Over the past couple of years we have developed Medusa in close collaboration with customers that needed a headless solution that could support their growth for years to come. We are so excited to finally open up about what it is we have built, why we have built it, and how you can succeed with Medusa. Medusa is an open-source headless commerce engine that can power amazing digital commerce experiences and it is a great choice for any new headless ecommerce project out there.
Headless ecommere has gained plenty of interest recently and more and more businesses are looking towards making the shift to a headless solution to leverage a more modular setup and all the benefits it brings, such as: better page performance, greater flexibility, better support for unique customer experiences, support for best-in-breed tech stacks, etc. When we first started working on Medusa we had no idea what headless ecommerce meant, and initially, we set out to build a fully-fledged platform, but more on this later!
This is the first blog post we are publishing and it will stand as an important milestone for our work going forward. We have found that through modularity and simplicity our merchants end up being able to do much more with much less, which is why we will keep pursuing this approach when building out our product further. We want to provide a foundational set of building blocks that can be used to create unique, interesting, and powerful digital commerce experiences and we are so excited to see what amazing work we can help create.
Why we built Medusa
We didn’t wake up one morning thinking to ourselves that we wanted to build a headless commerce engine, but rather we got to build Medusa through experience with the limitations of existing platforms. Before transitioning to working full-time on Medusa, we operated as an agency, building all kinds of tools for our customers. We built everything from portfolio websites to custom integrations to ecommerce websites, but quickly started specializing in the latter; as we found new customers we also experienced that many of them were hitting limitations with the platforms available at the time.
This became evident when a client of ours expressed interest in switching platforms. We started looking for good alternatives but it quickly became clear that none of them would support the expansion across markets and brand ownership that they required so we decided with them that we should try to build a bespoke solution that would cater to their exact needs and so we began building a fully-fledged ecommerce platform with a CMS system, fulfilment system, etc. It was not soon after that we realized that we couldn’t do everything well at once so we started removing parts of what we’d built and replacing them with integrations to better tools. In the end, we were left with a core that was capable of processing and managing orders, ensuring payments were going through, and handling basic product and customer data. What was even more important was that this core was extremely good at integrating other tools and as such able to function as the glue between all the tools and services in your ecommerce stack. Essentially we had built a headless ecommerce engine, simply by following what was easiest for us as developers and most cost-efficient and scalable for our customers.
Our customers were really happy with the solution as they were able to expand to multiple markets while picking and choosing from any services they found interesting without having to worry about the cost of integration. Furthermore, our customers got a high degree of ownership when using our custom-built solution, as they could ask us to build features that they needed and have them released typically within a couple of days. When contemplating how we could ensure the same level of ownership going forward it became clear that we had to open-source the solution so that no central organization would ever be in control of what was possible for the merchant. Open-sourcing Medusa would also bring a bunch of other benefits such as leveraging the community for feedback and contributions which further strengthens the product.
After experiencing the issues with the existing platforms we were confident that our product would be a good alternative for many new ecommerce projects and shortly after we decided to open-source the product we started pulling out the generic parts of the implementations we had done, gave it the name Medusa and made it available through GitHub. Go to Github to view the open source project.
Headless: The next generation of commerce
In the early days of the internet operating ecommerce required big budgets and with customers still being new to the digital purchasing experience, only a small group of large enterprises set up online commerce channels by either building them from scratch or using solutions like Hybris. As more customers moved online, new platforms as Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce emerged — these were easy to use and enabled merchants to make digital commerce available as a secondary sales channel.
In recent years, ecommerce has become a primary channel for many businesses leading to fierce competition in the space, increasing the need for custom solutions to give unique buying experiences. In the quest for customization, many businesses have been left frustrated with the lack of flexibility that existing platforms provide. While optimizing for ease of use, most traditional platforms is putting their focus on templated “out-of-the-box” solutions neglecting the constraints this inevitably put on the development flexibility. In many cases, businesses have been forced to converge towards compromised solutions, or even make entire platform shifts, as their needs grow beyond what a templated solution can offer. Simultaneously, a much wider variety of businesses (e.g. service providers, B2B companies etc.) requiring fully custom solutions from the beginning have started moving online.
The increasing demand for customization and flexibility has spurred an interest in headless commerce among performance-focused merchants that want differentiated and fully optimized customer experiences. Yet, many of them are still to make the move. One of the main reasons, why headless has yet to become the dominant type of ecommerce is that it can be expensive to operate a headless ecommerce stack as you need developers that can maintain the infrastructure that powers the integrations between systems in your stack and a high up-front investment for making the initial setup. This is something we are solving with Medusa by providing infrastructure that is preconfigured and optimized to run your projects.
Putting the developer first in your commerce setup
The modularity and ownership that Medusa can offer is capable of powering incredibly diverse applications ranging from ecommerce websites to more niche cases like in-restaurant experiences and will with high probability be suitable for whatever digital commerce experience you can think of. Many businesses postpone the transition to headless as it can seem daunting and complex when you need developers to maintain your infrastructure and operations; we will make it possible to take out these concerns completely by providing the infrastructure that is configured and optimized to run Medusa projects, thereby making it much cheaper and more accessible for businesses to make the transition to headless early on.
In more general terms we will be focusing on enabling the developer to do much more with less; this is in line with making sure that merchants can take ownership of their commerce setup as developers can help steer the direction and roadmap for your project without relying on us to create the features you need. By creating powerful tools for the developer we enable them to be more efficient and focused in their work. Examples of tools that we are building are; an infrastructure platform so developers don’t have to configure servers and databases, a powerful CLI that automates the redundant tasks developers face, a React component library to make it easy to build storefronts for Medusa, rich documentation that makes it easy to find what you are looking for and much more.
With the core project being open-source we will also be open for contributions from the community making sure that we always have a product that is loved by developers so that they can do more!
We are working hard on completing our infrastructure product so that projects can easily be deployed to the cloud. In the meantime, if you are a developer we encourage you to try out Medusa, you can get up and running within 5 minutes and get a quick overview of what features our platform will bring. Check out the tutorial to get started now.
If you are a merchant looking for a new solution we would love to get in touch and discuss what challenges we can help solve and guide you through our process.