Shopify Plus vs. Salesforce Commerce Cloud: Platform comparison
It’s time. Your small-medium sized business needs a new e-commerce platform, and quickly, but you’re unsure about who to go with. The debate between Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Shopify Plus is getting a lot of attention, and both are great options for specific needs.
However, the overlap between the two on where they fit best may be smaller than it seems. Picking the right solution requires you to understand your commerce needs, both now and in the future.
Here are a few tips for deciding between Shopify Plus and Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
Don’t approach it alone
Before you go any further, we have some advice for everyone looking to select a commerce platform:
- Find a partner you trust, tell them what your goals are, and get their advice. It shouldn’t cost anything to chat through it. This discussion is only to be done by your business once every 3-7 years, but companies like us have hundreds of these talks.
- Engage your partner to help with pricing if possible. Even with Shopify, which is generally a set price, more ambiguous fees can sneak up on you if you’re not prepared. With Salesforce, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the price you receive if you approach it right.
- Make the vendor show, not tell. Have them genuinely demonstrate the capability of the solution and how it is managed on your end. Perfect example — promotions. Both platforms can handle promotions. But what does actually creating your typical promotion look like? How does it integrate with checkout? Show me the edge cases. Do they really work? These are questions you need to be asking, especially for promotion heavy merchants.
- Shopify and Salesforce each have thousands of customers that are happy to share feedback. Talk to them. Get feedback from one that is aligned with your needs. If you are Nike, don’t let them put you in touch with Papa Johns. Talk to Adidas.
- Think long-term. You don’t want to have to do this twice. What is your roadmap for the next 3 years? What do your needs look like if you are successful? Where are there opportunities to grow?
Review the basics
As premier commerce solutions, both Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Shopify Plus have a lot in common but their differences can determine whether they are the right fit for your brand.
What they have in common:
- Fully managed SaaS solution
- Promising product roadmap
- Access to customer support and learning resources
- When they are a fit, they are a great fit
- Simple and intuitive UI
Where they differ:
- Salesforce gives you all the tools via their elite product suite
- Shopify integrates with all of the tools via third-party software
- Salesforce is focused on enhancing its platform and acquiring new features
- Shopify is focused on integrating with the best-in-class options for each feature
It’s important to determine which integration partners your end-to-end e-commerce solution will need and assess your total cost of ownership. Some 3rd party fees can be significant, as well as integration costs.
Review the basics
Both Shopify Plus and Salesforce Commerce Cloud are growing their product roadmaps to appeal to the small-medium sized business market. While Salesforce is offering new, aggressive pricing models to provide enterprise features to smaller retailers, Shopify Plus is offering more self-service solutions for brands that don’t have complex needs now or in the future.
Understanding your own short and long term e-commerce needs will help you determine which is the better fit.
Shopify Plus is beginning to play with the big boys. But in truth, there are still key obstacles limiting the platform from being a true enterprise solution. Shopify Plus is an affordable option for small-medium sized businesses with a simple and straightforward product inventory and no technical knowledge in-house. These businesses value money, time, and ease of use over customization, control, and a unique omnichannel brand experience. These brands may have no plans for global expansion or complex payment processing and focus on getting online fast with minimal options.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud gives your business all of the industry-leading tools it could ever need.
Salesforce’s new aggressive pricing makes it an option for any sized business. However, they typically cater to businesses focused on growth and innovation. Those who choose Salesforce value a more robust approach to commerce, integrating social and email into the selling experience and focusing heavily on CRM. However, you typically need a partner to get you up and running on Salesforce. Historically, Salesforce Commerce Cloud solution integrators have out-of-reach fees for small-medium businesses and extensive timelines.
Selecting an integrator like DEPT® who can start with a robust accelerator saves significant time and money. Our Salesforce Commerce Accelerator provides enterprise capabilities at an attainable price and record timeline since there is no need to start your e-commerce build from scratch.
Determine the best fit
You should be using Shopify Plus if:
- You have a relatively straightforward product catalog with a reasonable amount of SKU’s — Shopify allows 100 variances per product, with 3 options per variance. This can add up quickly if you are selling complex products such as clothing with different sizes and colors.
- You have little-to-no technical knowledge. One of Shopify’s greatest selling points is the platform’s ease of use. The more complicated parts of your site, such as the back-end, are closed off to you and instead handled by Shopify.
- You would benefit from a lack of system control, and you aren’t planning on making any core changes. As stated above, the back-end side of your website is closed off to you. Core hacks and back-end changes are not an option. This makes operating your website significantly simpler, but it removes a sizable amount of freedom when it comes to customization of website functionality. This can be a positive or a negative, depending on what you want.
For example, the checkout page is only open to cosmetic edits. New fields and any functionality adjustments are a no-go. This can be a problem for international businesses adding custom fields, or brands wanting to make every page of their website stand out.
- Your growth plans aren’t international. Shopify Plus does not easily allow brands to manage different storefronts with different warehouses. This makes managing various brands, B2B, and internationalization extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible.
There are examples of brands using Shopify Plus to sell in multiple countries, and it is doable, but they are likely using workarounds such as ERP or PIM to handle product management.
- Your design requirements are relatively straightforward — Shopify Plus has a wide array of affordable templates that make creating a website easy and fast. Many businesses are using these ready-made themes straight out of the box. You have the ability to customize your theme to create a unique look, but you are starting to trend away from what Shopify does best. Replicating someone else’s template is relatively easy. There is a limit to the level of customization attainable on any template.
- You aren’t looking to add extensive personalization or AI near term.
- Only truly B2C: Shopify Plus does have some B2B features, and it is a future focus, but the current features are not as sophisticated as its competitors. There is limited support for multi-store, complex customer permissions, pricing, etc.
You should be using Salesforce Commerce Cloud if:
- You require an elevated or unique design — Salesforce doesn’t provide access to any ready-made themes. All of the visual and functional features of the website are created, coded, and tested to meet the specific design needs of your brand. This option is going to cost more but the result is a website that’s completely unique across all channels.
As e-commerce platform specialists, DEPT® offer accelerators that include prebuilt themes. Our accelerator has several prebuilt theme options built on SFRA, Salesforce’s foundational architecture.
- You have access to an in or out-of-house development team. Salesforce gives you full control over the back-end of your website, which means it’s your job to attend to it. This job requires people with technical knowledge.
- Good enough isn’t good enough. With Shopify Plus, you get what you get. With Salesforce, you get a lot more, and you have the ability to build on that to get whatever you need. It takes effort to customize, but sometimes custom is required.
- Creating a personalized brand experience is important. Salesforce’s suite of tools empower you to create an incredibly personalized and focused selling experience. This can greatly increase conversion and loyalty. For it to work, you need to understand your customers, and it does take time to configure and manage.
Salesforce Einstein AI is industry-leading because it requires no data preparation to use, no technical team to analyze the results, and it’s integrated into every app in the Salesforce platform. Einstein custom tailors advertising, marketing, and the brand experience to each individual customer.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is one of the leading omnichannel marketing platforms. Its primarily used for creating and nurturing one-to-one relationships with customers, and for creating marketing campaigns that connect with customers like no other.
- You need to be serious — Not that Shopify Plus isn’t serious, but Salesforce just brings an extra level of maturity. Given their size, and the size of their customers, they have to. The best example is probably the fact that Shopify will not offer an SLA. For some businesses, that simply is not acceptable. Similarly, Salesforce is just a level above when it comes to compliance standards. ADA, CCPA, GDPR are all becoming more of a focus for companies. Salesforce is way ahead of the curve on CCPA compliance, and they are second to none in meeting ADA standards. With Shopify, you are a bit limited because your data is integrated with so many third-party tools. We have also seen issues managing ADA compliance over time.
In a nutshell
While Salesforce is moving downmarket, and Shopify is moving up, there are still some gaps each needs to fill to get them there. Salesforce needs more partners like DEPT® delivering affordable solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. Shopify needs more enterprise features to meet the demands of complex businesses.
Selecting an e-commerce solution is a significant decision that requires both an expert understanding of the solutions you are considering and consideration of your own roadmap. Navigating through these waters with a strong, unbiased partner who helps assess your needs against platform strengths and informs the end-to-end ecosystem can save you substantially in the long run.
We are experienced on several platforms and can help you determine what product is best for you to get started and to support your growth.
VP of Commerce, Americas
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