Paving The Path to The Future of Commerce: Composable Commerce vs. Headless Commerce

Sep 30 2022

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A Guide to Composable Commerce vs. Headless Commerce

Headless and composable commerce are two technologies that are shaping the ecommerce world. The shift toward adaptable and module-based systems promises enhanced individualized experiences and increased conversions. But how do these terms differ, and what do these mean in general? To build comprehension, consider composable commerce an advanced sequel to headless commerce. Both of these technologies assist commerce businesses with managing their business goals and ensuring a better customer experience.

Read the full blog to get detailed technical insights, differences between headless and composable commerce solutions, and how both capabilities shape the commerce industry.

Demystifying Headless Commerce

Headless commerce is an architectural software term that refers to a separation of the backend (technical business logic) and frontend (UI), and this separation is also referred as decoupling. These two frontends and backend layers connect through an Application Programming Interface (API), although they do not strictly depend on each other. 

This decoupling strategy allows businesses to connect multiple touchpoints, such as Product Information Management (PIM) and Order Management System (OMS), to the frontend to produce a better and more flexible interface without disturbing the backend technicalities and performance of the systems. Due to this feature, headless commerce welcomes flexibility and scalability in terms of enhanced customer experiences and journeys. 


The widely known term headless commerce came into being in 2013, first introduced by Dirk Hoerig, a co-founder of a cloud-based headless commerce platform called Commercetools.

Moreover, this term was introduced in the market by Forrester Research Inc. This research company found out that businesses who lack to achieve good customer experiences often decouple their frontend UI layouts from the technical backend operations to resolve the issue.

Demystifying Composable Commerce

Composable commerce is another architectural software term that also allows separation of backend and frontend, same as headless commerce. Still, it provides an option to choose best-of-breed commerce components, called Packaged Business Capabilities (PBCs), such as add-to-cart, checkout, and search, that you can integrate to develop customized and flexible commerce operations.

Composable commerce is an approach that brings fundamental ecommerce advancements and technologies like MACH architecture and integrations, allowing you to customize and optimize everything in a business-centric way.

MACH is an acronym for Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless. It is a set of best-of-breed technologies and elements, and this technology generally supports a composable commerce-based business.    

Unlike headless commerce, composable commerce does not rely on a one-in-all vendor. Instead, this technology consumes multiple vendors with different functionalities who robustly perform the one main operation they know. 

Due to the implementation of best-of-breed commerce components, enterprises and businesses get a stronghold   in front and backend operations. This is why this technology is often referred to as business-centric technology.


Composable commerce is a term that was first introduced by Gartner's report "Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications," which came out in 2020. The report stated that business leaders, looking to target future-proof and scalable commerce journeys and experiences, should opt for composable commerce approach with the help of PBCs since it is an advanced and improved sequel of headless commerce and offers strong hold on business target as well as better user and customer experiences

Composable Commerce vs Headless Commerce – Main Differences in the Capabilities      

How does composable commerce differ from headless commerce, and what are the most different capabilities of these systems? Below you'll find differences between these two commerce platforms and architectures.

Headless Commerce

Headless commerce can be referred to as a customer-centric approach, but this does not mean that only customers benefit from it. Below are listed some capabilities that your brand can leverage through deploying a headless commerce approach:

Frontend and Backend Separations 

In headless commerce, the frontend user interface presentation layer and backend management system are separated, or in a way, that frontend is decoupled from the backend. This advantage of frontend and backend separations allows frontend developers to focus on making the interface more seamless for customers and users. 

Separate Customization for Admins and Users

 In headless commerce, as the frontend is separated from the backend, the backend masters can deliver content, like services, products, reviews, or blogs, using application interfaces. In contrast, the frontend masters only work on how to make that content and interface more appealing, and user-experience focused. This means there's separate customization for users in the frontend and for admins and operators in the backend. 

Instant Changes and Optimizations 

Your brand and business can test various templates and approaches on multiple devices and touchpoints via APIs through a headless commerce approach. Leveraging API for making changes allows a faster feature implementation time. Moreover, you can even try a different backend approach using the same frontend interface. These features enable you to improve and optimize your commerce platforms faster. 

Better Scalability

Headless commerce allows you to better scale your system through secure continuous innovations and iterations. The separation between the frontend and backend enables you to prevent any delays and scale your business faster by preventing any possible delays that might arise due to multiple deployments required in a monolith.

Composable Commerce 

Composable commerce is a business-centric approach; below, you'll see why. This business architecture is generally characterized by these four fundamentals listed below:

Independent Composition of Elements 

Composable commerce allows your enterprise to achieve a true omnichannel experience by leveraging application programming interfaces. These APIs will enable you to integrate best-of-breed elements and third-party services from multiple vendors to acquire robust business commerce and customer experience. These independent elements are available on open standards, and thus can be easily used without disturbing the backend technicalities and other frontend processes.

Modular Architecture 

The modular architecture feature of composable commerce allows you to proceed fast and stay competitive in the market. Modular components allow you to scale more quickly, indefinitely, and independently. Through the modular feature, disruption in one part or integration element does not affect or slow down other processes nor affects the customer experience. 

Business Centricity 

Composable commerce is business centric as it allows business tools to build better solutions and other advanced tools for marketers to market products and services to stay relevant in the competition. Even though a good customer experience can also be achieved via composable commerce, it provides a plus point for businesses to adjust the integrations, services, goals, and metrics based on business needs. 

Open Ecosystem 

The open ecosystem is another great benefit you can leverage using a composable approach to your digital commerce needs. This open ecosystem means a vast library of integrations frameworks and valuable assets that allows you to build a complete solution through helpful guidance and support packages. 

How has Headless Commerce and the rise of Composable Commerce shaped the Commerce Industry?

Now that you're aware of the clear differences between headless and composable commerce let's look at how these approaches have shaped the commerce industry. Below you'll find a list of combined benefits of these two approaches:

Better Control and Optimization

 Headless commerce allows you to control the frontends and backends separately. Thus, this approach offers you better control over the interfaces. Moreover, you can deploy and test various practices to see which one's more beneficial. Hence you can target better optimization as well. 

Composable commerce also offers the same benefits and optimizations through its multiple-element integration that you can leverage and adjust to gain better control over the system.

No Interdependencies 

In headless commerce, the frontend is separated from the backend, and these two are connected through an API. The frontend and backend do not have any interdependencies on each other for any sort of operation. Thus, the frontend operations are isolated from backend operations, and backend operations are separated from frontend operations. 

No Reconfiguration of Backend Logic 

As the frontend and backend are not connected, you don't require any backend changes to make any frontend changes. This means that you don't have to reconfigure the backend logic as there are no interdependencies between these two interfaces, as explained above.

Customer Centricity 

The frontend system of headless commerce is a customer-centric approach as it is meant to enhance a better customer experience through the user interface. 

System Scalability 

In headless commerce, the frontend developers can easily access the backend data and vice versa through the APIs. Thus, more accessible access to data through APIs allows the frontend developers to use frameworks as they find them suitable for better optimization and layout. Therefore, the frontend developers can easily develop models to access the endpoints whenever a new system emerges in the market. Hence, it allows better and quicker system scalability features.

Improved Developer Experience  

This decoupled algorithm makes it more possible to engage and merge the development team. Hence, this practice ensures enhanced development experience. 

Short Time-To-Market   

Headless commerce allows you to launch the frontend experiences and updates quickly that become readily available to the market. Thus, this quick market feature will enable you to deploy changes rapidly with the minor backend development and deployment cost. 

Composable Commerce vs. Headless Commerce – Final Thoughts 

We can conclude with a saying that composable commerce is a sequel to headless commerce. Although these two terms don't vary much from each other, they have different scopes and capabilities. 

If you're looking to dive more into headless or composable commerce, talk to our commerce experts for a detailed discussions on your ecommerce transformation journey. Explore Icreon's Commerce Services.