Two factors are crucial for your e-commerce success: clear ambitions, and access to technology that’s best aligned to help achieve your goals. Learn how your choice of platform can help you stack the odds in your favor in 2020 and beyond.

Your choice of e-commerce platform dictates the foundations on which you build your future success. When looking for an immediate advantage and competitive edge, it’s easy to seek quick wins. 

But when selecting a new platform, you should be thinking beyond the ‘out of the box’ feature lists. It’s important to factor in the future direction platforms will likely take, as well as the ease with which third party functionality can be integrated and leveraged to the max.

The last few months of the year offer the perfect time to reflect and set some clear intentions for the year ahead. This article will look at three key platforms and their current areas of expertise. We’ll explore the limitations you may wish to sidestep, and get a glimpse of their potential roadmaps. 

Read on to discover which platform best aligns with your own ambitions.

Shopify Plus: Economical, Flexible, Well-Connected

Within the e-commerce platform space, Shopify Plus is known for a number of clear advantages. It’s unparalleled when it comes to agility. It’s also well-priced, arguably offering the lowest cost of ownership available to ambitious, scaling brands today.

The generic benefits of a SaaS-based offering — security, reliability and ongoing maintenance are all included within standard pricing — will also appeal to those looking to avoid the additional responsibility and cost of a self-hosted solution.

Another big selling point is the Shopify ecosystem. From the beginning, the platform has placed huge importance on growing its community of third-party agencies, experts and integrations. Their Marketplace and App Store are well-designed and filled with specialists who are committed to the platform.

Built to play nicely with apps from the ground up, integrations are easy and intuitive. Those looking to extend their on-site search functionality, for example, could be up and running with Klevu in minutes, with code-free installation available directly from the App store to the Shopify Dashboard.

In terms of native functionality, many find the easy automation enabled by Klevu’s connector for Shopify Flow to be a game-changer. This mitigates any negative connotations surrounding third-party reliance by enabling automated workflows, and drastically simplifies the management of your store.

Limitations of Shopify Plus

One of the common issues people talk about in relation Shopify Plus is its lack of multi-store architecture. However, improvements here were promised in early 2019 and there’s plenty of anticipation growing.

Another concern historically has been restrictions around Shopify Payments, despite the service being easy to set up and run. Eligibility can be a stumbling block to some international retailers or those selling prohibited products, and there’s a levy for using alternative methods.

Added to this, certain aspects of Shopify remain fairly tightly ‘locked down’ from a development perspective. Checkout is one example, though this is a potential plus (issues are commonly encountered on other platforms when things start to be altered here). Lack of URL control or the ability to edit the robots.txt file also commonly come under fire. If this is a dealbreaker — and for many, it will be — here’s some great advice on how to handle potential shortcomings. The same author gives a deep dive into the pros and cons of Shopify here.  

Looking Ahead

Many platforms are currently trumpeting their headless ability, and Shopify Plus is no exception. However, beyond the announcement of the Storefront API we’re yet to see a lot of tangible action, so will be watching for further announcements with great interest.

Shopify Plus’s revamped online store design experience suggests big wins for future customization. Sections-based editing is being rolled out beyond the homepage, with better content portability and a master pages function coming soon.

Shopify’s ongoing commitment to online/offline functionality continues to be clear — there’s been significant investment into their POS system. They’re also expanding into the fulfillment sector, with their own North American warehouse network. And the company’s recent acquisition of Handshake suggests intent to improve upon Shopify’s B2B capacity in years to come.

 

Magento 2: Limitless, Powerful, Truly Global

Magento is synonymous with e-commerce. An undisputed kingpin within the game, the platform carries all of the pros (and some of the cons) that you would expect from such a player. In terms of B2B, they’re arguably the market leader, with an exceptionally strong offering.

Its biggest plus? Sheer opportunity. Magento 2 is truly limitless in terms of its scalability, and offers a massive range of possibilities for retailers as a result. From mixed baskets to marketplaces, this platform has unrivaled flexibility. Magento 2 also leads the pack in terms of its suite of B2B tools, from quotation management to complex price list setup.

In terms of recent improvements, the PageBuilder tool is attracting broad approval, offering native modular content management. 

Magento 2 is also very strong in terms of its international offering. Native multi-store setup allows for global and local management of data across multiple channels, brands, currencies and languages. They also boast a truly global network of tech partners and pre-built integrations for most payment gateways.

One of the great benefits of Magento 2 when it comes to integration with Klevu is the unique ability to preserve your theme layout, bypassing the need to build out your template to mimic your store theme. With a few quick clicks you can maintain the look and feel of categories on your search results landing page.

Limitations of Magento 2

Magento 2 is known as a pricey option. As a self-hosted solution, a lot of responsibility and cost is laid at the retailer’s door. Security, hosting and ongoing maintenance will all be additional expenses to factor into budgeting. Those looking to sidestep those factors could of course consider their Commerce Cloud offering: a managed and automated hosting platform.

And additional functionality comes at its own cost. A more complicated architecture and a higher degree of developer dependency mean that Magento users are hit with a double whammy — more dev hours required and higher pricing attributed to in-demand experts.

Magento 2 is often criticized for the length of time to get a store up and running. But its reputation for the ability to handle complex builds arguably skews our perception here. Magento 2 builds will often be more complicated projects to begin with, inherently requiring longer to launch. The general complexity associated with building a Magento theme, configuring and optimizing servers etc can make for a slow process.

Looking Ahead

Headless capacity is being pushed hard by Magento right now. Having launched their PWA studio — their own framework built around platform and native APIs — they’re heavily promoting the future of mobile commerce experiences. 

After being acquired by Adobe in 2018, crossover products are being promoted strongly (as you’d expect) and this will continue in years to come. Adobe Experience Manager offers an easy drag and drop environment and decoupled architecture, and native multi-source inventory is a new and advantageous feature. The artificial intelligence of Adobe Sensei is also being leveraged for use across Magento. We can expect to see much more announced by way of integration and boosted abilities here in 2020.

 

BigCommerce: Ambitious, Open, Agnostic

Another SaaS-based platform, BigCommerce comes with all the associated advantages — increased agility, lower cost of ownership, and no burden of security, hosting and maintenance.

As one of the only SaaS B2B providers, it heavily promotes its ability to meet the needs of such sellers. Designed to meet the expectations of the modern market, with large catalogs handled effortlessly and customer and pricing segmentation offered down to the SKU level, their wholesale capacity also has wide approval.

BigCommerce performs well for product data management generally. It has the ability to sort products up to eight sub-categories deep, and decent functionality achieved through product attributes.

As a clear competitor to Shopify Plus, it’s also worth noting that BigCommerce outperforms in a few specifics. One big advantage is that as a platform it’s payment agnostic, removing barriers to conversion. BigCommerce itself levies no transaction fees. And its SEO field is open, which isn’t currently the case for Shopify Plus. For an in-depth assessment of their enterprise offering, check out this review.

Limitations of BigCommerce

A clear drawback of BigCommerce is the fact that its extended ecosystem currently pales in comparison with those of Shopify Plus and Magento 2. But the platform is clearly working hard to extend its reach via new tech partners. And it’s enhanced its enterprise-level offering, announcing partnerships with vendors such as Bloomreach, DotDigital Engagement Cloud and Attraqt.

As with many similar platforms, BigCommerce has poor native search capacities, but a new integration with Klevu adds much-needed functionality in this area. In fact, it’s the platform’s only on-site search solution powered by Natural Language Processing technology. 

Looking Ahead

Although a key theme for many platforms at the moment, BigCommerce is pushing its headless capacities more than most right now. It’s offering more APIs and generally positioning itself as a more open provider, to those looking to go down this route. Arguably, BigCommerce is encouraging users to draw on Prismic, Bloomreach and similar to build elements that are currently missing from the platform on the frontend. 

But if headless commerce is an avenue that your business is looking to explore, BigCommerce currently appears to be one of the more proactive platforms in this space.

The platform is also clearly pushing to improve on its international offering. A multi-currency feature released in beta arguably has the ability to handle separate price lists. It’s working towards improved multi-store architecture, too.

 

Meeting Your 2020 Goals

So which platform best suits your goals for 2020? While all major platforms are gearing up their features to meet rapidly evolving consumer expectations, most ambitious brands will still need to partner with advanced third-party solutions for specialist functionality where it counts.

On-site search is typically lacking in terms of native capability for most leading platforms, including all three featured in this article. Join the 3,000 retailers expanding their capacity (and their bottom line) through Klevu. It’s a perfect example of how specialist functionality can be fine-tuned to help meet all your business goals.

2020’s winners will be the retailers that partner with platforms sharing similar outlooks. By cherry-picking the best specialist functionality to complement these strong foundations, you can build out balanced e-commerce stacks, fit to meet the standards and demands of a new decade of customers.

If you’d like to learn more about how Klevu can help to boost your on-site search capabilities, regardless of platform, schedule a demo.