Headless architecture is the separation of the front and back-ends of a store . Often referred to as ‘decoupling’. As a result, a number of different software can power a store – each of them specifically designed for the task they’re given. Ultimately creating an optimised, and more advanced, online shop.
Traditionally, e-commerce platforms were all-in-one affairs. The front and back-ends sat together on the same application, in a so-called ‘full-stack’ or ‘monolithic’ structure.
There are good reasons for why this was the case, mostly to do with simplicity. Shopify’s great strength lies in giving users everything they need all in one place. They can build a solid e-commerce store from scratch without knowing a single line of code. Its monolithic structure makes this possible. But when a solid store doesn’t cut it anymore, when brands need something extraordinary, this way of doing things is obsolete.
Because the trouble with a full-stack approach comes when you ask for more from your e-commerce platform. Shopify is a good all-rounder, but in certain areas, it simply can’t handle the very top-end. A headless Shopify store uses Shopify’s excellent back-end (the ‘body’), but the front-end (the bit the customer sees, the ‘head’ of the store) has been detached and placed in the hands of a more advanced system.
Contentful is a top-end CMS, capable of handling high definition media and multilingual translations. In other words, it’s capable of doing things the Shopify platform cannot.