I originally wrote this article in 2015 and decided to update it in January 2019, 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 2.3 and Salesforce Commerce Cloud as of January.
Magento vs Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware) – 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:
- SaaS-based, fully managed multi-tenant platform – platform maintenance, servers / infrastructure, upgrades, security patching etc managed by Salesforce
- Very strong native merchandising features
- New page builder solution about to be released – designed to give merchants more control over templates and content
- 1:1-level personalisation and machine learning applied across various areas via Commerce Insights / Einstein
- Strong features around managing multiple product catalogs and complex product data
- Strong omni-channel features (e.g. order management, endless aisle etc)
- Built-in a/b testing capabilities for merchandising
- Native features around internationalisation (native multi-currency, multi-language + multi-store capabilities)
Key strengths of Magento Commerce:
- Very strong, built-in multi-store capabilities (no additional costs and well-suited to B2B / wholesale, as well as international and multi-brand)
- Very strong native B2B / wholesale capabilities (even stronger since new module launched in 2.2)
- Infinitely scalable (could be considered a pro and a con, but Magento can be heavily customised, unlike most SaaS platforms)
- Unrivalled eco-system of partners and developers to support and develop the Magento platform
- Strong features around managing product catalogs and data
- Probably the most mainstream mid-market eCommerce platform in the world
- Integrated content management offering (via Page Builder, which was recently released in 2.3)
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 (Page Builder – launched at the end of 2018, as part of the 2.3 release), Magento BI (a very strong BI suite), a visual merchandising solution, content scheduling and the ability to stage content, 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. Although I’ve not worked with it yet, Magento also released a multi-source inventory solution in 2.3, which is a good direction for the platform.
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 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 likely to be 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 true GMV-model (based on initial commits) 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 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 and should remain in a lower overall cost bracket.
The on-premise 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, such as END Clothing, Helly Hansen, Sugarfina, Paul Smith and HP.
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 being acquired by Adobe – as well as also releasing Magento 2, which was a completely new version of the platform.
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 2.3), however and 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 as the on-premise version 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), the acquisition of Cloudcraze (which is likely to see a combined entry into the B2B eCommerce space, where they’ve been weak historically) and various improvements in order management capabilities. Magento also introduced an 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.
Magento has also recently been acquired by Adobe, which so far looks to be a positive thing – with lots of larger merchants moving onto the platform and a much bigger focus on the mid-market and enterprise spaces, as well as B2B. Adobe have already started working on integrations with their core set of products and Magento will likely have some form of relationship with Adobe Experience Cloud in the near future (with an integration with Adobe Experience Manager also due to be released soon).
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 2)
- 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)
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 / SaaS vs On-Premise
The biggest distinction between Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Magento from a technology standpoint historically has been around how they’re hosted, with Salesforce Commerce Cloud representing a highly scalable, cloud-based Software-as-a-Service eCommerce platform and Magento most commonly being used as an on-premise, self-housed eCommerce platform. Salesforce Commerce Cloud has remained the leader when it comes to SaaS-based eCommerce and it was the original multi-tenant cloud platform targeting the mid-market and enterprise.
This said, Magento Commerce are very focused on their new-ish cloud-based PaaS solution, which was released in 2016 – however it’s provided as a hosted version of the on-premise version, not as a SaaS. The new solution has been criticised a lot, after a relatively bumpy start – 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 on-premise version of Magento Commerce is still available and this is the version that most merchants are opting with – e.g. END Clothing, Paul Smith, Made.com (launching soon).
Salesforce Commerce Cloud has long been a cloud-based platform provided as a fully-hosted SaaS, which means the overheads around hosting its technology and managing the associated services is handled by their internal teams, and not the retailer or integration partners. This set up is ideal for merchants who don’t want to handle server maintenance and software updates and it also means that Salesforce Commerce Cloud are in a position to offer an SLA and various guarantees, unlike Magento. There’s a big movement to SaaS currently, with other platforms like Shopify Plus, BigCommerce, SAP CX Commerce Cloud all targeting this space.
Although this comes at a cost, there are obvious advantages to having your eCommerce store hosted by the platform thier team of experts. One of the most frustrating aspects of maintaining a Magento store is the upgrades, which highlights another strength of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, as this is all managed by the platform.
SaaS eCommerce platforms can, however, curb your freedom when it comes to customisation and bespoke functionality (and generally being agile with technology changes) – this comes as a result of the platform being maintained and served for a wide range of customers and the business needing to create a solid solution that allows them to meet their SLAs and not have to worry about heavy customisation to the core etc. Since the technology is controlled by Salesforce, there are some limitations on the features you can implement and there’s an approval layer for new code and modules, which can add a time overhead to site changes and releases.
The on-premise version of Magento Commerce, on the other hand, is self-hosted so you would need to set up 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 an agency to take care of it for you. With Magento, you do have a lot more freedom and control over your store as a result of it being an on-premise, open software.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud has historically been considered the more scalable of the two platforms (and one of the most scalable and stable on the market) – in the past, higher profile Magento websites have been known to struggle with peaks, although this comes down to the open nature of the Magento platform, which can be endlessly customised etc. If you build an enterprise-level infrastructure and approach Magento in the right way, it’s certainly proven at scale – 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 (as one example). Scale is the biggest selling point for Salesforce Commerce Cloud use – with their team having a big focus on ensuring that all of their customers are able to scale effectively and preparing for key trading peaks and spikes is key for them.
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 (previously POS via acquisition, but I believe this isn’t supported anymore) and offline store operations in one SaaS solution. The platform’s proposition is heavily focused on enabling retailers 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 at scale.
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. They also now have integrations with social channels and marketplaces, just like Magento does.
Magento Commerce recently introduced their Magento Commerce Order Management solution (MOM – 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, multi-channel fulfilment and complex order management. MOM 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, Salesforce Commerce Cloud 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 things such as pricing, product availability and long description) separately on each store and it can support various payment and billing complexities – 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.
Commerce Insights – machine learning, in-line reporting and personalisation via Einstein
Salesforce Commerce Cloud gathers data and insights into shopper behaviour via Einstein and uses that information to personalise product ordering and product recommendations. Einstein provides both 1:many machine learning and 1:1 personalisation in the product grid (as an additional layer to merchandising), product recommendations and search, which is great and something that most would use a third party for with Magento. If you’re using a DXP (digital experience platform) like Adobe Experience Manager, Bloomreach etc then you probably won’t need this – but if you’re just using the Commerce platform, Magento retailers would need to look at a solution like Monetate, Rich Relevance, NOSTO etc.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Support
Salesforce Commerce Cloud 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. Salesforce Commerce Cloud also handle all core upgrades and aspects like security patches, which is very compelling to a lot of retailers.
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 complex product types (e.g. parent <> child, grouped, subscription etc)
- Advanced visual merchandising
- Ability to schedule tasks (such as the publishing of new products etc)
- Advanced promotions (application at product, shipping and order-level)
- Ability to create multiple catalogs
- Einstein is mentioned throughout this article and provides various layers of personalisation across the platform
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 (transactional emails etc)
- Lots of platform-level integrations supported by Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- Strong reporting (including in-line reporting via Einstein)
Core weaknesses of Salesforce Commerce Cloud are largely around B2B (which isn’t a focus for them currently) and content management (which is going to be fixed via their new content management module).
Core selling points and features of Magento Commerce
Magento Commerce has all the features found in the Open Source / 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 native product types (including simple, configurable, grouped, bundles, gift card, virtual and downloadable)
- Ability to customise product types and logic (e.g. if you wanted to achieve subscription bundles)
- Ability to assign different levels of logic against different customers (via customer groups)
- Customer segmentation (ability to adapt various aspects of the front-end to different segments of users)
- Native visual merchandising
- Content staging and preview
- Scheduled publishing (which can be used across lots of different properties, e.g. promotions, new product, content changes etc)
Magento Commerce 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.
Content management is a newly strong area for Magento, following the recent release of Page Builder in 2.3 – this allows for component-based management of content across different templates and blocks. This is a huge improvement to Magento and, based on my experience, it’s really good. This can also be customised so that merchants can make use of custom and pre-built components.
This is an area where Salesforce Commerce Cloud has also been historically weak – although a lot of their merchants would opt to use a DXP or CMS layer via something like Amplience or Bloomreach. Salesforce Commerce Cloud are due to release a new drag and drog page builder solution similar to Magento’s though – which, again, will be a big improvement and of big benefit to the merchant users.
Loyalty & reward programs
Magento Commerce has a number of features and loyalty and rewards -including reward 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. You can also adapt aspects of the front-end for different customers using customer groups and customer segmentation. This said, most large retailers would use a separate loyalty solution, such as Swell or Loyalty Lion.
Additionally, Magento Commerce offers a number of complementary modules, which include Store Credits, Multiple Wish Lists, Gift Registry and Gifting Options.
Return Management Authorization (RMA)
Magento’s RMA module is designed to streamline the returns process. The RMA module has a fairly basic workflow around returns management, but it’s a good starting point 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. Salesforce Commerce Cloud also has native capabilities around RMA.
Platform Level Support
Magento Commerce does come with application support, however, it’s nowhere near the level of support that Demandware / SCC would provide. Magento would provide support around serious platform issues etc, whereas Salesforce provide full 24/7 platform support, which includes lots of training, preparation around peaks, load balancing 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 extensible (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 – although not too many developers tend to use this anymore) 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.
Similarly, 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 comes at a 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 the budget isn’t really a factor), but this is part of Salesforce’s stability selling point as well, as all code being committed is vetted by them and they don’t allow for heavy customisation.
Pricing / Cost of Ownership of Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Licensing fees for Magento Commerce start at $23,000 per year, obviously on top of the website build / development costs (agency / developers). I would say that an average Magento Commerce build is likely to be anywhere from $150k – $1m, depending on requirements and complexity etc – this has definitely increased since Magento 2. Although the licensing costs start from $23,000 per year, this can get really expensive depending on the volume you’re doing – as Magento now works to GMV brackets (although there are other factors included). I’ve seen a number of instances where Magento has come out similar to Salesforce Commerce Cloud recently – but they’re generally negotiable and on an average client I’d say the licencing will come out ~50% lower cost.
With larger B2B retailers, Magento’s pricing will tend to be more bespoke, which seems to vary based on lots of things, particularly for > $100m turnover businesses. Magento Commerce Order Management is billed separately and can also 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. The cloud licensing costs include AWS fees and various other things (e.g. Magento BI, Fastly etc) and can work out lower cost than the on-premise licensing.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud works to a GMV model, which will usually work out to be around 2% of online turnover. Exact numbers aren’t readily available, but in my experiece, a retailer turning over $20m will be looking at around $300k – $750k, depending on commits. The percentage will come down as turnover goes up, but they’re not as negotiable as Magento in my experience. I don’t have as much experience with Salesforce Commerce Cloud costs as I do with Magento and you’re definitely best speaking with them to get pricing, as opposed to Magento where the base pricing is freely available.
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. A lot of the Salesforce Commerce Cloud agencies tend to be bigger providers, which can be a pro or a con depending on what you want from the partner.
The fees from agencies are also incomparable from my experience – Demandware / Salesforce Commerce Cloud agencies seem to charge a much 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 often another big factor, as Magento Commerce is generally considerably more economical and is also based on a 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 and you’re not agreeing that fixed fee, so if you aren’t comfortable with this pricing model, you’ll want to go with another provider. The other thing is that Magento is an open source platform – which can be a positive or a negative. Things like security needs to be a consideration with the onenness of the Magento platform and there are also thousands of less worth Magento developers out there – however, there are also a huge number of positives.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the more proven B2C option at the enterprise-level and it has stronger native capabilities, but it will cost you a lot more and, more than likely, impact your agility around development. If you’re looking for a real enterprise SaaS platform, then Salesforce Commerce Cloud is an excellent choice. If you’re a B2B retailer, have very complex requirements or aren’t looking to invest huge amounts in the platform (or happy with the SCC model), then Magento Commerce is likely to be a better choice. This said, I think Magento Commerce Cloud will be a real leader in a couple of years once it’s fully stable and proven and Adobe have done more around certain areas of the platform.
Good luck, and if you need more information on choosing the right eCommerce platform, feel free to get in touch.