Easily Meet Business Goals – No matter how many posts from Inc., an entrepreneur, a fast-paced company, or a mid-sized company, are going viral in the executive community, explaining why this or that strategy has produced hockey growth.
The truth is:
What makes your business successful is your commitment to customer experience, your marketing strategies, your operational efficiency and the team of people you build.
Your unique combination of these aspects is unlike any other ecommerce site out there – and that’s why no FUD title like “Why Your Business Will Fail” or “8 Innovative Ways to Jump” will ever fully apply to your brand.
Of the many decisions you make to succeed for your online business, one of the biggest is which pipes you install.
That is, which e-commerce platform do you choose to start your business and be ready for scalable and long-term growth.
For most growing mid-market businesses, this technology is typically offered by BigCommerce, Magento, Salesforce Cloud Commerce (formerly Demandware) or Shopify.
Choosing one of these four platforms allows you to truly unlock performance.
It is understandable that this decision has broad implications – that your customers engage with your brand and reduce the friction in getting the product you need, the employees who have to implement campaign strategies and, as a result, grow sales as well as maintenance and installation costs.
The following ecommerce platform comparisons and explanations will help you evaluate the key criteria and make an honest assessment of which solution best suits your business needs.
We arrived at the front page:
- What an ecommerce platform is.
- Why brands use them.
- What are your options (tips: Open-Source, SaaS, CaaS).
- What the hell cloud even means these days (hint: just running where your hosting environment is).
- How an ecommerce platform can benefit your business.
- Important Features + Questions That Ask Solutions for Your Ecommerce Platform in Your Consideration Set.
- The pros and cons of breaking the most popular platform options.
- Additional FAQs in case we forgot something.
You’d rather dive inside.
What is an Ecommerce Platform?
An e-commerce platform is a software application that allows online companies to manage their website, marketing, sales and operations.
E-commerce platforms like BigCommerce offer the powerful features needed to run a business while integrating with common business tools – enabling businesses to centralize their business and manage their businesses.
Why use an ecommerce platform?
Whether you are expanding a brick-and-mortar store, looking for an enterprise-level solution, or even starting a business from scratch, your choice of e-commerce software has a huge impact on the profitability and stability of your business.
The only real alternatives to using an e-commerce platform are:
- Building from scratch, which is out of the question for most businesses – and justified for multimillion (or multi-billion) dollar companies.
Using a plugin that uses the option if you want to build and grow a legitimate business – even a little.
What are the Ecommerce Platform Opportunities?
There are 3 main ways to sort different types of ecommerce platforms:
- SaaS (Software as a Service).
- Headless shop.
Furthermore, there are two ways in which e-commerce platforms provide a hosting environment for their customers.
All business owners need a hosting environment to run an ecommerce store.
There are two types of web hosting environments:
- Cloud: Hosted elsewhere.
- In the property: self catering in your business premises.
Instead, look at each of these.
Open source e-commerce platforms.
- Hosting environment: Cloud or on-Premise, though all platform patches and updates require manual implementation on all sides.
Open source e-commerce platforms are e-commerce solutions where you can modify all aspects of the code.
This type of e-commerce platform was most popular in the early 2000s and continues to be popular with development and IT organizations who want 100% control over their e-commerce environment.
Using the open source ecommerce platform means that you – the brand – are responsible for:
- Hosting (depending on whether your open source solution is on-premises or in the cloud).
- Open-source cloud store solutions differ from existing solutions only in that your hosting environment is provided and managed by your service provider off-site.
- Keep in mind that just because your ecommerce platform hosts your store using a cloud environment, which means you have unlimited bandwidth as you would see on a SaaS solution. Ask about certain permitted bandwidths, especially if you are evaluating Magento or Volusion.
- Manually patch and release updates from platform providers.
- QA for all additional applications, often including integrations with:
- Analytics and BI tool.
- Developing new site tools, often including:
- Discount and promotion engines.
- Sales and marketing tools (e.g. SEO features, email marketing).
- Design drag and drop builders.
For many brands, open source e-commerce platforms are too cumbersome, expensive to maintain, and require too much technical knowledge.
As such, there has been massive progress toward two other types of e-commerce platform:
In fact, open source e-commerce platforms hosted over the cloud (i.e. not in the premise) are just 46% of the price set for big ecommerce brands today.
Because on average, open-source platforms and sites have a 6x annual cost of ownership over SaaS or Headless Commerce models.
Brands can reach the market significantly faster with SaaS and Headless Commerce, with an average of 55 days.
And we live in an incredibly competitive environment, where slowing down beautiful and innovative optimizations for UX, products or background can lift your competition.
SaaS Number 1 Ecommerce Platform
A 2018 Internet Retailer survey found that BigCommerce is the No. 1 SaaS e-commerce platform, and more desirable by mid-marketers and businesses alike. Learn more by downloading a report.
SaaS Ecommerce Platforms.
- Hosting environment: cloud.
SaaS e-commerce platforms remove much of the complexity of running an online business, because instead of managing the software yourself.
Instead of building and developing a custom or open source solution (which often evolves as a customization), you basically “rent” the platform.
When considering development costs, this is a much cheaper option than open source solutions.
Product updates, security, hosting, PCI compliance and every other task that comes with managing your own software are managed by the SaaS provider.
Ecommerce marketing and growth teams are often internal supporters of SaaS ecommerce solutions in their organizations. This is because of the ability of SaaS solutions to reach the market quickly and affordably.
Departments of IT and development are often concerned about the lack of flexibility and customization due to the closed source code on the SaaS solution. APIs help alleviate this concern as well as the non-proprietary encryption and setup environment for UX upgrades.
Platforms that meet the above criteria are often referred to as “Open SaaS”.
- Hosting environment: cloud.
Headless Commerce is a version of CaaS e-commerce where the cart is separated from the CMS.
In these cases, brands often use design platform (DXP) platforms such as Adobe Experience Manager and Bloomreach, or a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Drupal. They are then inserted into an unbound e-commerce shopping cart solution, which will serve as a shopping cart.
SaaS technologies like BigCommerce are also often used here instead of hauled carts because of the low total cost of ownership and the great flexibility of the API.
Historically, with local hosting, open source platforms or building a proprietary platform, IT and big brand development departments have been the controllers of the business.
However, due to the high cost of monolithic technology sets and the need for speed and innovation from a marketing standpoint, SaaS and cloud hosting disrupted the model.
Headless trade mitigates this pain point by allowing faster market access at significantly lower total cost of ownership.
Using APIs, plugins, and sometimes decoupled technology, brands can retain their sole source of historic monolithic systems at the end of operations.
Other decoupled solutions provided by Headless Trade provide:
- Content Management System (CMS).
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
- Email Service Provider (ESP).
Product Information Management (PIM).
- Order Management System (OMS).
- Point of Sale (POS).
- Markets such as Amazon or Ebay.
At the presentation layer, SaaS APIs provide a modern suite of SaaS technologies, including SaaS e-commerce platforms, as well as everything from ESPs and even easier ERPs like Brightpearl.
The best analogy given here is IKEA furniture.
Individual parts of the item are microservices and, when combined, create a finished project.
For many ecommerce brands, the first step towards this microservice architecture is through Headless Commerce.
Olive & M is a great example of Headless Commerce. The brand uses WordPress as its CMS and BigCommerce as its cashier.
This gives the brand more control over the ecommerce store while receiving PCI compliance and best security practices and guarantees to the store solution provider – either as a standalone solution or through the SaaS platform itself, the latter of which is most common.
Check out the Olive & M experience here.
Let’s look back at our IKEA example and grab a classic IKEA nightstand.
If you replace the top of your bedside table with a new wireless charging top, do a no-head shop as follows:
Using a different front that gives you an updated original download but still with the same foundation and utility (e.g. drawer = basket / cashier).
What are the benefits of self-service over Cloud?
There are two ways to host ecommerce sites:
Neither of these two options is a platform in itself.
They eat how the site itself is hosted, with machines on site (literally in a room where your IT or development team manages and operates) or out of site and is managed in a warehouse (for example, think of Amazon Web Services).
Self-service e-commerce platforms.
E-commerce platforms with their own hosts require that e-commerce owners find hosting, install and frequently perform software updates manually.
Running an ecommerce site using your own ecommerce software requires developers to maintain and update the site, which can be quite expensive and time consuming.
The benefits of this option include greater control over your online retail platform, greater visibility of your personal information, and a better understanding of data security.
While this route makes sense for some extremely complex companies, it usually results in higher costs and less revenue.
Cloud ecommerce platforms.
Cloud-based ecommerce platforms offer hosting for their customers through off-site solutions like Amazon Web Services.
This means that the cloud platform manages extended speed for the brand. Cloud-based e-commerce platforms like BigCommerce manage 99.99% of their time off annually and have had 4 years of 0 downtime during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the highest casualty of the time of the year.
Not all cloud-based e-commerce platforms offer automatic patch, update, or upgrade installations. Only SaaS and Headless Commerce solutions do this.
Here, solutions like BigCommerce and Salesforce Cloud Commerce (both SaaS solutions) are different from solutions like Magento Commerce (Cloud).
A platform of many names
Magento 2 is now called Magento Commerce (Cloud) or Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition (ECE).
Magento has renamed their offer in the last 6 months, which is a bit confusing.
How will the ecommerce platform benefit my business?
In addition to scalability and protection of your data, e-commerce platforms, whether in the building or in the cloud, also offer a wealth of operational benefits and business tools.
- Product Management Package.
- Search options.
- Ability to personalize sales and services to your liking (e.g., payment options, marketing features, mobile app, extras, etc.).
E-commerce platforms offer business owners the ability to tailor product information and how they are asked to best adapt to their online retail needs, which can be of mutual benefit to both the business and its customers.
For larger organizations that use their own ERP, PIM, or OMS solutions, e-commerce platforms offer open data synchronization APIs so as not to disrupt business as usual.
What are the important features of an e-commerce platform?
Each online store has unique needs, and choosing the right solution depends entirely on the platform’s ability to meet the day-to-day challenges inherent in your organization.
However, you should learn a few basic things about a potential service provider.
Important features of the ecommerce platform:
Hosting environment, domain name, uptime and bandwidth during the year.
- Unlimited APIs.
- Website builder with free themes that are tailored to users in non-native languages.
- Extensive app marketplace full of prepared integrations with top-class service providers.
- Website optimized for mobile, unsubscribe and complete (out of the box) experience and fully customizable.
- PCI Compliance Mitigation.
- Search engine optimization (SEO) features and fully customizable URLs throughout the site.
- Basic ecommerce features are built in, including promotions and discounts, analytics, catalog management, WYSIWYG editors, etc.
Things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform
Social media integration.
Social commerce is becoming more and more important day by day.
Advertising for social media users is essential if you want to reach a large and engaged audience.
Facebook alone has more than 1.94 million monthly active users. Poor lots of leads.
BigCommerce offers built-in integrations with Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, so you can directly market users to their news feeds or main accounts.
With the advent of Buyable Pin, Facebook Shop and Shopping on Instagram, you can even sell directly to customers without having to leave your platform of choice.
The most important social media integration questions to ask your service provider:
- Describe how we can publish our product catalog on the Facebook Store. Are there additional costs for this service?
- Can users sign out within Facebook or will they be redirected to our ecommerce store?
- Do you support Pinterest buying buttons?
- Do you support Shopping on Instagram?
- Do product metadata include Open Graph tags?
- Describe how we can publish our product catalog on the Facebook Store. Are there additional costs for this service?
- Do social media sharing links support PDP?
- Showing social media sharing links after purchase?
- Can customers or end users sign up for our store through Social Login (Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc.)?
- How can we display user content like Pinterest or reviews in our store?
The number of products you can sell.
Maybe you offer a wide range of products or maybe a significant number of variants for your core product line.
This can add a lot of SKUs and some platforms are better than others when it comes to SKU numbers.
If you have a large catalog or are planning to expand your business, choosing a low-limit SKU platform will significantly limit the progress of your business.
The most important catalog management questions you need to ask your provider
- Describe how we can manage our product catalog on your system.
- How to import / export catalog and customer information?
- Can we browse our product catalog in any topic without buying a topic?
- Can we add more images per product? Is there a limit to the number or size of the images?
- Do you support SKU-level images with image switching when selecting a variation?
- Is product image zoom enabled by default?
- How easy is it to add video to PDP? Is there a limit to the size and length of the videos we can upload?
- Describe how your system manages product options and option sets
- Describe how variations or options can be configured?
- Is there a chance to make a quick change to change inventory levels or change prices?
- Do you support digital and physical products?
- Is inventory management built in?
- How do you support real-time inventory synchronization across multiple channels?
- Can inventory be tracked at the variation level?
- Does the shipping system understand and does it support dimensional weight?
- Are custom product attributes supported?
- Can you configure related items?
- Is it possible for the associated elements to be generated automatically?
- Do you allow pre-orders?
- How do you support custom product pages? Can they be configured by category?
- Are product reviews embedded?
- Is it easy for shoppers to share products with their PDP friends?
- Is site search predictive?
- Can categories be sorted manually in Control Panel?
- Can categories be used for private sale?
- Category filters supported?
- Are there bread categories and bread products?
- Are page / product / category URLs automatically generated?
- How can we customize product and category level URLs?
- Does the platform support multi-level navigation?
Understand what is being provided to customers.
Every day you enter the e-commerce platform.
No matter how intuitive or simple the features are, you will need help at some point.
And when that time comes, it’s good to know that you can get a real-life person to help you solve the problem.
Some platforms give customer service outsourcing and make it difficult – or virtually impossible – to call and get help when you need it most.
At BigCommerce, we feel that each of our clients is called for personalized customer support.
The most important customer service questions you need to ask your service provider:
- Provide details of your boarding arrangements for new clients.
- Give an example of an implementation timeline.
- Do you provide training and user documentation for the entire platform?
- Describe your support process (including tools) along with standard SLAs.
- Describe your change management practices, including your system audit logging capabilities.
- How does our historical data (orders, customers, products) flow to your solution?
- List all the resources of the Services that will be dedicated to our business.
- Give an example of a QBR plan or customer success for your customers
- Do you have extended hours of support to support the on-site events?
- What is your customer support team and where are they located?
- Please provide your telephone support in detail. Is it available 24/7? Are there additional costs associated with this service?
- What are the average phone support waiting / response times?
- Is there a priority order for urgent and time sensitive requests?
- Can we get a special support representative if needed?
- What ticket system do you use? How can we track the status of our tickets?
- What are your cooperation agreements?
The best ecommerce platform comparison
All e-commerce platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important for companies to evaluate different platforms based on their own needs and use cases.
Here’s an overview of the most popular ecommerce platforms, their pros and cons.
BigCommerce is considered to be an Open SaaS platform provider and a growing provider of Headless Commerce based on low total cost of ownership and highly flexible APIs.
BigCommerce’s benefits include the unique sophistication and flexibility of the SaaS e-commerce platform. For this reason, it is the # 1 SaaS platform of choice for midsize and business brands.
The platform offers both small businesses and startups, with more built-in features and one hundred percent URL control (SEO) within the panel than the competition. Integration capabilities, like our headless WordPress plugin, make the platform the main ship in the headless store.
BigCommerce’s initial learning curve is larger than some of the other SaaS platforms due to the complexity of its built-in features.
Magento is a historic open source solution preferred by brands that have already invested in IT or development teams. Magento 2 (AKA Magento Commerce Cloud or Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition) has introduced cloud, an open-source solution in recent years.
The benefits of Magento include 100% control over your own ecommerce instance.
The disadvantages of Magento include manual updates to patches and bugs, which require site-wide integration and QA.
Previous updates can often result in a lack of PCI compliance for brands as well as a data breach.
Many of them have been bold in the news in recent months.
Volusion is an e-commerce platform primarily aimed at retailers and beginners.
The company currently manages and supports two different platforms, which takes a heavy toll on engineering resources as they maintain and build two completely different platforms.
Cloudfor Salesforce stores (demand).
Salesforce Cloud Commerce, formerly Demandware, is the preferred provider of SaaS ecommerce platform by high fashion vendors.
It is an open SaaS model like Shopify and BigCommerce.
The disadvantages of Salesforce Cloud Commerce are the high cost and dependency on developers.
WooCommerce is an open source e-commerce platform that offers a shopping cart solution in addition to brand content on WordPress.
It is most commonly used by start-ups and hobbyists, e-commerce bloggers, and brands that use the developers who are most comfortable with the WordPress environment.
The drawbacks of WooCommerce include scalability without slowing down live commerce and high costs for developers associated with most open sources. Here’s more information on the history of WordPress e-commerce.
3dcart is another SaaS e-commerce platform, although it is usually considered a secondary player.
The benefits of 3dcart include multilingual support and advanced delivery solutions – no API required.
The drawbacks of the 3dcart card include the lack of a CDN, resulting in poor website prolongation during high volume of store traffic and hard-to-reach customer service. They also lack modern responsive topics.
Shopify is a well-funded and public provider of SaaS e-commerce platform. They are popular in starter shops, hobbyists and brands with fewer than 100 SKUs.
Shopify’s benefits include a fast-learning curve for inexperienced e-commerce professionals, resulting in a rapid exit to the emerging brand market. They also have an enterprise solution called Shopify Plus. For more information on the pros and cons of each platform, check out this great comparison of Shopify Plus vs BigCommerce from Cart Consultants.
The disadvantages of Shopify include a limited amount of API calls, a URL structure that is not fully customizable (parts of Shopify store URLs cannot be changed), high transaction fees due to using your own POS, and a lack of built-in basic ecommerce features.
Kibo is a multipurpose platform provider that bought SaaS e-commerce platform Mozu in 2016.
Mozu is built from the ground up, offering, in theory, the most up-to-date SaaS e-commerce solutions.
However, according to current and past customers, the Mozu platform is still a beta project that debugs bugs and fixes several items.
You can read a detailed post on troubleshooting here.
Prestashop is a freemium open source open source ecommerce platform.
The platform can be used in 60 different languages and is popular outside English-speaking countries dominated by other platform providers, including:
- GCommerce billion.
- De mandware.
Squ of respace.
Squarespace is a platform provider for SaaS websites. They are best known for their work with the creative community. Their e-commerce platform was fueled by the need of this creative community for lightweight carts for selling items.
It is used primarily by the creative community with small amounts of content.
Disadvantages of quadrature include a limited shipping and payment solution, as well as a limited discount and complexity of basic ecommerce built-in features.
The Big Cartel.
Big Cartel is an e-commerce solution designed for small retailers who do not need a sophisticated platform. Typical big cartel retailers are bands, clothing designers, jewelry makers, artisans and other types of artists. The platform is very easy to use but has a limited set of features. A large cartel is likely to meet your needs if you have a large product catalog.
Similar to Squarespace, Wix is best known for its lightweight web site setup. Keep it simple with a drag and drop interface, competitive pricing and modernity to buy and free themes. Wix is most commonly used by entrepreneurs and other small business creatives. The platform prides itself on being a solution for beginners and professionals seeking creative freedom to work on their websites. They are an acceptable solution for the early stages but do not have advanced ecommerce capabilities.
With over one million users online, Ecwid has become a popular solution for small business owners. This solution is not a platform, but a widget designed for customers who want to add a store to an existing website. If you have less than 10 products in your catalog, Ecwid is a free solution. After that, plans start at $ 15 per month.
The Episerver platform focuses on content and personalization. Another headless commerce solution, the platform seeks to combine digital marketing, content management and digital commerce into a one-stop-shop solution. The solution is a popular choice for mid-market and business-level traders. The platform is designed to connect well with other Episerver solutions such as Episerver Find and Episerver Campaign.
OpenCart je program za upravljanje internetskim trgovinama otvorenog koda. Platforma omogućuje trgovcima postavljanje više prodavaonica, upravljanje različitim opcijama i atributima proizvoda i dodavanje neograničenih proizvoda. Ova je opcija popularna za mala poduzeća, freelancere i trgovce na srednjem tržištu.
Najčešća pitanja o platformama e-trgovine
Koja je najbolja platforma za e-trgovinu za malo poduzeće?
BigCommerce, Shopify i WooCommerce. su najčešća platforma e-trgovine za mala poduzeća.
Ovisno o vašem iskustvu i vašim specifičnim potrebama marke, svaka platforma ima svoje prednosti i nedostatke.
Treba li startup koristiti platformu za e-trgovinu ili izraditi prilagođeno rješenje?
Većina startupa e-trgovine koristi platformu za e-trgovinu – posebno SaaS rješenje.
SaaS platforme za e-trgovinu omogućuju robnim markama da iznajmljuju tehnologiju po niskoj cijeni, čineći prepreku ulasku na prodaju vrlo jeftinom.
Prilagođena rješenja zahtijevaju goleme novčane resurse za izgradnju i odgađaju odlazak na tržište.
Postoje li besplatne platforme za e-trgovinu?
Ne, ne postoje besplatne platforme za e-trgovinu.
Troškovi web mjesta e-trgovine razlikuju se. Većina platformi otvorenog koda tehnički je besplatna s obzirom na to da plaćate naknadu za licenciranje, ali u pogledu hostinga i razvoja postoje visoki troškovi.
Platforme Saa naplaćuju mjesečnu naknadu koja se ponavlja.
Troškovi se kreću od 7 USD mjesečno do 50.000 USD + mjesečno.
Can I integrate my ecommerce platform with an Amazon store?
You can push your products from an ecommerce platform over to Amazon and vice versa. This is called multi-channel selling where you sell both on your own website as well as on a marketplace, in this case, Amazon.
What programming languages are ecommerce platforms written in?
Most ecommerce platforms are written in commonly used programming languages, including:
- Ruby on Rails.
Many SaaS companies use an abstraction layer for their programming language.
Shopify, for instance, used their proprietary Liquid as an abstraction layer for Ruby on Rails. BigCommerce uses Handlebars.
Don’t just take my word for it.
There are tons of ecommerce platform comparisons out there. I’ve chosen this one for a deep dive as the methodology is sound and comprehensive.
Here is a brief summary of how Ecommerce CEO found the data to do the research:
- Used BuiltWith to find the 20 most popular ecommerce platforms
- Pulled a giant spreadsheet for all the ecommerce websites on each platform (our Magento list had 23,887 sites)
- Used RAND function in Google Sheets to assign a random number to each row
- Collected data on the first 100 websites on each platform (100 sites x 20 platforms = 2000 sites)
- Used a team of 4 researchers to collect data for each website
- Load time from Pingdom.
- Mobile PageSpeed, Mobile UX and Mobile Friendliness From Google.
- Ranking Data From Ahrefs.
- URL test from SEO Site Checkup.
Here is the research criteria they measured against:
- Performance, including: site speed for desktop and mobile, mobile UX, platform SEO.
- Features, including: SEO tools (sitemaps, customizable metadata and URLS, bulk editing), fuzzy and exact product search, ability to send abandoned cart emails, blog functionality, mobile best practices, coupons and discount capabilities, integrated ratings and reviews, multiple product photos with zooming capability, ability to handle subscriptions/recurring product orders, dropshipping integration, ability to sell customizable products, fulfillment by Amazon integration, real-time shipping and tracking, reward points program compatibility, Google trusted stores.
- Scalability, including: number of payment gateways and options (e.g. debit or credit card, gift cards, Apple Pay, PayPal), Amazon, eBay, Etsy integrations, Facebook, Pinterest syncing, Google Product data feed, Open API, design customization.
- Ease of use, including: phone support, 24/7 support, chat support, certified additional dev/marketing support, free templates.
Here are the results of the study (in depth here and via screenshot below).
Go ahead and take a look at the article, as well as Internet Retailer’s 2018 Ecommerce Platform Report.
Learn more about migrating to BigCommerce