platform apart. Their tools make it easy to action a wide range of outcomes, from adding eCommerce functionality to your native mobile app, through to adding subscriptions or enabling multi-vendor orders.

Commerce Layer natively supports the most modern development workflows, such as the Jamstack. Additionally, it boasts an extensive set of resources (400+ API endpoints) providing endless scope and opportunity.

In terms of the brands already benefiting from Commerce Layer, you'll see plenty of familiar faces (including a few Rotate° clients). Chilly's Bottles bumped up its mobile conversion rate by 24% and saw a 41% decrease in checkout abandonment after migrating to the platform. FinTech leader SumUp also made the move and has since benefited in terms of international sales and scaling – more than 35 new markets launched in a year with no disruption to global business during rollover.

Swell

Next up, Swell – a flexible Headless eCommerce platform that sells itself on ease of use and endless scalability. 

Swell places a strong emphasis on exceptional UX – in the context of both customers and the eCommerce teams that are serving them – “Headless, without the headache”. To deliver this experience, the platform leverages sleek interfaces and dashboards, with easy product configurations and effortless customisation options. 

Customers include Spinn Coffee , who reported “Swell has been like a spring for Spinn, allowing us to efficiently grow and scale.”

Centra

Now we come to Centra, a Headless eCommerce platform offering a wide range of sales-focused features, including sales management and PIM – a true one stop shop. Centra is a highly specialized platform, which places a very strong focus on fashion and lifestyle verticals.

As you'd expect, the platform is particularly strong when it comes to DTC. But beyond this, it promises a reduction in admin, specialist PIM functionality and ultra fast load times that can cope with the most popular of drops.

Brands using Centra include Holzweiler and Stronger which saw a 14% increase in mobile immediately following its Centra go-live.

Shopify

A platform that needs little introduction, Shopify offers Headless functionality via its Storefront API, written in GraphQL. Despite being monolithic by nature, as a platform Shopify is especially strong on payment processing, inventory management and PCI compliance. And it has an ever-growing ecosystem. Now, with access to Headless architecture, stores can retain this powerful backend while unlocking more frontend flexibility – a good option if you’re already on Shopify and want all the Headless benefits. 

As is typically the case with Shopify Plus, speed and ease of deployment is emphasized. Brands can build Headless storefronts quickly with Hydrogen, Shopify's React-based framework. Storefronts can then be deployed and scaled for free with Oxygen, the global hosting solution offered by Plus.

Shopify Plus boasts plenty of household name brands. Among those adopting a Headless approach are DTC sneaker legends Allbirds , whose recent experiments include building a new store locator to encourage better awareness of the brand's brick-and-mortar stores in its online customers. Another interesting example comes in the form of Denim Tears , an artist-led brand that used the Hydrogen framework to achieve a media-rich site full of digital storytelling and interactive features.

CommerceTools

Billed as the world's leading commerce platform built on modern MACH principles (Microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless), it has recently been recognised as a Leader for the third year running in the 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ . It comes at a cost though, both in terms of fees and the resource required to work with it.

CommerceTools is truly cloud-native (a comparatively rare accolade in the space). This means that the ability to scale is effectively infinite, while managed infrastructure provides reliability and the flexibility to support lower total cost of ownership.

Brands using this tech include Audi (which has, amongst other things, used Headless architecture to enable its customers to buy and activate new functions in their car via the myAudi app), Emma mattresses and John Lewis. You’re in good company here.

So, which is the best Headless eCommerce platform?

Ultimately, the “best” Headless platform is the one best suited to your business's unique needs. That’s why we’re platform agnostic at Rotate°– we won’t force a preferred platform upon you.

As Headless gathers pace, platforms are upping their game and investing in expanding their offerings – and brands are seeing some staggering improvements as a result. It's been estimated that ​​brands adopting this approach see an average conversion rate increase of 15–30%) – so there's never been a better time to go Headless.

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