Shopify Headless Commerce: The Complete Guide for 2024

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shopify headless

Are you considering investing in Shopify headless commerce?

Maybe you’ve heard the term “headless commerce” and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Or perhaps you’ve discovered a need for more flexibility with your existing Shopify store.

Embracing the headless capabilities available on Shopify can be an excellent way to upgrade your online store.

But is headless commerce right for you? and how exactly do you get started with Shopify?

Here’s everything you need to know about the Shopify headless proposition.

What you'll learn in this article:

  • Understand What Shopify Headless Commerce actually Is
  • Benefits of Shopify Headless Commerce
  • Understand if Shopify Headless Commerce Right for Your Business
  • Real-world Examples of Shopify Headless Commerce

What is Headless Commerce? The Basics

Headless commerce is one of the fastest-growing trends in the ecommerce landscape. It’s an approach to building an ecommerce experience that separates the front-end technology of your site (the customer-facing part) from the backend (the tools you use to run your store).

Salesforce found that around 80% of companies that didn’t use headless architecture were planning to do so in the next two years.


Because headless technology gives companies the freedom to build unique customer experiences that aren’t possible on standard platforms.

With headless commerce, companies can unlock complete development control, leverage composable technology stacks, and even create different front-end experiences for different touchpoints.

Your web, point of sale, voice, and mobile front-ends can all talk to a single backend through an API level, allowing for a versatile omnichannel experience.

What Is Shopify Headless?

Shopify Headless Commerce is the headless architecture solution offered by one of the world’s largest ecommerce platform providers.

It allows users to build storefronts for the web faster with Hydrogen, Shopify’s react-based framework. Plus, it includes access to “Oxygen” for global hosting.

Watch the hydrogen overview video:

When you go headless with Shopify, you maintain all of the incredible backend features Shopify offers for business and store management.

However, you can also replace Shopify’s frontend, with new tools that power the customer-facing side of your store.

Here's how a sample of code looks like Store

hydrogen storefront api code example

This means you can choose to use entirely different themes and themes editing tools. You can partner with Shopify experts to build custom storefronts, and integrate your system with the tools you already use, such as accounting, or collaboration tools.

What is the Shopify Storefront API?

One of the reasons Shopify is so appealing to companies embracing headless architecture, is that the platform is already built with separation in mind.

It can easily accommodate a different front end, without the need to overhaul your entire ecosystem and create a tech stack yourself.

Shopify powers headless storefronts through its “Storefront API”, written with GraphQL. It’s the fundamental tool that unlocks all the potential of Shopify headless commerce.

shopify hydrogen

This solution was developed with the purpose of ensuing third-party providers would be compatible with the Shopify platform. With the API, “calls” being made between your frontend and backend tools.

This means the two layers of your commerce business tech can talk to each other, share data, and align seamlessly.

💡 The Storefront API opens the door to a range of possibilities when it comes to changing how your store looks, feels and functions. However, it also means you can maintain all of the benefits Shopify brings to online retailers.

Why Go Headless with Shopify?

The concept of “headless ecommerce” has grown increasingly popular in recent years, as companies look for ways to deliver an amazing user experience to customers across all platforms. However, building a headless Shopify store can be more complex than simply using the traditional toolkit.

If you’re looking for a simple ecommerce experience, Shopify already acts as a fantastic one-stop-shop for businesses. It includes a range of Shopify app integrations for different tools, and a great customizable checkout experience.

It also features tools for SEO, and payment processing, sophisticated order management, and inventory management tools.

However, like any monolithic ecommerce platform, Shopify can feel a little restrictive as your business begins to grow.

Migrating to a headless Shopify store allows you to maintain more control over how you interact with your customers across different landscapes.

It can contribute to lightning-fast page load times, intuitive experiences on mobile apps, and it gives you a fully flexible content management system and URL structure.

The Pros and Cons of Shopify Headless Commerce

For small businesses, keeping the Shopify backend and frontend connection usually makes the most sense. It’s cheaper and easier than taking a headless approach, and you still get all of the functionality you need to run a successful store.

However, if you’re looking for scalability and more advanced customization options, headless Shopify might be the right choice.

Let’s outline the key pros and cons of Shopify headless commerce.

The Pros

  • More control: A headless architecture gives you more control over the “presentation layer” of your online store and user experiences. While Shopify has some great themes and styling options to choose from, headless tools give you more freedom. You’ll have more potential to differentiate your store from the competition.
  • Scalability: Headless commerce is inherently scalable. If you’re building an international business, or want to create various product lines and brands, headless architecture can be incredibly useful. You can redesign workflows and manage content at scale, creating unique experiences for all of your audience segments.
  • Site speed and performance: Studies constantly show that faster loading websites generate more sales, especially on mobile. The more you customize your Shopify store with apps and code, the more you weigh it down. Going headless means you’re free to use faster frontend delivery methods, improving your conversion rate.
  • Improved SEO: A headless structure also gives you more control over your URLs. These URLs can play a significant role in your search engine rankings and visibility. While Shopify is quite inflexible when it comes to URL modification, a headless architecture means you can control every part of your URL structure.
  • Faster time to market: 77% of companies using headless architecture say it gives them more agility. With a headless strategy, you can experiment with your site layout and other factors without influencing backend processes. This means you can make changes a lot faster. You also get precise control over the look and feel of your site design.

The Cons

  • Problems with apps: When you stop using Shopify’s built-in tools, some of your apps may stop working. However, if you choose a comprehensive frontend platform, they should give you more integrations you can choose from to preserve your workflows.
  • Complexity: While anyone can set up a traditional Shopify store with minimal effort, creating a headless store is more complex. You’ll need to work with someone who understands the GraphQL API, and you may need development resources.
  • Loss of themes: With a headless Shopify store you won’t be able to rely on all of the standard pre-built themes provided by Shopify. Of course, this can be a good thing too, as it means you can create a theme that’s completely unique to your business.
  • Reliance on developers: A traditional Shopify store is easy to create, maintain, and update, even if you don’t have developer knowledge. However, with a headless store, you need much more technical help. You’re going to need to work with experts pretty frequently.
  • Cost: Headless stores are generally more expensive to create, manage, and run than traditional stores. That’s because you’re paying more for developer expertise, third-party systems, and the help of maintenance crews.

Shopify Headless Examples for Inspiration

If you’re wondering what you can actually accomplish with a headless Shopify store, there are plenty of great examples out there to check out. Some of the world’s biggest brands, including Allbirds and Staples Canada use Shopify’s headless architecture.

Here are just some of our favorite examples of website using Shopify's headless architecture:

The Feed

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The Feed, a company known for selling nutrition supplements and performance-boosting products, adopted headless commerce more than 3 years ago.

Though the partners at “” were a little skeptical about the benefits of headless commerce initially, they quickly saw results when they began running tests.

The team found the headless version of their store performed much better than the “Liquid” run version, increasing conversion rates by a round 5.24%. Plus, they also achieved a 10.28% increase in revenue per customer.

JB Hi-Fi

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One of Australia’s largest home entertainment retailers, JB Hi-Fi knows how important it is to deliver exceptional customer experiences. In 2018, the company approached Shopify looking for a way to scale its store and improve performance during the holiday season.

The brand needed a way to ensure it could deliver consistently fast loading times, and handle an ever-evolving volume of traffic.

The headless solution offered by Shopify empowered the company to achieve these goals. Plus, the company uses the real-time API connections to rapidly check stock availability across all online and in-person stores.


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Modern lifestyle accessories brand, Nomad, decided they needed a new way to differentiate their company from the competitors in the ecommerce space. Embracing the Shopify headless solution, the team combined Shopify’s backend toolkit with Shogun’s frontend system.

Decoupling the backend and frontend technologies meant Nomad could simplify it’s product page design and management process, and launch new marketing campaigns much faster.

The conversation to a headless site also meant Nomad could improve overall site speed, and access simpler integrations with third-party apps.


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An innovative razor brand, OneBlade differentiates itself from competitors in the industry by giving customers complete control over their purchasing experience. Buyers have access to a range of customizable purchase options, to ensure they always get the results they want.

Unfortunately, offering customizable purchasing options would have been difficult with the standard Shopify ecosystem.

That’s why OneBlade decided to use headless architecture instead. Implementing a headless strategy meant OneBlade could access the flexibility they needed to offer customers a truly unique purchasing experience.


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One of the most popular clothing ecommerce brands to leverage the Shopify platform, Allbirds has a fantastic reputation among shoppers. They’ve been using Shopify’s technology to power their business from day one. However, when the company’s traffic began to spike, they needed to find a way to personalize user experiences without compromising on performance.

The team decided to test a headless architecture to create a faster, more flexible website. The team used the JSreact-based Hydrogen Shopify framework to create a custom storefront, and continues to use the default Shopify backend for its store.

Victoria Beckham Beauty

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Another example of an extremely well-known brand with a headless commerce architecture, Victoria Beckham Beauty leverages Shopify’s backend capabilities alongside the Contentful headless content management system.

The flexible CMS gives the team a highly customizable content model to work with, alongside access to production content APIs.

The headless architecture and custom apps available to the “VB Beauty” store allowed the team to create a highly unique experience for customers.

Every step from product selection to ordering and payments can now be tailored to each visitor’s needs.

The 3 Ways to Build a Headless Shopify Store

  1. Use the DIY Route
  2. Partner with an Agency
  3. Use

If you decide that a headless architecture is the right choice for your Shopify store, there are a few different ways you can bring your strategy to life. The right option for you will depend on a number of factors, such as your budget, and your developer knowledge.

1. The DIY Route

One of the most common ways to implement headless Shopify architecture is to build everything from scratch.

Shopify has its own headless solution, named “Hydrogen”, built on the React.js framework. It has a modular structure and excellent developer speed, plus it comes with a convenient starter template, that’s great for beginners.

The biggest issue with this method is that you’ll need to work with developers constantly to create, optimize, and manage the front end of your store.

There’s no drag-and-drop builder here. Everything is created with code, and there are no real-time store preview options. You’ll also need to make sure you choose the right CMS to integrate with your store.

2. Partnering with an Agency

If you don’t have the skills and developer resources you need in-house to leverage a headless architecture, partnering with an agency might be the next best option.

An experienced agency can help you take advantage of the freedom you get with a headless model, while delivering the crucial technical expertise you need. They can even help with store design and customizations.

However, it’s worth remembering you’ll still need to find the right agency to help you. It’s important to look for a team that has experience working with frameworks like

  • React.JS
  • Ember
  • Next.Js
  • Gatsby

Plus, you may need to pay extra for support if you need ongoing help managing your store after your front and backend solutions are created.

In this case we are here to help, please fill out this form to get in touch.

3. Use a Frontend Service Provider

Another option is to work with a “Frontend-as-a-Service” or “FEaaS” provider. This is a great choice for brands that want to go headless with minimal effort.

The right provider will give you a bundled package of software solutions, so you don’t need to design, research, and build platforms and APIs yourself. You can potentially speed up your time to market this way.

Plus, an FEaaS solution an also come with access to partners and experts who can assist you with overcoming any technical issues you might encounter.

However, working with one of these solutions does mean you compromise on a certain amount of control. You won’t always be able to pick all of the specific CMS, CDN, and middleware tools you want to use.

How to Build a Headless Shopify Store: Step by Step

  • Step 1: Do the Initial Prep Work
  • Step 2: Choose Your Frontend Tech
  • Step 3: Invest in Your Education
  • Step 4: Generate an Access Token
  • Step 5: Build Your Custom Storefront

Once you’ve decided which strategy you’re going to use for your headless site, there are a few additional steps you’ll need to take to build and implement your headless store. Here’s our step by step guide to get you on the right track.

Step 1: Do the Initial Prep Work

If you’re starting from scratch, you don’t need to worry too much about this step, as you’re not migrating any data or information over. If you’re moving from a traditional store to a headless architecture, you’ll need to:

  • Do a quick analytics audit: Identify the metrics from your existing store you want to improve, so you can monitor the impact your new headless architecture has.
  • Perform an app audit: Find out which apps you currently use on your store, and whether you’ll need to leverage a re-integration process.
  • Conduct a content audit: Make sure you have a comprehensive list of all the content you want to migrate into your new store.
  • Backup your data: Back up any data and information you have on your old system, to ensure you don’t lose anything.

Step 2: Choose Your Frontend Tech

If you’re using Shopify for your headless commerce store, then you already know where your backend technology is going to come from.

You have endless possibilities when it comes to your frontend. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy here. However, it’s important to think carefully about your team’s skillset.

If you’re choosing to use custom code to modify your frontend, then you’ll either need developers in house, or the right agency you can work with.

Plus, you’ll need the expertise on-hand to maintain and modify your store going forward.

Step 3: Invest in Your Education

If you’re going to be working with an agency or team of developers on your new headless architecture, you don’t necessarily need to become a programming expert. However, it does make sense to learn as much as you can about Shopify’s headless structure.

The Shopify Storefront API uses the GraphQL query language, and Shopify offers various resources on its website to help you learn how to leverage this tool. The more you know about it, the more confident you’re going to feel.

Step 4: Generate an Access Token

In order to access your site’s data using Shopify’s Storefront API, you’ll need to create a private app in your Shopify store and generate an “API access token”.

To do this, go to your Shopify admin page, and click on “Apps” followed by “Manage private apps”.

Next, choose “Create new private app”, and enter your email and app name. In the Storefront API section, select the option to “allow this app to access storefront data”.

You can also choose which data types you want your app to access.

Step 5: Build Your Custom Storefront

Next, it’s time to build your custom storefront. You might need to turn your development team for this, or you could potentially access extra support from Shopify, if you’re subscribed to Shopify Plus.

There are some custom storefront examples available on GitHub, but what you can accomplish will all depend on the headless CMS you choose, and your developer knowledge.

Remember, the key to success is creating an incredible user experience. Don’t just make your store more attractive by going beyond the basics of the average Shopify themes.

Experiment with everything from menus, to navigation options, and customized checkouts.

Should You Invest in Shopify Headless?

If you’re a scaling business, using Shopify for your ecommerce platform, and you feel like you need more flexibility, going headless with Shopify could be the ideal solution.

Leveraging all the new app programming interfaces from Shopify will allow you to expand beyond the basics,of what you can do with the Shopify frontend, choosing your own front environment.

With a headless architecture, you’ll have unlimited freedom to create unique experiences for every customer, regardless of whether you’re selling subscriptions, services, or physical products. And you can create unique front-end environments for every channel.


Can Shopify be used headless?

Yes! Shopify is actually designed to support the decoupling of its frontend and backend tools. So you can easily transition between traditional Shopify experiences, and a headless architecture. The Storefront API ensures you can connect your backend services to a new frontend easily.

Is Shopify 2.0 headless?

Shopify 2.0, or Shopify Online Store 2.0 is essentially an improvement to Shopify’s theme architecture. It’s not a “headless” solution per-se. However, it did come with significant updates and improvements to the Shopify storefront API. Shopify Hydrogen was also announced with the 2.0 update, which is Shopify’s headless solution.

How much does Shopify headless cost?

This all depends on your process. You can create a Shopify headless store without signing up for Shopify Plus, but this does mean you won’t have access to the “Multipass” service, as well as Shopify’s expert support. Your overall cost will depend on your Shopify plan, the developer support you need, and the other apps and tools you need to purchase.

Is Shopify headless or Storefront?

Shopify supports both a standard storefront building experience, with combined backend and frontend tools, and a headless architecture. It has its own headless backend solution, as well as a content management system that’s compatible with headless builds.

What is the difference between headless Shopify and Shopify?

Ultimately, Headless Shopify allows merchants to decouple the Shopify ecommerce engine in the backend from the storefront or “front-end” of their commerce experience. You can connect your backend to any CMS or frontend solution through APIs.

Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter is an experienced content creator, news reporter, and blogger specializing in marketing, business development, and technology. Her expertise covers everything from artificial intelligence to email marketing software and extended reality devices. When she’s not writing, Rebekah spends most of her time reading, exploring the great outdoors, and gaming.

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