Choosing an Enterprise Ecommerce Platform: Types of Solutions, Questions to Ask and Top Platforms on the Market

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For small- and medium-sized businesses looking to go digital, there’s no shortage of ecommerce platforms to choose from.

However, if you’re a larger business with more complex business needs, you may find the number of eligible platforms shrinks considerably. But as an enterprise business with your brand on the line, achieving your exact requirements is crucial, and that all starts with an ecommerce platform you can trust.  

An enterprise ecommerce platform is a software system (either self-hosted or on-premise) that serves the complex requirements of a large business. With enterprise-level systems designed to scale along with your business and growth roadmap, your platform should be able to not only meet your business needs now, but also grow with your future sales volumes.

In addition, enterprise ecommerce platforms typically have advanced customisation options and functionalities, such as marketing analytics, inventory and order management, resource planning, accounting features, reporting and customer data. 

Since the beginning of 2020, 45% of ecommerce software buying activity has come from enterprise-level companies (defined as companies with more than 1,000 employees) — which means it’s prime time for enterprise business to up their ecommerce capabilities.



In this deep dive, we’ll cover how to determine your ecommerce platform needs and compare popular enterprise ecommerce platforms that are currently leading the market.

Outline Your Specific Needs and Integrations

Making the decision to choose a platform or to replatform requires the input of many internal stakeholders. 

From the beginning, involve departments across your organisation, including IT, operations, logistics, marketing, design and customer service, to help get a clear understanding of the impact your platform will have on each team. Gather their feedback and begin to make a list of key requirements and priorities.

Then, issue an ecommerce RFP to help you set clear business objectives and goals internally, as well as communicate those goals to your prospective platform providers. This way you’ll be able to evaluate each platform on your own terms, rather than being overwhelmed by every platform’s sales pitch. 

As you’re creating your RFP and outlining your business requirements, here are some things you may want to consider:

What are your main business objectives behind replatforming?

The best way to figure out what you need is to clearly define where it is you want to go.

  • Are you hoping to reduce costs and increase returns?
  • Do you want to provide a more user-friendly interface to boost conversion rates?
  • Is your current platform unable to keep pace with your growing business?
  • Do you need a platform that better integrates with third-party solutions?
  • Are you trying to avoid being locked in to using particular vendors or service providers?
  • Do you need a platform that analyzes data in real-time?
  • Are you wanting a site that is optimised for both desktop and mobile?
  • Are you looking for multi-store support?

While these are all important questions to ask before replatforming, every enterprise business will prioritize them differently — and that’s okay. Figure out what objectives are most crucial to your business so that you can start narrowing your platform options from the get-go.

Identify potential restrictions and bottlenecks on your current platform.

If you were perfectly happy with your existing system, chances are you wouldn’t have read this far. So now it’s time to outline what specific ways your current platform isn’t meeting your needs.

What are your pain points?

  • Is your current platform outdated and unreliable for handling your peak traffic conditions?
  • Are key information systems in your organisations (ERP, OMS, WMS, etc.) difficult to integrate with your existing platform?
  • Is your total cost of ownership increasing due to required headcount in IT, unforeseen maintenance costs or platform consolidation requirements due to a recent merger or acquisition?
  • Do you have any concerns about PCI compliance or the security of your existing system?
  • Do you rely heavily on your hosting company for server performance?
  • Have you lost revenue due to system failures or having to divert focus from core business activities?
  • Are your conversion rates lower than industry benchmarks?
  • Does your current platform lack the proper analytics needed to draw meaningful insights and improve your site?
  • Does your current platform lack necessary global currencies and payment gateways?
  • Does your site lack social media capabilities?

If more than one of these pain points applies to your business, it might be time to consider replatforming.

What are critical existing ecommerce features and integrations?

Despite your pain points, you’re still operating an ecommerce business at the enterprise level, so your current platform is obviously doing some things right.

Take note of all existing features and integrations you need to maintain with your new system, whether they’re native to your current platform or were engineered by your team.

  • Does your business require any specific integrated solutions (inventory management, order management, shipping, customer management, etc.)?
  • Does your business require specific page-building functionality or catalogue requirements?
  • Do you need to support an omnichannel strategy? Are you looking to expand to brick and mortar stores, sell on social media channels or open other online sales channels?
  • Do you have more than one online store that needs to be supported on the same platform?
  • Do you require a variety of payment methods and currencies?
  • Does your current platform offer customer recommendations based on AI technology?
  • Does your business need both B2C and B2B capabilities?

Determine the features and functionalities that are absolutely critical to your business operations, and make sure your new platform either has these features built-in or is able to easily integrate them.

What features would be nice to have?

Of course, if you’re going through the trouble of replatforming, you don’t want to only address your current pain points — you’ll also want to include wishlist items that would be nice to have, even if they aren’t absolute must-haves.

SkullCandy, for example, made the leap from Salesforce Commerce Cloud to BigCommerce and shared this about their replatform experience:

“While making the transition, we strategically chose to make a couple quick-win optimisations to improve the customer experience and aesthetics of our sites.”

– Kinsey Butler, Manager of Ecommerce Strategy at Skullcandy.

On top of the basic ecommerce functionality, these are just a handful of the unique features you’ll find when you set up a BigCommerce store:

  • Abandoned cart saver.
  • Coupons and discount codes.
  • Single-page checkout.
  • Channel management.
  • B2B capabilities.
  • Fully customisable checkout.
  • Page Builder.
  • Real-time shipping quotes.
  • Headless capabilities. 
  • Marketplace integration.

Of course, your first priority should be to find a platform that meets all of your critical line items. But once these needs are met, don’t be afraid to start comparing platforms based on their unique features and offerings. Even though they might not be “essential” to your business, these nice-to-have features could just be the thing that gives your business the competitive edge it needs.

What are the key system integrations required?

No ecommerce platform is an island.

Your platform has to be able to integrate effectively with the key systems your business uses (unless you’re prepared to migrate from these as well). These integrated systems and technologies across your business function to link together various departments, services and software and improve operational efficiency.

Especially as a modern enterprise with numerous systems, applications and business processes, it’s crucial that your ecommerce platform is able to integrate with all of your existing systems, and perhaps even offer new ones.  These may include your enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management software (WMS), product information management (PIM), customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation platform (MAP) among others.

Future systems integrations required for phase two.

At this stage, it’s also important to consider where your company is headed.

Your next platform should provide the flexibility and scalability to grow with you as you enter new markets (such as brick-and-mortar locations, an online marketplace or any other sales channels).

For example, BigCommerce merchants can integrate with top marketplaces like Google Shopping, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and Instagram. Or, using our headless capabilities, merchants can integrate API-driven experiences through a content management system, DXP, application, device or other custom frontend, while BigCommerce powers the ecommerce backend.

Take time to consider what your future plans and goals will require in terms of features and integrations with your platform. Make sure your new platform can support them — you don’t want to be going through the headache of a replatform just a few years down the road.

Types of Enterprise Ecommerce Solutions Available

Your ecommerce platform is the foundation for your online retail business.

Enterprise ecommerce software manages both your frontend sales and your backend operations while integrating with core business tools.

Your platform choice affects not only your frontend sales capabilities, but also everything happening behind the curtain.

Before we get to all the individual options to consider, let’s consider the general categories that all of these solutions fall into.

First, we’ll look at four types of ecommerce solutions:

  • SaaS (software as a service, cloud-hosted by third-party).
  • Headless.
  • Composable tech stack.
  • Open Source (self-hosted or cloud-hosted).

Second, your website content files need to be hosted somewhere. Your choice of ecommerce platform will typically determine your hosting environment, which can be one of the following:

  • SaaS hosting.
  • Cloud-hosted.
  • On-premise, self-hosted.

We’ll be predominantly looking at SaaS and headless ecommerce, but you can get a full primer on the differenceshere. Or, check out this handy visual breakdown from Hosting Advice:


enterprise ecommerce platforms open saas platforms


You can also classify platforms by their underlying architectures.

  • Traditional, monolith.
  • Headless or CaaS (Commerce as a Service).

Let’s look more in depth at some of these options and their potential advantages and disadvantages.

SaaS.

SaaS solutions provide an alternative to open source and have grown in popularity in recent years.

As an industry, cloud SaaS has tripled in global market size in the last five years and continues to grow.

According to data from Statista, SaaS currently accounts for nearly $90 billion in annual revenue, which is expected to increase to over $100 billion by 2022.

Why are more enterprise companies looking to SaaS? SaaS platforms allow businesses to essentially rent the platform.

In many cases, the total cost of ownership is lower when everything (cloud hosting, SSL, security, platform maintenance, etc.) is factored in.

They are versionless and outsource the responsibility of IT management, PCI compliance, etc.

The disadvantage, depending on your business needs, is that you have less backend and code-level control.

While previously many enterprise-level businesses tended to default to on-premise solutions, recently there have been far more viable options for enterprise level SaaS.

Some of these come from providers known for their on-premise ecommerce platforms newly offering SaaS solutions including SAP Commerce Cloud, Oracle Commerce Cloud and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Magento Commerce Cloud Edition also offers a PaaS solution.

Meanwhile, players who originated as SaaS providers have now moved into the enterprise space with new offerings to meet the complex business needs of clients with high volume sales.

These include BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, both of which have been growing and adopted by more established enterprise retail brands.

By choosing to rent instead of own, businesses are able to shift their financial and human resources from maintenance and integration to building customer relationships and improving customer experiences. This white paper shares more about why enterprise brands are making the shift to SaaS.

Headless.

For many businesses, the digital experience you’re creating is just as important as the product you’re selling. And especially in highly competitive industries, as an enterprise business, you need to be agile enough to respond to digital disruption and stay up to pace with current technology trends.

What is your business doing to create a positive experience for customers that sets you apart from the competition?

Headless commerce is an exciting innovation in SaaS ecommerce platforms that adopts a loosely decoupled microservice architecture. Unlike in a monolith architecture, where the frontend and backend are tightly coupled, a headless approach separates the frontend user interface layer (the “head”) from the underlying backend service layer. These two layers are connected through APIs or web services.



Headless is a microservices approach, as it decouples one element of the system instead of relying on one interdependent system. Decoupled approaches like headless are a potential advantage to enterprise businesses, because they allow for greater freedom and control, and you can develop some elements of your system to operate independently from each other instead of having everything be fully joined together.

A headless ecommerce platform will still provide important functions such as PCI compliance, security, fraud management and inventory management to larger key infrastructure points such as a CMS, ERPs, PIMs, OMS and POS. But at the same time, it gives more freedom to create unique customer experiences with the frontend content management system.

Irish fashion designer Louise Kennedy, for example, uses WordPress as their presentation layer to host their products, blog content and merchandising. But with BigCommerce as their ecommerce machine, Louise Kennedy doesn’t have to worry about backend functions like PCI compliance, checkout uptime or security. 

Plus, the headless feature allows them to seamlessly integrate their preferred payment gateways without having to do the heavy lifting themselves. Not only does this save time and money for merchants, but it also allows for greater innovation and faster time-to-market.   Popular ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, Optimizely (formerly Episerver), Elastic Path and Commercetools all offer headless, API-driven options.

Composable tech stack.

Composability means to be able to break an entity into various modules, all of which combine to form the whole. Therefore, according to Gartner, a composable enterprise is one that creates its organisation out of interchangeable building blocks. 

By breaking up into smaller, more autonomous teams, an organisation can more easily identify which activities are working and get rid of those that are not. As a result, the business can better align its teams and processes to support digital transformation and better respond to digital disruptions. 

However, for platforms using a monolith technology, the frontend/presentation layer and the backend/server-side are packaged together into an all-in-one solution. While this does make setting up your online store more simple and straightforward, it might present some complications for enterprise-level businesses.

This is why many businesses are shifting from a monolith approach to MACH. A type of composable architecture, MACH stands for microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS and headless. Contrary to a monolithic architecture, which lacks the flexibility needed to adapt quickly to digital change, MACH architecture allows you to choose the technology that works best for your business and future goals.

Open Source.

An open-source ecommerce platform is one the company usually owns and on which they can modify all of the code.

The advantages of these platforms are server and software control. However, these platforms usually have a higher long-term cost.

They also require a lot of responsibilities which fall on the business to manage including security (PCI compliance), hardware, IT staff to manage, hosting, and manual integrations.

Enterprise Ecommerce Hosting Options

While the type of ecommerce solution is a crucial aspect of choosing a platform, make sure to also consider what type of host you’re using. Choosing the right host depends on your business’s sales volume, site size, traffic, budget and web development experience. 

Below we’ve outlined the three main types of ecommerce hosts and what they have to offer.

SaaS hosting.

Just like with a SaaS platform, SaaS hosting allows the user to essentially “rent” the software for a fixed monthly fee, and the host takes care of all IT issues on the backend. This frees the user from worrying technical issues so they can focus on core business activities.

A SaaS host typically manages the following:

  • Applications.
  • Data.
  • Runtime.
  • Servers.
  • Storage.
  • Networking.

With SaaS hosting, you don’t need to download anything on your computer — all you need is an internet connection to use the software. Your monthly subscription should cover everything from site maintenance to security, so there’s no heavy lifting on your end.

Cloud hosting.

While SaaS is one type of cloud-based hosting, there are a couple other, slightly different options available. 

The first, Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)  is a cloud-based hosting option that, similar to SaaS, operates via a pay-as-you-use structure, and like SaaS, IaaS software can scale with you as your business grows. But unlike SaaS, an IaaS merchant typically pays one company to license the software, while a different party actually hosts the website.

The upside of IaaS hosting is that you’ll have full control over your site’s infrastructure. However, this means you’ll need to have a clear idea of what ecommerce features and functionalities you need. While the hosting provider runs the servers and networking on the backend, you’re in charge of maintaining runtime, middleware and applications operating systems.

A second cloud-based hosting option is platform-as-a-service, or PaaS, which, like IaaS, includes infrastructure, middleware and development tools. However, with PaaS hosting, users log into a specific platform and control panel to build applications. 

While this type of software doesn’t require extensive coding expertise or the ability to write unique apps from scratch, PaaS is often used by web developers, as they hold full control over the applications.

Self-hosting (on-premise).

Lastly, there’s the option for enterprise businesses to host on-premise. This means that you, the merchant, have to self-host the software through your own physical servers. 

So, if your business has a larger room or data center to store a physical server, then self-hosting may be an option for you. However, if you’re a solely online business, you may want to opt for a SaaS or other cloud hosting service.

Self-hosting software is usually open-source, meaning you can modify all aspects of the source code. This means more flexibility to customise your site and modify it to meet your needs. For this reason, self-hosting may seem like the de facto choice for enterprise-level businesses.

By self-hosting on-premise, you maintain full server and software control. That said, this means you will also have more responsibilities over things like hardware malfunctions and software glitches. Thus, you may require increased IT staff to maintain hardware, manual patches and updates and security.

Understanding Your Resources and Setting a Budget

When choosing ecommerce platforms, think about who in the company (or from outside hired agencies) will be responsible for things like project management, development and design.

Then, keeping the cart firmly behind the horse, make sure that all stakeholders involved in the ecommerce platform launch are on the same page regarding business needs and budget.

Different stakeholders may have different priorities regarding customisation and merchandising features. However, it will be a much smoother process if there is agreement on the budget and timelines allowed for the project from the very beginning.

Here are a few factors to consider when planning the budget and presenting various options internally.

Ecommerce platform cost.

Due to their varying functionality and features, pricing between platforms also varies significantly.

Different platforms also have different pricing models you will need to take into account.

On-premise “owned” solutions often have hefty licensing fees that correlate to the GMV bracket your ecommerce business falls into. Other models may be based on your expected usage and site traffic. Some headless solutions may also base pricing on the number of API calls you will require.

SaaS options like BigCommerce vs. Shopify Plus have a recurring monthly fee that covers their services.

In addition to the start-up costs, you will have to factor in other costs associated with ownership.

  • Will you be paying to support hardware and/or hosting?
  • Manual updates?

Do your research to really determine what the total cost of ownership for a particular solution will be.

Development and integration costs.

Replatforming comes with a large investment in development and integration. These costs are not to be discounted and, along with design, may be one of your largest expenditures of the replatform process.

Some factors to consider here are the build costs, third-party integration costs, API integrations, third-party app costs and pre-launch testing.

Using an in-house team to build, design and test your online store does give you more control over the customisation and modification of your site. However, installing new features and integrations on your site not only takes a lot of time, but it also comes with the risk of impacting other parts of your system. 

Thus, you may instead choose to outsource your web development to an external agency. Some platforms may offer their own development team to install integrations for you, but this will, of course, cost you more money. According to Elogic Commerce, design and development costs begin at $30,000 and can get as expensive as $10,000,000 if you’re working with external agencies.

Website design costs.

Often a replatform project is a great time to refresh your online storefront’s appearance and design as well.

In fact, some redesign will likely be inevitable. You can use this as an opportunity to hone your design and create a more user-friendly interface.

Map out how your core users will journey through your ecommerce site.

This will involve creating templates and wireframes to determine how your users interact with your content and products.

You want them to be able to find what they’re looking for and make purchases with fewer clicks and a positive overall interaction with your brand.

Much like with your development and integration plans, you will need to make a decision on whether or not to handle design internally or outsource to a contractor or agency specializing in design.

These decisions will be the first step in determining a budget for site design.

Migration costs.

Maintaining the integrity of your data is a vital part of the replatform process, so this is not a place to skimp on budget calculations. During the migration process, you will likely have access to sensitive, confidential corporate data, which is why strong data security should not be left to chance.

Especially as you’re moving data from one platform to another, it’s easy to miss blind spots and vulnerabilities in your system. Unfortunately, the consequences of insufficient data security can be major, leading to a damaged company reputation and potential legal action. 

Before beginning a migration, your business should have a detailed data security plan in place for all sensitive information, including customer data. Verify exactly what levels of security are in place and who has access to sensitive data.

Furthermore, it’s critical that all of your product, category, transactional and customer data makes the migration successfully to the new platform. Have a conversation early on with any platforms you are considering moving to about the costs and assurances around data migration. What sort of data migration services/agreements do they offer? Do they offer catalogue transfer services? Do they have data security plans in place?

These costs can be significant, so factoring them into your replatform budget is important before you make a final decision on your platform. After all, a poor transfer could result in faulty product mapping, incorrect product recommendations or images and mishandled customer data.

All of these can impact your conversion rates and, more importantly, lose customer trust in your brand.

Costs to ensure you retain SEO traffic.

Speaking of migration costs, as important as keeping your data clear so that customers can continue to find what they need once they’re on your site is helping them to find your site in the first place.

Don’t lose the valuable SEO equity you’ve built in your current ecommerce website with a poor replatform plan.

Your internal SEO team (or an agency of SEO specialists you outsource to) will need to do due diligence in SEO discovery and a thorough content audit.

You will also need to create a URL structure and redirection plan. Depending on if you do this with an internal team or use an agency, your budget for this process will vary.

Maintenance costs.

And finally, your budget doesn’t stop the moment your new platform is up and running.

Even the most well-oiled of platform machines will require plenty of nurturing post-launch.

How much will it cost to keep your online store running?

These costs can include maintenance fees, continuing development and design work, platform support, SEO and data analytics, security and PCI compliance (if not included), and updates and patches.

Other Things to Consider When Choosing an Enterprise Ecommerce Solution

For an enterprise business to perform like you need it to, a number of systems need to work together harmoniously.

Whether you’re predominantly B2B or B2C, customer experience is likely a big component of your success.

You need to keep customers happy, the website up and available, and logistics like payments and shipping chugging along.

You may also be faced with a continual need to implement new tools for marketing, ecommerce, and other teams.

And of course, there’s an expectation that everything will work flawlessly with the existing tech stack.

Here are a few things you may want to consider when choosing the right ecommerce solution.

Website performance.

Beyond all the bells and whistles, one of your nonnegotiables should be that your site works consistently.

We live in a digital age where many potential customers won’t give a site a second glance if it doesn’t load fast enough. In fact, 60% of B2B buyers have stopped completing a purchase because of slow page load speeds. 

But page load speed isn’t just a matter of whether a potential customer will stay on your site — it’s also a matter of whether they see your site at all. According to Google, page load speed is a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile searches, so if you want your site to get views, site speed must be a priority. 

Using Google Cloud Platform, a leading global hosting provider, BigCommerce provides unlimited bandwidth, multiple layers of security, and industry-leading speed. Plus, our hosted ecommerce platform has an average uptime of more than 99.99%, which means that you don’t have to worry about another site outage.

Capacity to handle traffic.

Perhaps your customer base is expanding, and your traffic is growing beyond what your current platform can handle.

Or maybe the holidays, a recent viral campaign or a feature in a TV program has led to dramatic spikes in site traffic. 

These kinds of scenarios happen every day, and they’re a good problem to have! More traffic likely means that your business is growing and succeeding.

However, if your online store is gaining more visitors, you need to make sure that your platform is able to handle the influx. And not only should your solution meet your current traffic demand, but it should also have the scalability to work with your projected growth.

Secure payments and data.

Protecting your data and that of your customers is never far from your mind. Choose a platform that will help you feel secure in how your payments and data are managed because the alternative can cost your company.

This may be influenced by your choice of a self-hosted or on-premise platform versus a SaaS platform. A self-hosted platform will often provide increased visibility of your data and an understanding of data security.

However, a SaaS option will provide security and PCI compliance as part of their monthly fees, handling these important matters while freeing up your resources for other undertakings.

Mobile optimization.

With more and more consumers choosing to shop on smartphones, your ecommerce platform needs to be optimised not only for desktop but also mobile devices.

According to Statista research, 5.9% of all US retail sales were generated via mobile commerce, and that number is projected to grow to 10% by 2025.



But with the rise of m-commerce comes high customer expectations for mobile site performance.

According to a study by Google, 53% of customers are likely to abandon your site if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load, and 46% of customers say that waiting for pages to load is what they dislike the most when shopping on mobile devices.

That said, you know your business best and where your customers are shopping. Take time to study where and how your customers are accessing your site, and prioritize optimizing those mediums accordingly.

SEO stability.

Despite being a major consideration for most ecommerce businesses, not all enterprise ecommerce platforms handle SEO well. Some platforms do have native features around SEO and migration, while others will require customisation and third-party integrations.

Create clear specifications for what SEO features you require as part of your platform planning. Your SEO team will probably have a lot of input to include here about what will help search engines to better crawl the site.

Here are some requirements you may want to consider:

  • XML sitemaps act as a roadmap for your website, outlining the relationships between the pages, videos and other files on your site. Maintaining a good sitemap helps search engines to crawl your site more efficiently and find your most important pages.
  • Page titles and meta descriptions are short pieces of HTML code that help name and describe each page of your site. Thus, page titles and meta descriptions help search engines understand what each page of your site is about, so that they can index your web pages accordingly.
  • Redirect management is the process of forwarding one URL to a different URL. This is usually necessary when one URL is broken or obsolete, or an entire website is inactive. When redirecting a URL, it’s often best to use a 301 redirect, which tells search engines that the old page has moved permanently.
  • Pagination is the process of dividing content over a series of pages, which allows search engines to crawl your site and understand the relationship between those pages.

Enterprise Ecommerce Platform Comparison for 2022

Now that we’ve covered the most common types of ecommerce solutions and hosting options, as well as key components to look for in a platform, it’s time to compare some of the best enterprise ecommerce platforms on the market. 

Of course, there is no silver bullet platform that works for every enterprise business. The key is to evaluate your business needs and find the platform that best aligns with your future goals.

BigCommerce.

Long a popular solution in the small-to-medium business space, BigCommerce has recently become a popular choice for mid-market and enterprise businesses as well.

It has a straightforward dashboard, top-rated SEO, many native features and the advantages (like lower TCO and reduced deployment time) that come from SaaS.

BigCommerce has highly flexible APIs and a strong headless commerce offering (more on that shortly).

BigCommerce offers a personalized Enterprise Customer Onboarding, catalogue transfer services and robust educational resources to ease the replatform process.

Enterprise Account Managers and Technical Account Managers also provide additional resources and personalized help to support BigCommerce Enterprise clients’ needs.

BigCommerce also has a large team of partners and agencies who are experts on the platform and can assist with design, development and SEO needs. Because the platform has more native functionality, the learning curve may be more difficult than with some simpler platforms available. However, BigCommerce University offers specialized training — on campus, on-site and on-demand — that can get you and your team up-to-speed on the platform quickly.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud (previously Demandware) is a SaaS option for businesses looking to streamline their omnichannel retail.

It offers an integrated platform that enables businesses to manage their sales in digital and physical channels with one unified solution.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is intended for B2C businesses, so if you are operating a B2B or hybrid business, you will want to look at Salesforce CloudCraze instead.

However, while the platform provides a suite of related services that can complement the ecommerce offering, it may require previous programming and web development expertise.

Adobe Commerce (Magento).

Adobe Commerce, powered by Magento and part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, has the flexibility to be an on-premise or cloud-hosted option.

Magento allows you to have complete control of your platform, supports a large product catalogue with many variants, has many native features related to product bundling, multi-store functionality and more.

Magento also has a strong market presence and is a well-known brand.

To use Magento Commerce, you will likely have a heavy dependence on designers and developers as well as expensive maintenance and support, which can make it difficult to calculate your total cost of ownership. However, Magento does boast a strong developer community that can answer any questions and help resolve issues.

SAP Hybris Commerce and Commerce Cloud.

SAP Hybris Commerce can be hosted on-premise or through cloud infrastructures, and SAP Commerce Cloud is its cloud-based offering.

SAP Commerce Cloud (along with SAP Hybris) offers native functionality appealing to businesses with a large international presence including multi-site, multi-language and multiple currencies.

They also offer complex data management tools, Salesforce automation, subscription order management, options for multiple catalogues and omnichannel capabilities.

Oracle CX Commerce.

Oracle CX Commerce, formerly known as Oracle Commerce Cloud, is the cloud-hosted product spin-off from the on-premise Oracle Commerce. Oracle Commerce Cloud supports both B2B and B2C customers in a number of verticals in a single SaaS platform.

Oracle Commerce Cloud was built with an API-first architecture that lends itself to flexibility in development, and it also has AI features and supports multi-channel strategies. However, some customers warn against high maintenance and overhead costs, which may be a deterrent for budget-conscious retailers.

IBM WebSphere Commerce.

For the truly large enterprises, IBM Websphere has long been the platform of choice. Under the Websphere umbrella are several product options for different subsets of the enterprise market.

IBM WebSphere Commerce is an on-premise solution, but IBM also has created a SaaS offering called IBM Digital Commerce.

As a leader in enterprise ecommerce, IBM WebSphere supports very complex business needs with a wide range of built-in features. It has a long history of being the powerhouse behind some very big enterprise clients, and its biggest strength historically has been their customer support.

Shopify Plus.

Shopify has a strong market presence in the ecommerce space. In 2014, they launched Shopify Plus as their solution for enterprise clients.

As a SaaS solution, the Shopify Plus platform offers the benefits of handling PCI compliance and security and solid uptime stats. The Shopify Plus platform also offers ease-of-use, mobile optimization and a customisable checkout.

The platform has a dedicated Merchant Success Manager and Launch Manager to assist their enterprise clients, as well as a robust catalogue of apps, some of which are exclusive for Shopify Plus.

Unfortunately, Shopify Plus relies on third-party apps to make up for gaps in native functionality, which can greatly increase your total cost of ownership once you add in all of the apps you will require. Make sure to factor these costs into your decision-making process.

Additionally, you will need to pass data between your platform and third-party systems using APIs. However, Shopify Plus has rigid API call per second limits.

A couple of other considerations:

  • Besides the monthly subscription rate, beware that you may have to pay additional transaction fees, particularly if you don’t use Shopify’s proprietary payment provider, as well as for paid extensions, themes and plug-ins.
  • B2B functionality is limited on Shopify Plus compared to other platforms, and Shopify Plus can only support up to 10 storefronts.

Headless Commerce Options for Enterprise Brands

We talked earlier about the potential benefits of headless commerce and a more API-driven approach to your enterprise ecommerce platform.

Here are some questions to ask to help determine your business’s API needs.

This will not only be helpful in determining if an API-driven approach is right for your business but also how expensive it may be (as some solutions charge based on API calls).

  • Is your business commerce-first or user experience/content-first?
  • Are you looking to create more personalized customer experiences? 
  • Do you need to optimise for multi-channel experiences and improve your omnichannel marketing capabilities?
  • Do you run multiple online stores and require various frontend solutions?
  • Do you require presentation layer APIs or only back-office APIs?
  • Is your data currently being transferred in near real-time from system to system?
  • Do you have a central data hub (like your ERP)? Can it connect to your ecommerce platform?
  • Are you building a monolithic system or a more agile spoke and hub system?

If a “decoupled” solution is something that interests you, here are a few options to consider.

BigCommerce headless solutions.

BigCommerce offers headless solutions that allow you to easily plug in a CMS through WordPress or Bloomreach or even have your own custom-built solution on the frontend. The backend is then supported by the BigCommerce SaaS platform.

This provides all of the advantages of the SaaS system (PCI compliance, checkout security, etc.) with a lot of flexibility to create unique, user-driven experiences on the frontend. All you need is an API connection to decouple the presentation layer and then plug in the platform on the backend.

BigCommerce doesn’t offer a fully decoupled microservice architecture; however, it has industry-leading API calls per second and no cap on the number of API calls for Enterprise merchants, and we don’t charge based on the number of API calls your business uses.

With over 90% of the platform exposed to APIs, BigCommerce merchants have the ability to integrate into almost any other application for near limitless customizability, and you have full freedom over vendor selection. Our APIs let you connect third-party integrations, applications or your preferred frontend CMS to build a headless storefront.

Commercetools.

Used in a wide range of industries, Commercetools is a microservice-based and API-driven SaaS platform.

Commercetools provides the backend functionality, while the merchant integrates with web applications or digital experience platforms to complete the frontend experience. The platform can integrate with Cybersource, Contentstack and Frontastic, as well as with DXPs and frontend CMS systems like Bloomreach and Adobe Experience Cloud.

Commercetools can connect to all frontends and applications, and it can help businesses connect to a variety of digital touchpoints including mobile apps, IoT, AR/VR applications and more for unique user experiences.

Although Commercetools has only a small ecosystem of partners, the platform does offer features for inventory management, returns management and multi-store management.

OroCommerce.

OroCommerce is an enterprise-level ecommerce platform that specializes in the B2B industry, which makes it a good option for manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. However, the platform can also be suited for any B2B, B2B2C, B2B2B or B2C needs.

With an open-source approach and a large community of web developers to support merchants, OroCommerce offers code transparency and security features whether you’re hosting in the cloud or on-premise. 

Additionally, the platform offers inventory management features that let users conduct multi-storefront and multi-warehouse management, and you can customise pricing and product catalogues.

If you’re looking for a headless ecommerce approach, OroCommerce lets you integrate with your existing ERP apps, such as SAP, and CRM apps, such as Salesforce.

How to Compare Your Enterprise Ecommerce Software Options

Now that you’ve seen a brief overview of the biggest players in the digital retail game and made a solid list of your business requirements, it’s time to evaluate which platform is right for you.

Of course, there’s only so much we can do in a blog post to address your every question and concern. However, we can point you in the right direction for where to go next.

Talk to the platform provider.

If you’re only comparing platforms based on reading their website’s, you’re only going to get  biased opinions. 

Every platform provider will likely try to market their strongest, most unique features on their websites, and with lengthy sales pitches coming at you from every vendor, it can be difficult to decide which platform is actually going to meet your business needs. This is why issuing an ecommerce RFP is so important.

The platform provider is the greatest expert on the platform, its native features and what it can accomplish through third-party plugins and partnerships — so take time to have real conversation with them rather than relying solely on their webpage.

Once you have a shortlist of contenders, reach out to them to hear their sales pitch and have them answer your tough questions. Be very clear about your business requirements, your priorities and where you can’t afford to compromise.

Attend ecommerce events.

One of the best ways to stay up to pace with current ecommerce trends and learn about different platforms is by attending ecommerce events. 

Many ecommerce platforms hold annual conferences that merchants can attend to learn more about their technology and what they have to offer. This is a great opportunity to meet some of their industry partners and get a better sense of who you’ll need to work with to make the platform work for your business.

These events offer great learning opportunities by renowned executives from the world’s largest retailers, as well as top-notch networking opportunities that can help your business grow.  BigCommerce, for example, hosts an annual Make it Big Conference, where merchants can come together to hear from industry experts, global thought leaders and legendary entrepreneurs about all things ecommerce.

Speak to ecommerce consultants.

If you want a potentially more unbiased view, you may want to talk to an ecommerce consultant who specialize in replatforming and can share their experiences, along with any challenges or pitfalls, with moving enterprise clients from one platform to another.

From conversion optimization to marketing strategy to business development, these consultants can offer firsthand knowledge and years of experience to help you find the right solution for your business. 

Although there are several ecommerce consultants to choose from, you can check out our BigCommerce Partner Directory to find the ones we recommend. Here are just a few to start with:

Ask other merchants.

Why do you read through customer reviews before purchasing a product? Probably to get a firsthand account from an unbiased source about whether the product is actually worth buying. 

Similarly, it’s a good idea to talk to other merchants before landing on a final decision for your enterprise platform. 

Talk to similar businesses (in terms of size, sales volume or other factors) who are already using the platform you are considering, and find out what they like (or don’t like) about their platform’s features and its limitations. This is a great way to find relevant use cases and get firsthand knowledge. Plus, see if the platform you’re considering has a Case Studies page, where you can find success stories from merchants who have had good experiences with the provider.

Get feedback from development and/or marketing agencies.

Another good resource for firsthand intel? The marketing and development partners of your potential new platform.

These teams have in-depth experience working with the platform and can speak to some of the challenges you may encounter and ways to overcome them.

The Final Word

As an enterprise-level business, choosing a new ecommerce platform is a big decision.

You not only have to take a number of potential stakeholders’ needs into account when choosing an appropriate solution, but you also have to sell them on adopting it.

While the start of a replatforming project can feel like a huge mountain to climb, with careful planning and a clear understanding of your business requirements, you’ll be able to choose a platform that is flexible, cost-effective and scalable. If you’re ready to make the first move, start your free, one-month trial with BigCommerce today to begin exploring our built-in, enterprise-level solutions.

FAQs About Enterprise Ecommerce Platforms

What is the right enterprise ecommerce platform for my business?

There are tons of enterprise ecommerce solutions on the market, and ultimately, the “right” platform for your business is the one that most aligns with your needs. Perhaps your main focus is improving your search engine ranking or analyzing marketing campaigns or integrating with social media channels. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so whatever your top priority is, find the ecommerce platform that best aligns with your business requirements and will help you achieve your future goals. 

With that being said, our money is on BigCommerce.

As a fully featured enterprise solution and leading open SaaS platform for mid-market and enterprise brands, BigCommerce offers 24/7 global support, robust security features and industry-leading uptime.

How do I know if my business is large enough to be “enterprise?”

According to Gartner, an enterprise can be determined by the number of employees and its annual revenue. A midsize enterprise is an organisation with 100 to 999 employees and $50 million to $1 billion in annual revenue, while a large enterprise generally has a team of more than 1000 employees and generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

How long does a replatforming take?

Although your timeline largely depends on the complexity of your business and how many changes you want to make, a migration can take anywhere from 8 weeks to a year or more. 

If you’re a midsize enterprise switching to a platform with a pre-existing theme and simple integrations, your replatforming may only take 8 to 12 weeks or less. However, for a larger enterprise with more complex needs, extensive customisation and lots of data to migrate, the process can extend to a year or more. Luckily, BigCommerce offers enterprise launch packages and in-house data migration services to help you integrate your existing systems into ours and get to market quickly. To help make the migration process as fast and efficient as possible, our Launch Services team will assist you in importing products, product options and customer data, as well as transferring your product data and catalogue to your new online store.

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What are major factors to consider when migrating?

In many ways, your online store is the face of your business, so it’s important to have a clear motivation for why you’re replatforming and an understanding of how it will affect your business. 

Starting at the beginning of the migration process, meet with all potential stakeholders and departments to find out what they need from your website’s platform. Make sure all stakeholders have ample opportunity to express their needs and any business processes that might be affected by replatforming.

Here are just a handful of factors to consider when choosing an enterprise ecommerce platform:

  • Cost. Not only will you have to budget for the monthly rate of the platform, but you may also have to account for things like maintenance costs, SEO audits, security and PCI compliance, domain names, plug-ins and credit card processing fees.
  • Skills of your team. If you’re opting for a SaaS platform like BigCommerce, then you don’t have to worry about heavy-lifting on the backend, since your host provider takes care of things like hosting and source code. However, if you’re considering a self-hosted platform like Magento, you’ll need to make sure you have the technical expertise to properly set up your site and modify the source code accordingly.
  • Integrations and features. More than likely, your current site uses plugins, add-ons and other integrations that help run your core business processes. Before you decide to migrate, run a technology audit to determine what integrations and features are essential to your business and make sure that they’re compatible with your new platform.  
  • Customer support. No matter the platform you choose, you’re bound to run into roadblocks, and you’ll need a customer support team to lean on. Especially during the migration process, having a strong customer support team will ensure that problems are resolved quickly as they arise.
  • Scalability. As your business grows, your platform should grow along with it. While it may be easy to focus on meeting current needs, it’s important to consider whether your platform will be able to adapt to changing trends and provide up-to-date technology in the future.
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