Let's talk about the current state of headless in eCommerce.

Welcome to this weeks instalment of MythBusters.

Once a month, we'll sit down with a merchant and have a discussion about headless, and this discussion usually starts with speed.

Because headless is really fast, right?This is akin to asking how long is a piece of string is. As Paul Goldston has aptly put it: Yes, headless stores can be more performant than your standard Liquid storefront. But, most of them are not more performant than a standard Liquid storefront. If you want to dive into the data, I'd highly recommend you read the article.

Since I'm in a myth busting mood, let's cover some of the other reasons we see merchants make the move to headless.

Headless sites look sexy and highly custom.

Yes, headless sites look great, but it's not due to being headless. They're tailor-made, usually with bigger budgets compared to starter themes from Shopify. You can also get a custom theme on Liquid; it's all just HTML, CSS, and Javascript, regardless of the architecture.

All the big brands are going headless.Yes, some brands switched to headless, but we're noticing a return trend. Superco - Shopify Plus Partner reverted Allbirds’ Korean and Canadian sites from headless to Liquid. We're working on two similar migrations. Even Nike just launched Nike Strength on a standard Liquid build.

Okay - so with all this in mind, why are merchants making the jump back?

📱 Apps. The magic of installing an app, testing it out, driving some additional revenue, just isn't as simple on headless. A good portion of apps require custom integration by a developer.

💰 Cost & time. They cost more to build, and even more to maintain. Shoutout to the real MVPs, eCommerce managers who can make a few HTML and CSS changes. That ain't happening on a headless build. And that random widget your marketing department wants to install for that promotion? Good luck making that work. Going headless either means you need to be willing pay a hefty support retainer to keep things moving along, or get yourself a self driven, kickass, in-house React Developer.

📖 Content Management. Shopify's native CMS is great. Yes, it's not perfect, but it's pretty darn close. It's easy to use, and your new starter from another brand is going to be an expert on it, unlike your newfangled CMS.

I could go on, but you get the jist. I’m not against headless—we build a service-based site bi-monthly—It can suit eCommerce scenarios, particularly with reliable frameworks like Shopify's Hydrogen Framework. However, choosing headless just to follow the status quo might lead you back to traditional setups, a conversation you’d rather avoid.

Go headless because you've spoken to a few agencies, and they've all said your goals aren't achievable on a Liquid storefront. Have discussions about retainers before you sign anything, and most importantly - ensure you can explain to a five year old why you've gone headless, it should be that clear.