You may have noticed that ecommerce is booming! In the United States, the ecommerce market grew 15% in 2018 and crossed $500 billion dollars for the first time. Many brands are achieving unprecedented scale by serving unique niches in the market.
These brands selling online have different design philosophies, products, features, and back-end processes. And if you are a growing online retailer, you're not alone! It can be overwhelming to decide which the right enterprise ecommerce platform for your organization’s specific needs and use cases.
At Tragic, we specialize in technology consulting, and as such, it is important for us to understand the pros and cons of popular frameworks and SaaS platforms so that we can make informed recommendations for our clients. In this post, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of 6 popular enterprise ecommerce platforms:
- Magento Commerce
- Drupal Commerce
- Shopify Plus
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- BigCommerce Enterprise
- Engine Commerce
At the end, we will have a quick discussion about which platform to use when and what the best fit for your business is. If you want a free consultation on building the right enterprise ecommerce platform, contact Tragic Media today!
In 2018, Magento made noise by announcing its sale to Adobe for $1.68 billion. Since its launch 10 years prior, Magento has grown into a behemoth – facilitating over $150 billion in sales and boasting more than 300,000 developers in its community.
But, what if you scaling your business today? Is Magento still the right platform looking forward? We're going to explore some of the pros and cons of Magento to get a better sense of who should use this popular platform.
Magento Commerce Pros
Magento is open sourced and is highly flexible. The solution is used by some of the largest ecommerce brands in the world, such as HP, Albertsons, and Canon Australia.
In addition, Magento has advanced features built-in, including support for multiple stores, languages, prices, and currencies. While this may not be on the minds of ecommerce startups, enterprise users will appreciate having native support for these features.
For example, a single unified Magento backend can support a North American retailer looking to support three languages (English, French, and Spanish) and three currencies (US dollar, Canadian dollar, and Mexico peso).
This allows one system, with accurate analytics, that provides a seamless experience to these different customers. And, as you can imagine, Magento can be heavily customized and extended to support the needs of global brands and the Fortune 500.
Additionally, Adobe’s purchase was a strategic move. The organization is starting to roll out new features which tie its experience platform to the e-commerce giant.
Magento Commerce Cons
Despite its numerous positives, we do need to mention a few of Magento's shortcomings.
First and foremost, Magento Enterprise Enterprise is expensive. The service alone costs between $22,000 and $125,000 per year! In addition, you have to factor in the cost of hosting and developers to properly configure and maintain the system.
You can achieve an enterprise storefront with the Community platform, but it is an investment of time and custom development.
Lastly, Magento 2 was released with improvements across the board but it can sometimes feel that the system is slower than ever. (Make sure full caching is enabled!) Magento is a monolith in the truest sense of the word: powerful, large, and – at times – clumsy.
Magento Commerce Final Thoughts
Magento Commerce, particularly the Enterprise Edition, is a great solution for ecommerce brands doing more than $1,000,000 in annual sales or that need to support multiple languages and currencies. You can learn more about Magento here.
Drupal is known for its open-source content management system (CMS). In 2011, Drupal Commerce launched and enables companies to add commerce features to their Drupal website.
As with Drupal CMS, Drupal Commerce provides a high level of customization and scalability. For example, British ecommerce giant LUSH uses Drupal to support "17 different countries and their localized sub-sites" while Chinese food chain ZKungFu leverages Drupal and Drupal Commerce to power over $1 billion dollars per year in transactions!
The best thing about Drupal Commerce is it is the most flexible solution that we will discuss in this article.
Drupal Commerce provides a traditional e-commerce framework and tooling, without forcing that upon you.
Additionally, Drupal can handle complicated content management coupled with very custom commerce requirements. Drupal wins hands-down when it comes to non-traditional commerce features like: combined commerce + content management, non-traditional products, and complicated order flows.
In addition, Drupal takes security and privacy seriously. To learn more about the benefits of Drupal's security and privacy, take a look at our post on Why We Love Drupal.
Drupal Commerce Cons
Drupal is a great choice, one that starts simple and can be extended to support your brand's growing needs. That said, there are some cons that are worth mentioning.
Drupal Commerce can be difficult to correctly implement without experienced developers. They allow a high degree of freedom, but it's important to set the foundation correct or else it will cost you down the line. And, as a result, development can be expensive.
It's also worth noting that some of their community modules are not 100% ready to use in production. Again, it will take an experienced development team to vet and implement the correct suite of modules.
Drupal Commerce Final Thoughts
Drupal Commerce, like its Drupal CMS compliment, is a great solution. It's highly customizable, scalable, and the Drupal team places a large emphasis on security and privacy.
In addition, the Drupal community is vibrant and there are people taking on challenges today – like multiple currencies, localization, personalization, headless backends, and more – that you can benefit from.
If you decide to go with Drupal for your enterprise ecommerce brand, we highly recommend selecting an experienced development team that can properly setup the system for your needs. You can learn more about Drupal Commerce here.
Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify has taken the SMB ecommerce world by storm. To date, they power more than 800,000 businesses across 170 countries and have become the defacto platform for small business ecommerce.
Shopify has raised the bar when it comes to ease of implementation and management of small storefronts. But we're talking about enterprise ecommerce platforms here.
So the question is, can Shopify Plus (their enterprise offering) meet the needs of ecommerce giants? Let’s dig in to the Shopify Plus ecommerce platform now.
Shopify Plus Pros
Shopify Plus has a number of positives that make a great choice for those looking to not break the bank. First and foremost, Shopify Plus is easy to get up and running. The product is intuitive, even for non-technical users, and comes with a lot of their features available out-of-the-box.
Brands like Allbirds, Fashion Nova, and 5,300 others use Shopify Plus today.
You can easily pick a theme from their theme library and get started right way. They even provide a series of default options for your shopping cart and checkout experience, so those don't need to be "setup" like they do in a traditional open source platform.
Moreover, Shopify Plus is relatively cheap – coming in at $2000/month to start with. And, this cost includes more than just "ecommerce". Shopify Plus also powers your static website (like your home, about, and contact pages) and has features like an SSL certificate and CDN built in.
Shopify Plus Cons
At the same time, all of those benefits do come at a cost. Shopify Plus, much like Shopify, is great as long as you stay within the four walls of the platform. Due to the lack of configuration at the beginning, you can quickly grow out of the standard Shopify Plus setup and set of apps as your business scales.
In addition, vendors who use Shopify Plus also face platform lock in. Yes, you can switch off Shopify but it's not an easy thing to do and it will require you to start to manage infrastructure that you previously did not have to worry about. (This may not be a problem, but needs to be properly scoped and addressed.)
Shopify Plus Final Thoughts
Shopify Plus is an easy option that lets you get started in days, not weeks and months. It's affordable, fast, modern, and has a large network of apps and partners.
That said, the platform can be limited – particularly for true enterprises that have specific data reporting and workflow needs. As your business scales to new markets or expands your product catalog, Shopify Plus may become too limited.
That is the catch 22 of having limited upfront configuration. You can learn more about Shopify Plus here.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
In June 2016, CRM giant Salesforce made an offer to buy Demandware for $2.8 billion. With the acquisition, Salesforce was able to enter the ecommerce market with a well established product and a clear opportunity to upsell CRM customers on ecommerce and vice versa.
Now that 3 years have passed, we are going to evaluate the pros and cons of Demandware (now branded as Salesforce Commerce Cloud).
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Pros
Given the success of Salesforce CRM in the enterprise, it is no surprise that Salesforce Commerce Cloud has attracted some of the largest brands in the world.
Adidas, Godiva, L’Oreal, Ugg, Callaway Golf, Puma, Samsonite, and more all use Commerce Cloud to power their global operations.
As you can imagine, these businesses have complex product catalogs and deal with multiple languages/currencies as part of their day-to-day operations.
Moreover, Salesforce Commerce Cloud has many advanced features built-in, including merchandising and personalization. These features are native to the platform, whereas many other ecommerce platforms rely on plugins or extensions to reach feature parity.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Cons
There are of course drawbacks of using Salesforce Commerce Cloud. We are going to be diplomatic and say that Salesforce is not the most developer friendly company in the world, and they do not ride the latest tech trends.
In addition, their admin dashboard has a poor user interface that some may find difficult to navigate. Lastly, the Salesforce Commerce Cloud feature roadmap does not take into account user feedback. (And if it does, not nearly at the speed of others mentioned in this article.)
Salesforce Commerce Cloud Final Thoughts
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a great enterprise ecommerce platform for organizations with global footprints. And, given that these companies are likely to use Salesforce CRM, it seems like a natural fit to use both products side by side.
That said, Commerce Cloud could benefit from an updated user interface and by working in customer requests more frequently. You can learn more about Salesforce Commerce Cloud here.
Next up, we're going to explore BigCommerce. Founded in 2009, BigCommerce has two general offerings – BigCommerce Essentials for SMBs and BigCommerce Enterprise for, well, enterprises!
We are going to discuss BigCommerce Enterprise from the perspective of a business doing more than $1 million in annual revenue. Let's jump straight into the pros and cons.
BigCommerce Enterprise Pros
BigCommerce Enterprise is aptly named. The platform sales to suit large businesses and has a host of enterprise-ready integrations, including NetSuite, Avalara, and more. It's unlikely that you will be in a situation that another customer hasn't already faced.
They also have enough product depth for global businesses, with support for 250 currencies and features like bulk pricing, built-in Elasticsearch, and cross-channel commerce.
That's right, a single BigCommerce instance can be used to sell across marketplaces (eBay, Amazon), social media channels (Facebook, Instagram), brick and mortar, and multiple digital storefronts.
BigCommerce Enterprise Cons
There are also a few drawbacks worth mentioning. BigCommerce Enterprise has a ton of functionality built in, but that functionality is not cheap and comes with limited flexibility.
The pricing for BigCommerce is based on your annual sales, so as you sell more, you have to keep increasing the price of your subscription fee. In addition, because there are so many features built into BigCommerce, there is a relatively small "app store" – especially when compared to the likes of Shopify.
Again, these are not deal breakers in and of themselves but are worth considering when deciding to invest in an ecommerce solution.
BigCommerce Enterprise Final Thoughts
BigCommerce is a dependable choice that has a ton of powerful features built in.
In particular, we suggest BigCommerce Enterprise for businesses that rely on multiple channels to reach their customers. The flexibility to set prices based on customer type allows you to accommodate edge cases that would be very challenging on other platforms.
You can learn more about BigCommerce Enterprise here.
Engine is an up-and-coming ecommerce platform aimed squarely at Shopify Plus. Built by industry veterans, the company is hoping to solve common pains associated with launching, scaling, and proactively managing digital commerce brands.
Let's explore how the Engine Commerce approach is unique!
Engine Commerce Pros
People who have started digital brands know how many pieces of software are needed to get up and running. Engine has solved this problem head on by bringing together commerce, content, and email automation into a single platform.
That means you can build your website, publish new content, sell products, and communicate directly to your users all from Engine.
This unification has two main benefits. First, it reduces the number of accounts that you have to interact with, saving you precious time. And more importantly, Engine is able to bring all of your data together so you can truly understand how your business is performing.
You can answer questions like "How many sales did that email campaign drive?" or "Which blog post has gotten the most repeat customers?" without pouring hours into custom development.
Say goodbye to plugins that are duct taped together once and for all!
The Engine development team is also great about turning customer requests into a growing list of features. We should also mention that all Engine customers are given scalable, no nonsense cloud hosting. They are able to guarantee you great uptime, availability, and performance.
Engine Commerce Cons
There are some shortcomings that we should also mention. For example, as of today, there is limited search and API capabilities. We understand that the Engine is working on developing both out, but this deserves to be mentioned.
Some entrepreneurs and companies like being forward thinking. They enjoy being on the edge, making requests and shaping the products that they use. If so, then Engine might be the right solution for you.
On the other hand, if you are looking to follow a playbook and have every feature be 100% fully backed, you may want to look elsewhere for now.
Engine Commerce Final Thoughts
Engine Commerce is a highly capable and fast-moving upstart. We are fans of their approach to bring commerce, content, and email under one roof. This level of synchronization across engineering and marketing will save time and allow ecommerce brands to focus on their growth plans.
That said, Engine Commerce is still new and some of their advanced features (such as their API and search capabilities) are not fully fleshed out yet. With pricing comparable to Shopify Plus, we recommend ecommerce brands take Engine Commerce seriously when evaluating which solution fits their needs.
We made it! In this post, you learned about 6 popular enterprise ecommerce platforms, their pros, their cons, and when each platform should be utilized.
As with any other industry, competition and choice are a great thing. They drive the market forward and they bring the best experiences for businesses and, ultimately, consumers.
Whenever evaluating new software, it is important to understand the current ecosystem, and the pros/cons of available solutions. If the decision is feeling over your head, work with a technology consultant to help you make an informed choice that aligns with your business goals.
Looking to discuss the specifics of your ecommerce brand? Tragic Media is a technology company with decades of experience designing, building, and supporting enterprise ecommerce platforms. Contact us today for a free consultation!