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Shopify Headless Stores

15 Minutes Read
Shopify Headless 1
Ana Gelevska

All about Shopify headless stores. Shopify is one of the most renowned e-commerce platforms in the market, with over 1 million businesses being run in over 175 countries. It is thus unsurprising that selling on Shopify has proven to be a very profitable option for those who want to get their online businesses rolling. With the reputability of the platform, it is normal for many unassuming shoppers to think all e-commerce stores are run on Shopify.

However, it is not always the case that a well-run store is completely designed, built, and ran on Shopify. Oftentimes, there are online stores that appear just like any other Shopify store, feature the same design elements, and seem to use similar configurations. Yet, they could be Shopify headless stores – a term that this article will explain, so you will better understand how such stores are run differently from conventional Shopify stores.


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I. Headless Commerce on Shopify: Shopify Headless

What exactly is headless commerce on Shopify? To put it simply, headless commerce on Shopify refers to a process where the Shopify e-commerce store – typically built from both front-end and back-end components – is split and separated such that you can use the base Shopify frameworks on the back end. Each part is powered by different software and integrated through a series of APIs (application program interface).

At the same time, you will be able to customize your front-end layer. Shopify headless commerce is a great and creative way for brands to be able to bring creative ideas to life using the capabilities of Shopify Plus, to turn e-commerce storefronts into magnetic sales channels which convert casual store visitors into engaged customers.

Even if you are not running a Shopify headless store on your own, it is beneficial to understand what Shopify headless commerce is. For example, if you are more comfortable using ready-made Shopify themes and want to buy an existing Shopify store, you’ll want to make sure it is not just a headless store masquerading as an actual Shopify one.

This is because you might lose the capabilities and simplicity that a default Shopify interface may bring. You may also not be prepared to build your own custom CMS or use an existing one, and that’s where extensions to detect whether stores are Shopify headless stores will be useful.


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  • What are front-end and back-end systems?

To truly understand how a Shopify headless commerce store works, we need to understand what a front-end and back-end layer entails.

Firstly, the front end of an e-commerce store is part of your brand that is customer-facing and which greets your customers first. Examples of these fronts and platforms include your social media pages, your homepage of the Shopify headless commerce store, and basically any interface the customer comes into contact with.

It is needless to say how important the presentation of your front-end elements is, especially when it comes to attracting and engaging the right audience for your business. A pleasant user interface and customer experience will create a lasting positive impression, aiding your customer retention efforts. In turn, customers will return to your Shopify store without much prompting.

On the flip side, we have the back end of a Shopify headless commerce store. Think of the back end as the skeleton, which contains all the important moving parts. Shopify’s back end involves all the systems and apps as well as teams that are necessary to ensure that your store runs smoothly and is able to attract the customers you desire.

This is what technology coders call a stack – which may include important features like order fulfillment, integrations with third-party applications, tools, extensions, and different store pages, like the checkout function.


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II. Who is Shopify Headless commerce intended for?

So, that begs the question: who exactly is Shopify headless commerce meant for? While Shopify may be a perfect app for many e-commerce sellers who are just getting started, as it provides all the fundamentals needed to get a business going, more seasoned e-commerce and dropshipping sellers may find that it can be quite a rigid and limiting platform. This is especially the case if you are already far down the line in your dropshipping journey.

That’s where a Shopify headless commerce store can benefit from breaking away from the Shopify basics.

The beauty of running a Shopify headless commerce store is that you need not build a completely new storefront from scratch. Shopify was actually designed such that you could run it in a headless manner, to better support a front-end system that accommodates your varying needs as you grow your business. The most important thing here is that you understand how to navigate and tweak your storefront API to leverage this flexibility.


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  • What can you use Shopify back-end systems for?

You can use Shopify back-end systems to give your e-commerce store the boost it needs to target the right customers, retain them and create memorable shopping journeys. These may include your content management systems (CMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, which all come together to form the heart of a strong, lasting business.


  • Why do businesses run Shopify Headless commerce stores?

Given the relative ease of use when navigating Shopify’s myriad of e-commerce capabilities, some of the reasons why the business may choose to run a headless Shopify store may include: encouraging greater creativity and flexibility, greater control over how your interface looks and how it is developed and coded, the ability to sell across platforms and run omnichannel marketing campaigns and expanding your capabilities beyond what’s available on Shopify.

– Innovation

A huge part of running your own e-commerce store is that you get to exercise your own creativity. With headless commerce, you will better be able to revamp the appearance of your storefront such that it fits your individual industry’s needs better. After all, customers looking for different items may have different buying preferences; the storefront for a mother and baby store should vastly differ from the storefront for a technology store.


– Greater control over how your interface looks with Shopify Headless

Perhaps you are focused on creating a seamless customer experience, or you may be interested in seeing how changing the visual elements of the store may improve checkout rates. Whatever your needs may be, there are ways to expand on how an e-commerce interface may look.


– Greater control over how the store is developed and coded

If you have experienced developers on your team, it is likely that they possess the skills and competencies to code a powerful store, especially with the flexibility Shopify provides.


– Split the work with Shopify Headless

When you decouple the front end and back end of your Shopify headless commerce store, your developer teams can work on each part separately, saving time wherever possible. Developers can finally focus on working on one aspect of the site at a time.


– Scalability

In the world of business, the key to sustained, rapid growth is scalability. Running a Shopify headless commerce store will do just that, as you will need to build and lay out the framework necessary to integrate systems and third-party apps. Thereafter, you can replicate your tech stack for your other e-commerce businesses. This means you can have maximum control and freedom of how each of your e-commerce stores looks, without ever needing to compromise on its efficacy.


– Improved customer loyalty 

Customers recognize, remember, and come to love brands that they resonate with. By creating optimal customer experiences with your Shopify headless commerce store, you will be able to improve customer loyalty.


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III. Things to consider when it comes to Shopify Headless commerce stores

The headless commerce option for Shopify e-commerce store owners is not all a bed of roses: this method of running a store comes with its unique set of concerns, too. Before making the decision to go headless, an e-commerce entrepreneur might want to consider a few factors.


– Compromising Shopify functionality

When you decouple the different parts of the platform (the back end and front end of the Shopify store), it is inevitable that some features will be lost in the process. If you’re an avid user of Shopify’s technologies, apps, and themes, you might want to reconsider the headless commerce option as features like building pages and change previews may be rendered unavailable.


– The need to manage and learn two platforms

Headless commerce requires separate programs for front-end and back-end management, which means twice the amount of work for website development and store management.


– Incurs cost and time

Evidently, integrating third-party applications when you opt for a Shopify headless option will incur lots more time and money for your business. You’d need to hire either more developers or hire more skilled ones who can perform up to par, and as mentioned, there is a need to run more than a single platform. This means more time spent on achieving a unified storefront.


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  • CMS options to drive your Shopify Headless commerce store for Shopify headless integration

Looking for options to run your Shopify headless commerce store? Some of these options include Contentful, Prismic, and Gatsby.


– Contentful

Used by major e-commerce players like Equinox, Danone, and Shiseido, Contentful helps enterprises drive meaningful and resonant content while giving content creators a convenient web app to manage their content. Developers can also use their content platform, and there are also features built-in to help platform owners and project managers manage their processes better.


– Prismic

Like Contentful, Prismic’s impressive portfolio of partners is nothing to scoff at: it features McDonald’s, Spotify, and The New York Times, among others, on its homepage. Bringing together brands’ developers and marketers to make content seamless and targeted, provides all the tools necessary for brands’ content marketing efforts to take flight.


– Gatsby

Gatsby boasts impressive statistics geared at helping you to optimize speed and run your business faster, with a purported 50% faster page load speed, 20x faster build times, and twice as many SEO boosts as competitors in the industry. The Gatsby Framework also comes with Cloud Functions, SSR, and DSG to afford you the freedom you need to build the e-commerce store you envision.


IV. Examples of Shopify Headless Commerce Stores

Here are some of the many Shopify headless commerce stores out there, and how they are leveraging the headless commerce features to build winning customer experiences, one feature at a time.


* Kotn – Shopify Headless

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According to Shopify, Kotn, an e-commerce clothing retailer, is actually a Shopify headless commerce store. To better address customers’ pain points while shopping online, the brand made it a point to seamlessly streamline the shopping experience.

They did this by using a Shopify Storefront API, which eliminates the necessity of custom apps that are needed, easily meshing two of their stores into a single one. Before decoupling its front and back end, Kotn had two distinct sites which were essentially unnecessarily duplicating content.

As a result of going down the headless commerce route, Kotn has been able to keep their site up-to-date easily and at a quicker rate than they did previously while keeping the site loading times fast so that customers can access the products they want to purchase with little delay.


* Naked Labs

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In another interesting example, Naked Labs, which performs full-body 3D scans and provides useful and actionable data using these scans, is also a Shopify headless commerce store. Their website utilizes Shopify on its back end, and for its front end, they use Contentful CMS. The challenge that the brand faced is educating customers before they make a purchase, given the relatively high price of the product. Decoupling the front and back end for a more intuitive experience allows Naked Labs to be better able to tweak content on their site.


* Seedlip – Shopify Headless 

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Seedlip, which sells non-alcoholic spirits on its e-commerce store, is yet another Shopify headless commerce store example. While using Shopify on its back end, Seedlip’s front end is custom-built Vue.js to equip their website with functionality for a better-designed e-commerce website. Turning to headless commerce was an effective strategy for Seedlip to outperform its competitors in the increasingly popular and profitable non-alcoholic beverages industry.


* Complex Networks – Shopify Headless 

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Complex Networks’ vibrant and youthful storefront was made possible and created by decoupling the website’s front and back-end frameworks. The website, which touts itself as a “modern entertainment company” under the wing of BuzzFeed Inc., houses brands like Complex, First We Feast, and Sole Collector.

The decision to go headless was born out of necessity for the brand: In pandemic times, the cancellation of its annual ComplexCon required a virtual adaptation. That was where the company enlisted the help of a Shopify Plus Agency Partner to tap into Shopify Plus’ plus points while customizing an immersive augmented reality store with its front-end structure.


* Verishop

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Verishop is an e-commerce platform curating products from brands across various categories, including Women, Dresses, Home, Beauty, Health and Wellness, Men, Kids, Outdoor, and even Pets. With everything sold under one roof, it provides visitors with a well-rounded shopping experience, owing to its Shopify headless commerce design. The brand used Shopify Plus and Contentful CMS together to achieve its desired outcome, creating a minimalistic store that is pleasant to browse and shop from.


* Hodinkee

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One of the brands which successfully designed and implemented its own CMS is Hodinkee, which is an e-commerce business catered to watch collectors and connoisseurs. It also allows visitors to sell and trade their watches conveniently, all in one place. Plus, the customizability of the site has afforded the Hodinkee team to drive user-centric content digitally, improving its web presence and elevating the brand online.



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ILIA’s e-commerce store unites makeup lovers with its delightful ranges, with functions to allow customers to compare and find their accurate skin shades and colors. The need for such complex tools pushed ILIA to adopt a Shopify headless commerce approach, as existing options for apps and integrations were bogging the speed and performance of the site. With the support of Shopify Plus, they are now able to improve metrics across their entire website, while having the freedom to try out and implement different modes of content.


* StriVectin – Shopify Headless 

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One of many skincare brands targeted at customers who want to invest in anti-aging skincare, StriVectin provides skin analytic tools to enable website visitors to pick skincare offerings that fit their needs best. Prior to using Shopify, StriVectin was using a different e-commerce platform which left a lot to be desired: it was unstable and lacked the power the website needed for its content management.

That’s when they decided to use Shopify as a strong base and implemented Prismic CMS for content management matters. Right after these migrations and implementations, they saw a notable spike in website visits.


* JB Hi-Fi

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A go-to household name for electronics hunters in Australia, JB Hi-Fi is not only a giant among electronic retailers in the market but is also one of the most prolific Shopify headless commerce websites available. JB Hi-Fi, like many other e-commerce stores, utilizes Shopify’s storefront API for flexibility and optimization.


* Rachio – Shopify Headless

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Rachio retails products including smart sprinkler controllers, weather system products, weatherproof enclosures, and expandable hoses. Within its category, the Shopify headless commerce store is also the highest-rated application, with a 4.9-star rating on the app store. It is no wonder why customers love the brand and what it has to offer: its website offers a buttery smooth shopping journey from browsing to checkout, facilitated by its Shopify headless structure and its GatsbyJS integration.


V. Detecting genuine Shopify Headless stores using Koala Inspector

Because of the capabilities of headless commerce, not every store that seems like a Shopify store may be one. You might think that the design of a store looks just like any other Shopify store, but this is not always true.

This could be a concern, especially if you’re looking to buy a premade Shopify store, and it turns out that the store is a Shopify headless one. You would need a powerful tool to help you uncover the true state of the store, and whether it’s a full-on Shopify store that retains all of Shopify’s functionality – without integrating a custom CMS, for example.

How could you possibly tell which store is a Shopify headless store, especially if it acts, looks, and feels just like any other store being run on Shopify? It may seem an impossible task but fret not – using Koala Apps’ in-house Google Chrome Extension, and the Koala Inspector Shopify Theme Detector feature, you can easily detect the structural elements of stores on which you run the extension.



These features include (but are not limited to): revealing the Shopify theme that the commerce store is using, understanding the apps that the store uses to drive sales and convert customers, measuring the ad campaigns that are being run on Google ads, and tracking all your favorite stores conveniently on one list.

Designed for the ambitious e-commerce and dropshipping store owner who’s determined to succeed, Koala Inspector is jam-packed with features to power your e-commerce growth and will provide the tools you need to figure out whether a store is a Shopify headless one. All you need to do is install it on the Google Chrome web store and you can then immediately start detecting Shopify stores!


  • Download Koala Inspector for Shopify Headless!


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Ready to use Koala Inspector to detect Shopify headless stores, while also maximizing its utility and adding it to your e-commerce toolkit?

In addition to its Shopify headless detection capability, the Koala Inspector is used by over 90,000 users in all corners of the globe.

Koala Inspector starts with a free plan, perfect for first-time dropshipping e-commerce store owners who are running on a tight budget. Then, once you have your Shopify store running off the ground, you could opt for more high-performance paid plans which will unlock a myriad of functions to accelerate your growth. The gamified system also rewards you as you unlock more e-commerce statistics and get ahead of competitors.

Download Koala Inspector now to enjoy the full set of features now!




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Ana Gelevska
Ana Gelevska
Ana is a creative and customer-oriented freelance writer with over 5 years of experience working with eCommerce global clients. Ana enjoys breaking down the latest eCommerce trends and diving into the needs of today’s merchants.

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