Paul Rogers

eCommerce, Digital & Magento Consultant

June 14th

An introduction to Shopware & Shopware Enterprise

Shopware is an enterprise-level eCommerce platform, well-known for having the most live stores in Germany and also for powering some of the largest online stores in the market. Having grown to aurgably market-leading status in it’s native Germany, Shopware is now starting to enter new European territories and is making big strides in the UK.

Whilst talking with merchants looking to replatform, I’ve been seeing more and more demand for Shopware, so I thought I’d write an introductory overview of what I’ve learnt about the solution so far. I also recently attended the Shopware Community Day, which allowed me to learn more about the system and quiz a few of their product managers on core features and capabilities.

This article is focused on Shopware 5 Enterprise, but there are also three other versions of the platform, which come with a lower cost and less out of the box features and modules. Shopware 5.2 is the current release, with Shopware 5.3 (in alpha) coming later this year. The enterprise version of Shopware is powering their larger stores, which include Euronics (over 450 storefronts), Khiels, Grohe, Overstock, Borussia Dortmund Football Club and various other well-known brands. The other versions are Shopware Community (free version, similar to Magento Community Edition), Shopware Professional and Shopware Professional Plus.

Shopware is proven and highly capable of scaling at an enterprise-level, with some existing customers handling huge traffic peaks and uplifts in orders. Some of the features that support this scalability include a varnish cache, built-in usage of Apache JMeter (ability to create replica environments for scaling), clustering tools and the on-going platform support you get as part of the licensing with Shopware Enterprise. The reduced input needed from the merchant around scaling is something that Shopware see as a key differentiator, similar to platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware). Shopware also has the ability to add servers for specific tasks, which allows for further scale and better response times.

Just to set the scene, a few of the core features from Shopware that really impressed me include:

– Market-leading CMS solution
– Out of the box multi-warehouse support
– Advanced search and category merchandising capabilities
– Very, very impressive B2B and dealer integration modules (additional cost)
– Good multi-store functionality (similar to Magento)
– Lots of features around performance and scalability
– Very strong platform-level technical support (as part of an on-going support cost)
– Various out-of-the-box marketing features (affiliate program, loyalty program, abandoned carts, comprehensive reporting etc)

These are some of the things that really caught my eye around Shopware Enterprise, but I’m going to start providing more detail on some of the core benefits / features that Shopware has to offer:

Product catalog management and merchandising

Most of the features around catalog setup and management are similar to Magento, in terms of the core product types (simple product, configurable product, bundled product etc). The simple > configurable management is slightly different, in that they’re referred to as variants (can still be stock managed and have different prices, images etc) and managed at a product-level (just create variants). The product setup looks straightforward and the standard fields are again, very similar to Magento. The CSV import / export is also similar and appears to be stable.

The merchandising capabilities in Shopware are very similar to Magento Enterprise, in that you can create rules based on attributes (or articles / components as they’re referred to in Shopware) to automate the process. This essentially means that you can use the data that is being used in attributes to boost different products based on the criteria set – so it could be that you promote your own-brand products above other brands, or products with a higher margin over drop-shipped items. These are just a few examples, but rule-based merchandising is certainly useful for merchants with larger stores.

Shopware’s search is a big strength for them, particularly over the search solutions from Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Although the under-lying technology doesn’t necessarily match some of the premium solutions on the market, they have a huge amount of strong features out of the box and the default look and feel is also very strong. The Enterprise search solution allows for very advanced rule-based merchandising, indexing of lots of different types of content (e.g. products, blog posts, CMS pages, categories etc) and various other features around managing synonyms and individual keywords.

Content & Commerce / Shopware Shopping World

Shopware’s CMS / Shopping World is likely to be the biggest selling point for a lot of retailers – allowing users to create highly flexible content pages with all of the core components they could possibly need. A user can drag and drop things like products, product blocks, banners, videos, content blocks, blog posts, guides, carousels etc and create a completely custom layout – this is something that will definitely appeal to people either using or looking to use a Hybris solution (e.g. Magento + Drupal).

The screenshot below shows how a product stream is used to provide a list of products as a collapsable overlay, over a banner image. Shopware also has a built-in blog, which provides all of the core blogging features. It’s not on the same level as WordPress, but it’s a really good, simple starting point.

Third-party integrations

Due to their presence in Germany, Shopware already have a lot of existing integrations with popular third party solutions, but more with the international systems (as opposed to solely UK-based companies). Some examples of popular / common integrations that already exist include SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, NOSTO, dotmailer, Stripe, WordPress, PayPal, Klarna, Ingenico, Skrill, Avalara, Adyen, Braintree and Worldpay.

In addition to existing third party integrations, Shopware also have various APIs that allow for custom integration with other systems. Again, the support from Shopware can help here as they will be able to advise around custom third party integrations.

Support

Shopware’s support offering is very different to Magento, in that you pay a monthly fee for application support, which can be used by the systems integrator or your internal team. The support offering is far more of a pro-active, enterprise-level relationship focused on making your store scalable and ensuring that it runs in an optimum way. Based on the conversations I’ve had with Shopware merchants and agencies, the support is one of the biggest selling points of Shopware Enterprise, due to the speed and quality of the technical support.

As part of your Shopware Enterprise license fee you’d have an assigned Technical Account Manager, who would be able to support general queries, as well as just issues and Shopware queries.

If you were to launch a Shopware Enterprise store, you’d generally have a BAU / development support retainer with the development agency, as well as the platform-level support with Shopware. For enterprise-level retailers, I think this level of support is important and it seems that they’re trying to be more in-line with someone like Salesforce Commerce Cloud (different business model entirely – based on shared revenue), with the level of support provided (as opposed to Magento).

Shopware Dealer integration

Shopware’s dealer integration module (comes at an additional cost to the enterprise license) is a very strong solution, essentially allowing for a merchant to create and manage storefronts for resellers and drop-shippers. Euronics is a good example of a Shopware merchant that uses this functionality, managing hundreds of supplier relationships – with the resellers using a unified product catalog and functionality, with Euronics then managing individual elements such as price, availability etc.

This is something that the other platforms wouldn’t offer out of the box and I would say it has potential to meet a lot of needs that would’ve previously required heavy customisation. You can read more about the dealer integration here.

Customer streams

Customer streams are essentially very similar to customer segments in Magento – allowing for customer segments to be grouped via set attributes (e.g. gender, amount spent etc) as well as criteria that can be defined and assigned automatically.

For example you could set a customer stream filter for users who have completed a purchase via a mobile device and are younger than 30. New users who then meet these criteria or existing customers who newly meet these criteria will then automatically be added to the customer stream.

Users can then assign different templates, banners etc and limit the use of vouchers, newsletters and promotions to different customer streams. This is a very good feature that is very easy to use in Shopware. You can also report on these customer streams.

B2B capabilities

Shopware’s B2B module comes at an additional cost (even for enterprise users), however the features included are stronger than a lot of the competitor solutions. Things like customer groups and assigning different pricing, availability, promotions etc at this level are out of the box Shopware, however more advanced capabilities that are available within the B2B module include:

– Customer budget management – each B2B customer would have the ability to set a budget (daily, weekly, monthly, annual, fiscal or custom) and order against that number (with reporting and order prevention) – they can then also set ordering and budget limits against individual members of the team.
– Full B2B API available for integrations with third parties (ERP, OMS, WMS etc)
– Private shopping
– Ability to create and use different themes at a customer level
– Ability to create individual stores at a customer level
– Quotations

Product Streams

Product streams allow users to group different products based on a set criteria – e.g. you could create a group for Nike mens trainers that are under £150. These groups of products can these be used for a number of things, such as:

– Creating categories – creating a pre-defined selection of products based on the product streams (e.g. the red Nike shoes category could be a single product stream that could then also be used for cross-sells and other promotions)
– Up-sells and cross-sells – creating collections of products that can be quickly and easily used for product recommendation blocks (e.g. the red Nike shoes example above)
– Reporting – looking at performance of a set group of items

Product streams can be used across the store, as per the screenshot below.

Category merchandising and filtering options

Shopware Enterprise 5.3 allows for advanced, rule-based merchandising – which can be conducted via pre-set rules or manually created rules (based on chosen attributes). The pre-set rules could be something like most popular, best-selling, recently added etc, whereas a custom rule could be something like items between £100 and £200 by Nike.

These rules can be assigned a boosting score, which then dictates where these items appear and how they’re promoted across a single category or a group of categories.

Custom products

Shopware also provides custom products, which are essentially very flexible and advanced configurable products, but more for things like personalised items. The custom products allow for lots of options and inputs, which can either be presents on the product detail page or via an overlay.

These products can be created with a custom user journey to make the customisation process much cleaner and easier. You can also assign additional costs to the options, as well as different images and swatches.

Promotions

Shopware’s advanced promotions features allows for very advanced promotions, which can also be used in combination with each other. You can attach very specific rules against different products, customers and once a customer has achieved a certain status. An example of a promotion that could be ran could be 50% off a pair of Nike trainers for a customer who has previously purchased the same pair of Nike trainers. Or it could be that the Nike trainers are reduced by 30% if the customer already has a pair of Nike trainers in their basket.

Shopware also has a built-in loyalty program, which can be customised to provide different levels of bonus points against different customers and products. All of this can be managed within the Shopware admin interface.

Managing multiple storefronts

Shopware have a very similar setup to managing multiple storefronts as Magento, allowing for a hierarchical setup and management of different aspects of the stores at a global or individual storefront level. Shopware provides a single login for the management of all of the different stores you have, which could be different brands, international storefronts, B2B / B2C stores etc. You could also have a centralised login for multiple client stores. There are two routes for this which would be to use a client account (manage multiple instances) or subshops (children shops for a parent store)

A subshop is essentially a variant of a main shop, whereas a separate shop could have a completely separate catalog, tax rules, delivery methods etc.

Different users can also be given access to individual stores or all stores, depending on the rights you set. This would allow for admin users to be only given access to the store they’re responsible for, for example.

Marketing features

Shopware also has a number of out-of-the-box marketing capabilities, which include:

– Affiliate programs – This allows merchants to create a simple affiliate program, where they can create affiliates with individual codes, commission structures and amounts, different cookie details etc
– Loyalty program – Shopware also has a loyalty program which provides the ability to manually set the number of loyalty points there are rewarded based on different items, customer groups, behaviour etc
– Product reviews – Shopware also has a built-in product review program
– Reporting – Shopware also has a number of very helpful reports, providing comprehensive detail around products sold, acquisition channels, customer information, search and various other things. Shopware also track on-site behaviour.

Snippets

I would say that this isn’t a core feature, but it’s something that I was really impressed with in contrast to other platforms. The snippets section in the admin area allows admin users to change the name of different snippets across the site, such as the “my account” heading or the “buy now” button. This is a very simple thing, but it could be really handy.

Hosting a Shopware store

Like Magento (aside from the relatively new Enterprise Cloud Edition), Shopware is a self-hosted solution, which means that you will need to host the application yourself (as opposed to something like Salesforce Commerce Cloud or Shopify, which are hosted solutions). There are various reputable hosting companies around though, such as Peer1 (official hosting partner), UKFast (official hosting partner) and several AWS-based offerings via other companies.

There are also lots of large Germany hosting companies who are equipped to host UK-based stores, but due to support, you’re probably better off working with one of the Shopware UK hosting partners.

Shopware + Pickware

Pickware is Shopware’s ERP module, which is developed by a third party team, but is essentially a built-in, optional ERP solution. Pickware appears to be a pretty good SME, ERP solution and also provides a POS and mobile solution, which also looks good. Pickware ERP comes free of charge and allows for multi-warehouse, advanced stock management and all of the other core functions you’d expect from an ERP. The point of sale solution is billed as a monthly fee, as is the mobile solution.

Pickware is less likely to be needed for larger stores, which likely have an existing ERP system to integrate with.

UK Shopware agencies & partners

I actually wrote a lot of this article at the Shopware Community Day, which took place in Germany and brought 1,600 Shopware users and partners togethers. I was joined by a number of familiar faces from the UK eCommerce space, namely GPMD, Inviqa, Astound, PushOn and OneCreations. I think that the quality of the new parters for Shopware in the UK show how strong the platform is. All of the new UK partner agencies are established in the eCommerce field and have experience in delivering large projects with other platforms.

I think Shopware have done really well to bring some very highly regarded partners in early on and from what I’ve seen from GPMD, which I previously co-owned, they’ve provided excellent training and support.

I’ve recently started working with Shopware and I’ve been really impressed so far. If you have any questions around any of the areas I’ve discussed above, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Paul is an experienced eCommerce Consultant, specialising in working with the Magento platform. Paul works with online retailers and product companies from all over the world and is focused mainly on helping merchants get more from the Magento platform and growing stores (customer acquisition, customer experience, strategy etc).

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