How to choose an E-commerce platform

5 min read
June 10, 2024

Selecting the right e-commerce platform is critical to your business's success. The decision becomes complex when weighing the needs of smaller brands against those of enterprise-level companies. Smaller brands typically seek convenience and ease of use in an all-in-one solution. In contrast, enterprise brands require more sophisticated features, extensive data capabilities, and customizable customer experiences. This article will delve into the intricacies of choosing an e-commerce platform, focusing on the limitations of monolithic platforms like Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and the advantages of adopting a headless approach for greater flexibility and efficiency.

Understanding monolithic e-commerce platforms

The All-in-One approach

Monolithic e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud offer a comprehensive solution that integrates various components of the e-commerce funnel. This includes everything from website building and product management to payment processing and customer relationship management. These platforms promise simplicity and ease of use, making them attractive to smaller brands that may not have the resources or expertise to manage multiple tools and systems.

However, the "jack of all trades" nature of these platforms often means that while they provide all the necessary pieces, none are truly best-of-breed. For instance, Shopify might offer adequate checkout and marketing tools, but they often fall short when compared to specialized solutions like Stripe Link or HubSpot. Similarly, Salesforce Commerce Cloud may provide extensive customer management features, but its flexibility and customization options can be limiting.

Cost considerations

Another critical factor is cost. While platforms like Shopify advertise themselves as affordable, the reality for businesses seeking to leverage all available features can be quite different. To access advanced functionalities, businesses often need to subscribe to higher-tier plans and purchase additional apps from third-party providers. This piecemeal approach can quickly become expensive, undermining the initial appeal of an all-in-one solution.

The challenges with monolithic platforms

Limited customization options

One of the significant drawbacks of monolithic platforms is their limited customization. These platforms often impose rigid templates and workflows that may not align with the specific needs of an enterprise-level brand. Customizing these platforms to fit unique business requirements can be challenging and often requires costly developer intervention.

Scalability issues

As your business grows, so do your e-commerce needs. Monolithic platforms can struggle with scalability, both in terms of performance and functionality. High traffic volumes can lead to slower page load times and a diminished user experience, which can negatively impact conversion rates. Additionally, adding new features or expanding into new markets may require complex and costly platform modifications.

Integration complexities

Integrating third-party tools and services into a monolithic platform can be cumbersome. These platforms are often built on closed ecosystems that limit seamless integration with other software. This can hinder your ability to leverage best-in-class solutions for various aspects of your e-commerce operation, from marketing automation to customer support.

Vendor lock-In

Monolithic platforms create a dependency on a single vendor for all your e-commerce needs. This vendor lock-in can be problematic if the platform's direction doesn't align with your business strategy or if you encounter issues with the vendor's support and reliability. Moving away from a monolithic platform can be a daunting and costly endeavor, further tying your hands to a single provider.

High maintenance and support costs

Maintaining a monolithic platform can be resource-intensive. Enterprise brands often require dedicated support and frequent updates to ensure the platform meets their evolving needs. This can lead to high maintenance costs and reliance on external support teams, diverting resources from other critical business areas.

The headless approach: A superior alternative

What is headless commerce?

Headless commerce decouples the front-end presentation layer from the back-end commerce functionality. This separation allows businesses to use the best tools available for each part of the e-commerce experience, creating a flexible and highly customizable platform. With a headless approach, you can integrate best-of-breed solutions for content management, customer experience, analytics, and more.

Advantages of headless commerce

Unparalleled flexibility

Headless commerce provides unparalleled flexibility in designing and delivering unique shopping experiences. By separating the front-end from the back-end, businesses can create customized user interfaces and experiences tailored to their specific audience without being constrained by the limitations of a monolithic platform.

Superior site performance

One of the critical benefits of headless commerce is improved site performance. By using lightweight, fast-loading front-end technologies, businesses can ensure quick page load times and a smooth user experience. This is particularly important for enterprise brands that handle high traffic volumes and need to maintain optimal performance at all times.

Best-in-Class solutions

Headless commerce allows businesses to integrate best-in-class solutions for various functions, from content management systems (CMS) like Contentful to analytics tools like Google Analytics and marketing automation platforms like HubSpot. This means you can choose the best tools for your specific needs, rather than relying on the often mediocre built-in features of a monolithic platform.

Scalability and agility

A headless approach is inherently more scalable than a monolithic platform. As your business grows and your needs evolve, you can easily add new services and features without overhauling your entire system. This agility allows you to quickly respond to market changes and customer demands, maintaining a competitive edge.

Reduced vendor lock-In

By adopting a headless architecture, you reduce dependency on a single vendor. This freedom allows you to switch out components of your e-commerce stack without the massive disruption associated with changing a monolithic platform. This not only mitigates risk but also enables continuous innovation.

Cost efficiency

While the initial setup of a headless commerce platform might be more complex, it often results in lower long-term costs. You avoid the high maintenance fees associated with monolithic platforms and can choose cost-effective solutions that fit your budget and needs. Additionally, the ability to integrate various tools and services means you only pay for what you actually use.

Choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business

For smaller brands

Smaller brands should consider the following when choosing an e-commerce platform:

  • Ease of use: Look for platforms that offer intuitive interfaces and simple setup processes. Shopify, for instance, is known for its user-friendly design and extensive library of plugins and themes.
  • All-in-One solutions: For businesses with limited resources, an all-in-one solution like Shopify can be a practical choice. It provides the essential tools needed to start and grow an online store without the need for extensive technical knowledge.
  • Cost-effective plans: Ensure the platform offers pricing plans that fit your budget and provide good value for the features included.

For enterprise brands

Enterprise brands should prioritize the following:

  • Customization and flexibility: A headless approach allows for extensive customization and integration of best-in-class tools. Platforms like Magento or BigCommerce, when used in a headless manner, offer the flexibility needed to create a tailored shopping experience.
  • Scalability: Ensure the platform can handle high traffic volumes and scale with your business. Look for solutions that provide robust performance and uptime guarantees.
  • Advanced analytics and insights: Enterprise brands need deep insights into customer behavior and sales performance. Integrating specialized analytics tools can provide the detailed data necessary to make informed decisions.
  • Customer experience: Focus on platforms that allow for a personalized and seamless customer journey. Headless commerce enables the integration of advanced customer experience platforms that can enhance engagement and satisfaction.
  • Integration capabilities: Choose a platform that easily integrates with other systems and services you use, from CRM and ERP systems to marketing automation and customer support tools.


Choosing the right e-commerce platform is a critical decision that can significantly impact your business's success. While monolithic platforms like Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud offer convenience and simplicity, they often fall short in areas like customization, scalability, and integration. A headless approach, on the other hand, provides the flexibility and performance needed to create a superior e-commerce experience, particularly for enterprise brands with complex needs.

By carefully evaluating your business requirements and considering the advantages of headless commerce, you can select a platform that not only meets your current needs but also supports your long-term growth and innovation. Whether you're a small brand looking for an all-in-one solution or an enterprise seeking advanced capabilities, the right e-commerce platform will be a cornerstone of your online success.

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