Jamstack eCommerce can solve many problems that trouble online retailers as they grow. In a nutshell, it’s like evolving an eCommerce platform into an eCommerce application.
Before we list the eCommerce solutions that pair nicely with Gatsby and Next.js, it’s worth noting that Jamstack eCommerce can unlock some powerful benefits, but it also comes with tradeoffs. It’s easy to slip into the trap of thinking Jamstack websites are “the best” because they’re faster (which is kind of true). It’s a significant change to your site’s architecture, and some things don’t work like they used to.
If you're unsure what technology your site (or a competitor) is running, you can check out our article on how to tell what platform a website is built on.
Below is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of Jamstack eCommerce setups. We’ve kept each of these points short and sharp. If you’re interested in reading a less abbreviated version, check out our article about 10 benefits of headless eCommerce.
Pros of Jamstack eCommerce
Here are a handful of the most significant benefits to Jamstack eCommerce.
Page load speed
Gatbsby and Next are static site generators, meaning they prepare the website content before the user needs it and then serve it statically. Taking the need to communicate with a server out of the equation creates unparalleled page load times.
Blazing fast load times are probably the most significant benefit of Jamstack eCommerce. A catalogue of 10,000 products can drain a site’s performance and ruin the user experience. Since the entire catalogue is pre-rendered, there’s no accumulative delay in jumping between products, making the experience fast and seamless.
Since Jamstack eCommerce sites are built with the same technology, these features become a realistic (although challenging) goal to add to your site.
Speed of development
Modern development teams have become very good at dividing projects into subsets of features and simultaneously working on many concurrent features. The improved rate of development is mainly due to the modern tools these teams have adopted.
Unlike traditional monolithic platforms, Jamstack eCommerce unlocks all of the cutting edge tools that help teams design, develop and test new features quickly and efficiently.
Customisable content workflow
There’s a particular way content has to be written in Shopify and BigCommerce. Sticking to this workflow isn’t a big issue for smaller teams, but it can be restrictive for larger teams that create tailored articles and want to modify how content is created, reviewed and published.
Jamstack eCommerce sites assume your site will use a third party content management platform like WordPress, Contentful, Strapi or Prismic. These platforms are highly customisable and allow workflows to be built that match business processes.
Blogging for content teams
Similar to the previous point, larger content teams can struggle to find efficiency when creating content using traditional eCommerce platforms. Platforms like Contentful specifically considered this problem when introducing their tooling.
Traditional monolithic eCommerce platforms have limited multi-language support. Providing content in a single language is less of an issue for U.S. based companies, but for our friends in Europe, it’s a real hassle.
Gatsby and Next both offer multi-language support out of the box.
Freedom to change eCommerce provider
eCommerce platforms change their terms of service and pricing all the time. Features come and go, the interface changes. Sometimes competitors appear that offer even better solutions.
There’s no easy way to migrate from Shopify to BigCommerce, Shopware, or any other eCommerce engine. If your site features a decent amount of custom development, chances are you won’t go anywhere even if the platform starts to act up.
Jamstack eCommerce platforms solve this problem by pulling products in from any compatible eCommerce engine via API. If the eCommerce platform has issues, you can use another one in its place.
This swap isn’t necessarily straightforward, but it doesn’t require rebuilding the entire frontend on a different platform.
Jamstack eCommerce platforms use a decoupled architecture where the frontend and backend codes communicate via API. Separating the two code bases allows the frontend to get slammed by traffic without dragging the performance of the backend, where all the complex logic and calculations happen.
Since the frontend assets have been statically rendered and are delivered incredibly fast, there’s little drag on the site’s performance which all adds up to incredibly scaling.
Serving static files creates a reduced attack surface for hackers to exploit. Even in situations where Next.js is being used to generate assets on a server, most of the communication between the frontend and backend occurs through APIs, making malicious attacks harder to execute.
Progressive web application features
Progressive web application features like push notifications, working offline and being “downloadable” are all desirable for online retailers. Gatsby and Next.js support a progressive web application architecture out of the box.
Many different storefronts
In a Jamstack eCommerce setup, there’s one primary eCommerce backend like Shopify or Bigcommerce, but there can be multiple storefronts. This attribute is handy if you want to manage different catalogues of products in your eCommerce platform but sell them in various stores with unique branding.
Cons of Jamstack eCommerce
Nothing is perfect, not even Jamstack eCommerce sites. There are some unique disadvantages and challenges in using Gatsby or Next in your eCommerce site’s architecture.
Plugins need rebuilding
Most plugins have code that runs on the hosting server and in the user’s browser. Converting to Jamstack eCommerce essentially breaks the connection between the two codebases and breaks a lot of plugins.
There’s always a way around these issues, but it typically involves finding a new third-party service that does the same job as the plugin and building a custom solution to incorporate it into your site.
We list this downside at the top because many established eCommerce brands have come to rely heavily on their suite of plugins.
If your site runs thousands of constantly changing products, the build time can be an issue. Luckily, solutions have hit the market to these problems and they’re only getting better as time goes on.
Incremental builds ensure that only the part of the modified site is rebuilt, cutting the build time significantly. However, there’s still a delay between publishing changes are seeing the output.
More moving pieces
Operating more moving pieces means more things that can go wrong and more systems to master.
Jamstack eCommerce platforms will typically use an eCommerce backend, a content management system and a handful of third party systems to achieve specific requirements like analytics.
High implementation costs
On average, you can expect upwards of 400 development hours to create a medium-sized Jamstack eCommerce site. Considering the average agency rate in North America, Australia, and Western Europe is over $100 an hour, you can figure out the total expense.
Static site generators like Gatsby and Next.js operation is incompatible with popular split testing platforms like Google Optimize and VWO. Next.js does provide some workarounds to generate content on the server, but it comes at the cost of speed and performance.
Netlify has recently launched a split testing feature for Jamstack websites that seems promising, but it’s still early days.
Jamstack eCommerce Solutions
Now that you’ve got a handle on the pros and cons, let’s take a look at the eCommerce solutions that play nicely with the Jamstack.
This list is ranked based on the available features, community support, and product maturity.
As a spoiler, the top two platforms are BigCommerce and Shopify. If you’re interested in seeing how they compare, we wrote an article comparing Headless Shopify with Headless BigCommerce that is worth reading.
The BigCommerce API is well documented and complete. There are no payment gates that prevent certain features from being used. This stands in direct comparison with Shopify.
BigCommerce has also been actively developing headless extensions for their platform, including a WordPress plugin, next.js app, Gatsby starter site, and a handful of other helpful guides, integrations, and resources.
If you were planning to use WordPress in your Jamstack eCommerce ecosystem, then BigCommerce is an excellent choice. They’ve done a bunch of the integration work for you.
BigCommerce’s market share is the eCommerce business is relatively small, at around 1%. However, don’t let this scare you. It supports a thriving community that is growing, especially with their recent focus on API driven development.
Shopify needs no introduction. Holding around 11% of the global eCommerce market share, Shopify has been hailed as one of the easiest platforms to launch an online retail brand.
Shopify also boasts a mature, well-documented, comprehensive Storefront API to support Jamstack eCommerce.
BigCommerce and Shopify share most of the same features for developing Jamstack eCommerce platforms. The most notable difference is Shopify’s restriction around exposing some features to regular Shopify plans.
The restricted parts of the API are gift cards, staff accounts, and “multipass”. You can unlock these features by upgrading to Shopify Plus ($2,000 / month).
Most stores can get away without API access to gift cards or staff accounts. The multistore is more of a problem. This feature allows user account information (i.e. purchases, settings, account details) to be shared across domains.
Since regular Shopify plans force checkout to happen on Shopify’s domain, and headless stores use their own domain, there’s no way for your headless store to know the user made their purchase successfully. Similarly, there’s no way for Shopify to pre-fill the user’s details if they’ve already created an account on the site.
If your store is already running Shopify Plus or this is the direction you’re planning to go, then Shopify is arguably the best choice on this list.
Shopware is a newer platform that advertises itself as an API focused eCommerce engine. It provides access to two distinct APIs; one for customer-facing integrations and another for backend integrations.
Shopware is a perfect choice if you plan to work Vue Storefront into your Jamstack ecosystem since they are official partner technologies and have come together to build an open-source PWA.
Shopware’s pricing is more flexible than BigCommerce or Shopify. They offer a generous free plan, a €199.00 per month plan and a €2,495.00 enterprise plan. Interestingly, they also provide the option of self-hosting and buying the software forever.
If you haven’t already committed to an eCommerce platform, Shopware is an excellent option and integrates perfectly with many Jamstack frameworks.
Saleor makes a strong case as a Jamstack eCommerce platform. As an open-source platform, they’ve focused on developer experience and integrating with the most popular frameworks and languages that fall under the Jamstack blanket.
Saleor pushes their platform as multi-channel, multi-currency, multi-lingual and multi-warehouse friendly.
Unlike its competitors, Saleor allows customisation over everything. Don’t like part of the dashboard? No problem! As long as you’re technically fluent, you can modify the entire platform to suit your business better.
Since its open-source, Saleor is free except for paying for hosting. This fact alone could make it a viable option.
Snipcart is a lightweight solution to adding eCommerce to your Jamstack site. Unlike some of the more robust solutions that we’ve discussed above, Snipcart’s claim to fame is simply adding a cart to any website with a few lines of code.
While it’s simple to install, Snipcart comes packed with a ton of great features like simple customer dashboards, shipping integrations, abandon cart campaigns, merchant dashboards, invoicing, and just about everything else you would expect from an eCommerce engine.
One tradeoff of Snipcart is the cost. While there’s no fixed price (unless your revenue is less than $629 CAD), they charge a 2% transaction fee. Compared with the 1.4% of Shopify’s pro plan, the fees add up quickly.
Commerce Layer follows a similar mission statement to Snipcart, except they’re API focused and position themselves as a service for adding eCommerce to any web, mobile or IoT app.
Commerce Layer is another forward-thinking company that has noticed the trend towards Jamstack technology. They’ve even written a whitepaper on the topic of Jamstack eCommerce.
Commerce Layer is highly customisable and plays nicely with most headless CMSs like Contentful, Sanity, Forestry and Prismic. It’s supported with an official Gatsby plugin.
Pricing for Commerce Layer is a little unique, with a $0.90 charge placed on every order.
You can see Commerce Layer in action on the Chilly’s website.
Crystallize is a unique take on headless eCommerce. The platform shows similarities to Contentful in its tooling for content and product authoring.
Crystallize differentiates itself with its innovative Project Information Modelling (PIM), which allows custom attributes to be assigned to physical or digital products. They’ve also introduced an idea called “Shapes” which enables custom combinations of rich data into a single component. For example, a product summary, specifications, image grid, reviews, and related products would combine to make a single shape.
Crystallize differs from the other platforms we’ve listed in its tools for creating customisable rich media like blog posts and pages. This content is all hosted on the Crystallize CDN and can be queried via GraphQL which is super handy for Gatsby and Next.js. Plus, not having to pay for another CDN to host content saves some cash!
We left Foxy IO off the list because it’s targeted more to drag-and-drop page builders like LeadPages and ClickFunnels. It doesn’t nominate Gatsby or Next.js as official integration platforms.
Foxy IO is installable through a small code snippet, similar to Snipcart, so you can technically plug it into any platform. However, the interface leaves a bit to be desired, and there are better solutions for Jamstack eCommerce.
Now that you’ve seen the list, you probably want to know which platform is the best or best for your situation.
Our recommendation depends on your current situation. If you’re already using one of the platforms we’ve mentioned, such as Shopify or BigCommerce, then stick with that platform and build a Jamstack ecosystem around it. Not migrating your customer and order data to another platform is a strong motivator.
However, if you’re using a platform like Wix, WooCommerce or SquareSpace and want to professionalise your setup, then Saleor or Shopware would be a great fit. BigCommerce and Shopify would also be excellent choices.
If you’re looking to introduce eCommerce functionality to your web application, then Snipcart or Commerce Layer would both be excellent choices.
Finally, if you’re selling a unique product that needs to be displayed in a very particular way, then Crystallize would probably be your best bet.
These rules aren’t hard and fast. There are a decent number of variables to consider before picking your Jamstack eCommerce solution. If you’re uncertain and want some advice, reach out to our team, and we’ll book you in for a quick half-hour call to discuss your best option.
Frequently asked questions
There are so many questions to ask when making the jump to headless eCommerce. We've been approached by a number of angel investors, clients and software companies looking for insights into the JAMstack eCommerce space to understand what it's all about. Here are some of the most common questions we're asked;
Should we switch to JAMstack eCommerce?
As a rule of thumb, I would probably say that companies receiving less than 20,000 page views a month shouldn't consider jumping to a headless eCommerce build because the chances of recovering the investment quickly are low.
Take this with a grain of salt though, because even a site that receives low traffic can be making a ton of revenue. However, the real benefits of JAMstack eCommerce are felt through increases to traffic and the user's experience while shopping. There's a compounding benefit of these experiences that is really only unlocked with high traffic volumes.
Is JAMstack the future for eCommerce?
For some businesses, yes, but it's unlikely to ever reach the levels of popularity of monolithic platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce. Until a parent company figures out how to simplify headless eCommerce to the point where non-technical store owners can build a site in less than an hour, JAMstack eCommerce will only grow in popularity for larger, established companies.
Is Gatsby good for eCommerce?
Yes, Gatsby is great for eCommerce. The development team have built it specifically for creating fast and user-friendly websites. This is good news for eCommerce, because potential customers are the hardest to satisfy. However, we believe that Next.js is an even better frontend framework for building eCommerce websites.
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