I originally wrote this article in 2015 and decided to update it in September 2018, as both platforms have evolved a lot over the last 2-3 years (including the names) and I was previously focusing on Magento 1.x and Demandware, pre the Salesforce acquisition. The latest version of this article is focused on Magento 2.2.x upwards (including the upcoming 2.3.x release) and Salesforce Commerce Cloud as of September.
Magento vs Demandware (SCC) – Introductory Summary
I’ve included a top-level summary at the top of this article as I’m conscious that some readers won’t want too much detail and will be essentially looking for an overview of the two eCommerce platforms.
Key strengths of Salesforce Commerce Cloud:
- Platform-level support, focused on building a stable, scalable platform
- Very strong native merchandising features
- 1:1-level personalisation across various areas via Commerce Insights / Einstein
- Strong features around managing product catalogs and data
- Strong omni-channel features
- Native a/b testing capabilities for merchandising
- Strong features around internationalisation
Key strengths of Magento Commerce:
- Very strong multi-store capabilities
- Very strong native B2B / wholesale capabilities
- Very agile and lots of strong partners and developers around to support the platform
- Strong features around managing product catalogs and data
- Probably the most mainstream mid-market eCommerce platform in the world
- New, fully integrated content management offering
Overall, I would say Magento 2 Commerce is a very strong, scalable eCommerce platform with lots of native capabilities around merchandising, managing multiple storefronts, internationalisation, B2B and customer segmentation. New features in Magento 2 also include an advanced content management system (Bluefoot – available in Q3 this year), Magento BI (a very strong BI suite), a visual merchandising solution, content scheduling and staging and preview, which are all very valuable features that are built into the core of the platform. It’s worth noting that Magento’s new B2B module is also very strong (they’re largely now considered a leader in this space) and Magento is far more capable when it comes to the B2B side of things. Magento’s new order management solution (separate to the eCommerce platform) is also very impressive and allows for complex multi-site inventory management.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud has comparable offerings in most of these areas and is undoubtedly stronger when it comes to native functionality around merchandising and personalisation, as well as omnichannel capabilities (their order management offering, endless aisle, POS etc). Salesforce Commerce Cloud also provides built-in a/b testing functionality, which can be really powerful – covering things like merchandising logic, promotions, base sorting logic etc. Salesforce Commerce Cloud is most commonly used by fashion and lifestyle brands and it’s offering (advanced merchandising, endless aisle, their POS, internationalisation features, machine learning across core areas and their proven cloud-based solution) is very, very strong for these types of merchants.
Overall though, I’d say that the cost of ownership for Magento is considerably lower and Magento is also ‘easier’ to extend / customise (in terms of costs, time-to-market and available integrations etc). Salesforce Commerce Cloud has the stronger set of native features for some types of merchants, but isn’t suited to B2B. Also, the costs are fixed with Magento, whereas Salesforce Commerce Cloud is based on a GMV-model and merchants can also incur penalty fees.
In terms of scalability, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a lot more proven than Magento 2, but purely because Magento 2 is still very new. Magento 1 had various merchants turning over > $500m online and a handful at > $1bn (be it a far smaller proportion than Salesforce Commerce Cloud / Demandware). The current Magento Commerce Cloud solution is still very new and has some issues, but over time this will become a real contender against Salesforce Commerce Cloud without the GMV model (which may change) and a lower overall cost. The self-hosted Magento 2 Commerce edition is largely stable now (post 2.2.x) and there are plenty of examples of large merchants doing very well using the platform.
What’s changed with both platforms since the first version of this article?
Both platforms have had a huge amount of change since I wrote this piece originally, with Demandware being acquired by Salesforce (now most commonly known as Salesforce Commerce Cloud) and Magento finally releasing Magento 2, a completely new version of the platform, as well as receiving two sizeable rounds of investment.
I would personally say that the biggest change though is the introduction of Magento 2, which had a really poor start due to a huge amount of platform bugs and stability issues. Today, the platform is far more stable (now on version 2.2.2), however, there are lots of merchants out there that have gone through a lot of pain with the system, including countless version upgrades, huge expense in development costs, poor performance and stability and various trading implications – this has really impacted the reputation of the platform, which is obviously sad given the capabilities it has to offer.
But, I would personally say (having been very hands-on with various versions over the last few years) that it is in a much better place and it’s back to being a really strong option for retailers and has a lot of scalability, performance and functional improvements over Magento 1.x. That said, at the time of writing this piece, the newer Cloud Commerce option isn’t quite as proven / stable and most of my experience of the platform hasn’t been particularly positive so far – although I would say that this is likely to be the future of the platform and the thing that helps them to compete against Demandware / Salesforce in the enterprise B2C market.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud has also seen a lot of change, with the introduction and expansion of Einstein (their personalisation engine), various improvements in order management capabilities and the introduction of new endless aisle features. Magento has also introduced a new order management solution as well (Magento Commerce Order Management), which as far as I’ve seen, is very strong and has a lot of potential.
Introduction to Magento Commerce and Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Magento (Commerce / Enterprise Edition) and Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud are two of the biggest names in B2C eCommerce, enabling medium to large retailers to effectively showcase, market and sell their merchandise online. Both platforms power online stores for a number of huge, global brands, including:
- Paul Smith (Magento 1)
- Helly Hansen (Magento 2 Cloud)
- Made.com (Magento 1)
- Nobel Biocare (Magento 1)
- Wrangler (Magento 1)
- Lee (Magento 1)
- Missguided (Magento 1)
- Harvey Nichols (Magento 1)
- Richer Sounds (Magento 2)
- Agent Provocateur (Magento 1)
- Kurt Geiger (Magento 1)
- Fred Perry (Magento 1)
- Hermes (Magento 1)
- Omega (Magento 2)
- Ferrari Store (Magento 1)
Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- American Golf
- Charles Tyrwhitt
- Acne Studios
- Brooks Brothers
- Kate Spade
- New Balance
- Deckers Brands
These are just a few examples of larger merchants – generally, Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud has more household names using the platform (and it’s solely focused on the enterprise retail end of the market), however, Magento Commerce has significantly more stores and are very much focused on the enterprise market now (as well as the B2B segment).
Both solutions are also very different, and if you’re considering using Magento Commerce or Demandware / Salesforce, you need to be aware of their distinctions in order to make the right decision. To help you do that, I’ve put together some points of comparison between the platforms, as well as what (and how much) it would take to get them up and running.
Cloud vs Non-Cloud
The biggest distinction between Demandware and Magento from a technology standpoint historically has been around how they’re hosted, with Demandware being a highly scalable, cloud-based solution and Magento being a self-hosted solution, however, this has now changed.
Magento Commerce is very much focused on their new Cloud solution, which was released in 2016. This new solution has been criticised a lot after facing lots of technical issues initially (largely around agencies not having control / being able to detect issues, general stability and deployments). A lot of these issues have been resolved now, but there is still a bit of a reputation issue and very few fully stable and openly happy merchants. That said, the non-cloud version of Magento Commerce is still available and this is the version that most merchants are opting with.
Demandware has long been cloud-based and fully hosted, which means the task of hosting its technology and services is handled by their internal teams, and not its retailers or the systems integrator / agency. This set up is ideal for merchants who don’t want to handle server maintenance and software updates and it also means that Demandware is in a position to offer an SLA, unlike Magento historically.
Although this comes at a cost, there are obvious advantages to having your eCommerce store hosted by a team of experts who are focused solely on scaling the same technology day in, day out. One of the most frustrating aspects of maintaining a Magento store is the upgrades, which highlights another strength of Demandware in that these would be managed by Demandware.
Cloud-based solutions can, however, curb your freedom when it comes to site customisation and functionality (and generally being agile with technology changes). Since the technology is controlled by Demandware / Salesforce, there are some limitations on the features you can implement and there’s an approval layer, which can add a time overhead to site changes and releases.
The non-cloud version of Magento Commerce, on the other hand, is self-hosted so you would need to setup and manage your own servers (although there are some really good hosting partners out there and most good Magento agencies are equipped to manage this too). You’ll also be responsible for updates and maintenance of the technology, so you’ll either need an in-house team to do this or commission an agency to take care of it for you. The good news is, with Magento, you have a lot more freedom and control over your store as a result of it being self-hosted. Some developers I’ve worked with who have used Magento Commerce Cloud Edition extensively have referenced not being able to diagnose issues as one of the biggest frustrations (as developers are unable to write to the server, restricting capabilities around things like logging etc).
Demandware / Salesforce is widely considered the more scalable of the two platforms (and one of the most scalable and stable on the market) – historically, higher profile Magento websites have been known to collapse at peaks, although this is generally due to the way the infrastructure has been built. Missguided is one of the UK’s largest Magento merchants and they were able to handle over 20,000 concurrent users during Black Friday peaks and other high profile sites do manage high load regularly. Demandware / Salesforce use this as a key selling point and they put a lot of time into ensuring that the platform is able to scale effectively and preparing for key trading peaks and spikes.
Both Magento Commerce and Demandware / Salesforce give you the capabilities to create highly customised, powerful online stores and both are capable of managing large product catalogs, complex data sets and multi-store setups. But there are also some significant differences, especially when it comes to how these capabilities are delivered.
Here are some of the key differences in features for Magento Commerce vs Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
Core selling points of Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Salesforce Commerce Cloud unifies eCommerce, order management, POS and offline store operations in one cloud-hosted solution. It enables you to do business across multiple channels (eCommerce, social, mobile, brick-and-mortar) from a single platform and is widely respected for streamlining operations, sales and fulfilment.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud also lets merchants implement services such as “buy anywhere, fulfil anywhere,” via their order management solution (which was introduced following the acquisition of Mainstreet Commerce) which gives shoppers flexible purchasing options including in-store pickup, ship from store, and more.
Magento Commerce recently introduced their Magento Commerce Order Management solution (MCOM – as mentioned above), which actually really strengthens their offering here – giving retailers a lot more advanced capabilities when it comes to managing multi-location inventory, fulfilment and complex order management. MCOM can be very expensive, but I’ve heard lots of larger merchants talk very positively about it when considering Magento. I also briefly worked with a retailer who used it to service online orders via stock from their physical stores, which was a really impressive setup.
Like Magento, Demandware allows users to manage multiple storefronts from a single back-end, allowing for things like multi-currency, multi-language (and multi-brand etc). This is another strength of Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud, however, it comes with an additional cost for new territories, unlike Magento.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud also supports the ability to manage product data (with such as pricing and long description) separately on each store and it can support billing in native currencies if you’re using a separate storefront – in the same way as Magento. You could also convert pricing on the front-end using a single store, again as with Magento.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud also have integrations with solutions like Global-E included in their LINK marketplace.
In-store integration and endless aisle
Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud has built-in tools that enable in-store associates to engage with customers on the shop floor. Using mobile devices, the in-store staff can assist customers by offering product suggestions and allowing them to view inventory beyond what’s being displayed in the shop. Endless aisle solutions are really popular amongst the types of retailers that Demandware generally target and this is a really nice native feature.
Shopper intelligence, machine learning and personalisation (via Einstein)
Using predictive intelligence, Salesforce Commerce Cloud gathers data and insights into shopper behaviour and uses that information to help retailers personalise offers and customer experiences, which can be really effective. Salesforce Commerce Cloud / Demandware also recently introduced Einstein into the platform, which adds machine learning and 1:1 personalisation into the product grid (as an additional layer to merchandising), product recommendations and search, which is very effective. This is an area where they’re far stronger than Magento, who don’t have any features like this. In order to achieve this in Magento, you would need to use various third parties, such as NOSTO and Klevu.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Support
Demandware provide comprehensive 24/7 support for all merchants, which isn’t just limited to core code issues. This is much stronger than the Magento support, however, it’s factored into the significantly higher licensing fees.
Merchandising & catalog management capabilities
This is one of the big areas that tend to win Salesforce Commerce Cloud deals over other platforms, particularly in the fashion and lifestyle space, which is where almost unquestionably they’re the market leader. Examples of features that they have in this area include:
- Support for product variants (with various options around how products are visible on the front-end and grouped together)
- Advanced visual merchandising
- Ability to schedule tasks (such as the publishing of new products etc)
- Advanced promotions (application at product, shipping and order-level)
- Lots of features around managing products and product types (can handle lots of complexity in this area)
- Einstein is mentioned throughout this article and is adding a lot of value to merchants around personalisation at different levels (whilst also reducing the need for third parties)
In addition to these, here are some other strong features:
- Flexibility around SEO – although there are still technical SEO issues with things like dynamic page handling etc (very similar to Magento)
- Control over redirects (rule-based and page-level)
- Highly configurable in the back end (able to manage things like URL conventions and underlying logic from the admin)
- Allows for rule-based and machine-learned cross-sells, up-sells and product recommendations
- More advanced native search features than Magento
- Very strong visual merchandising capabilities
- Manual and machine-learned product recommendations
- Advanced customer segmentation
- Comprehensive email management
- Lots of platform-level integrations supported by Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- Strong reporting
Core weaknesses of Salesforce Commerce Cloud are largely around B2B (which isn’t a focus for them currently) and content management (which is similar to what Magento provides currently – pre-Bluefoot).
Core selling points and features of Magento Commerce
Magento Commerce has all the features found in the Community version, but lots of additional features, such as:
Like Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento is really strong in this area and supports lots of different product types and configuration and various other aspects of merchandising. Here are some of the key features of Magento in this area:
- Very strong management of simple and configurable products (allowing for the serving of variants on a single configurable product page) – this can also be extended to support things like grand-parent products etc
- Grouped and bundled products out of the box
- Gift card support
- Support for downloadable and virtual products
- Customer segmentation (ability to serve different content to different segments of users
Magento Commerce released a significantly improved visual merchandising solution as part of Magento 2, which is based on the module they acquired previously, but it’s been completely refactored and built into the core. Salesforce Commerce Cloud is stronger in this area, but Magento’s solution is a good base than can be extended if needed.
Magento also provides fairly advanced, rule-based product recommendations, which are generally used across cross-sells, up-sells and related products, but can also be used in other places with the help of a developer. Magento can also overlay customer segments to provide more specific product recommendations, again similarly to Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
Based on my experience with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (which is relatively low), the CMS side of things wasn’t a strong area of the platform. Magento is in the same bracket with this currently (standard WYSIWYG and html management of content and blocks etc) but they acquired Bluefoot (a CMS module developed by Gene Commerce) last year and are building it into the core (for managing content across various different areas). When this has been released, Magento will be stronger in this area (although you can rely more on your developers if needed).
Loyalty, flash sales and VIP programs
Magento Commerce has several features to help you show your best customers how much you value them. There’s Rewards Points, which lets you set up a loyalty program, configure rewards and more. The platform also allows you to hold exclusive shopping experiences such as private and flash sales, through its Private Sales capability.
Additionally, Magento Enterprise offers a number of tools to enhance the shopping experience. These include Store Credits, Multiple Wish Lists, Gift Registry and Gifting Options.
Magento enterprise also has a built-in product reviews platform, which can be customised to provide a strong process – although the OOTB functionality isn’t brilliant.
Return Management Authorization (RMA)
Magento’s RMA module streamlines the returns process. The RMA module has a fairly basic workflow around returns management, but it’s a good starting points and can be extended. The platform also lets you create multiple admin roles, so you can enable or restrict sites and functions depending on the role of each user.
Platform Level Support
Magento Enterprise does come with support, however, it’s nowhere near the level of support that Demandware / SCC would provide. Magento would provide support around serious code issues etc, whereas Salesforce provide full 24/7 platform support, which includes lots of training, preparation around peaks, load balancing etc etc.
Customisation of Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Magento Commerce
The above-mentioned features should give you a better idea of what each platform has to offer natively. That said, just because you can’t find a feature you need with the OOTB version of the platform, both platforms are extremely customisable (a big selling point for both over other platforms). Both platforms have very comprehensive APIs (and developer documentation) and there are lots of existing extensions and integrations available via Magento Marketplace (the new replacement for Magento Connect) and LINK (Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s equivalent). Both of these validate the code quality of the extensions being added (Magento didn’t previously with Connect), which is important.
There are undoubtedly more existing extensions and integrations for Magento Commerce, because it’s such a mainstream platform. If you were to use a non-mainstream ERP system for example, integrating with Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud could cost a large amount of money (depending on the approach to the integration), whereas Magento is more than likely to have an existing integration for the system.
Magento makes it really easy to find third party solutions and add-ons that work on its platform. The company has a massive community and marketplace so you have a lot of options when it comes to the experts, partners, and solution providers.
Similarly, Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud has a good, though much smaller community. It has the LINK Marketplace, which is composed of select Demandware partners that can offer support and value-added services for your store, but it doesn’t compete in terms of modules or number of developers – which is why it doesn’t have the same amount of integrations etc and ultimately higher cost for a lot of retailers. This gives Magento a huge advantage – both in terms of cost and short-term and long-term flexibility (unless budget isn’t really a factor), but this is part of Demandware’s stability selling point as well, as all code being committed is vetted by them.
Pricing / Cost of Ownership of Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Licensing fees for Magento Commerce start at $22,000 per year, not including the website build / development costs (agency / developers). I would say that a Magento Commerce build is likely to be anywhere from $100k – $500k, depending on requirements and complexity etc. The licensing costs, although starting from $22,000 per year can get really expensive though, particularly for B2B merchants. Magento now have tiers, based on online turnover or GMV, which can get really expensive for larger merchants.
With B2B retailers, it’s generally based on a percentage of turnover, which seems to vary based on lots of things, particularly for > $100m turnover businesses. Magento Commerce Order Management is billed separately and can be very expensive, depending on order volumes and complexity. Magento did release Cloud Starter last year, which appears to compete more with Shopify Plus (with licensing costing $2k per month) – this is available to retailers turning over < $5m.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud has a subscription fee plus the company takes a percentage of your sales. Exact numbers aren’t readily available, but according to CPC Strategy, a Demandware customer that has annual sales between $20 million and $500 million (Demandware’s target client) can expect licensing fees starting from around $200,000 and in some cases closer to $700,000 a year and an additional $250,000 to $600,000 a year for other services. I don’t really have much experience with the costs of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, but I need it racks up quickly, which does make sense as they are heavily involved with your business, unlike Magento.
Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud Agencies & Developers
This is the second area where Magento really takes the lead – as there are hundreds of highly qualified agencies and a huge amount of certified, highly experienced developers. These people have a huge amount of experience of working on high-performance Magento 2 stores and they know the platform inside out – whereas there are less highly experienced partners on the Salesforce Commerce Cloud side. Agencies like Astound Commerce though are definitely in this bracket and have won a huge proportion of the UK builds recently – they work with a wide variety of businesses and I’ve heard really strong things about them.
The fees from agencies are also incomparable from my experience – Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud agencies seem to charge a higher rate for all types of services.
The “right” decision on whether to go with Magento Commerce or Salesforce Commerce Cloud hinges on the nature of your business, your priorities and probably most importantly, your budget.
A big factor in your decision lies in the amount of freedom and customisation you need and how agile you want to be. If you don’t want to manage your own infrastructure and you want a really strong, proven cloud-based platform, then Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud is probably the better platform for you. However, if you require a lot of customisation and need complete freedom over your store as well as the add-ons and solutions that you want to work with, then Magento could be a better fit.
Pricing is by far the biggest factor though in my opinion, as Magento Commerce is a considerably more economical choice and is also fixed fee. One thing I would say is that if you’re using Magento at the enterprise-level, you’ll require more in-house knowledge, since you’ll be handling hosting, maintenance and upgrades, among other things. Salesforce Commerce Cloud takes these tasks off your hands, but requires a much larger investment. Also note that Salesforce Commerce Cloud takes a cut from your sales, so if you aren’t comfortable with this pricing model, you’ll want to go with another provider.
If it were me, I’d say Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the more proven option at the enterprise-level, has stronger native capabilities and is definitely the market-leading cloud platform, but it will cost you a lot more and, more than likely, impact your agility around development. This said, I think Magento Commerce Cloud will be a real leader in a couple of years once it’s fully stable and proven.
Good luck, and if you need more information on choosing the right eCommerce platform, feel free to get in touch.