Headless 101

Headless 101: tech stack + associated costs

October 2023

Let’s find out what the headless tech stack really looks like and the overhead costs you need to consider.

In a headless approach to ecommerce, we are separating our frontend from the backend. Because of this, you are technically no longer hosting your root domain with Shopify. This means you’ll have external, overhead costs to get the tech stack you need to keep your shop up and running. 

An end-to-end headless commerce solution, such as bl!nk, will cover all of this stuff for you. But still, let’s break it down piece by piece so we can understand the cost drivers associated with going headless.

Headless hosting considerations

Choose your host wisely, you are now responsible for your own uptime


With many headless ecommerce solutions, the ball will be in your court when it comes to finding a reliable hosting option for your website. There are a dozen viable hosting options available to you at any given time. Here are a few of the top options available:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) - AWS is Amazon’s solution for website hosting. While it does provide scalable elastic hosting, AWS is not the cheapest or the most user-friendly if you are not a development operations expert. AWS is the industry standard at this point. 
  • Fastly - Fastly web hosting is cloud-based and extremely reliable.
  • Azure - Azure is Microsoft’s solution for website hosting. Similar to AWS. 
  • Vercel + Netlify - Both Vercel and Netlify are Javascript-first hosting specifically made for frontend web and app experiences. Vercel and Netlify are really the top contenders here out of all hosting options.

Ultimately, a hosting partner is something that should be decided upon between you and your headless integration specialist. 

Hosting costs vary based on the overall traffic level. If you are a brand doing under $1M in sales per year, you can probably expect to pay about $200/mo for your hosting. If you are well into the seven-figure revenue range, this cost may quickly scale. 

The bl!nk approach to hosting

When you opt for a headless ecommerce solution, such as bl!nk, your hosting costs will be included in any monthly management costs. Here are some of the key details you need to know when you host your website with bl!nk:

  • Reliable + affordable hosting - bl!nk’s hosting is cloud-based and just as reliable as what you’d expect from Shopify’s hosting. Plus, it’s much more affordable in comparison to what you’d pay when you use a different headless provider. 
  • Uptime + server maintenance - bl!nk’s hosting is set up to balance all of its traffic over a myriad of IPs associated with a dense private server network. 

Headless security considerations

You are now only responsible for security on your frontend


Often discussed hand-in-hand with hosting, let’s look at security. Because you will not be hosting directly with Shopify, you will not be able to take advantage of their auto set up secure connections. You may need to get your own SSL and deal with CSR files. Generally, though, SSLs are inexpensive so this is a nonfactor when it comes to budgeting for your headless infrastructure. Your host may make this one click easy similar to Shopify too.

Are you now responsible for credit card info and sensitive customer information? Nope. Remember, Shopify handles the checkout event. That means you are hands-off when it comes to the actual transaction piece of the customer journey. Shopify will continue to be the underlying engine that supports everything having to do with the final steps of any transaction. Billing, shipping, and payment are all still Shopify. 

The bl!nk approach to security

At bl!nk, we understand just how important website security is for your business. SSL certifications are always included with your hosting. There are no renewals, no CSR files, and no hassle. Website security is just a core piece of our hosting offering. 

Headless CMS considerations

Now that we’ve covered hosting + security, it’s time to talk about content management systems


You need to set up a CMS layer to allow for the quick, on-the-fly changes that we are all used to via Shopify’s native features. There are several options for you to consider but not all are created equally. Here are some of the top CMS solutions on the market: 

  • Contentful - Contentful is a hosted, API-based CMS SaaS solution. It is not free, and since it is hosted they handle server side CMS logistics. You don’t own these pieces, but you shouldn’t necessarily have to either. This is for enterprise companies that don’t need to worry about high development costs. Contentful is expensive, but your hands are being held. Ultimately, the UI may be a bit clunky, but API-based means you can make your own UI if you want.
  • Strapi - Strapi is an open-source, API-based solution that you host yourself and have total control. The community delivers free updates, and its UI is workable out of the box. The large con here is that you have to host, scale, and manage your own servers wherever you decide to deploy Strapi. However, the community is huge and continuing to grow so the support base is there.
  • Netlify CMS - Netlify CMS is a hosted CMS solution. Netlify is Git-based, which offers a high level of control of content, editing history, and more. It’s more stripped and not as fully featured as other CMS options, but it flourishes for small independent CMS-based projects. You can choose to self-host this CMS or they can host it for you.
  • Sanity.io - Sanity.io is a hosted, API-based SaaS solution. While it’s not as supported as Strapi, developers find this easy to work on and set up.
  • Prismic Prismic is a hosted CMS SaaS with good reviews but lacks large features such as a write API. That limitation alone makes this a less enticing option.

For the most part, any CMS will do as long as it accomplishes your goals. Can your team make the changes necessary to keep the store up-to-date and seasonally relevant? To ensure this, you’ll want to find a solution that allows for homepage edits, page edits, and product page edits (below-the-fold content) — just like we look for in a native Shopify setup. 

The cost here is pretty constant. Budget for between $200-$400/mo to have a fully rigged out and hosted CMS. If you approach this correctly, you can empower your team to make minor changes rather than paying external development costs. 

Connecting Your CMS to Shopify

Now the tricky part. Your CMS has to “talk” to Shopify, right? Yes. That’s because we need Shopify’s product information via the Storefront API. Your CMS must be able to reference the products in your Shopify backend and then display the pictures, price, description, etc. on your headless frontend — all in real-time.

How does this work? Is it a private app between your CMS and your Shopify store? Maybe. But, it’s not always that simple. There are rate limits to consider. Shopify’s API is extremely powerful, but it does come with its own system of checks and balances. Shopify limits you to the number of API calls you can make in any given timeframe. 

Apps can make requests that take a maximum amount of time per minute. For example, 120 requests within 60 seconds, with each request taking 0.5 seconds to return. More complex requests take longer and therefore take up a proportionally larger share of the limit.

Is that enough? Probably. Is it efficient? Hell no. And that’s what we are all about when it comes to headless commerce — efficiency

So, what now? Create a data layer to live between your CMS and Shopify. If you can get your CMS to simply call your data layer once, then you are operating as efficiently as possible. 

What options do we have for this? Not many. The most solidified data layer that integrates with common CMS frameworks is called Nacelle. They have a great solution, but the only drawback is cost. Nacelle’s pricing starts at $5k/mo. Yowza! But that’s just how the story unfolds. Headless can’t be for everyone, or we’d all be doing it by now, right?

The bl!nk approach to CMS

At bl!nk, we believe headless commerce is for all, and that’s why we developed bl!nk. bl!nk’s CMS is second to none and will give you all the flexibility and control you need in order to run the day-to-day of your store with greater ease than Shopify. We’ve optimized the connection between the CMS and Shopify’s API so there is no need to worry about inefficient API calls slowing down your experiences. And shh, it is also more affordable than the options we laid out above.

There’s so much to consider when thinking about going headless, and the tech stack is a crucial part of that. When you choose to go headless, you’ll need to consider your overhead costs depending on which headless ecommerce platform you choose. With an end-to-end headless solution, like bl!nk, you can rest assured that you’ll have the tech stack you need to support your online business. 

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“In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

“In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”
— Olivia Rhye, Product Designer

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