It’s not your fault you don’t understand “headless commerce.”

Great products have great names that express what they are and why they’re good. Like “doghouse” or “sugar-free gum.”

But headless commerce … that’s confusing, and it’s poorly messaged.

Let’s run two tests to illustrate this. (Full disclosure: This is a roast of headless commerce.)

Round One

Tell me if you know what these are and if they’re good:

Round Two

Tell me if any of these quotes help you. (They’re anonymized from vendors during briefings in our research for the just-published The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Solutions, Q2 2022.)

  • “If you don’t like having a head for your headless, then you can run your own [head].”
  • “Our competitors call themselves headless, but they don’t include a head.”
  • “Let me make it simple: Headless means many, many, many heads.”


Are you a cave dweller for not understanding headless commerce? No, you’re not. You’re a rational thinker: You know what a dog is, what a house is, and what a doghouse is.

You know what a digital touchpoint is (it’s a head, and there are many of them). And you know what commerce is. Both are good, so how can one be better if it doesn’t include the other? 

With headless commerce, there’s an exception. Learning exceptions to a rule introduces cognitive load. You know cognitive load — it’s that thing you actively eliminate from digital experiences to achieve better customer outcomes. For example, in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell attributes relatively poor math skills to the English words for 11, 12, and 13. The rest of the number system is rational (21, 22, 23). Cognitive load impairs learning. And the headlines in recent years about headless commerce (ironically so) introduced quite a bit of it.

If you or someone you work with is experiencing a pain in the neck, call your analyst. I’m standing by to help you recover from the incongruity of headless commerce. Schedule an inquiry with me to talk about how modern commerce can help you deliver your digital strategy.

In the meantime, Forrester clients should download The Forrester Wave: B2B Commerce Solutions, Q2 2022 report and scorecard (using the Excel download link at the top of the page) and dig into the wealth of evaluative information in the scores and scales.