Medium and big retail businesses that seek to develop high-performing online stores need an appropriate eCommerce platform to do the job. Fortunately, the market has plenty of options to choose from though finding the best candidate may prove a difficult task. In this article, we will do the best eCommerce platform comparison to help both mid-sized companies and large enterprises choose a suitable option.
Forbytes’ primary focus is developing bespoke retail software for established companies and manufacturers. As follows, we need tools and technologies that help us create secure, customizable, scalable retail software that performs well under significant load. Thus, we’re watching the best enterprise eCommerce platforms closely to see what the market has to offer and what innovations can come in handy.
We base this review on our experience and Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce” report, which evaluates digital commerce companies that provide their customers with impactful software solutions. We’ve decided on the biggest eCommerce platforms:
Each digital commerce platform in this list has the capacity required to provide medium and big-sized businesses with well-protected, scalable, and high-performing retail software and powerful SEO features.
Magento — Leader
Our best eCommerce platform comparison will start with Magento. Magento is an open-source eCommerce services platform. It has been up and running for 13 years now without losing its momentum and relevance. As of now, more than 196.165 websites were built using Magento. Besides, this year, Gartner recognized the eCommerce platform as the top leader in its Magic Quadrant.
If you are looking for a free plan, consider the three solutions that Magento offers:
- Magento Open Source is a completely free solution with code available for customization by Magento developers. Even though the functionality of the Magento Open Source can be extended and customized, this open-source ecommerce platform comes with plenty of trade-offs.
- Magento Commerce also provides the ability to customize an existing website, but on top of that, it comes with a plethora of additional features. Magento Commerce offers a single-tenant commerce platform as well as multi-tenant distributed order management and business intelligence solutions.
- Magento Cloud provides Magento Commerce functionality supported by a powerful cloud infrastructure.
Gartner recommends Magento Commerce for “digital commerce leaders in midsize B2C and B2B organizations seeking a robust commerce solution that can be deeply customized.” At the same time, Magento Cloud — according to Gartner — is best for “digital commerce leaders in large enterprises.”
Magento Pros for Medium and Big Businesses
Here are some of Magento 2 key features that make it stand out from the competition.
Customization capacity. Overall, Magento is recognized as one of the most customizable eCommerce platforms. It provides unprecedented control over developing functionality for an ecommerce site and an ability to adjust code down to the tiniest nuances.
We at Forbytes are well-familiar with Magento’s customization capacity. In particular, Magento has been among our primary tools during:
- eCommerce software development for the Nordic region’s leading online store of sports products — Gymgrossisten;
- Magento 1 to Magento 2 migration and eCommerce development for a large leisure vehicle retailer — North European Trust AB.
Unified B2B and B2C. Magento unifies B2B and B2C store management under one ‘roof’. This feature can be especially useful to manufacturers, which often rely on both B2B and B2C online selling to cover their expenses and get rid of intermediaries.
Powerful Business Intelligence (BI). Strategic development of an ecommerce store is impossible without relevant data on which you can base decisions. Magento’s business intelligence solution provides strategic information, including average order value, customer lifetime value, retention rates, and much more. Such data can help you with abandoned cart recovery solutions.
Great Marketplace. Magento marketplace has plenty of extensions, which are applications and services that add new features and functionality to Magento. Expanding your ecommerce functionality and adding new marketing tools improves search engine optimization and helps you reach a bigger audience.
Adobe family. Adobe, the owner of Magento, is finding uses for its other digital products within the Magento ecosystem. Currently, you can seamlessly integrate Adobe Experience Manager with Magento to improve the customization of pages so they cater to your target audience much better.
Magento Cons for Medium and Big Businesses
Development time. Powerful customization capacity comes at a price. Full control over the development nuances and scaling of retail software is of vital importance for medium and big businesses but requires investments of time and money.
No native auto-scale. So far, Magento Commerce doesn’t have a native auto-scale. However, the eCommerce platform “is addressing agility requirements by expanding the application’s GraphQL API coverage to enable headless commerce.” Besides, various hosting services offer scaling solutions for Magento stores.
Higher maintenance cost. Overall, Magento can be more costly to maintain, especially if you decide to use your own server infrastructure instead of third-party web hosting. However, for bigger companies, the ultimate ownership over their digital ecosystem, upgrade capabilities, and customization capacity is often worth the price.
Conclusion on Magento for Medium and Big Businesses
Due to its customization capacity, native B2B and B2C functionality, and rich offering with plenty of extensions, Magento is among the top eCommerce platforms for large retailers and e-commerce store owners. Medium companies that include online growth in their business plan can benefit from Magento as well. At the same time, the platform is not the best option for smaller companies with tight budgets because of the need for Magento developers.
Shopify — Leading Challenger
Shopify — an e-commerce platform that was created by friends who wanted to sell some snowboarding equipment online — is Magic Quadrant’s top challenger and a popular digital commerce provider. Shopify is an intuitive cloud-based B2C eCommerce platform with the help of which brick-and-mortar store owners can quite quickly set up their own store and start selling online.
Mass market orientation makes a barebones Shopify solution not suitable for large enterprises or medium businesses that are likely to scale fast. Nonetheless, its extension — Shopify plus — offers a wider spectrum of features and functionality, which makes it a solid option for medium and big companies. As Gartner puts it, “large retail enterprises should evaluate Shopify Plus for some B2C requirements, such as ensuring a new product line reaches the market quickly, or when testing social selling scenarios.” Businesses are provided with unlimited bandwidth, which allows them to scale and grow easily.
Shopify Pros for Medium and Big Businesses
Here are some Shopify Plus marketing features that make it one of the best ecommerce platforms and help it stand out from the competition. You can create your own domain name for your online store and start selling promptly. Here is why:
Easy to use. The intuitiveness of Shopify is always at the top of the platform’s benefits and rightfully so. Shopify provides a minimum-effort experience of setting up an online store, which is a major selling point for retail companies that don’t want to invest time in the development of custom software.
App store. Shopify has an app store, where you can find a variety of small programs that can expand your online store’s functionality.
Native B2C and mobile POS (point of sale). Besides providing a robust online platform, Shopify has the functionality for establishing POS for mobile users and integrating it with the system. It facilitates inventory management and warehouse control.
Fulfillment software. In 2019, Shopify acquired 6 River System — a robotics and fulfillment software company. As a result, Shopify significantly strengthened its expertise in the niche of ecommerce solutions, which opens interesting prospects for the company and its customers.
Shopify Cons for Medium and Big Businesses
Absence of native B2B. B2B is untested waters for Shopify even though the company acquired Handshake — a commerce platform for an online business. Thus, retail companies that deal with both B2C and B2B online sales, as well as manufacturers, won’t find Shopify sufficient in comparison with the competition.
Not as customizable. Shopify’s ease of use comes at a price — lower customization capacity. Of course, it’s not a problem for small businesses and individual merchants that sell products online, but it may be a bottleneck for larger retail companies.
Limited localization. Half of the Shopify customers are from the US, and a big chunk is from the EU. Thus, some features are limited to certain countries. For example, payment gateways like Shopify Payments, Shopify Fulfillment Network, and POS. As follows, companies with a big, multinational span, may find Shopify limiting. They need to consider transaction fees for different payment processing tools in different countries as well.
Conclusion on Shopify for Medium and Big Businesses
Shopify Plus can be a great fit for stable medium businesses that need B2C capacity, look for a mobile first strategy for POS, and have the urge to enter the digital market or expand their online operations. Manufacturers, big retail businesses, or medium businesses that entertain the idea of creating bespoke retail software aren’t likely to find Shopify Plus a sufficient option.
Commercetools — Underdog Leader
Commercetools is a cloud-based headless digital commerce platform targeted at large retail companies and enterprises.
In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Commercetools has grown from a visionary to a leader since the last iteration of the research because of the increase in customers and geographical expansion. The main focus of Commercetools is big, complex organizations that require scalability at speed. The digital retail platform advertises itself as the “most flexible,” 100% API-first, and cloud-based commerce platform.
The results of the eCommerce platform comparison show that Commercetools is quite an underdog compared to retail software giants, such as Magento, Shopify, or Bigcommerce. Still, the platform has experience with some big companies under its belt, including Audi, Bang & Olufsen, Carhartt, and Yamaha. Last year, the digital commerce platform closed $140 million in funding and was evaluated at $1.9 billion. Overall, Commercetools’ rapid growth and strategic focus make it a great contender for this article.
Commercetools Pros for Medium and Large Businesses
Here are some Commercetools features that make it stand out from the competition.
Flexibility and autoscale. The complete cloud-based nature of Commercetools along with the company’s focus on scalability resulted in smooth auto-scale and auto-update capacities. Therefore, the platform is good for ecommerce sites that deal with a variable but a heavy load that fluctuates depending on the circumstances.
API-first is good for complex software ecosystems. The API-first approach that Commercetools offers is convenient for building a complex software ecosystem spanning various devices and online ‘locations,’ such as a WordPress site, webshops, apps, wearables, IoT, VR gear, and others.
The modular approach can be cost-optimal for enterprises. Commercetools is among a few e-Commerce platforms that adhere to the microservice architecture. As a result, with the platform, you can add new features and functionality relatively fast.
Commercetools Cons for Medium and Large Businesses
A company needs to be digitally mature. The complexity of the retail software systems that Commercetools helps to create matches the complexity of its offering. A company that decides to use Commercetools has to be digitally savvy. It should have integration experience, knowledge of how to handle deployments at scale, and an understanding of other operations vital to retail software development.
No storefront. There is no personalized end-user experience you can build with Commercetools. You will have to build your storefront along with the content management system elsewhere. Commercetools will enable you to build a basic online store that can be a good start for your business.
Conclusion on Commercetools for Medium and Large Businesses
Created with big complex organizations in mind, Commercetools has no intention to target smaller companies. Thus, the Commercetools eCommerce platform remains at the top of eCommerce platforms for large retailers that can leverage the power of a cloud-based API-oriented approach to quickly scale their digital presence. Medium and big retail companies that prefer custom online stores or product management systems over complex SaaS microservice-based architectures are likely to find more suitable offers elsewhere.
BigCommerce — Challenger
BigCommerce provides a multitenant, Google cloud-based eCommerce solution mostly to small and mid-sized retailers.
BigCommerce is somewhat similar to Shopify in its focus and the experience it provides. Nonetheless, lately, BigCommerce has experienced a surge of big clients, which granted the platform the top Challenger place in the Magic Quadrant. Also, BigCommerce is often recognized for its good customer support. Customer support plays a vital role in how much you trust your vendor.
BigCommerce offers 4 plans an eCommerce business can choose from Standard, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise. We’ll be focusing on BigCommerce Enterprise, which is the paid plan that’s more suitable for medium and large retailers because of the features that it offers.
BigCommerce Pros for Medium and Large Retailers
Here are BigCommerce features that make this ecommerce website builder stand out from the competition.
B2B and B2C. Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce has a robust and widely-used B2B offering for manufacturers, retailers, and wholesale companies.
Ease of use. Just like Shopify, BigCommerce is an intuitive ecommerce space. It can be used as an online store builder to build an ecommerce website relatively quickly without the help of software developers. Though, if you want to customize BigCommerce themes, you need to have HTML/CSS knowledge.
Unlimited API calls for Enterprise. BigCommerce Enterprise does not have a limit on the number of API calls, which gives the platform a competitive edge because it increases the number of requests an online shop can handle.
BigCommerce Cons for Medium and Large Businesses
Low customization. With BigCommerce, you have no control over back-end customization and can only extend an online store’s functionality with APIs and apps. The only thing you can customize to a significant extent is themes. There are many free themes and many templates that can be used for building a beautiful online store.
B2B is still weak. BigCommerce’s B2B functionality is still developing. Thus, if B2B is one of your main focuses, Magento or Commercetools will be a safer bet.
Lack of multi-environment support. Since BigCommerce was initially tailored to small retail businesses, it does not have multi-environment support. As a result, you will need third-party apps and solutions for development, testing, and backing up data.
Conclusion on BigCommerce for Medium and Large Businesses
BigCommerce is quite similar to Shopify in the distinction that it also deals with enterprise-level clients. Thus, BigCommerce is a good option for medium and big retail businesses that don’t want complex digital infrastructures or don’t require significant customization capacity but still desire to work with a platform that scales a little better than Shopify.
VTEX — Leading Visionary
VTEX is a cloud-based multi-tenant SaaS eCommerce platform that offers B2B and B2C features.
VTEX is a rising star in the eCommerce market. Currently, the platform is a leading visionary in the Magic Quadrant while in the last iteration it was in the niche group. Initially focused on Latin America, VTEX is steadily and surely gaining new customers and expanding its functionality. As of now, among the big successful companies that use VTEX are Walmart, Levi’s, Sony, and Motorola.
Overall, VTEX’s approach to eCommerce SaaS is similar to Shopify or BigCommerce. However, With VTEX IO, which is a serverless development platform, retail companies can develop custom storefront apps, custom admin apps, custom back-end apps, custom Pixel apps, and custom mobile apps to expand VTEX’s functionality.
VTEX Pros for Medium and Large Businesses
Semi-customizable. VTEX’s serverless development platform grants a certain degree of customization capacity.
VTEX ecosystem. Besides having B2B and B2C features, VTEX also provides an order management system, data asset management, PIM, customer database, and other business management tools.
Agile and Scalable. VTEX is cloud-native, so it’s easy to scale with the platform. Besides, the modular architecture of VTEX is great for quickly delivering and implementing new ecommerce features and functionality.
VTEX Cons for Medium and Large Businesses
Geographic span. Although VTEX is expanding its market presence, Latin America remains its primary location. Thus, a lot of the company’s tutorials and solutions are tailored to suit the Latin American market. Besides, plenty of VTEX software development partners are located there as well.
Comparatively weak storefront personalization. Compared to the other ecommerce platforms in this list, your ability to customize storefront with VTEX will be limited.
B2B isn’t VTEX’s strongest suit. Similar to BigCommerce, VTEX B2B is not a well-trodden path as most clients use VTEX for its B2C features. Thus, the platform’s B2B needs to be approached carefully by big B2B-focused retail companies and manufacturers.
Conclusion of VTEX for Medium and Large Businesses
With VTEX IO, VTEX becomes a middle-ground between BigCommerce and Magento though its customization capacity is rather an additional feature than a core characteristic. Thus, VTEX can be a good option for a mid-sized company that doesn’t want to commit to bespoke eCommerce platform development but wants to have the ability to add chunks of custom functionality to their own online store. As for large retail enterprises, they can leverage more value with Commercetools or Magento.
In this piece, we examined the pros and cons of the best eCommerce platforms. Based on this, we can make such a conclusion:
- Magento is best for medium and large retailers who want to have full control over the customization and development of their online shops and concomitant eCommerce software.
- Commercetools is best for large and tech-savvy enterprises that want to build complex back-end infrastructure spanning a wide spectrum of devices and gadgets.
- Shopify Plus is best for medium-sized businesses that don’t need deep customization, have a somewhat limited budget, and want to enter the digital market ASAP.
- BigCommerce is quite similar to Shopify but is best for medium and large retail companies that prefer better scalability and plan to sell unlimited products.
- VTEX is best for middle-sized or large retail organizations that require a flexible SaaS eCommerce platform with some customization capacity.
Still, the surest way of determining the best enterprise eCommerce platform is thoroughly analyzing your business and software needs to find the solution that will satisfy them. Depending on the size and requirements of your retail company, you will be able to find a perfect fit for your particular case though some IT consulting may be required.
Here, at Forbytes, we like having full control over the customization of complex retail software that we develop for our clients. We tested the pros and cons of the most popular ecommerce platforms in practice. And Magento remains among the primary tools that provide us with enough freedom and flexibility to build scalable eCommerce software for big companies.
If the requirements for your retail software development happen to align with our expertise, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to help you.