Headless commerce myths debunked: Headless commerce costs more money

Illustration of a person holding a shopping bag with the lochness monster drawn on it, symbolozing ecommerce myths
October 18, 2021


In our first installment of this series, we debunked the myth that headless commerce websites take longer to build. This time, we’re looking at the cost of a headless commerce website and whether it will cost you more money than a traditional ecommerce solution.

Ecommerce strategies continue to evolve as both companies and consumers adapt to emerging technologies. It’s only natural for marketers, business leaders and web designers to question traditional tactics and strive to create ecommerce websites that address changes in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, myths surrounding modern ecommerce solutions keep some companies wary of software and platforms that they aren’t familiar with. Headless commerce isn’t a new concept. But it is one that scares people who don’t understand how it works or think it may be more costly than traditional solutions.

How headless commerce works

Briefly, headless commerce is a website architecture that decouples the front end of your online store from the backend. 

Traditionally, ecommerce websites have taken a full-stack approach to development with front end and backend connected and interdependent. Backend code and ecommerce information were directly responsible for how front-end design features and content were presented and performed.

With headless commerce, front-end design elements are no longer coupled to backend code. Instead, businesses can use an existing content management system (CMS) to manage front-end design, and a headless commerce platform like Ultra Commerce takes care of the backend ecommerce side of things.

Illustrated icon of a retail store

Is headless commerce more expensive?

The myth that headless commerce websites cost more for companies to build than full-stack alternatives stems from the idea that development of a headless commerce system is a drawn-out process. The assumption is more complexity and more time means more cost. But we already know from our previous myth-debunking article that headless builds don’t have to take as long as full-stack builds, so this myth is already somewhat debunked. 

Headless commerce websites can take less time to build because:

  • Headless commerce is less restrictive to build

  • Headless builds have better developer services

  • Headless builds offer more freedom and flexibility

  • Functionality can be added over time rather than all at once

Less time to build, upgrade and enhance a storefront naturally means less money spent on a drawn-out development process. So, already, Myth #2 is on shaky ground. 

The truth is: Headless commerce websites actually save money during development, launch and monthly hosting. Exceptions to the rule exist, but headless commerce opportunities mean a more customizable, less costly development process. Let’s look at some of the factors that lead to these reduced development costs. 

Illustrated icon of cash

Headless commerce websites require fewer licensing and hosting fees

It would be understandable to think headless commerce platforms are “just a shopping cart,” but that’s far from the truth. Headless commerce solutions provide a seamless ecommerce experience without the front-loaded licensing or ongoing high-cost hosting fees associated with traditional full-stack platforms. 

Traditional ecommerce platforms deliver storefronts that act as predetermined experiences with very little room for customization. This experience, front end and backend, is a considerable expense for new businesses looking to build their first ecommerce website. It’s also a big-ticket budget item for established businesses ready for a redesign.

Headless builds decouple the front end from the equation — without the high licensing or hosting fees — giving developers more freedom to prioritize and build accordingly. 

Headless builds require less infrastructure spend

You need to worry about both hardware and software with traditional full-stack builds. With headless commerce, there’s no hardware necessary, and companies have a few headless commerce solutions to choose from. 

  • A headless-only solution means all front-end development is handled by a CMS platform. There’s a degree of technical proficiency required to modify or deliver front-end content because your developers will need to perform the setup entirely in the CMS and deliver it via API.

  • A CMS-plugin headless commerce solution is designed to integrate seamlessly with an existing CMS platform. All content management is done through the CMS platform, and the ecommerce element is added as a plugin through platforms like WordPress or Drupal. Plugins can be easier to work with but often lack more complex ecommerce features. 

  • A hybrid commerce solution combines the flexibility of a headless build with the accessibility of a traditional CMS platform. A hybrid system often includes a limited CMS option alongside a robust API that’s critical for the headless connection.

Having infrastructure options often means companies are able to invest resources where they’re needed most and adopt a headless platform to support growth.

Illustrated icon of a stack of cylinders

A headless commerce website can grow with the company

Headless commerce platforms offer a more attractive pricing structure right out of the gate, and many often operate under a pay-per-performance model. This means when your store is growing and succeeding, the platform can grow along with it.

Compare this to traditional models where you’re given fixed pricing for strict infrastructure builds. Traditional ecommerce website builds come front-loaded with more features than you need, and companies justify the expense by saying business will increase over time.

Unfortunately, most traditional ecommerce platform implementations are viewed as short-term investments simply because developers know updates will be necessary. In fact, the typical “shelf life” for most websites is between 18 and 30 months

Why sink money into a traditional full-stack ecommerce build that you know you’ll need to update when a customizable headless commerce solution can grow with your business?

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of headless commerce solutions. Some marketers believe headless platforms don’t focus enough on the front-end development, while others believe headless is the future of the ecommerce landscape.

Illustration of a report page

Headless commerce is an affordable option

The most appealing aspect of headless commerce solutions is the reduced burden post-launch. Customization coupled with affordable headless-only or hybrid options makes it easy to start small and grow your ecommerce website as your business grows.

What’s more, many companies will sit on a bad platform for years simply because they don’t have the resources to migrate elsewhere. This ends up costing a company more in the long run from the damage to sales and brand value. 

With headless commerce platforms like Ultra Commerce, businesses have the opportunity to upgrade pieces of their ecommerce architecture without starting from scratch or paying for a new, costly full-stack website.

Learn more about combining the power of headless commerce with a content platform

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