Most people relate digital eCommerce platforms to coupons flying all over the website. But digital commerce has a much broader scope. For example, you probably already have digital commerce capabilities with your website as your contact us form acts as the lead acquisition source. So whether you transact over the web or not, digital commerce capabilities are equally crucial to get complete traceability of your customer journeys.
While understanding the scope of eCommerce is easy, executing and choosing the right platform for your digital goals is hard. Because eCommerce platforms have challenges such as payment providers and shipping provider integrations. Also, factors such as site speed and bounce rates drive traffic share. Finally, the ever-increasing channels may require you to evaluate pre-baked integration capabilities to avoid cost overruns. Additionally, as your transaction volume grows, you will require enterprise-grade capabilities such as digital asset management, approval flows, and a digital experience management platform. Also, if you operate in a regulated environment, you might have compliance needs that further complicate your transactions.
Finally, even if the platform might work well with lower transaction volume, you might lose opportunities if the platform can’t scale with concurrent sessions: the transaction volume of an enterprise-grade system. These considerations, as a result, make selecting eCommerce platforms extremely challenging. So how do you start on your journey? How about shortlisting a couple of options among the top eCommerce platforms in 2023?
- Overall market share/# of customers: The higher the market share of the eCommerce platform, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Ownership/funding: The more committed the management to the product roadmap of the eCommerce capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of development (legacy vs. legacy dressed as modern vs. modern UX/cloud-native): The more modern the development stack, such as headless and React-based development, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Community/Ecosystem: The larger the community with a heavy presence from eCommerce companies, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Depth of native functionality for specific industries: The deeper the publisher-owned out-of-the-box functionality, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of publicly available product documentation: The poorer the product documentation, the lower it ranks on our list.
- eCommerce market share and documented commitment (of the publisher through financial statements): The higher the focus on eCommerce, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Ability to natively support diversified business models: The more diverse the product to support different business models and business processes, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Acquisition strategy aligned with eCommerce: The more aligned the acquisitions to deepen eCommerce capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
- User Reviews: The deeper the reviews from eCommerce users, the higher the score for a specific product.
- Must be an eCommerce platform: It can’t be a module of an ERP or CRM product. It can’t be an app that might support eCommerce and POS processes. At a minimum, the product must support CMS and website development for different business models.
10. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce
Dynamics 365 Commerce Cloud targets mid-to-large customers with enterprise-grade needs, particularly the customers already on other Dynamics products such as Dynamics 365 CRM or F&O. It’s a great fit for companies that require deeper synergies of Microsoft products. While this is an official solution from Microsoft, there might be other solutions in the Microsoft marketplace that might integrate even better. They integrate as seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform as Microsoft’s official solution. These options include Sitecore and Intershop. We have downgraded MS Dynamics 365 on our list of eCommerce platforms a bit more because of their lack of commitment. The commitment to advancing their tech stack with the same pace as other legacy platforms such as SAP Hybris and HCL Commerce.
- Seamless Product Experience: Since MS Dynamics 365 Commerce Cloud is part of the larger Dynamics suite, the teams already familiar with the Microsoft Dynamics tech stack might find it friendly.
- Integration with Dynamics 365 Marketing and Journey Builder: Unlike other smaller products on this list that may rely on a third-party journey builder and marketing automation software, MS Dynamics 365 offers these capabilities out of the box.
- Enterprise-grade Features for Controlling Prices, Promotions, and Products: Because the application of complex pricing and promotion requires a deeper integration of eCommerce and backend ERP systems, MS Dynamics 365 Commerce supports this out-of-the-box.
- Lacks Other Enterprise-grade Features: MS Dynamics 365 commerce does not have enterprise-grade ad and media spend tracking.
- Headless and Support for Modern Frameworks: Even though Microsoft developed Typescript, it might feel a little daunting to use with Microsoft Dynamics products. But why is that? This is due to the complex assembly of its technologies and platforms.
- Community and Ecosystem: Although Microsoft Dynamics has a very vibrant developer ecosystem, Microsoft commerce has limited involvement in the headless and modern composable commerce communities.
9. SAP Hybris Commerce
SAP Hybris Commerce targets larger companies with enterprise-grade needs that might already be on other SAP systems. This allows them to explore the integration synergies available by working only with one vendor. The eCommerce platforms market changed massively in 2023 due to the expectations of Oracle Commerce being shut down. There is a very strong possibility that legacy eCommerce platforms such as SAP Hybris, HCL Commerce, and Intershop might sunset their offerings as well. But since SAP Hybris has made substantial advancements with the headless journey of their tech stack, they have advanced a bit this year on our list.
- Integration with Other SAP Products: Enterprise companies in regulated industries will find SAP Hybris Commerce especially beneficial. But why? To be audit-ready for compliance standards such as GDPR.
- Greater Control on the Infrastructure for Large Sites: SAP Hybris Commerce deployment suite includes complete CI/CD capabilities for IT teams. They help in controlling the release and production support processes for IT teams.
- Choice of Deployment: SAP Hybris can be deployed on the cloud of your choice to have greater control over the infrastructure design and costs. This is beneficial for larger companies that might have billions of users visiting their eCommerce sites.
- Behind in Headless Journey: SAP Hybris doesn’t have as strong headless capabilities out of the box as other eCommerce platforms on this list. Also, it has limited ecosystem partners.
- Clunky Interface: The Hybris CMS is extremely clunky with the look and feel of a customer portal instead of a modern eCommerce platform.
- Legacy Technology and Limited Enterprise Commerce Features: SAP Hybris still uses legacy programming languages such as Spring and Java. It also has limited support for out-of-the-box enterprise-grade features such as an asset management platform.
8. HCL Commerce
HCL Commerce is the newer version of IBM’s flagship commerce product IBM Commerce. It acquired this product from IBM. And then, advanced its capabilities for modern headless development. It has enterprise-grade commerce features such as accessing the entire commerce layers including DAM assets, search, and cart through APIs. HCL Commerce also offers headless, react-based composable commerce capabilities but primarily targets B2C brands. How about their last year’s ranking? It’s a new entrant on our list and replaces other eCommerce platforms such as Oracle Commerce (now you already know why).
- Headless Content Workflow and Management: HCL commerce can retrieve and publish the DAM assets programmatically. It also reutilizes the enterprise versioning capabilities inherited from IBM Commerce. These capabilities traditionally supported extremely complex workflows for content collaboration.
- React-based Storefront Capabilities: HCL commerce has upgraded its offering with modern React-based composable commerce capabilities. Similar to modern headless eCommerce platforms, you can build omnichannel storefronts for multiple geographies.
- Enterprise Scale Ready: Unlike modern headless solutions, HCL Commerce has been proven with enterprise-grade commerce workload for decades. The teams familiar with IBM Commerce don’t need to learn the entire data model and platform from the scratch.
- Legacy Programming Language and Architecture: While the front end has been redesigned, the back end is still legacy. And it uses Java and Spring boilerplate, along with IBM’s overly complicated development practices. The practices that web developers might not find it friendly.
- Limited B2B Capabilities: HCL Commerce data model is not designed for industrial B2B use cases. Then? It’s primarily suitable for high-volume B2C companies. B2B companies might need to invest substantially in custom development. Like a LOT!
- Limited CDP Capabilities: B2C companies require eCommerce platforms to provide personalization capabilities based on the deterministic identity. Similar capabilities as found with SAP Hybris, Sitecore, and Salesforce Commerce.
7. commercetools / Frontastic
commercetools is a new startup valued at over $2B and funded by Accel. Major automotive brands such as Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, and Bentley have used it for their customized commerce experience. It is the first enterprise-grade platform that has a true microservices-based architecture and is a big influencer of the MACH alliance. While the concept of MACH and headless is in its infancy, the companies that care for the customized and composable experience would find commercetools compelling. commercetools still doesn’t have the same bundled offering for enterprises as other platforms on this list. So it is likely to require several best-of-breed options to enable the same experience. The experience that other platforms might be able to provide as part of its suite.
- True MACH Platform: MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Composable, and Headless. While a lot of legacy platforms that might just have APIs might claim them to be headless, commercetools was built from the ground up following MACH architecture.
- B2C-friendly: commercetools data model is friendlier with B2C companies such as Automotive that care for interactive commerce experience. The APIs have enterprise-grade B2C features supported as part of the platform.
- Enterprise Scale: commercetools have been proven to work with complex, multi-brand sites with billions of hits. And has been able to acquire one of the largest logos that traditionally belonged to Oracle ATG, Hybris, or IBM Commerce.
- Limited Head Capabilities: While commercetools has true API offerings for development teams to quickly develop heads for the omnichannel, marketing practitioners might find its head limiting, despite their acquisition of Frontastic.
- Limited Bundle Offerings: While commercetools can be a great option for companies using best-of-breed platforms, other organizations that might have deep pockets for custom integration might choose bundled offerings provided by other tools such as Sitecore or Salesforce Commerce.
- Limited B2B Capabilities: While commercetools has jumped the ship to develop B2B capabilities, these features require a much different data model than B2C. So even if commercetools is able to develop such features, they are likely to be limited for industrial distributors and B2B companies.
6. Episerver Digital Commerce
Episerver Digital Commerce/Optimizely targets mid-to-large B2B companies that require deep B2B capabilities. Companies in the industrial space need capabilities as part of the suite without requiring expensive add-ons and IT resources. However, it’s not a fit for smaller companies and organizations that require enterprise-grade capabilities offered by larger eCommerce platforms. Unlike other SMB platforms that rely on add-ons for digital experimentation features, Episerver allows you to build features and A/B tests with full traceability across channels as part of the suite. Episerver also offers deep features for complex channels that may require capabilities such as partner management, product-based variants, and rule-based promotions.
- Content Management Platform: While most eCommerce platforms may support CMS capabilities as part of their platform to allow marketers to build pages quickly, Episerver’s CMS is more flexible with abilities such as intricate layout changes.
- Digital Experimentation Platform: Unlike other SMB platforms that rely on add-ons for digital experimentation features, Episerver allows you to build features and A/B tests with full traceability across channels as part of the suite.
- Natively Supported Rich B2B Features: Episerver offers deep features for complex channels that may require capabilities such as partner management, product-based variants, and rule-based promotions.
- Ecosystem: Unlike Shopify or BigCommerce, which enjoy a vibrant community of developers and partners, Episerver has a limited ecosystem.
- Too Big for Smaller Brands: Since Episerver supports features for much larger companies, smaller brands might find it overwhelming due to the steep learning curve.
- Expensive: Smaller brands that may have simpler needs to create their web presence might find the platform expensive.
WooCommerce targets small, content-first companies that might want to add commerce-centric capabilities to their site. It’s especially suitable for entrepreneurs who might already be familiar with WordPress. However, companies with more than $5-10 mil in revenue may find WooCommerce limited with its capabilities. It might also be applicable to companies that might primarily be content-driven. And might not require as heavy eCommerce capabilities. WooCommerce maintains the same rank as last year due to its broader application across different industries.
- Price: For startup companies, WooCommerce pricing is friendly, with tons of plugins and developers available. Its ecosystem has several hosting providers that offer friendlier pricing for startup companies launching their first site.
- Open-source: Since WooCommerce is open-source, it has a vibrant community of developers that support the ecosystem. And because of this reason, you will save on the licensing fee charged by other providers on this list.
- Superior Content Management System: WordPress has one of the best content management systems for content-centric companies, with thousands of plugins available.
- Clunky User and Permission Management: Since WooCommerce relies on the user and role management capabilities of WordPress, it struggles with the complex B2B and B2C workflows. But how? Because several user personas may be involved with transactions, such as sales reps, admins, and end-users.
- Plugin Conflicts: With the limited capabilities supported by the WooCommerce platform, you will need several plugins to support your eCommerce operations. These plugins might conflict with each other and will require careful analysis and management by a team of developers.
- Data Model: Unlike other platforms on this list, WooCommerce is suitable for content-centric operations. And not commerce-centric. Its weaker data model often results in data integrity and as a result in maintenance nightmares.
4. Salesforce Commerce
Salesforce targets larger enterprise companies with the need for complex eCommerce workflows. It’s especially suitable for companies that might already use other Salesforce products such as CRM and Pardot. It’s not the best solution for smaller companies. Salesforce has one of the most vibrant developer ecosystems with its involvement in the React ecosystem and headless communities. As well as offering integration with modern headless platforms to help companies build progressive web applications. How about the ability to support both B2B and B2C business models? Yes, super deep capabilities for enterprise scenarios. Unlike other SMB products, it also offers robust product recommendation and merchandising planning capabilities through its AI engine.
Salesforce Commerce maintains the same rank as last year due to its commitment to the eCommerce market. Not to mention the investment in other eCommerce-centric capabilities through Salesforce ventures. It is also the only platform on this list that has equally deep capabilities for both B2B as well as B2B. But it might be expensive for SMB companies.
- Ecosystem: Salesforce has one of the most vibrant developer ecosystems with its involvement in the React ecosystem and headless communities. In addition, Salesforce commerce offers integration with modern headless platforms to help companies build progressive web applications.
- Enterprise-grade Capabilities: With the ability to support both B2B and B2C business models, Salesforce Commerce offers deep capabilities for enterprise scenarios. Along with integration with other Salesforce products.
- Deep Merchandising and Product Recommendation Capabilities: Unlike other SMB products, Salesforce Commerce offers robust product recommendation and merchandising planning capabilities through its AI engine.
- Price: Most SMB companies might find Salesforce pricing expensive. Also, unlike other products on this list that might offer these capabilities as part of the suite, Salesforce Commerce follows different pricing for its products. As a result, it might be harder to compute the total cost of ownership.
- Headless: While there might be several options available on the Salesforce app marketplace to design a headless experience on top of Salesforce Commerce, Salesforce is behind in its headless journey compared to other platforms such as commercetools or VTEX.
- Not the Best Fit for Smaller Brands: Due to the steep learning curve, Salesforce Commerce might be overwhelming for smaller companies that might not care for enterprise-grade features.
3. Adobe Commerce/Magento
Adobe Commerce targets mid-large enterprise companies with the need for complex eCommerce workflows. It’s especially suitable for companies with complex eCommerce workflow needs for both B2B and B2C business models. And for smaller companies? Probably not. While Adobe Commerce/Magento has an open-source offering, most companies might need an enterprise edition. Why? Features such as RMA and promotion permission might not be available with the community edition. Unlike other platforms on this list, Magento runs large-scale consumer-focused commerce sites with millions of visitors every day. But the scale would require the enterprise edition. Adobe Commerce maintains the same rank as last year due to the commitment of Adobe and its ever-growing customer base among customers.
- Enterprise-grade Functionality for B2B and B2C: Adobe Commerce/Magento has an extremely rich data model for enterprise workflows and support for both B2B and B2C business models.
- Open-source: While Adobe Commerce/Magento has an open-source offering, most companies might need an enterprise edition as the features such as RMA and promotion permission might not be available with the community edition.
- Scale: Unlike other platforms on this list, Magento runs large-scale consumer-focused commerce sites with millions of visitors every day. But the scale would require the enterprise edition.
- Inflexibility: Magento data model has very tight data integrity with a prescriptive approach to eCommerce. While this helps prevent maintenance nightmares in the long run, developers might not appreciate the inflexibility of the data and object model of Magento.
- Overwhelming for Business Users: Business users might not find it as friendly as some of the other platforms due to the complexity of the data model.
- Not the Best Fit for Smaller Brands: Adobe Commerce/Magento might be overwhelming for smaller brands that might not care for advanced eCommerce features and might require support from developers.
BigCommerce targets B2B SMB organizations with the deep functionality needed for B2B companies. It is especially suitable for companies that don’t have internal IT capabilities to design and support eCommerce operations. How about larger companies? Probably not a fit. Also, through its underlying data model designed for B2B organizations, BigCommerce can support the needs of B2B organizations that may have complex product mixes and variants.
While the BigCommerce ecosystem is growing and the platform is popular among smaller merchants, the ecosystem and capabilities might be limiting and may require several add-ons. BigCommerce also offers several pre-baked integrations with POS and ERP systems. But there might be challenges in building omnichannel architecture due to the number of add-ons required. Also, the headless capabilities are limited with BigCommerce. But due to its momentum, it still maintains the same rank as the last year.
- Deep Capabilities for B2B: Through its underlying data model designed for B2B organizations, BigCommerce can support the needs of B2B organizations that may have complex product mixes and variants.
- Friendly for Business Users: While the data model can support the needs of B2B organizations, it’s not as overwhelming as some of the other enterprise-grade platforms that may require training or certifications for business users.
- Pricing Options: Unlike other products on this list, BigCommerce offers companies several options at various stages in their journey.
- Limited Enterprise-grade Features: The core suite may be limited in enterprise-grade features such as product recommendations, digital asset management, or digital experimentation management and might require several add-ons with additional costs.
- Not Designed for B2C experiences: Since the B2B data model is very different from B2C, the companies in the B2C space might find the data model to be overwhelming. And it might not be the best fit for companies that might be primarily B2C.
- Price: Companies that don’t like to pay based on GMV might not appreciate BigCommerce’s pricing, especially if they might have internal IT that can provide the support.
Shopify targets B2C SMB organizations with products that might not be as complex with their configuration. It is especially suitable for brands looking to create omnichannel and DTC experiences without much investment in the IT infrastructure and without the help of developers. The biggest advantage of Shopify is its ecosystem and the options you are going to find in its ecosystem. They have also done significant work with their headless platform Hydrogen on Oxygen, which is likely to be a favorite among the development community.
The major drawback of Shopify would be the fee that they might take for each transaction. And the need for add-ons for complex B2C and B2B features. But due to the momentum of its ecosystem, it still maintains the rank of #1 as last year.
- Deep Capabilities for B2C: Through its simpler data model friendly for B2C companies, Shopify offers the flexibility and simplicity that B2C companies require with the ability to handle several different payment providers and shipping options.
- Omni-channel Commerce Experience: Shopify offers a pre-integrated suite with POS to share data and inventory across digital and physical channels. This helps in enabling the omnichannel experience across channels without worrying about expensive custom integrations.
- B2B Capabilities: While Shopify has announced the B2B capabilities recently, it’s likely to be limited and perhaps most suitable for companies that might support both business models. Companies in the industrial distribution space may find B2B capabilities limiting to supporting their business models.
- Transaction Fee: Companies, not comfortable paying based on GMV might find Shopify pricing to be unfriendly.
- Enterprise-grade Features: Unlike other products that package enterprise features as part of the suite, Shopify will require add-ons or third-party products for the features such as digital asset and experience management.
Choosing an eCommerce platform is hard. You not only need to have a deep understanding of financials to understand the total costs of ownership. But you also need to have a software development background to be able to estimate the efforts required to build custom functionality on top of the existing platform.
Also, the decision about the eCommerce platform may have implications on the entire architecture and operational efficiency. So it’s critical that you take a comprehensive approach to selecting an eCommerce platform.