Which B2C commerce platform is right for your business?
Whether you’re coming at consumer-facing commerce as a fresh face or are well versed in the sector, researching the available platforms is vital in making an informed decision about which platform is right for your business. For any company looking to understand more about the commerce platform market, the Forrester Wave reports are an invaluable resource. The Forrester Wave™: B2C Commerce Suites, Q2 2020 evaluates each platform across thirty-one criteria to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each available platform and analyses the trends developing in the industry at large.
This is particularly important as there is no single ‘must-have’ platform. The commerce platform sector has plenty of entrants and sees constant innovation, creating a marketplace that is both highly specialised and broad. Because of this, businesses must take a tech agnostic approach and review each of the available options when considering a new B2C platform. This makes it possible to match the various benefits of each vendor with your business’s key needs and aims, rather than choosing a market leader from the outset and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. To begin the process, here are a few important points and questions to consider.
3 key considerations
Early on in the process of choosing a vendor, it’s important to consider three types of ease:
- How easy is it to integrate the platform into your existing tech stack?
- How easy is the platform to use?
- How easy is the platform to update/upgrade?
These three factors are at the core of your experience of the platform. Any complications in these areas and the business may not be able to maximise its investment in the selected solution.
Aware of the difficulties of integration, there’s been a trend in the industry towards out-the-box B2C commerce platforms, offering sellers a simple route to market with the added benefit of architecture that has been proven to work by other online stores. For companies with a more complex offering, or those looking to make use of a wide array of additional features, finding out more about the integration of each add-on and custom feature is a must. The right platform should fit your digital roadmap, catering to your current needs and future aims.
Ease of use
When considering the ease of use, there are two areas to focus on. The first is external – what kind of educational and instructional material does the vendor provide? This could come in the form of knowledge-share resources, 24/7 online support, or scheduled training sessions. This offering varies, and each business will have a different preference for how educational and instructional information is provided. Equally, if a commerce platform requires extensive training to get up-to-speed, it may not be the right fit. If the priority is getting a B2C platform up and running quickly, the time it takes to learn how the service works is an important factor to consider.
When considering ease of use, think of how various processes can be managed through one platform, rather than a series of siloed solutions. For a diversified tech stack, this means building a unified user interface, where possible, to prevent hopping between interfaces.
The second is internal – how does the platform fit with the expertise of your in-house development teams? Colleagues may already have experience with a certain platform, which is a useful benefit, particularly for vendors that provide more customisation options. Whether the platform solves the business’s aims is the top priority, but prior experience can be a tie-breaker factor when choosing a platform.
Updates & upgrades
Businesses that are new to commerce platforms can often overlook the update and upgrade process. Some updates can cause downtime, something that no e-commerce site wants. Additionally, upgrades and updates can be costly and slow down the adoption of new features, requiring a complete platform update to use a new feature.
In the past, tech providers offered annual and quarterly updates to the service, however, this is changing as each vendor looks to keep up with the speed of innovation in the sector and provide regular updates.
While the sector is trending towards continuous deployment and no downtime models, be sure to speak to vendors about their update and upgrade process to ensure that the e-commerce site will be able to avoid downtime wherever possible, and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in e-commerce.
B2C commerce suites
When selecting a platform, it’s always important to choose the right option for your business’s needs, not just the market-leading option. Features differ, specialisation differs, the design differs. Below, we have assembled DEPT®’s collected thinking and a number of case studies to provide more of an understanding of a selected number of platforms to consider when looking for an e-commerce service.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Salesforce’s strength lies in personalisation and AI-powered decision making. Building an e-commerce site is simple through the Page Designer tool, a feature of Salesforce Commerce Cloud that makes it easy for marketing departments to create content pages in a user-friendly environment. Page Designer’s ease of use makes it an ideal feature for companies looking to frequently create new product pages and in-house the building of new pages, following the initial implementation. Saving time this way is a major benefit for companies that want to be up and running as soon as possible.
Working with Bugaboo and using Salesforce Commerce Cloud, DEPT® built and launched the pushchair brand’s new site in 26 countries in just four months. The initial build is the first step, with potential in the future to improve the shopper experience with 3D product models on each page and the ability to share custom products.
Episerver Commerce Cloud
In the B2C commerce market, Episerver stands out as a digital experience-focused offering for mid to large-sized enterprises. Plenty of personalisation features facilitate relevant shopping experiences for each shopper, and the level of custom configuration make it a popular platform for many developers.
There are plenty of API possibilities through Episerver, including the use of headless commerce, putting Episerver users in a strong position for the future of e-commerce and making the expansion of e-commerce options to new services, like voice assistants and smart wearables, a much simpler task.
commercetools pride themselves on their API first principle; more than 300 available APIs unlock hundreds of different functions for businesses to consider, across websites, social media, mobile apps, VR/AR experiences and voice assistants. This naturally builds into a headless approach.
The commercetools approach centres squarely on e-commerce activation, making it a useful fit for companies that are already happily settled with their current CMS system, as shown in DEPT®’s work with Eurail.com. This project integrated Adobe Experience Manager and commercetools to fast track the success of the train ticket site through an out of the box solution.
Shopify stands out from the market by targeting small to midsize independent retailers, rather than large enterprises. Shopify’s platform is focused on growth, opening doors for retailers with a limited number of stores to grow online. This is supported by the recently launched Shop app, a marketplace for all stores that use Shopify as a commerce platform, boosting discovery.
The Shopify Plus option provides deeper levels of automation through a number of add-on applications, as well as headless commerce. AR product pages are also an option, allowing smaller businesses to create a shopping experience that rivals the major players in their industry.
There is a broad spectrum of platforms to consider, the above examples are just a small cross-section of the various available suites. Manoeuvring through this market requires a clear view of what your business needs and a deeper understanding of how each option fits (and doesn’t fit) the key aims of the company.
Do your own research, read recent reports and material published by each platform, and start conversations with platform vendors and possible partners. This is an evolving process; it can take time to become conversant with the market, but it begins with the first step. If you need any advice, DEPT®’s commerce technology experts would be happy to help you.
Global SVP Technology & Engineering