When you have a large enterprise to run, choosing something as important as your Ecommerce platform can—and should—feel like a big decision. You’re standing at a major fork in the road.
Down one path, you see the correct enterprise ecommerce platform: easy to use, scalable for a business of your size, and with fair pricing.
Down the other, you see an image of yourself in the future, your head in your hands, wondering why didn’t I choose that other one?
It’s not a pleasant prospect. Enterprise-level decisions like these shouldn’t be made lightly. In fact, even a topic as important as price should not be your only concern here.
To help you make that decision, we’ve assembled a full guide on selecting the right enterprise ecommerce platform.
It will seem like a lot to think about. That’s the idea. If you do your research now—rather than years down the line—then you can enter your new ecommerce platform with near-total certainty that you’ve made the right decision for your business. Doing so will require an in-depth look at features, pricing, and just about everything else today’s enterprise ecommerce platforms have to offer.
Questions to Ask Before You Decide
As with anything, big plans require a big set of blueprints.
This is the point at which you should write down a list of questions that will help you evaluate one enterprise ecommerce platform from another. But you don’t just want to ask these questions. You want to prioritize them so you can compare one option over another. For example, if budget is your primary concern, then two platforms that have significantly different prices but similar features will make your decision easier. You’d choose the one with the lower price.
In reality, it’s not always that easy. That’s why it’s important to get your questions and priorities down now, before you start the official research.
Question #1: What is your top priority in an enterprise ecommerce platform?
You might already have an idea in mind for what your most important feature in a platform might be. But if you need some ideas, here are some common priorities that large companies examine:
- Reducing costs. Lower costs associated with your ecommerce platform also give you additional options when it comes time to scale the business and pursue revenue growth.
- Customer experience. The customer experience can be one of the sole determining factors in creating the average lifetime value of each customer. It’s worth making sure that you get it right.
- Flexibility. What happens if you need to make an adjustment? Integrate your own APIs? What if the platform needs adjusting down the line; will it accommodate your needs or force you to make an expensive decision to switch to a new platform all over again?
There are other priorities, of course, but for many enterprises, their potential issues with a platform typically fall under one of these three categories. Ultimately, it comes down to cost, how customers experience the platform, and whether the platform is flexible enough to use your APIs and third-party software to achieve the functionality you desire.
Question #2: What challenges would you like to avoid?
When you make a sale online, it’s not always about what you did right. It’s about what your platform didn’t do wrong. This is known as avoiding buying friction.
The same principles will be at work when you identify potential issues as your company grows. For example, what are the pain points you’ve experienced in the past? What have been the costliest mistakes you made as you used old enterprise commerce platforms?
Question #3: What features are integral for your business?
There are some features that will be “nice to have.” There are other features that will be absolutely essential. It’s important that you identify which features these will be right off the bat. As you do the research, don’t let yourself get carried away by pursuing “nice to have” features at the expense of the features you need.
The Benefits of Choosing an Enterprise Solution
Before we move on, let’s answer one lingering question: why?
Aren’t today’s ecommerce solutions perfectly scalable no matter what the size of your company? If you were interested in saving money, you could choose the lowest common denominator for the price, scale it up to your enterprise, and call it a day.
Yet anyone who’s ever had a large enterprise to manage knows it’s not as simple as all that.
Running an enterprise requires economies of scale. Think about it this way: while a small restaurant might be able to get away with griddling one or two burger patties at a time, a corner drive-thru fast food restaurant probably needs an entirely different kind of machine to sear thirty patties at once. It’ll also need a hot plate to keep the patties warm.
Simply put, running a large, complicated organization means that you’ll require different solutions more oriented toward the needs that come with scaling.
That isn’t to say that you can’t scale a small store with the basic forms of the ecommerce platforms you can find online. You can. But at an enterprise scale—say you’re bringing in $1 million in revenue and the company is growing past your capacity to keep up with it—things change in a hurry.
If you’re already convinced, skip below and you’ll start browsing through the top enterprise ecommerce platforms around. But if you’re still wondering why you need to bother, let’s consider the key benefits:
- Customer engagement, en masse. When you’re a small shop, you can talk to customers without a problem. You’ll have time to pick up the phone, time to drop an email. At an enterprise scale, you need systems and automations to ensure no customer feels like they’re being ignored. According to Hubspot Research, 60% of customers these days define “immediate” service as 10 minutes or fewer. If you don’t have a platform capable of meeting those needs, your customers may start turning somewhere else.
- Branding, branding, branding. How would an enterprise as big as yours come across if you used standard ecommerce templates that didn’t differentiate your company from the rest? How would it look if you had a fantastic website, but your online shop matched none of the consistency of that brand? It would look unprofessional. It would give customers just one more reason to shop at the big-name ecommerce stores that do take the time to offer consistent branding.
- Scalability. We’re not talking about the scalability that comes from adding a few customers at a time, in the early stages of building a store. We’re talking about scalability that includes automation and hiring new people—or new teams—to deal with increased demand. Enterprise ecommerce platforms often offer pricing that makes your store scalable and keeps expenses predictable.
- Efficiency. When you’re small, you can afford a little bit of inefficiency. One mistake doesn’t become a back-breaking mess. When you’re big, a 1% drop in efficiency can mean thousands of dollars in losses—or far more, depending on how large your company is. Using an ecommerce platform designed for big operations like yours will give you access to the automation features and efficiency that isn’t just nice to have—it will be a necessity as you grow.
- Technical advantages. If you have a lot of money to put toward your enterprise ecommerce platform, you’ll also have technical advantages that come with it. Your store will be more robust than the next company’s. It will offer features customers like. It can be fast, it can be highly automated, and it can run like a well-oiled machine. The technical advantages add up to making buying from you a superior experience.
- The customer experience. Let’s say that you used an enterprise commerce platform to build great, customized recommendations for everyone browsing your site. Not only would this boost your ability to upsell and cross-sell, but it would give your customers more incentive to stick around. That enhanced customer experience will translate into more sales, giving your business an even greater advantage.
This is just a selection of the benefits possible with enterprise ecommerce platforms. But you can’t start realizing these benefits until you venture out into the jungle and see what’s out there.
Enterprise Ecommerce Platforms: Learn the Lay of the Land
Once you know what you’re looking for, you’re ready to start poking around. Think of the questions above as the map; now, you’re looking to find where “X” marks the spot.
To accomplish that, we’ll start out by looking at what types of platforms there are to choose from, as well as some of the top names worth considering.
Types of Enterprise Ecommerce Platforms
First, let’s split this world into three categories. The majority of today’s ecommerce platforms will be one of the following:
- SaaS. Companies use SaaS (Software as a Service) because it’s convenient. With a simple signup, you can essentially get the platform up and running in a hurry. Given the popularity of successful platforms like Shopify, there is often plenty of documentation for APIs and customer support cases that can help your technical team navigate the onboarding. Think of SaaS as an easy, but not always 100% flexible, solution for getting started. And there may be enterprise options with today’s top SaaS ecommerce platforms worth checking out.
- Open source / self-made. You can create your own platform. This means 100% ownership and 100% control over what you do—as well as all the pitfalls those benefits entail. That will mean higher costs as you pay for your own development, as well as the cost of working through any issues that arise.
- “Headless.” A headless ecommerce platform is an offshoot of SaaS. The key difference is that while SaaS may try to do more solving for you, a “headless” platform can put more control in your hands. For large enterprises, this can be a nice medium between taking total control over your platform and working with something that has the established technical features you’ll need.
The Top Names in Ecommerce Platforms
Now that you know what kinds of platforms you might look for, let’s zoom in on some of the specific names in the market.
- Shopify Plus. The enterprise platform built on the famous Shopify name. Large companies like Heinz and Staples use Shopify Plus to build their large online offerings.
- Magento Commerce / Adobe Commerce. An ecommerce platform that provides enterprises with drag-and-drop design features while handling the demands of larger retail stores. Typically, many reviewers point to Magento as a strong option if control and open-source editing are your top priorities.
- BigCommerce Enterprise. BigCommerce offers an enterprise plan that offers unlimited API calls and no selling “GMV” limits on an annual basis. The price is custom.
- Commercetools. Used by brands like Audi, Commercetools provides a headless ecommerce experience that will supply the backend while your developers integrate with your chosen web applications.
- Elastic Path. Another headless option, Elastic Path is especially useful if you have a lot of APIs that you know you’ll want to be integrated in a future platform.
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud. The goal of this “cloud”-based system is to unite everything you do that’s customer facing—including your ecommerce store—and bring it into one platform.
But it’s not enough to know the top names. You also have to explore them—who they are, what their aims might be, and which kinds of enterprises they cater to the most. Chances are, you may identify a key platform for your store simply by reading through this list.
- Shopify Plus Review on G2
- Shopify Plus Review on Capterra
- Pricing: $2,000/month, but only “starting as.”
- Description: Aimed at businesses already earning $1 million in revenue or more, Shopify Plus is essentially a grown-up version of the popular Shopify platform. This includes a broad knowledge base, effective customer support, and plenty of training to ensure your team is on board with Shopify Plus.
When a company succeeds well enough on Shopify, there’s the possibility of upgrading to Shopify Plus. This extends the capacity of Shopify into new worlds: more integrations, more customization with Shopify apps and partners, added automation with Shopify Flow. Essentially, Shopify Plus is the enterprise version of Shopify.
Shopify might feel like less control than other solutions, but it works increasingly hard at bringing a new “headless” style experience to enterprise clients who want it. The Shopify backend is robust, handling everything from inventory management to mobile commerce. Think of “Plus” as a good foot in the door for expanding your capacity when a shop becomes more than a shop, and starts needing more robust enterprise solutions.
- Magento Commerce Review on G2
- Magento Commerce Review on Capterra
- Pricing: Starts at nearly $2,000 per month, according to Capterra, though specific details are unavailable due to the nature of enterprise pricing.
- Description: More robust for enterprise clients who need plenty of customization, Magento Commerce provides an open-source experience with a predefined platform. The ability to scale and grow a company is already there, giving you fewer headaches if you want to adopt it now with an eye on growth in the future.
With reviews like “efficient and reliable,” Magento Commerce is not the bargain-bin approach to enterprise ecommerce platforms. It’s what serious companies choose when they’re interested in scaling and don’t want new problems as their company grows. Magento features support and “virtually infinite flexibility,” according to Capterra.
Magento is a good example of why it’s important to have your priorities straight as you research the best enterprise ecommerce platforms. If you want to make an investment (which can include higher costs) in a platform that can grow with your company—especially if you expect booming revenues—Magento has a solid reputation for being one of the companies that can provide exactly that.
- BigCommerce Enterprise Review on Merchant Maverick
- BigCommerce Enterprise Review on TrustRadius
- Pricing: More information about BigCommerce Enterprise pricing is available via contact.
- Description: Although BigCommerce tends to aim at small to mid-sized businesses with many of its platform offerings, BigCommerce Enterprise is the service that expands its popular platform to larger companies.
BigCommerce is a SaaS solution (but headless-ready) for ecommerce, and it’s earned a good reputation for fast load times, intuitive functions, and the ability to take your products and turn them into an automated, efficient store. Typically, BigCommerce’s reputation is for growing merchants—stores with plenty of growth potential and revenue but maybe aren’t in the big leagues quite yet. For companies that love the BigCommerce emphasis on great shopping carts and customer experience features, the Enterprise offering is sort of a “grown-up” version of everything people love about BigCommerce.
- Commercetools Review on G2
- Commercetools Review on Capterra
- Pricing: Ingest a grain of salt. According to a competitor, annual pricing can be as high as $200,000 and half a million, while the commercetools site invites users to try a free 60-day trial.
- Description: This headless solution is designed to get out of the way and enable your technical team to come in, brand your ecommerce platform, and have you selling your wares as if you designed a site from scratch. In doing this, it’s effective—but also an expensive solution for companies that want more complete ownership of their online store.
The irony of the commercetools name is that while the headless platform is robust for B2B and B2B integrations, it’s really a tool platform. It’s there so you can incorporate exactly what you want in your shop. It does offer SaaS features and functions as a full platform, but if you want to make full use of it, it helps to have a development team on standby. For large enterprises, that’s often not a problem.
Ideal for large companies in industries with a lot to sell—think retail, fashion, automotive, wholesale, etc.—this can be an option worth exploring if you want something that can easily scale while providing your team with the options it needs to add features as you go along. If you’re already big and have your sights set on getting even bigger, the headless platform can be a shrewd choice.
- Elastic Path Review on G2
- Elastic Path Review on Capterra
- Pricing: Structured based on transaction volume. Upfront pricing is also included: see the buyer’s guide for more.
- Description: As a headless ecommerce platform with variable pricing structure according to your transaction volume, Elastic Path strives to live up to its name by providing elasticity for growing companies. Given that it targets its services specifically for enterprise level companies—there is no “Elastic Path Enterprise” because that’s what the entire service is—it’s a viable option for companies who want more customization in their platform.
You might have noticed that with commercetools and Elastic Path, we’re not talking about enterprise versions of smaller platforms. That’s because these headless platforms are designed with you in mind. Elastic Path is set up for a company that knows its APIs. While the reviews suggest that it’s not very intuitive for users who don’t know what technical details they want—or how to achieve them—it’s a robust platform for an enterprise operation with a technical team capable of creating an online shop.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud Review on Gartner
- Salesforce Commerce Cloud Review on TrustRadius
- Pricing: Depends on which one you choose, including B2B Commerce, B2C Commerce, etc. Annual billing for B2C Commerce, for example, charges 2% gross merchandise value.
- Description: Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a unique offering because it comes from a robust SaaS provider that has a lot to give you—but usually if you use it with other Salesforce services. For a company that may already be using those services, this customer-facing commerce cloud platform can help provide a unique customer journey, which is especially useful in selling big-ticket items.
So far on this list, we haven’t talked about what you sell. And that can be an important determining factor when you consider what kind of ecommerce platform you want to choose. Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a good example of a platform that may be ideal for big-ticket items. With Salesforce, the key is on keeping people around long enough to consider your product or service, weigh their options, and ultimately choose you.
For that reason, Salesforce Commerce Cloud may be a good platform for you to build upon. That’s particularly true if you already use other Salesforce offerings, which will make the transition to this platform that much easier.
Whittling Down Your Choices and Selecting an Ecommerce Platform
We’ve presented some of the top choices for enterprise ecommerce platforms, explained their unique pricing habits, described some of their features, and even addressed some of the reviews. If you’ve read this far, you should have a fairly good idea about which ecommerce platform sticks out to you.
For example, if you have a highly capable technical team and want an ecommerce platform that will provide you with plenty of scalability and technical options as you grow, a headless choice like commercetools or Elastic Path would make a lot of sense.
If you want something where automation is possible but you’d prefer a more established platform that you can work with, a Shopify Plus, Magento, or BigCommerce Enterprise choice might be more up your alley.
What if you still don’t know? Let’s explore some key questions that can help you eliminate the wrong choices until you’re left with the obvious partner.
- Which platform is designed for enterprises like yours? You know exactly what you want. You know your company. You know how many sales you can potentially make if you move to a new platform. You may find that some of the choices on this list are flexible enough to handle a wide range of enterprise sizes. But if you spot a platform that seems designed for your specific requirements, don’t ignore that. It’s probably a sign you should check it out.
- Which pricing makes sense for your five year plan? For example, you might have seen that one of the options on this list charged a regular merchandise fee given your inventory. That provides a relatively straightforward and predictable path for your future expenses—the platform’s fees will grow as your revenue grows. But if it’s not how you see your future going, you may have to browse the other pricing options to find something that suits your current projections.
- Think about the other features you want. Let’s say you have APIs for data collection that are really important to you. But one of the above platforms doesn’t make any mention of that on its website. Is it really the choice for you, or does the pricing just make it seem like you wish it could be the choice for you? You also have to think about whether the platform you’re choosing can deliver.
No matter what your priorities may be, the most important thing is that you know what you want. This will give you a guide into which platforms will best perform for you—and do so for the best value.
But that isn’t the only thing between you and choosing a new ecommerce platform.
Ask your team. Ask the people who will be impacted by your new platform choice. Don’t just involve yourself; reach out to the sales teams at these platforms, because they’re usually more than happy to steer you through their features and capabilities.
And finally, don’t make a decision until you’ve considered more than one option. This platform is the technology that is going to drive your store for years to come. It’s a choice worth getting right.