What Are The Pros and Cons of Going Headless On Shopify?

If you’ve continued to scale your Shopify store each year, you’ll eventually hit a bit of a brick wall. Suddenly, your business has outgrown the basic capabilities of Shopify. You find yourself with the need to switch to something more flexible and scalable.

Yet, you don’t want to abandon the fantastic e-commerce platform that has got you so far.

Also, Shopify has some amazing features that it does better than anyone else. That includes its payment processing, PCI compliance, inventory management, and more.

So what should you do? The answer is to go headless on Shopify.

You see, the crew at Shopify thought of everything. They built their own API (app programming interface) to allow for headless e-commerce. In other words, you can retain Shopify’s back end while using a third party for your front end.

But is going headless worth it? Stay tuned as we weigh the pros and cons of going headless on Shopify.

Understanding Headless E-Commerce

There’s a lot of jargon surrounding headless e-commerce, which can lead to a lot of confusion. To keep things simple, here’s a streamlined definition:

  • Headless e-commerce refers to separating the front and back end of your website. Think of Shopify’s back end (payment processing, PCI, inventory) as a body. Your merchant storefront, therefore, would be the head of your store. By choosing a different platform for your front end, you’re removing Shopify’s ‘head.’

So going headless refers to switching platforms for your customer-facing storefront. At the same time, you retain your original e-commerce platform’s back end.

Why bother with such a thing? Because you can make some vast improvements to your customer-facing storefront.

Improvements include a better UX, increased site speed, and more creative ways of designing your site.

While Shopify is a fantastic platform, its front end is a bit limited. That’s especially true for larger online businesses. You see, Shopify’s front end is excellent for smaller operations. There comes a time when a business scales to such a point that going headless becomes worth it.

How Does Going Headless Work With Shopify?

From the start, the crew at Shopify built the platform to be able to go headless. They knew that larger online businesses would need a more flexible customer-facing storefront. That’s why they designed their storefront API.

An API is an application programming interface. It’s the key that unlocks being able to go headless on Shopify.

With it, you can use a third-party provider for your storefront while keeping Shopify’s back end. The API is what allows you to have the best of both worlds. Going headless opens up a wide range of possibilities for how you want your site to look and function.

Brands choose to go headless for various reasons. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Building a faster loading store that has instantaneous loading times
  • More control and options for visually displaying your products
  • Fully customizable URL structures
  • More intuitive content management

As you can see, there are many attractive benefits involved with going headless. Let’s say that you want more flexibility when it comes to managing your content. On Shopify, you only have four types of content that you can use:

  • Blogs
  • Pages
  • Products
  • Collections

That can work fine for smaller online stores, but it’s too limited for more extensive operations. If you want to add more flair to your customer-facing storefront, you could opt to use Contentful. It’s an adaptable CMS that lets you define any type of content in any way that you want.

By using Shopify’s API, you can connect Shopify’s back end with Contentful’s front end. That way, you can truly enjoy the best of both worlds.

So if you feel that your storefront is a bit limited, then you should consider going headless. Bear in mind; going headless will involve gaining some things and losing others. That’s why it’s critical to compare the pros and cons of going headless on Shopify.

The Give and Take of a Headless E-Commerce Approach

The trend toward online shopping isn’t going anywhere, and it’s only going to grow. Most consumers see online shopping as a first choice now instead of a last resort. The pandemic only served to speed up this trend tenfold.

Now more than ever, customers are looking online for all of their shopping needs. In the past, customers generally shopped online for rare products and goods. Now the trend is moving toward buying anything and everything online. That includes groceries, toiletries, beauty products, and so much more.

This trend only increases the need to be able to have a lightning-fast website available across multiple channels.

That’s why lots of merchants are choosing to behead their Shopify stores with PWAs. These are progressive web apps, and they can grant you load times of less than a second, even on mobile devices.

Yet, there is a noticeable give and take involved with headless commerce. There are some things that you’ll need to find workarounds for, such as added complexity. Now, let’s dive into the pros and cons of going headless on Shopify.

The Pros

Superior Control Over Your User Experience

Shopify’s front end is very plug-and-play. As stated before, there are only four types of content that you can manage. While there are thousands of themes on Shopify, they’re all a bit limited by nature.

By going headless, you can let your creativity shine with your customer-facing layout. You also get the chance to make your branding stand out from the crowd. Going headless is an excellent idea if you don’t want your storefront to look and feel like any other Shopify store.

Being able to mix up the way you visualize your products is a huge perk. Instead of standard product images and carousels, you can come up with all sorts of fun ways to present your products.

Going headless will free up your URL structure as well. So if you’re a wizard with code, you can go nuts after going headless. If you’re savvy enough, you can even design an original front end for your store.

Do you plan on taking your business international? If so, then going headless is a wise idea for you. That way, you can create multiple brands and product lines with ease, all while staying under Shopify’s back end.

By freeing yourself up from Shopify’s limitations, you can manage your content at scale. You can also redefine workflows to increase your efficiency.

In short, the sky is the limit for your UX design by going headless. You get to shake off all the limitations of Shopify’s native features and themes. You’ll finally be able to stand out from all the thousands of cloned Shopify storefronts.

Drastically Increased Speed

In the world of e-commerce, speed equals sales. It’s common knowledge that users have ADD when it comes to page loading times. If it takes longer than two seconds for a page to load, users will go elsewhere in today’s age. Nothing is more annoying than a page that takes forever to load.

It’s great to add apps and themes at the click of a button on Shopify. Yet, this begins to take its toll after a point. Once your store reaches a specific size, the extra code will start to bog down your site and affect loading times.

Having a slow website can mean the death of your online store. So if you’re running into a significant slowdown, it’s time to go headless. Since your front end will run independently from your back end, it won’t slow down your site.

Customizable URLs

Shopify isn’t the best when it comes to branding your URLs. There are only four predefined URLs that you can use. That’s not ideal for SEO purposes.

You see, URL structure plays a huge role in search engine algorithms.

It would help if you let Google know that your page is relevant to a user’s search. To do so, you need complete customizability for your URL structure. Going headless will allow you to do just that.

Faster Implementation Times

Your marketing team will love how fast your headless front end runs. It’s also effortless to try out new campaigns, site layouts, and product placements. Doing so will not affect any back-end processes, which is a huge plus.

The Cons

Loss of Support for Apps

Do you use apps on Shopify for dropshipping or print-on-demand? Well, if you go headless, you may lose support for them. They may even stop working altogether. You’ll need to create custom code so Shopify’s API can recognize your apps, which can be a pain.

More Complexity

If you like to keep things straightforward, going headless isn’t for you. Since you’re adding another layer to your store, things will become more complex. If you lack the staff to help you manage two platforms, you may need to reconsider headlessness.

The Need for More Staff

You’ll need a partner that can handle the technical aspects of going headless for you. That way, you and your team can continue to focus on selling and marketing like usual. Yet, if you lack the budget to hire more people, you may not want to go headless.

Final Thoughts

Now that we have weighed out the pros and cons of going headless on Shopify, what are your thoughts? We recommend going headless if your store has scaled to the point where you need something more, so if your site is running slow and doesn’t look the way you want, off with its head! If you enjoy keeping things simple with a smaller store, keep your head on your shoulders.

For more great content to help you develop your Shopify strategies, check out the rest of the merchant posts on the site. If you want to see a list of our top recommended Shopify apps visit this link here.

Davon Wilson

I'm a certified Shopify expert, you can usually find me on my computer coding, or thinking about business ideas. I'm an avid Ravens fan and an overall nice guy.

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