There are thousands of eCommerce platforms in existence globally, with varying native feature-sets, target markets, fee structures, levels of complexity from a technical perspective, levels of support, extensibility etc. Choosing between these platforms is getting increasingly more difficult, with previously obvious choices going through big changes and new innovative solutions entering the market all the time.
This guide is designed to represent a definitive place to find introductory details of mid-level and enterprise-level eCommerce platforms, with information around the market-fit, core selling points and existing presence / market-share. Over time I intend to improve this by adding new platforms and extending the listings to provide more detail and context. I also plan on providing more detailed platform reviews for each of the systems covered in this guide.
Selecting an eCommerce platform
The process of selecting an eCommerce platform can be complex, whether it’s a replatforming exercise for an existing online store or a completely new venture. A comprehensive requirements assessment and definition is essential for most stores, as is a thorough evaluation of the main platforms that sit at the appropriate level within the marketplace, covering core functionalities, integrations, admin workflows and third-party solutions that fit alongside them.
Factors such as whether a platform is hosted, fully SaaS or offered as an on-premise software package, will also come into play, along with licensing structures, TCO breakdowns, the overall partner eco-system, maintenance and support options. If you are looking for more information on selecting an eCommerce platform, here are some other guides I’ve written in the past:
- Magento Commerce vs Shopify Plus
- Writing an eCommerce RfP Document
- eCommerce TCO Guide
- Qualifying an eCommerce Systems Integrator
Magento Commerce (Cloud & On-Premise)
Introduction to Magento Commerce:
Magento Commerce is a widely used eCommerce platform that powers thousands of retail websites across the globe. Magento 2 Commerce is far more geared towards the enterprise end of the market than the previous Magento 1, with a more scalable underlying architecture and a considerably higher cost of ownership.
Magento Commerce boasts a wide range of native features, including an advanced B2B suite, an intuitive content management system (2.3 onwards), advanced merchandising capabilities, customer groups (very integrated with other core features), customer segmentation, range of product types etc.
Magento’s future is uncertain at the moment, following its recent acquisition by Adobe. However, it’s likely to be a good thing and will result in Magento moving further towards the enterprise end of the market, competing against the likes of Oracle, IBM, SAP, Salesforce etc.
Pricing / costing structure: Tiers & GMV-based
Target market: Mid-level & Enterprise, B2B & B2C
Examples of retailers: Paul Smith, Missguided, Helly Hansen, Nobel Biocare, Christian Louboutin, Ford, END Clothing, Made.com
Examples of integration partners: Vaimo, Inviqa, Corra, Astound Commerce, The Pixel
Strengths: Highly scalable, unrivalled range of existing integrations, very open and flexible from a development perspective, additional BI and order management products, vast native features & functionality, huge active developer community, proven at every level of online retail.
Weaknesses: High cost of ownership, open system can cause issues (developers editing the core and heavily customising), high maintenance overheads (to manage security, upgrades, patches etc).
Magento Open Source
Introduction to Magento Open Source:
Whilst the majority of Magento Open Source users are at the SME end of the retail scale, the open source version of the platform has, over the years, attracted some big names too. What has deterred many enterprise clients from using the open source version of the Magento platform has been the lack of professional support available, with users relying exclusively on the community and their integration partner for technical support. This has changed in more recent times as the functionality gap between the two versions has increased.
In terms of functionality, Magento Open Source shares much of its core with Magento Commerce. However, the Open Source version does not include the ability to stage and preview content, the new CMS (page builder), customer segmentation, store credit, RMA or the new B2B capabilities (which are natively available in Magento Commerce from v2.2).
Pricing / costing structure: Free
Target market: Mid-level B2C and B2B
Examples of integration partners: Pinpoint, JH, The Pixel, Limesharp, iWeb
Strengths: Lower cost of ownership, strong core functionality, extensive network of low-cost third-party extensions, community
Weaknesses: High cost of ownership (for smaller retailers), open system can cause issues (developers editing the core and heavily customising), high maintenance overheads (to manage security, upgrades, patches etc), no platform-level technical support.
Introduction to Shopify Plus:
Whilst Shopify has been providing a hosted eCommerce solution to SME retailers since 2004, it took another ten years from that date before the firm entered the mid-enterprise market, with Shopify Plus. Since the launch of Shopify Plus in 2014, the platform has been steadily gaining market share, and is increasingly seen as a real contender, with many former Magento-based retailers moving over to Plus to try a leaner, fully-SaaS-based solution.
Whilst core functionality may be a little pared down in places, when compared with other enterprise platforms, this has some real advantages in terms of maintenance costs and robust and reliable third-party apps can make up for this. Shopify Plus does have some real limitations for complex retailers, but it’s been a bit of a revolution for simple lifestyle retailers and consumer brands, regardless of turnover.
Pricing / costing structure: GMV, with a minimum monthly cost of $2,000.
Target market: Mid-level B2C
Examples of integration partners: WeMakeWebsites, Ryan Foster, Corra, Eastside Co
Strengths: Rapid time to launch, hosted solution means there is no need for in-house hardware or technical personnel, an extensive network of third-party app developers, low cost of ownership, hugely agile platform.
Weaknesses: Weak support for complex product data, less native product types than most platforms, poor native filtering, closed system (which has pros and cons), no native support for multi-store.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud / Demandware
Introduction to Salesforce Commerce Cloud / Demandware:
Rebranded as Salesforce Commerce Cloud after the acquisition of Demandware by Salesforce in 2016, this platform sits very firmly at the enterprise end of the spectrum. As you’d expect from Salesforce, this is a SaaS-based platform, and is hosted in the cloud. Stability, scalability, support and a rich feature set are central to this offering, with Salesforce providing the levels of support that you’d expect from such a big player in the SaaS space.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is arguably the leader in B2C enterprise eCommerce and the level of assurance and platform support provided are generally the biggest selling points for the platform. Some other big pros for Salesforce Commerce Cloud include built-in personalisation capabilities, integrated omni-channel features (e.g. endless aisle and order management), native multi-store support and managed releases.
Pricing / costing structure: GMV
Target market: Enterprise B2C
Examples of integration partners: Astound Commerce, Greenlight Commerce, Inviqa, Tryzens, Blueleaf
Strengths: Scalability, excellent multi-channel functionality, reliable upgrades, strong personalisation functionality. Integrates well with Salesforce’s other cloud-based CRM and marketing services.
Weaknesses: Not always the most intuitive platform to use, high cost of ownership, Salesforce doesn’t allow certain types of integrations, not as agile as some other platforms.
Introduction to SAP Hybris / SAP CX:
With the purchase of Hybris back in 2013, SAP was quicker off the mark than some of its rivals in acquiring an ecommerce platform to fit within its wider offering. Available for both B2C and B2B environments, SAP CX Cloud is a comprehensive omni-channel platform that has strong personalisation features and a robust architecture for scalability and performance.
Like Magento, SAP also have an on-premise version of the platform and the Cloud-based offering is relatively new.
Pricing / costing structure: Quote-based pricing.
Target market: Enterprise B2C and B2B
Examples of integration partners: Greenlight Commerce, Tacit Knowledge, Salmon, SapientRazorfish, Cognizant
Strengths: Very flexible, with huge customisation options. Supports both omni-channel B2C and omni-channel B2B. Comprehensive tools for sales performance tuning, optimised pricing, subscription-based sales etc. Hugely scalable and builds are generally very bespoke to a retailer.
Weaknesses: Again, a steep learning curve is part of the adoption process, very high cost of ownership, not an agile platform (in terms of heavy customisation and time-to-market).
Introduction to Shopware:
Shopware is Germany’s leading mid-market eCommerce platform, with a big market presence in both the B2C and B2C space. Shopware has a very similar native offering to Magento, with core selling points including multi-store capabilities, its native B2B feature-set, advanced features around product catalog management etc.
Shopware is also an open source platform and has a very strong eco-system in the German market. Shopware recently entered the UK eCommerce market and is growing quickly, picking up some good projects (e.g. MyWalit, Hughes.co.uk and The Fish Society) and some strong partners (e.g. Inviqa, Space48 and GPMD).
Pricing / costing structure: Upfront license cost + platform support retainer
Target market: Mid-level & Enterprise, B2B & B2C
Examples of retailers: Khiels, L’Oreal, Euronics, MyWalit, Hughes, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke
Examples of integration partners: Inviqa, Space48, GPMD, Williams Commerce
Strengths: Scalability, native feature-set around catalog management and multi-store, wide range of existing integrations,
Weaknesses: No cloud offering, small market share in the UK, high on-going cost of ownership, rigid to use in places.
Oracle Commerce Cloud
Introduction to Oracle Commerce Cloud:
With both a B2C and a B2B offering, Oracle’s Commerce Cloud pitches itself as a simple solution that is designed to facilitate rapid growth. Whilst it claims to be simple to adopt, it nonetheless has plenty of impressive features, including built-in personalisation, omnichannel features, advanced merchandising capabilities and the ability to integrate with Oracle’s other SaaS offerings such as call centre and EPOS solutions.
Pricing / costing structure: Oracle offers different pricing models, including a percentage of GMV, or tiered pricing.
Target market: Mid-level & Enterprise, B2B & B2C
Examples of retailers: Laura Ashley, Moleskine, Team Sportia, Lenox, Calix, Corello, The Vermont Country Store, Elaine Turner, Rock/Creek
Strengths: Pitching itself at mid-market and enterprise retailers, Oracle Commerce Cloud offers a well-supported and streamlined path for those retailers who are experiencing high growth. A/B testing capabilities are built-in, making it easy for non-technical staff to work on optimisation tasks. Good support for complex product data.
Weaknesses: High cost of ownership, very few native integrations with commonly used third parties, still very new.
Introduction to Cloudcraze:
A little bit different from the other platforms in this list, Cloudcraze is an exclusively B2B offering, built on Salesforce. With support for international and localised sales, subscription-based sales, bespoke and contract-driven pricing strategies, advanced promotions, comprehensive order and catalog management, and a straightforward and intuitive user interface, Cloudcraze is a strong contender in the B2B marketplace.
Pricing / costing structure: Tiered pricing
Target market: Enterprise B2B
Examples of retailers: Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Avery Dennison, Hallmark, Sage, Symantec,
Strengths: Good native functionality suite, making time to launch relatively short. Cloudcraze also fits well into an agile development environment, with iterative optimisation a straightforward process. Likely to be integrated with Salesforce Commerce Cloud which will provide stronger native capabilities.
Weaknesses: Native search and filtering. Reporting is complex. Whilst Salesforce integration is robust, integration with third-party systems is less well-developed.
Introduction to BigCommerce Enterprise:
As with many eCommerce platforms, BigCommerce started life as a solution that targeted the SME market, and it was only in 2015 that BigCommerce Enterprise was launched as a Saas offering. Since then the platform appears to have found a willing customer base, with plenty of big names coming on board.
BigCommerce has a strong market share in the market-market sector in the US and they’re now looking to grow into the European market. BigCommerce is generally compared to Shopify Plus, as they have very similar native feature-sets and essentially have the same proprosition.
Pricing / costing structure: Whilst pricing for BigCommerce Enterprise is not published, it’s generally lower than Shopify Plus and can range from around $500 to $15,000 per month.
Target market: Mid-level B2C (primarily)
Strengths: Strong native APIs, local staging environment, native integrations with social platforms and marketplaces, native WordPress integration (for using WordPress as a front-end), B2B features.
Weaknesses: Not as many large, established retailers as Shopify Plus and it doesn’t have the same eco-system.
Introduction to Sylius:
The fact that Sylius has got some fairly big names under its belt for such a young platform, and with such an unashamedly tech-focussed approach to marketing itself, is perhaps a testament to the platform, or to the enthusiastic team behind it. Built on Symfony, Sylius pitches itself as an eCommerce framework, rather than a platform, and is likely to appeal to developers and forward-thinking IT teams mostly.
Pricing / costing structure: Open source and free to use.
Target market: Mid-level B2C
Strengths: A very lean application, Sylius appears to be extremely fast, with a clean, focused layout in both frontend and backend.
Weaknesses: The technical focus flows throughout Sylius, from its online marketing through to the backend admin area. Not positioned as an end-to-end eCommerce platform so lots of customisation and additional development is needed. Also, not a mainstream platform – integrations etc are likely to need to be built from scratch.
Introduction to Workarea Commerce:
I’ve been stumbling across Workarea a lot recently, as they’re starting to pick up some really big deals and they’re getting mentioned in conversations more and more. Workarea’s core offering is focused on the content and commerce piece and they have some really nice examples of implementations in this area, such as Lonely Planet, which launched recently. Workarea Commerce is built using Ruby on Rails, and is offered as a SaaS platform.
The thing that really caught my eye is their integration partners, with both Demac and BVAccel being well respected in other platform industries. From looking at the platform briefly, key selling points are geared around content management, search, reporting and merchandising.
Pricing / costing structure: Subscription-based, with pricing on application.
Target market: Mid-level & Enterprise, B2B & B2C
Examples of integration partners: BV Accel, Demac Media, Qubik Digital
Strengths: Content management, search and merchandising features, reporting, B2B features.
Weaknesses: Low market presence currently, lack of native integrations with commonly used third parties.
BluCommerce by BluBolt
Introduction to bluCommerce:
Whilst Blubolt is more targeted to mid-level B2C retailers, its bluCommerce eCommerce platform seems to be doing well in the B2B market too, with a number of UK wholesalers on its client list. I’ve worked with bluCommerce on one project and it’s got a relatively strong native feature-set, but has some areas that could be stronger (e.g. the application being cloud-based), but it has some good retailers too and a good, niche offering.
Started in 2006, the bluCommerce system has grown from serving small retailers in Bath, where the company is based, to an established mid-level platform with clients around the world. Based on PHP, and hosted via AWS, bluCommerce has strong features around search, merchandising, customer management, an intuitive cart and checkout and has built integrations with a host of commonly used third-party systems.
Pricing / costing structure: Varies based on build complexity (they build the store) and then licensing is largely based on volume.
Strengths: Solid feature-set with a modern approach to elements like search, direct relationship, recommendation engine, internationalisation and mobile optimisation.
Weaknesses: Proprietary system inherently has some downsides in terms of cost of customisations and integrations, managed via a desktop application.
This is just the first iteration of this guide, we’ll be adding more platforms very soon. New platforms we’re looking to add include:
- Oro Commerce
- Netsuite Commerce