It feels like everyone and their mother have been taking their brick-and-mortar business online lately. They have a good reason to do so. People have changed their shopping habits, and if you want your business to thrive, launching an online store is nearly inevitable.
With a few hundred eCommerce platforms out there, choosing the best one for your business is a real challenge. I analyzed the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce to give you eight eCommerce platforms to choose from that will save you a ton of time to spend watching your favorite series. You’ll also find this list helpful if you already have an online store but are thinking about switching to a different eCommerce platform.
What’s an eCommerce platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software application that enables companies to sell their products and services online and enables consumers to buy them. There’s a lot more to eCommerce platforms than being a marketplace where people buy and sell products and services. Many offer email marketing services, search engine optimization, and other marketing tools to bring you closer to your customers. BigCommerce distinguishes three main types of eCommerce platforms:
All three can be hosted in a cloud environment, but open-source eCommerce platforms can also be hosted on-premise. This means they’re hosted and managed by the retailer and their staff without using third-party providers.
Retail eCommerce platforms you should consider
To be included in The 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce I mentioned above, Gartner required that, “The platform must have out-of-the-box (OOTB) capability or the APIs to support a self-service, interactive commerce experience that includes storefront, product catalog navigation, product pages, shopping cart, check-out, and customer account.
“The commerce product must support OOTB ability to search for a product, add products to a cart, and fully price an order inclusive of product-level, customer-level and order-level discounts or promotions. The commerce platform must support interoperability with customer data, product data, content and order functionality, either natively, via APIs or both.”
With the methodology out of the way, it’s time to look at eight options that'll be the best for your retail business.
commercetools is a SaaS application available on Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s used widely across industries, including retail, manufacturing, life sciences, and more. It targets enterprise-level organizations with an annual gross merchandise value (GMV) of around $250 million. If you’re a large organization with customization requirements, take commercetools into consideration.
With an already strong presence in Europe and North America, commercetools is becoming more popular in other corners of the world because of its API-first, cloud-native, and modular architecture. This helps the company increase the number of customers and revenue in the Asia Pacific region and Latin America.
It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Gartner concludes that, despite modern architecture, it’s getting more challenging to stay in the “Leaders” quadrant because the competitors are bridging the gap. On top of that, the API-first and modular architecture come with a disadvantage. You won’t be able to provide a rich commerce experience until you integrate many apps from different vendors.
Based on the PHP Symfony framework, you can get Shopware as licensed software, SaaS, and an open-source community version. It targets small to medium-sized B2C retail and brand manufacturers and wholesale B2Bs with a GMV of most customers under $100 million annually. The B2B suite is only a part of the Enterprise Edition.
Small to midsize retail businesses looking for a simple, business-user-friendly user interface with a well-integrated search functionality should give Shopware a try. The platform is also continually improving its B2B capabilities, so if you’re looking to provide both B2B and B2C eCommerce, Shopware 6 is the way to go. It supports a wide range of product types, like digital products, services, and subscriptions that you can set up with intuitive configuration wizards.
Similar to commercetools, the architecture can be a hurdle that will be difficult for some to manage. With the monolithic core platform, Shopware emphasizes flexibility via extension over customization. It can be cloud hosted, but it’s not cloud-native. You can work around that with a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) partner, like platform.sh.
With most of its customers in Europe and North America, Spryker’s most important industry segment is B2C retail. When it comes to B2B industries, it’s mostly aimed at brand manufacturing, marketplace operators, and wholesale businesses and distributors.
Those who go big on extensions will be pleased to know that Spryker enables extensibility through single-tenant environments. If you don’t mind limited extensibility, you can also get a multi-tenant SaaS version called SprykerNOW.
While B2C retail is a key industry, Spryker continually invests in B2B functionalities. As a result, the split between B2B and B2C customers is virtually even. If you’re looking for a modular commerce framework for both B2B and B2C eCommerce, you should put Spryker at the top of your list.
Integrations with personalization engines and customer data platforms allow a certain degree of personalization. If you want to give your customers a truly personalized shopping experience that you can customize natively on the platform, you might want to consider other options.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Salesforce's customers can choose between four eCommerce platforms, including B2B Commerce on Classic, B2B and direct-to-consumer (D2C) Commerce on Lightning Experience, and B2C Commerce. The two B2B platforms combine into a single product dubbed B2B Commerce and include personalization, search, and loyalty.
If you already use other Salesforce products and are considering launching an online store, it makes perfect sense to do that with Salesforce. That’s because you can connect those products and customer data. With the B2C platform, you can share products, content, and loyalty across eCommerce sites
Being a global brand, Salesforce and its B2B Commerce on Lightning Experience support over 100 currencies, offer over 100 languages, and integrates with Salesforce Experience Cloud for translations.
If you’re already using other Salesforce clouds, like Sales, Service, and Marketing, you’ll benefit from these integrations and how they’re intertwined. However, new clients who haven’t used these products will have to set up additional integrations, making it more difficult to make the most of the whole Salesforce ecosystem. On top of that, Salesforce still isn’t a fully composable platform, so you might want to look at other vendors if you’re moving towards composable commerce.
Adobe Commerce (Magento 2)
Adobe Commerce, aka Magento 2, is an eCommerce platform with a global presence across numerous industries. Midsized businesses that require heavy customization will have a hard time finding a better option for their eCommerce platform. It’s also a no-brainer for businesses that already use the Adobe suite because they can seamlessly use marketing collateral created with Adobe’s products.
The global presence of Adobe Commerce comes with a substantial benefit. You can find its service partners across all major markets, so you’ll find partners in your local markets if you need to. Adobe Commerce is one of the best options for businesses looking for an eCommerce platform with basic to medium levels of complexity. It offers comprehensive OOTB functionalities, support for multiple user roles, multistores, catalog management, marketplace integration, language, and currencies. All of this is complemented with a modern and intuitive user interface (UI) that supports importing product data and integrating with various data sources and analytics tools.
Adobe Commerce comes with a few downsides too. The core platform is monolithic even though it supports API-first deployment and functions like product recommendations. On another note, if your business registers many orders per second, you might need to run tests or look for benchmarks to confirm that Adobe Commerce can handle your volume of transactions.
Shopify has done a brilliant job with its brand marketing. You say “Shopify,” and I think “eCommerce.” You say “eCommerce,” and I think “Shopify.” Its enterprise platform, Shopify Plus, is a multitenant SaaS platform used chiefly by B2C customers. While most of them are small and medium businesses (SMBs), you shouldn’t overlook Shopify Plus if you’re a larger organization.
If you plan to invest in social commerce, you’ll be pleased to hear that Shopify’s digital wallet, Shop Pay, is available on Facebook and Instagram. With its point-of-sale (POS) system aimed at retail businesses, Shopify Plus merges in-person and offline shopping into an omnichannel customer experience, giving you access to features like:
- Customizable checkout
- Inventory management
- Unified reporting
- Limitless catalog
While Shopify has been trying to accommodate B2B businesses, this part of the platform can make you feel like you’re exploring uncharted territory. Ask for relevant case studies before you invest your resources into making Shopify home for your online retail business. You have to be mindful of the total cost of ownership, too. Many enterprise customers say they need additional features not included in the basic Shopify Plus plan. Your costs will also vary depending on your negotiated multiyear term.
VTEX supports B2B and B2C commerce with customers in many industries. Retail is the most significant. VTEX customers are primarily small businesses, but this eCommerce platform is also getting more recognition from enterprise customers with a GMV of over $50 million.
VTEX has made four acquisitions in the last two years, including a social selling platform and an AI-powered search, product suggestion, and storefront personalization engine. Because of that, it’s become an interesting option for businesses looking for a modular SaaS eCommerce platform.
The company has been investing heavily in its product with 5,400 updates in 2020 alone. That includes adding intelligent search and personalization, a headless content management system, and a low-code and serverless development platform for building platform extensions, custom applications, and integrations.
On the flip side, if you’re not a fan of AWS, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise because the VTEX Commerce platform is only available on that cloud platform. Although it’s been getting more and more large customers, some prospects will have a hard time finding reference customers in their industries. The fact that most VTEX clients are based in Latin America won’t be helpful to leads coming from different regions either.
Hosted on the Google Cloud Platform, BigCommerce focuses on SMBs with a GMV of under $50 million. It serves large enterprises with over $100 million GMV, too. With most of its customers based in the U.S., BigCommerce has grown into one of the top alternatives for B2B and B2C companies looking for a cloud-native eCommerce platform that can be customized with APIs.
Because of headless architecture, customers can build custom storefronts and extensions. They can also use pre-built connectors for leading CMSs, digital experience platforms, and other pre-built integrations. On top of that, BigCommerce offers more than 20 payment integrations, enabling, for instance, social commerce with a single check out on Instagram.
Some enterprise-level B2B prospects will find BigCommerce’s capabilities too basic. Because of that, it might be challenging to see how this platform will suit their needs. Even though I mentioned that the company has large businesses in its portfolio, they’re a minority. If you’re an enterprise determined to launch its retail eCommerce platform on BigCommerce, you can ask for customer references.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform
Choosing an eCommerce platform for your online business is like finding the perfect spot for your retail store. Open it in a good location, and you’ll see your business thrive. Miss the mark, and you’ll end up out of business before you realize it. Make sure you choose a platform in line with your specific business needs. If you feel like you need more guidance, reach out and tell us more about your project.
Published June 2, 2022