Headless, a flexible, high-performance approach to e-commerce

In an ever-evolving online commerce domain, companies are constantly seeking to enhance the customer experience on their online stores while offering increasingly more services. An innovative approach gaining popularity is headless e-commerce, combined with an ERP system, which allows greater flexibility in e-commerce developments.

Headless or not headless

"Headless," in the context of software and web development, refers to an architecture where the frontend (or "front-end") of an online store is separated from the backend (or "back-end"). Essentially, this means that the user interface, in our case, the visual aspect of the e-commerce site known as the front-end, is decoupled from the business logic and underlying data, the back-end. In an online store, the front-end typically includes elements such as layout, visual design, navigation menus, buttons, forms, images, videos, and any other content with which users can interact. The backend, on the other hand, is the invisible part of our e-shop and handles processes behind the scenes, managing business logic, data storage, request processing, and communication with other systems.

In a traditional architecture, the front-end and back-end are tightly coupled, meaning that any modification to one often requires adjustments in the other. In contrast, in a headless architecture, the front-end communicates with the back-end via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), allowing for greater flexibility and independence between the two layers. This API-based communication also allows for better control of the data exposed on the e-commerce site.

Separating the body from the engine

Headless architecture thus creates a well-defined division of tasks, with the backend, which handles the business processes of our store, not directly displaying anything to the user, while the front-end does the opposite! It handles the interface and user interactions and delegates calculations and information storage to the back-end. This setup allows for centralized data management, a welcome advantage in the era of cybersecurity awareness and proper management of collected personal data. This type of approach offers several interesting advantages for e-merchants and their customers:

Flexibility and scalability: By separating the front-end layer from the back-end layer, it is possible to use modern front-end frameworks, such as React, Angular, or Vue.js, without having to modify the back-end. The development and update rhythms of the front-end and back-end may differ. A headless architecture allows for the development and deployment of features more quickly, as front-end and back-end development teams can work in parallel. Additionally, it reduces downtime and service interruptions during updates.

Performance: A headless architecture can improve the performance of your website by helping to maintain control over the data transferred between the front-end and back-end. This can result in faster loading times and a better user experience. The performance of the online store is thus less dependent on the backend.

Security: With a headless architecture, by limiting the volume of exposed data and thus the attack surface for hackers, it can contribute to strengthening the security of an online store and the management system. Sensitive data is stored on the back-end server, which is less exposed to attacks.

User experience: Nobody wants to scroll for hours in search of the perfect item. By using modern front-end frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue.js, it is possible to create richer and more engaging user experiences. The goal is to make online shopping a smooth, dynamic, and user-friendly experience. Good performance, natural and smooth navigation, tailored suggestions, and relevant search enhance the user experience, which can translate into increased conversion rates and better customer loyalty.

In summary, headless e-commerce is an architecture that separates the front-end presentation layer from the back-end, thus offering greater flexibility, improved performance, and better security for online stores.

Headless E-commerce with Odoo ERP

Do we still need to introduce Odoo? For those who may have missed this little open-source gem of enterprise management software (also known as ERP or PGI), Odoo is a true open-source suite of business applications that covers a wide range of functionalities, such as sales management, customer relationship management (CRM), purchasing management, accounting management, inventory management, project management, human resources management, and much more. In short, everything a SME needs for its daily management. Odoo also has a double argument that should not be neglected: it is open-source and modular! This dual argument makes this ERP a tool that can be evolved and adapted to complex business processes. With over 12 million users, Odoo is beginning to carve out a place in the highly competitive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) sector, especially among SMEs.

Odoo + Headless = Shopinvader

Now imagine that we could combine the advantages provided by Odoo for SMEs with the strengths of headless e-commerce architecture. This approach would allow for the establishment of an online store that relies on the power and flexibility of Odoo. To achieve this feat, Odoo integrators from Akretion, Acsone, and CamptoCamp have worked on the design of an API integrated into Odoo allowing an e-commerce front-end to interact with the ERP. These open-source Odoo modules are called Shopinvader.


Shopinvader is a set of open-source modules (https://github.com/shopinvader) that can be added to our Odoo to give it the ability to fulfill its role as the backend in our Headless architecture. In this case, Odoo becomes the manager of data and business processes for our online store. The e-merchant thus manages their product catalog and categories directly in Odoo. Shopping carts and customer orders are also stored and managed by Odoo, ensuring great consistency in business rules regardless of the sales channel. This set of modules adds a REST API so that the front-end can communicate with Odoo. A VueJS NuxtJS 3 application, also open source, serves as the front-end and provides a pleasant shopping experience (https://github.com/shopinvader/shopinvader-template-nuxtjs). This approach offers a recognized solution for its flexibility, scalability, and ability to easily integrate third-party functionalities such as payments, shipments, analytics, etc. It is also a solution suitable for both B2B and B2C contexts.

Limiting functional overlap

In the context of software, functional overlap occurs when there is a repetition or redundancy of functionalities between multiple applications within the same organization. In e-commerce, this can occur when an e-commerce platform performs similar tasks to an ERP because both solutions have similar and yet essential functionalities for their operation. A very illustrative example is the shopping cart of an e-shop: an e-commerce platform needs to manipulate cart data to allow a customer to proceed with their purchases. The Headless approach - and thus the one used by Shopinvader - allows the management of the cart and the business rules associated with it to be entrusted to Odoo, which will then handle it as a simple quote!

What about Odoo's e-commerce?

In its plethoric range of functionalities, the Odoo suite of enterprise applications also offers an e-commerce solution. However, while this solution has the advantage of being directly available in your favorite ERP, it has the drawback of mixing the concepts of backend and frontend in a single box.

The importance of separating backend and frontend

Odoo's e-commerce solution is not a headless solution. In concrete terms, this means that it is Odoo that renders and hosts the online store. This intertwining of the frontend and backend thus implies very synchronized development cycles between the e-shop and the ERP and is very sensitive to interruptions of the latter. Another point to consider is that the technologies and development languages used by Odoo's e-shop are certainly well known to developers of this solution but somewhat more exotic for the common web developer. Odoo offers a traditional e-commerce solution, with an integrated frontend and backend layer. However, Odoo's e-commerce has the advantage of being highly visually customizable, well supported by the software suite's editor, and well suited for reasonably sized online stores wishing to start quickly.

In conclusion, the combination of headless e-commerce with Odoo ERP offers a powerful and flexible solution for companies wishing to create a high-performing and secure online store. By separating the frontend from the backend, this approach allows for the benefits of each layer while avoiding the pitfalls of functional overlap. With the integration of solutions like Shopinvader, companies can leverage the robustness of Odoo as an enterprise manager while offering a modern and personalized shopping experience to their customers.

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Web consultant
Thibault Rey
Web consultant - France

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