Headless commerce has been taking the digital commerce world by storm in recent years. With many legacy eCommerce platform vendors retrofitting their solutions to embrace a “headless” approach, and countless new startups rushing into the space, it’s hard for eCommerce teams to keep track of all the options out there and pick the headless commerce vendor that best meets their unique requirements. Therefore, we set out to create a comprehensive overview of all the best headless commerce platform vendors!
First, let’s baseline on some foundational definitions and concepts:
What is headless commerce?
Headless Commerce refers to the architectural approach of decoupling the front-end of your commerce platform (I.e. the interface your customers interact with) from the back-end that powers all the business logic for your digital commerce experiences (e.g. product information, cart, checkout, orders, taxes, etc). Using a “headless” approach has become popular in recent years because it provides eCommerce teams with more flexibility to create unique experiences that meet their unique business and brand requirements, as compared to using a traditional commerce platform, where the front-end and the back-end are delivered as a tightly coupled solution, so the experiences you deliver are constrained by how the platform vendor coded the logic to render on the front-end.
Are headless commerce and composable commerce the same thing?
Great question! They are related concepts, but are different. Headless commerce is a core architectural concept, and amongst modern commerce platform vendors is often found as a part of a MACH-based architecture along with microservices, API-first, and Cloud-native principles. Composable Commerce builds on the foundation of MACH-based architectural principles, but in additional to the underlying architecture, also embraces the concept of an open ecosystem and business-centric solutions approach. This holistic approach of Composable Commerce helps businesses translate their investments in modern MACH-based technologies into business value.
Can all commerce platforms support a “headless” approach?
We hear this question a lot, and it’s a bit of a nuanced answer. Some vendors were born as headless, which in this post we refer to as “native” headless commerce platforms. This means the software offering was created as a headless architecture from the beginning. If you are going headless, there are definitely advantages of using a native headless platform, but that’s not to say that it’s the only way to go headless. Many, but not all, of the traditional commerce platforms (I.e. Those not born as headless), do now support the ability to run in headless mode given the popularity of headless commerce in general. The piece to watch out for is how well, or cleanly, these vendors can really support headless approach. A great analogy is to think about the difference between a car that was designed and manufactured to be a convertible, versus a sedan that was retrofitted in the aftermarket to be a convertible 😊
Note: in spite of the many benefits of using a headless commerce approach, it may not be for everyone. Therefore, in addition to reading this vendor overview, we also created this eCommerce platform buyer’s guide, which you may find helpful.
Best headless commerce platform vendors you should be considering:
There are a TON of commerce platform vendors in the market (headless and traditional), so it can be overwhelming to try to tell them all apart. And as much as analyst firms or peer review sites will try to rank the “best” headless commerce vendors, the reality is that there is no one best vendor out there, it’s all about finding the best vendor solution for your team and your business. Therefore, we’ve tried to provide a fact-based overview of the major Headless commerce platform vendors in the market, so you can pick the one that best addresses your specific needs.
First, let's look at the list of the best native Headless commerce platform vendors (in alphabetical order):
What does it mean to have a Composable architecture?
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- Headquarters: Prato, Italy
- Number of Employees: 18
- Website: https://commercelayer.io/
- Company Overview: Commerce Layer is a headless commerce platform and order management system that lets you add global shopping capabilities to any website, mobile app, chatbot, or IoT device, with ease. Use a best-of-breed CMS to create beautiful content. Make it shoppable through our blazing-fast and secure API, on a global scale.
- Headquarters: Munich, Germany
- Number of Employees: 332
- Website: www.commercetools.com
- Company Overview: Commercetools is the world’s leading platform for next-generation B2C and B2B commerce. To break the market out of being restrained by legacy suites, Commercetools invented a headless, API-first, multi-tenant SaaS commerce platform that is cloud-native and uses flexible microservices. Using modern development building blocks in a true cloud platform provided by Commercetools, customers can deliver the best commerce experiences across every touchpoint on a large scale. Commercetools has offices across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific, with headquarters in Germany. Since its founding in 2006, Commercetools software has been implemented by Fortune 500 companies across industries, from retail to manufacturing and from telecommunications to fashion.
- Headquarters: Boston, MA, USA
- Number of Employees: 20
- Website: https://www.coredna.com/
- Company Overview: Core dna has developed a unified content and commerce platform that helps mid-market to enterprises companies scale their digital experiences. With a cloud native and API-first architecture, Core dna empowers digital teams to create experiences across platforms, channels and devices. With local offices in Australia (Melbourne), USA (Boston) and Europe (Berlin) and a partner network across the world, Core dna is well positioned to help companies scale globally. Core dna powers the content and commerce sites of a diverse set of companies like Clark Rubber, Fujitsu, Langham hotels, Uberall, Standard process and Swinburne university.
- Headquarters: Seattle, WA, USA
- Number of Employees: 278
- Website: https://fabric.inc/
- Company Overview: Fabric is the headless commerce platform purpose-built for growth. Customers like GNC, ABC Carpet & Home, and Universal Lacrosse trust fabric for its open and modular design, allowing them to be live in weeks without having to replatform. fabric is a force multiplier on retailers’ existing technology investments proven to grow digital revenue by up to 3x.
- Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA, USA
- Number of Employees: 80
- Website: https://nacelle.com/
- Company Overview: Nacelle is the headless commerce platform for composing best-of-breed solutions. FTD, Something Navy, Boll & Branch and Barefoot Dreams have chosen Nacelle to go headless and accelerate time to value while seeing dramatic improvements in webstore performance, developer velocity, and flexibility. Nacelle is a 100% remote company that believes in core values of: forever learning, honesty and integrity, ownership, and teamwork. It is backed by Tiger Global, Inovia Capital, Index Ventures, Accomplice, Lerer Hippeau, High Alpha and Silas Capital.
- Headquarters: San Francisco, CA, USA
- Number of Employees: 101
- Website: https://www.infosysequinox.com/
- Company Overview: Infosys Equinox is a human-centric commerce and marketing platform that supports rich, hyper-personalized experiences across any channel and touchpoint. Future-ready and flexible to deliver innovation at MACH-X speed – up to 30% faster than competing solutions. Backed by the capabilities and partner ecosystem of Infosys, it is the only commerce platform you will ever need.
- Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
- Number of Employees: 420
- Website: https://www.spryker.com/
- Company Overview: Spryker enables companies to create winning commerce experiences in B2B, B2C, and marketplaces. It is the most modern platform-as-a-service solution with over 900 API-based modules, cloud-enabled, enterprise-ready, and loved by developers and business users worldwide. Extend sales reach and grow revenue with a system that allows you to increase your operational efficiency and lower your total cost of ownership. Expand to new markets and business models without technical limitations. Spryker solutions have empowered 150+ companies to manage transactions in over 200 countries worldwide and is trusted by brands such as Toyota, Hilti, Lekkerland, Hero, Rose Bikes, and Prym.
- Headquarters: San Francisco, CA, USA
- Number of Employees: 28
- Website: https://www.swell.is
- Company Overview: Swell is a customizable headless ecommerce platform that supports unique business models and customer experiences. Their goal is to make ecommerce accessible for everyone with a platform suitable for both B2C and B2B models. Swell's API-first backend and modern development tools provide a future-proof platform for innovative businesses ranging from small coffee roasters to international enterprises. Regardless of your business model, you can host your digital retail experiences on Swell without relying on a patchwork of extra apps and services. Swell are a remote-first, global team with high aspirations. Always striving for improvement, they constantly seek new and innovative ways to push their product further—all within an open, creative environment with an emphasis on having fun while building great things.
- Headquarters: London, UK
- Number of Employees: 1,659
- Website: https://vtex.com/gb-en/
- Company Overview: VTEX is the Enterprise Digital Commerce Platform for brands and retailers looking to build a future-proof digital commerce strategy. Powered by a modern platform and a team of digital commerce experts, they enable enterprises to achieve faster time-to-market, reach their customers across any channel and uncover new areas of growth.
Next, let’s take a look at the traditional commerce platform vendors that can be run in Headless mode (again, in alphabetical order):
Adobe Commerce (aka Magento)
- Headquarters: San Jose, CA, USA
- Number of Employees: 106,576
- Website: https://magento.com/
- Company Overview: Magento, an Adobe Company, is a leading provider of cloud commerce innovation to merchants and brands across B2C and B2B industries and was recently named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. In addition to its flagship digital commerce platform, Magento Commerce boasts a strong portfolio of cloud-based omnichannel solutions that empower merchants to successfully integrate digital and physical shopping experiences. Magento Commerce is the #1 provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1000, the B2B 300 and the Top 500 Guides for Europe and Latin America. Magento Commerce is supported by a vast global network of solution and technology partners, a highly active global developer community and the largest eCommerce marketplace for extensions available for download on the Magento Marketplace.
- Headquarters: Austin, Texas, USA
- Number of Employees: 1,166
- Website: https://www.bigcommerce.com/
- Company Overview: BigCommerce is the world’s leading cloud ecommerce platform for established and rapidly-growing businesses. Combining enterprise functionality, an open architecture and app ecosystem, and market-leading performance, BigCommerce enables businesses to grow online sales with 80% less cost, time and complexity than on-premise software. BigCommerce powers B2B and B2C ecommerce for more than 60,000 SMBs, 2,000+ mid-market businesses, more than 25 Fortune 1000 companies, and industry-leading brands including Assurant, Ben & Jerry’s, and Gibson. BigCommerce’s mission is to help merchants sell more at every stage of business growth. Simply put, they are: built for growth so merchants can realize their visions without compromise; designed for powerful performance to enable businesses to scale seamlessly with technology they can trust; efficient in both time and cost. BigCommerce supports thousands of retailers around the world from its offices in San Francisco, Austin, London, and Sydney.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud (aka Demandware for B2C and/or CloudCraze for B2B)
- Headquarters: San Francisco, CA, USA
- Number of Employees: 297
- Website: https://www.salesforce.com/products/commerce-cloud/overview/
- Company Overview: The Salesforce Commerce Cloud, formerly Demandware, powers enterprise cloud commerce for the world's most innovative brands, enabling unified, 1-to-1 experiences across all points of commerce including web, mobile, social and store.
- Headquarters: Ottawa, ON, Canada
- Number of Employees: 13,364
- Website: https://www.shopify.com/
- Company Overview: Shopify is a leading global commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size. Shopify makes commerce better for everyone with a platform and services that are engineered for reliability, while delivering a better shopping experience for consumers everywhere. Shopify powers millions of businesses in more than 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Allbirds, Gymshark, PepsiCo, Staples, and many more.
All indications are that Headless Commerce will continue to gain widespread adoption and will likely be around for the foreseeable future. But again, it may not be for everyone. If you have a unique vision with complex business and/or brand requirements, then leveraging a headless commerce approach may provide you with the additional flexibility and control you need to bring your digital commerce vision to life. Regardless of which way you decide to go, and whichever vendor you decide to work with, we hope you found this vendor overview helpful!
Elastic Path provides a Composable, API-first, Headless Commerce Platform. Therefore, to ensure the integrity of this vendor listing, we intentionally recused ourself from the listings above. If you’re interested in learning more about our headless commerce solutions, we encourage you to check out our eCommerce resource center or this product overview.