Which Enterprise E-commerce Platform is Right For My Business?
An e-commerce platform is software that allows businesses to launch, host, and manage their online store. While different e-commerce platforms offer different features, have their own quirks and capabilities, and differ in price, all e-commerce platforms allow businesses to build a branded storefront to sell their products.
The dictionary definition of “enterprise” simply means “a business or a company.” However, when used in this context and in the context of enterprise e-commerce platforms, an “enterprise business” is a large business with up to thousands of employees as opposed to a small business.
Of course, it should not be surprising that when looking for the right e-commerce platform for your enterprise business, the requirements and needs will almost certainly differ from if you were looking for an e-commerce platform for a small business. So whether you are a decision-maker for an already existing enterprise business or whether you are hoping to take your small or mid-range business to the enterprise level, this article is for you.
Deciding which enterprise e-commerce platform to use is always a very difficult decision. This enterprise software is not cheap, and they often require large amounts of resources (time and people) to prepare for its implementation in your business, to run the software, and to maintain it.
This is why it is important to conduct comprehensive research into the topic before making the decision, since selecting the right software can have a huge positive impact on your business and, of course, vice versa. This is also why it is important to make sure that you gain input from all sections of your business (sales, management, IT, etc.) and possibly hire outside consultants for an assessment before making the big decision.
Moreover, the decision isn’t as simple as us telling you which e-commerce platform to choose for your business or simply picking one out of the list of top enterprise eCommerce platforms. This is because
the right e-commerce platform will largely depend upon the specific nature and requirements of your business,
for which there are a number of questions (which we provide below) you can ask before you even begin your search for e-commerce platforms in earnest.
Questions to Ask
1. What are the main objectives that your business has for choosing a new e-commerce platform?
Is it to reduce costs that you are currently facing on your existing platform? Is the growth of your business requiring that you choose a new platform with improved scaleability? Do you want your website to be more agile? Are you facing vendor lock-in on your current platform and hope to fix that with a new one?
These are the questions that you should be asking yourself right off the bat since the answers will help guide your further research into the specifics of the platforms you consider.
2. What are the key restrictions or problems with your current e-commerce platform (assuming you already have one)?
Are you facing time overheads on your current platform? Are there technical restrictions that are interrupting the flow of your business? Are you faced with a platform with an inability to scale?
Sometimes asking negative questions such as these is a different and useful way of attacking the first question of what the main objectives of your business for re-platforming are.
3. What are the critical features that your business has on its current platform?
Here should be outlined the features your business cannot do without, and since you are currently a functioning business, your present e-commerce plan is most likely at least capable of providing you with some basic and essential functions (i.e. system integrations, catalog/product setup requirements, advanced bundling logic, native subscriptions, multi-store architecture, core merchandising features, page building functionality, etc).
Determine what these critical features are and make sure that any platform you choose to employ in the future can provide them for you.
4. What are the positive non-critical features that your business has on its current e-commerce platform and what new features would benefit your business?
Since you are looking to change enterprise e-commerce platforms, it is quite possible that the list of currently existing positive non-critical features might be relatively small, but an evaluation of such features in your current platform can be extremely beneficial since you have the benefit of real observation to see how these features have worked with your business.
5. What positive non-critical features would you like to have on your new platform?
Non-critical only means not essential for a business to run. However, these are often the features that are needed for a business to succeed and beat out the competition.
In addition to the positive non-critical features that you already have on your existing platform, it is likely that there are a number of non-critical features you would like to have on an idea new platform.
When compiling a list of new features you would like to have on your platform, it can be useful to hire consultants to help you decide what new features your company needs and what the potential impacts might be.
Such beneficial website features might be advanced native search capabilities, rule-based visual merchandising, various artificial intelligence capabilities, advanced built-in personalization features, customer segmentation features, more control over the front-end, etc.
6. How much is my business willing to pay?
This is, of course, an essential question that all decision-makers in business must ask themselves regarding any business investments or purchases, and it is especially pertinent to the question of deciding the best enterprise e-commerce platform.
As we said, e-commerce platforms can be incredibly expensive, even if the benefits for the right business are likely to far outweigh the costs. But not only do different e-commerce platforms offer different features, they often have different methods of charging their clients. Paying attention to how e-commerce platform companies price their products may be the determinant factor in your case.
7. What systems integrations does your business require?
It is likely that if your business is on the enterprise end of the market, there are e-commerce systems and software other than e-commerce platforms that your business utilizes. It is essential that your new e-commerce platform be able to effectively integrate with the other systems that your business uses.
8. What are your operational requirements for a new eCommerce platform?
More specific questions in this realm might be, do I need an e-commerce platform that can add configurable products? What about bundled products? Do I need a system that can handle advanced subscriptions or an advanced promotions engine?
While there are many more questions that you should ask about your business, the questions provided and the answers that arise should give you a greater perspective when considering the pros and cons of different enterprise e-commerce platforms.
Like I said earlier, we cannot tell you exactly the right e-commerce platform for your business since the answers to the questions above will vary. However, we can provide you some of the best options.
Below, we list some of the top contenders and talk about some of the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud is a popular e-commerce platform geared firmly toward the enterprise side of the spectrum that has become popular, snagging brands like Marks and Spencer and Birkenstock, for, among other things, its stellar personalization capabilities. It should be further noted that this software is geared toward Enterprise B2C (Business to Customer) companies rather than B2B (Business to Business) companies.
Among its greatest strengths are, of course, its personalization functionality, but also its scalability, multi-channel functionality, and its ability to integrate with other Salesforce CRM and marketing services, which together make it arguably the leader in B2C enterprise eCommerce platforms.
2. Magento Commerce
Magento commerce is another widely used e-commerce platform that was recently purchased by Adobe. Unlike Salesforce, it caters to both B2C and B2B businesses and boasts an extremely strong B2B business suite.
Some of the greatest strengths of Magento’s software are that it has an unrivaled range of existing integrations (i.e. customer segmentation, merchandising capabilities, etc.); that it is very open and flexible from a development perspective; that it has a large number of native features & functionalities; and that it has a huge active developer community.
3. Shopify Plus
Though Shopify has been around since 2004, supplying a hosted e-commerce solution to SME retailers, Shopify plus is a relative newcomer to the mid-enterprise market. Only launched in 2014, it has already snagged some top brands such as Kylie Cosmetics, Radio Shack, and the NY Times. With good reason too, since Shopify Plus is widely considered to be leaner and easier to use than platforms like Magento.
The benefits of Shopify Plus are that there is a low cost of ownership, an extremely agile platform, a quick launch time, and since it is a hosted solution, there is no need for in house hardware or technical personnel.
Clearly there are many benefits to Shopify Plus, but if you are a company with complex needs, Shopify Plus may not be the best choice for you. Overall, it has weak support for complex product data, less native product types than most platforms and poor native filtering.
Picking the right e-commerce software for your enterprise business is an extremely involved task. However, choosing the right platform for your business can have huge benefits for your company. Making sure that you ask the right questions makes this difficult but worthwhile task easier and will certainly benefit you in the long run.