As ecommerce has boomed over the past two decades, so has the ecosystem around it.
Hundreds of companies that sell products and solutions to ecommerce companies are in operation around the world, helping these platforms to provide smoother experiences to customers.
If your company has a need that can be filled with software, there’s probably a provider. You just have to identify which is best for your specific needs.
For business owners, building a bespoke platform that is scalable and malleable is hard — really hard. Only the biggest enterprise companies can develop their own in-house solution.
For the vast majority of sellers, they rely on third-party vendors to build their platform. There are solutions for every part of your own online store, including most ecommerce functionality like search engine optimization, logistics and payment methods.
As mentioned above, building a platform is very resource intensive. The biggest companies (Amazon, Target, etc.) have the resources to build significant parts of their platform themselves, if they so choose.
However, these come with massive expenses, both in development and ongoing maintenance. Most startups or even established businesses can find it more cost-efficient to out-source some or all of their ecommerce operations.
Developing a fully optimized ecommerce platform can take years of refinement — years that other solutions have already taken on. A good ecommerce software solution is designed with the customer in mind and has undergone years of improvements to create the ideal customer experience, from browsing to the shopping cart.
For most companies, this is the better option for providing a user experience that encourages buyers to make a purchase now and and in the future.
Not every ecommerce software solution is right for your needs. Some features may be absolutely necessary and some may be disposable. However, these are some key features that you’ll likely need to consider during your selection process.
If things go well and your ecommerce business takes off, how well can your ecommerce platform react to increased sales? Can it handle sudden increases in traffic? What about a flurry of purchases? Can your logistics solution manage a significant increase? A good platform should be able to scale easily to future proof yourself against your own success.
Your platform should be easy to work with, for customers, developers and content authors alike. Removing unnecessary complexity means your ecommerce site continues to move at the speed of business and you’re able to keep up with online shopping demands.
Conversions depend in part on an easy checkout experience on par with in-person point of sale (POS) experiences. Your payment software should accept multiple methods and make for a good customer experience and enable buyers to essentially drag-and-drop.
On your end, it should also collect valuable data that can be used to re-engage customers and help turn them into return purchasers, such as implementing abandoned cart recovery.
SEO is vital to modern marketing. Interested customers should be able to easily find you and uninterested customers should be made aware of you. Search engines consider things like keywords and metadata of course, but the on-page experience matters as well.
A good platform will load pages quickly and encourage users to surf the site, not just a single page.
Legacy systems have to always be considered when onboarding a new platform. It may not be reasonable or efficient to rip up your existing infrastructure, so how a new ecommerce solution fits into your tech stack is highly important, such as your shopping cart software or other modules.
There may also be additional optimization work to keep your ecommerce store working as well as it can.
Ecommerce is now a mobile-first industry, with 73% of purchases coming from a mobile device.
Your solution must be able to work well with any Apple or Android device (through apps and mobile-specific web pages) and give customers a superior experience on par with a desktop version. App stores are increasingly becoming ecommerce havens.
For many SMBs, including web hosting as part of an ecommerce solution saves time and money. The simplicity of packing the solution and hosting services into one system makes standing up the store and maintaining far less burdensome. This is ideal for companies looking to get their store on the market as soon as possible.
Most successful online businesses aren’t using a single sales channel. Social, third parties and wholesalers are all effective ways to sell products and a quality ecommerce platform will simplify this process.
From one database, you’ll be able to start email marketing campaigns and sell on Facebook, Amazon and your own site, while managing everything from a single solution.
Technology can be complicated. Things will likely break. That’s why you need a vendor that will support you as needed. Having a mature knowledge base and responsive customer support agents mean less downtime and more sales.
Ecommerce solutions come in a variety of forms and are flexible enough to fit in with your existing tech stack. Your own requirements and how comfortable you are with automation will dictate what is most effective for you.
An open-source solution provides all the materials needed to build your own platform, but you have to do the assembly. These platforms are highly customizable and can be bent to do anything reasonable, but they also require a certain level of skill and expertise to deploy and manage. This can even include plug-ins.
Self-hosted software is purchased from a third party, but is hosted by the ecommerce company on their own on-premise servers. This gives them full control of real-time data and security, but also comes with higher burdens for maintenance and costs.
A SaaS is a cloud-hosted application in which the software is delivered through the internet. This is often found with ERPs, payment processors or PCI compliance. There’s little maintenance work on the client side and most SaaS work well within even complicated tech stacks.
A PaaS delivers cloud components to certain applications, providing a framework for developers to work off of. Instead of a specific software, PaaS provides the building blocks to streamline the development of multiple applications that can be run simultaneously.
In a headless approach, an ecommerce platform’s frontend and backend are decoupled from one another, with each existing as its own system before being integrated with the other. This offers maximum flexibility to bring a bespoke approach to a store.
There are hundreds of ecommerce software providers in the market, from all-in platforms to more limited functionality. It’s vital to have a full understanding of what your needs are and why you need it before making a selection.
A simple builder may be all you need, or you may need something more complex. These are some of the most common vendors currently on the market:
BigCommerce boasts a comprehensive suite of tools from marketing to analytics, high-caliber design options and plenty of support from industry pros. It’s considered a leading open SaaS ecommerce platform for companies of all sizes, and many small businesses can benefit from what BigCommerce offers.
With all the advantages of a SaaS platform and the flexibility of an open-source platform, BigCommerce can meet a variety of business needs, whether you’re looking to have more or less control over your platform.
Intuitive, built-in features.
Provides more than 65 payment solutions (like Paypal or foreign currencies), 600 app partners, unlimited bandwidth and zero transaction fees.
Expert, 24/7 customer service.
Platform lock-in, with migration and export costs.
Small (but growing) app marketplace.
Expansive product and inventory management systems can lead to an inundation of information.
Formerly known as Demandware, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a scalable SaaS option that enables businesses to manage their sales in digital and physical channels with one unified solution.
It provides a suite of related services that can complement the ecommerce offering, though it may require previous programming and web development expertise.
Offers options for B2B, B2C and B2B2C businesses.
Provides automatic, seamless upgrades without disrupting business processes.
Sophisticated AI technology helps to ensure in-depth, insightful data.
Often expensive — an implementation can easily cost more than $250k.
Merchants face additional obstacles and costs if they choose a third-party over Salesforce's add-on services.
The platform itself is complex, which can make implementation challenging and time-consuming for beginners.
Shopify has a strong market presence in the ecommerce space, and in 2014, they launched Shopify Plus as their solution for enterprise clients.
As a SaaS solution, the Shopify platform offers the benefits of handling PCI compliance and security and solid uptime stats. The platform is easy to use, has mobile-friendly designs and a customizable checkout.
A leader in the market with significant experience, hosting over a million stores globally.
More than 4,100 integrated apps to help you add additional features and functionality to your online store.
Over 70 available professional and responsive themes to design your website.
Built for smaller catalogs, with a 100 SKUs per product cap.
Lack of scalability, with a built-in 3 option limit per product.
Limited customization for product and content pages.
Formerly known as Magento, Adobe Commerce offers real-time inventory control, SEO features, marketing automation tools and multi-store functionality.
To use Adobe Commerce, you will likely depend heavily on designers and developers as well as expensive maintenance and support, which can make it difficult to calculate your total cost of ownership.
Pre-built integrations with Adobe software.
Offers thousands of extensions in its marketplace, ranging from $0 to $15,000.
Supports Progressive Web Applications (PWAs).
Lacks automatic feature and version updates.
Has an extremely extensive setup, which can lead to high costs to complete builds.
The platform has a history of security breaches and vulnerabilities.
Located initially in Germany, commercetools is a SaaS-based, headless ecommerce platform that has expanded worldwide.
Its platform is built on powerful MACH architecture — microservice-based, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless..
Offers services for B2B, B2C and D2C.
Provides extensive developer tools to allow customization.
Simplified maintenance, scaling and adding of features.
Only provides code samples and architecture insights for emails, and the email service must be developed by the merchant.
Small ecosystem of partners.
Less than half of the integrations are pre-built.
A good ecommerce software solution can make or break your online store. Done correctly, it enables businesses to grow and provide a user-friendly experience. A poor vendor choice or integration, however, can push customers away.
Taking a thoughtful approach and fully understanding your challenges and the value propositions of these platforms will greatly increase your chances of success.
Long a popular solution in the small-to-medium business space, BigCommerce has recently become a popular choice for mid-market and enterprise businesses as well.
It has a straightforward dashboard, top-rated SEO, many native features and the advantages (like lower TCO and reduced deployment time) that come from SaaS.
BigCommerce has highly flexible APIs and a strong headless commerce offering (more on that shortly).
BigCommerce offers a personalized Enterprise Customer Onboarding, catalog transfer services and robust educational resources to ease the replatform process.
Enterprise Account Managers and Technical Account Managers also provide additional resources and personalized help to support BigCommerce Enterprise clients’ needs.
BigCommerce also has a large team of partners and agencies who are experts on the platform and can assist with design, development and SEO needs. Because the platform has more native functionality, the learning curve may be more difficult than with some simpler platforms available.
However, BigCommerce University offers specialized training — on campus, on-site and on-demand — that can get you and your team up-to-speed on the platform quickly.
Absolutely. The only difference between digital and physical goods is how they’re delivered. That step will differ from other companies, but a quality ecommerce platform will allow you to deliver digital goods easily.
Sometimes, depending on how complex your store is. If you’re a small business all you need is a basic storefront with basic ecommerce features to sell a few products using only credit cards, a novice understanding should suffice.
If you’re entering enterprise territory with a large number of SKUs or complex logistics, a developer may be needed.