Headless Magento: How to Take Your Adobe Commerce Store Headless

September 22, 2022

Rhys Williams

Headless Magento — everything you need to know to make the switch magento headless

Magento (or Adobe Commerce) provides great backend functionality—including an extensive and flexible menu system, and you can arrange complex catalogs simply.

But if your ecommerce store is built on Magento, you are tied to Adobe’s content delivery methods and may be looking for ways to augment, complement, and improve on how shoppers interact with the frontend.

As many scaling brands discover, you might experience a maturity curve that has you wanting even more from your frontend layer.

For this, one of the best ways to gain total flexibility (for design and performance) is to take your Magento store headless.

There are several competing routes you can take when going headless with Magento. Today we’ll go through them all so you can understand and assess your options.

We’ll also share some real examples of Adobe headless stores, so you can see what you can achieve if you choose to take the leap as an early adopter of headless technology.

In this piece, we’ll cover:

What is Magento headless commerce?

Similar to many traditional ecommerce platforms, Magento first began as an all-in-one commerce solution that helped you stand up your storefront fast, and get started straight away, directly out of the box.

Providing both backend ecommerce functionality and the frontend content creation and delivery in one package, Magento remains a great way for online brands to get up and running quickly without worrying about multiple providers and complex integrations.

However, as ecommerce has evolved to become more demanding, this one-stop-shop approach to your storefront is no longer always enough.

That is—you might be able to get up and running especially quickly (excellent), but you may encounter constraints around the frontend or ‘presentation’ layer of your Magneto/Adobe store.

You may find yourself turning to custom development for improvements to your Magento theme, or every new design change you’d like to run.

Or you may find Magento slowing down considerably when it comes to site speed and performance (pending the code and integrations you’ve added over time).

With greater customization, speed, and flexibility needs as your brand scales, you may outgrow Magento on its own.

Which is why many retailers consider implementing Magento headless commerce.

Magento headless commerce is when you use different technology to power your frontend layer than the tech you use for the backend.

It is essentially a full separation of a Magento merchant’s front and backend platforms for greater flexibility.

While a monolithic architecture (where front and backend are inseparable and entirely dependent) once had its benefits, namely: simplicity and providing an all-around solution—today—with the need to connect multiple channels and keep your customer experience fast, smooth, and consistent—a monolithic approach can hinder your growth.

Ultimately Adobe knows that the future lies in allowing their merchants the freedom to choose their own method of content delivery while still taking advantage of their stellar backend commerce services.

So Adobe has made Magento headless—or headless enabled. They’ve used APIs to free their backend commerce platform from frontend content delivery.

With headless commerce for Magento, APIs (application programming interfaces) become connecting elements between the front and backend, which can link up multiple parts of your tech stack, built in different languages and frameworks, to the same backend commerce platform.

As part of this, Adobe supports three types of API, REST, GraphQL, and SOAP.

This comprehensive coverage means you can integrate a huge range of third-party applications and build your own using Magento headless APIs.

Ultimately you can still keep your store running on Magento while taking advantage of an entirely different frontend layer and gaining total control.

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Want to go headless with Magento/Adobe? Chat with Shogun<cta-title>See how Shogun Frontend can help you deliver exceptional shopping experiences and performance.Learn more

 

What is headless Magento 2?

Magento started out as a monolithic commerce solution.

That is, it came as a frontend and backend solution bound together, with a common framework for creating and maintaining both the top layer site delivery that your customer sees and the bottom layer—or the behind-the-scenes—ecommerce functionality that makes your online store tick.

As ecommerce has evolved, though, Magento has expanded to meet the more advanced needs of online retailers selling in multichannel and omnichannel contexts.

To this end, they have separated the top layer (or head) from their backend functionality, enabling merchants to take Magento headless.

That was accomplished with Magento 2, the first Magento release that supported headless commerce.

Basically, from version 2.3 onward, Magento has supported APIs that facilitate communication between the Magento backend and a separate frontend—meaning you can design and build your storefront in a framework that suits your needs rather than being limited by the backend programming requirements.

Benefits of going headless with Magento

We’ve hinted at them so far, but there are several reasons why you might consider taking your Magento store headless.

One of the overriding benefits of headless commerce is the site speed improvements it provides to online stores.

With a Magento Progressive Web App (PWA) in particular (for achieving headless benefits), ecommerce brands can vastly speed up their store’s performance while delivering the type of ecommerce experiences modern shoppers expect.

That is, instead of having every browser request routed through complex backend systems, a Magento headless commerce architecture allows many requests to be processed on the frontend, vastly reducing the time it takes for your site to process and action visitor requests.

And a PWA allows your store to behave like a native app instead of a traditional website. A PWA (as one of the ways you can go headless) is a huge speed advantage.

Another major plus-point for headless is its superior capacity for integration.

To run a successful ecommerce operation today, you need to manage several channels, creating an overarching journey that seamlessly integrates all channels into one single customer experience.

Managing these journeys from one place is immeasurably easier, but without headless commerce’s ability to use APIs to connect disparate technology it’s not possible to do.

So going headless with Magento has several benefits, including:

Improved customer/customer experiences via richer merchandising

While Magento has lots to offer in terms of crafting a customer experience, there is a whole world of content delivery choices out there.

When you take a Magento store headless, you unlock total design control (and eliminate the design vs. site speed tradeoff).

Today it’s critical that your brand delivers a differentiated ecommerce experience (think: Apple.com-esque) without compromising load times or performance.

This has historically been very challenging to do. Merchandisers haven’t been able to add rich design to sites without bogging them down with code and sacrificing load times.

But moving to a flexible frontend (as part of a headless solution) finally unlocks rich visual merchandising, and you can reap the speed benefits progressive web app (PWA) technology offers with select vendors.

As you’ll see with the upcoming Adobe headless examples, the richer merchandising available creates a memorable and unique customer experience that differentiates your brand from the competition and keeps visitors returning.

Faster Magento site speeds

Magento’s monolithic offering has, on occasion, been associated with sluggish load times.

While there are plenty of things you can do to speed up Magento stores manually, with a headless solution, you can create lightning-fast frontend experiences and aren’t reliant on Adobe’s backend technology to make your site perform.

With headless Magento, you can embed high-quality video on your site alongside beautiful images and still run an incredibly fast-loading experience (for catering to your customers’ needs and facilitating more conversions).

Plus, you can deliver this content on several device types and still achieve sub-second load times.

Scalability

As your business grows, your tech stack often needs to change and develop. If you’re tied into a monolithic platform, it’s much harder to add extra functionality.

This is because all of your ecommerce technology is hard-coded together, where changing one aspect of it will affect every other part. Change isn’t impossible, it’s just much harder than it needs to be.

When you have APIs linking up discrete technology, however, you can much more easily link in new services as and when you need them without disrupting the rest of your ecommerce setup.

Flexibility

Just as you’ll need to adapt as your business grows, the future is unpredictable, and what is a niche concern today could become the must-have tech of tomorrow.

Switching your Magento store to a headless architecture will allow you to much more easily customize your tech stack to accommodate your ever-changing needs.

Taking your Magento store headless future-proofs your business.

It becomes easier to create omnichannel journeys

And lastly, once a store’s headless, you can more easily create content in one place or a singular content management system and then serve it up to your customers consistently, regardless of various frontend channel requirements.

5 Adobe headless commerce examples

Now we’ve run through the benefits of Magento headless commerce, it’s time to showcase what Magento—in combination with headless frontend delivery—can offer your shoppers some of the most breathtaking brand examples.

As you’ll see, your customers won’t know you’ve gone headless necessarily, but they will get a terrific site experience that’s felt—especially on mobile!

Adobe headless example 1. Eleganza

This Dutch fashion brand makes great use of Magento as a backend, with clear product filters displayed along the side of their category pages to allow customers to get to relevant product pages fast.

eleganza magento headless

At the same time, large, high-quality images feature on the home, category, and product pages, elegantly displaying the superior craftsmanship of their fashion wear and creating a captivating customer experience.

The speed with which the site loads several large images is down to their use of PWA technology to build the frontend of their site.

eleganza collection magento headless

Adobe headless example 2. Biscuiteers

We included this Adobe shop on the list to show you don’t have to be a high-end fashion brand to take advantage of headless Magento and showcase your products!

The ability to sell visually is crucial to this bespoke confectionery retailer.

This site uses Magento’s famously versatile menu system to embed a menu with clickable images on the homepage.

Plus the brand gives visitors the option of navigating with a more traditional drop-down menu from the top of the page.

biscuiteers magento headless

Adobe headless example 3. Zadig & Voltaire

Big, bold, beautiful, yet still chic.

The brand values of Zadig & Voltaire come through their online store loud and clear.

The use of large photographs as the main component of many sections of their site is made possible by a headless build that can deliver heavy content to site visitors at high speed.

The ethos of this site is simplicity. Everything from the menu system to the imagery is stripped back to its bare essentials.

This site can do this with confidence because it can rely on the speed and consistency of its headless Magento store to deliver high-spec content that doesn’t need to overwhelm the visitor in order to create rich customer experiences.

zadig header magento headless

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Want to go headless with Magento/Adobe? Chat with Shogun<cta-title>See how Shogun Frontend can help you deliver exceptional shopping experiences and performance.Learn more

 

Adobe headless example 4. Oliver Bonas

oliver bonas header magento headless

The British fashion and lifestyle brand has made extensive use of a headless setup on Magento to deliver large, top-quality images to its site visitors.

Here, the product images serve another function: they help customers navigate around the site.

Halfway down the homepage, a draggable carousel lets visitors get to product pages quicker. There is a menu system that customers can make use of, but moving through the site by clicking product images feels intuitive and simple.

Once on the product page, visitors can click to display a huge product image, which displays products in fine-grained detail to potential customers.

oliver bonas jewelry magento headless

Adobe headless example 5. ME + EM

me em header magento headless

This designer women’s fashion retailer has used the power of headless Magento to recreate the ascetic of their brick-and-mortar stores online.

Minimalist yet bold designs are employed to create a striking impression for site visitors, introducing them to the ethos of their brand.

Zoomed-in images on their product pages retain high resolution, and customers can scroll through several views, giving 360-degree detail.

me em magento headless

How to take your Magento store headless

Sold on the benefits? Excited about the example Adobe stores? Awesome!

If you’re convinced taking Adobe headless is the way forward for you (and particularly with a PWA), there are a few different ways you can go headless with Magento.

Here’s a rundown of your main options:

1. Build your own headless PWA with Adobe’s PWA Studio (the DIY method)

PWAs, or Progressive Web Apps, allow you to create a site that feels and behaves more like a native app than a traditional website.

PWAs make clever use of several pieces of technology—like browser and server caching and static websites—to create stores that are faster than traditional sites with better UX.

You can use PWA technology to create your Magento store, and Adobe has made available several developer tools to help you do so with PWA studio.

Benefits of using PWA Studio to go headless are:

  • Super fast page loads
  • Your site behaves just like a native app
  • Can function while offline

Disadvantages of using Adobe’s PWA Studio:

  • Development can have a long lead-time
  • Need a team of experienced developers to implement
  • Ongoing maintenance requires technical skill

#cta-paragraph-fe#For a full rundown of the benefits of combining Magento with a PWA-powered frontend, and a breakdown of how it all works, see our ultimate guide.

With this route, you can also add a best-in-class headless CMS (like Contentful or Prismic) to your PWA build instead of using Adobe Commerce’s built-in CMS.

While this can be a great way to liberate your content from a monolithic CMS, you’ll need to integrate it with the rest of your tech stack, like your backend commerce services and your PWA frontend layer.

Which brings us to the composable approach to going headless on Magento….

2. Go with a composable commerce approach (the bespoke method)

You can keep your Magento backend and build a frontend completely from scratch.

Benefits of a composable commerce approach:

  • Total control over your tech stack, choosing everything from your headless CMS and CDN to your SSR and site search providers
  • No longer limited by monolithic platform offerings, allowing for a richer merchant experience and a better customer experience
  • Your agency partner will have great headless expertise
  • The resulting storefront will be extremely performant

Disadvantages of a composable approach:

  • Lots of technical expertise necessary to implement (you need lots of developers to support this in-house)
  • Integrating all components of your stack takes a long time
  • Several hand-picked solutions require individual management
  • Maintaining your modular store means ongoing development to maintain
  • Most expensive way to go headless as each part of the build needs to be budgeted for and ongoing development and maintenance can be costly

This method to go headless suits larger-scale ecommerce brands that want to have control over all parts of their online business.

3. Use a FEaaS platform (the all-in-one method)

The Frontend as a Service model provides a unified frontend platform, giving you the benefits of Magento headless architecture without the overhead and integration headaches associated with a bespoke build.

Benefits of using a FEaaS solution:

  • Bundled software comprised of the best-in-class frontend technologies (CMS, CDN, SSR, middleware, and PWA)
  • PWA-powered presentation layer creates an app-like omnichannel experience
  • Manage all frontend capabilities in one place
  • Experience Manager enables non-technical members to make changes for a faster time to market and lower cost of ownership
  • Partner with experienced headless agencies for easy implementation

Disadvantages of a FEaaS solution:

  • Loss of control over selecting every aspect of your frontend tech stack
  • Certain third-party apps won’t work with a headless build

This all-in-one approach to headless commerce is opinionated about the technologies included, simplifying the work of choosing the right pieces for the best customer experience.

Shogun Frontend is such a solution. We’ve chosen the best tech so you can get to the business of running your store.

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Want to go headless with Magento/Adobe? Chat with Shogun<cta-title>See how Shogun Frontend can help you deliver exceptional shopping experiences and performance.Learn more

 

How to prepare for Magento headless commerce

By enabling headless commerce, Adobe has eliminated the need for you to re-platform your Magento store when making the switch.

This will save you a huge amount of time, effort, and money.

But developing your Adobe headless commerce architecture still requires care and attention.

There are some basic steps you can take to make sure you make the switch smooth and seamless for your business and your customers.

1. Decide on a headless solution

This is the key step that will orient you on your journey. The main things to consider here are:

  • How much developer input can you accommodate?
  • How much lead time can you afford?
  • How comfortable are your teams with managing and maintaining disparate technologies? (will maintenance keep you busy as a technology company vs. catering to the shopping experience?)

If you’re happy to look after the development and maintenance of the frontend part of your tech stack then a bespoke build could be the right option for you.

But as this route necessitates building everything from scratch, there are much longer lead times and complexity associated with it.

2. Manage third parties

When you go headless, the third-party technology that you can potentially integrate is greatly expanded.

From small extensions to major increases in functionality, each third-party technology you incorporate brings with it its own code, costs, and relationships, so it’s important to manage your extensions and third-party services carefully during the transition.

With Adobe’s extensive API coverage, you’ll likely find a way to link up the service you need, but before you make the change to headless, you’ll need to map out exactly how you’ll integrate your existing third-party services in your new setup.

Currently, Adobe Commerce supports integration for several areas out-of-the-box, including:

  • Accounting,
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Product Information Management (PIM)
  • marketing automation systems.

For a detailed, developer-focused guide on how to create a third-party integration, see Adobe’s documentation here.

3. Seek to minimize complexity

The attraction of monolithic architecture is its simplicity.

With the separation of functionality inherent in headless, however, comes the need to use different technology for different parts of your ecommerce operation.

Thanks to the benefits of headless, this is overwhelmingly a plus point, but depending on the type of headless solution you go for, things might get a little cumbersome.

Frontend solutions that provide a unified content management and delivery platform reduce the need for complex tech stack management.

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Want to go headless with Magento/Adobe? Chat with Shogun<cta-title>See how Shogun Frontend can help you deliver exceptional shopping experiences and performance.Learn more

 

Simplify your transition to Magento headless commerce

The backend services that Adobe provides in its commerce platform are powerful, flexible, and extensive.

But combining this with a headless frontend solution will give you access to increased speed and richer merchandising capability for better customer experiences.

The challenge is doing it in a way that boosts your ecommerce capabilities while at the same time minimizing the complexity of your tech stack.

Shogun Frontend unlocks a way to do this with a unified frontend layer. You don’t need the involvement of large teams of developers to manage a large software ecosystem.

It’s an approach that frees up your teams to focus on activities that boost revenue and grow your business, ensuring you have the technology you need to scale your brand without the technical headaches associated with it.

 

#cta-visual-fe#<cta-title>Want to go headless with Magento/Adobe? Chat with Shogun<cta-title>See how Shogun Frontend can help you deliver exceptional shopping experiences and performance.Learn more

Rhys Williams

Rhys is a writer specializing in enterprise software, ecommerce, and SaaS. He describes himself as a geek and a wordsmith and relishes making complex, technical topics come to life in easy-to-understand web copy.

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