Why headless content should be part of your e-commerce projects

mar. 12, 2018 | 14:24 p. m.

It was an “aha” moment at the roundtable on “content commerce - success with storytelling” at the Handelskraft conference in Munich, Germany. The panel raced through topics such as what content commerce means for businesses, which system they put in the lead - CMS or e-commerce tool, how to deal with increasing complexity and rising customer demands across channels, devices and formats.

Watch the video from the roundtable (in German). On the panel: Oliver Kling, dotSource (moderator); Sebastian Stang, Magnolia; Dirk Weckerlei, commercetools; André Wolf, dotSource.

Halfway through the discussion, the moderator asked the audience if the term “headless” rang a bell. Fewer than 10 hands were raised in the audience. And how many had practical experience with headless? This time, fewer than five hands were raised.

Business leaders and digital project managers know what problems they’re trying to solve, but they haven’t necessarily figured out the exact “how”. Two pressing needs surfaced in the discussion: speed and better presentation. Let’s look at how headless could be a way of meeting those needs and spicing up e-commerce.

What is headless?

A headless CMS decouples the rendering and presentation system and allows you to replace it with front-end or other technologies of your choice. The CMS is simply a content store and web application for content creators, and the content is delivered to the front-end or other system, typically via REST APIs as JSON.

Contrary to common misconception, you can still have a preview function and work in headless mode. A hybrid approach gives you a UI for entering structured content, and a UI for building experiences (such as pages), plus a REST API to access both structured content experiences, and a server-side rendering system. This means that you are not limited to filling forms, but can create rich content and preview pages. At the same time, the content is generated in clean JSON to use in headless mode in any framework or channel: mobile apps, kiosks, third-party systems, or web pages.


If you’re concerned about time to market, headless makes it faster to roll out. It fits into existing infrastructure and you do not need to change your existing delivery tier. Headless is open to all other systems such as CRM and e-commerce that consume content from it - access is provided through APIs. Because developers simply work with content APIs, they can start on projects fast and work in parallel.


If you’re thinking about how to connect the shop functions you need: headless works well in a microservices environment. It supports cross-functional teams to get tasks done quickly. The front-end is decoupled from the back-end. You get more flexibility and it’s easier to switch and replace various tools that you use for e-commerce, from PIM to marketing automation.


E-commerce managers still struggle with this. Headless is a neat way to push content to different front-ends. It supports content that does not contain any presentation formatting, and that can be used and re-used on any channel. You effectively have a flexible platform for every touchpoint - web, mobile, IoT, smart TV, touchscreens.

Content types

You can mix and match different types of content, whether it’s user-generated in the style of Amazon or Ikea, or product information on heating systems and water filters in a B2B setting. A major retailer was able to use a headless approach to quickly and effectively create campaign landing pages and product teasers, and to simultaneously reach customers through new emotional touchpoints. It immediately saw how sales peaked around the holiday season.

If you’re in the midst of re-thinking and re-designing your e-commerce projects, consider how a headless approach could be part of your digital infrastructure. Content commerce is about using great storytelling to create emotions at new touchpoints, beyond templates. Content wants to be free, and headless is the architecture that sets it free.

Magnolia was a sponsor of the Handelskraft conference organized by dotSource.