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How to Choose The Best eCommerce Platform in 2021

I'm sure you've asked yourself several times this question: "Which platform should I choose for my project?"; you can work for a small shop or even for a multinational leading brand... at the end the three main points you should always consider to narrow down the list of possible options are:

1. Who is leading the market?
2. Which computing model fits my requirements?
3. Which architecture is coherent with my vision? 

I've tried to summarize the leading platforms in the following image classifying them according to the three points just mentioned:

Classification of the e-commerce platforms

1. Who is leading the market?

Well, in terms of number of live sites the undisputed leaders are Shopify, followed by WooCommerce and Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud (by the way, we are considering just data extracted from related to the Top 100K e-commerce sites, most of them are B2C).

However platforms like BigCommerce and VTEX are gaining ground lately.

There are vendors not performing so good in the latest years (just looking at the data, always considering just the number of live sistes). Main examples are Sitecore and Oracle.

2. Which computing model fits my requirements?

Do they adopt the same computing model? Not at all. We should consider two different ways platforms can generally be used: like SaaS or Iaas / PaaS (eventually we can also include "on-premise" in the latter one).

SaaS - Software as a Service

It is the model used by Shopify, and many others, which leave all the responsibilities of the platform in the hands of the vendor. The customer will just need to create an account and then proceed with the store creation (everything without asking the help of the IT team). In a few clicks you can have your store up & running. 

However, you can always push the customizations "button" and having a total custom front end, custom flows and integrations with third party systems (like legacy ERPs) and services (of course this time you will need developers), custom payments and so on.


  • you do not need to worry about sizing, scalability, redundancy of the system;
    you can totally focus on the functional part;
  • you can start with a very low budget (it does not apply to any platform, though!);
  • the maintenance of the platform (installing latests fixes and versions) is not your business (the vendor does it for you);


  • there could be hidden costs (even related to the amount of annual revenue); there could be limitations (in terms of functionalities and customizations boundaries); in other words, not always you can cover your requirements;
  • you do not own the platform, you are just "renting" a part ... in fact a SaaS is a multi-tenant system hosting more customers (hundreds ... thousands...) at the same time;
  • not always easy to handle multi-brands / multi-countries;
  • some privacy concern;                                                                         

PaaS - Platform as a Service- or IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service

In this case you have your account in a cloud providerAWS, Google Cloud, Azure ....) and you proceed to install and configure the platform of the choosen vendor.

Of course an IT team is needed. In fact, according to the computational cloud service you want to adopt (in the AWS terminology you could choose Elastic Beanstalk to setup a PaaS or multiple EC2 instances to setup your IaaS) you will need to perfectly know how the platform works.

By the way, if you have a data center you could even avoid to use a cloud provider and install the on-premise version of the platform (if it allows to do so).

The platform will evolve according to your needs having been on board a team of developers / devops / sysops. 


  • You have the total freedom to define the evolution of your platform (in terms of use and customizations);
  • No multi-tenancy but single tenant (yourself, the owner of the platform);
  • There are no hidden costs;
  • The same instance can be used for multiple brands and multiple countries;
  • No privacy concern;


  • You need to take care about the cloud infrastructure, size it and make the e-commerce high available (it can be though but with containers technology and Kubernetes it is not so hard anymore);
  • The license is usually related to the number of orders or to the annual revenue;
  • You need to take care of the maintenance of the platform (installing latests fixes or migrating to a new version);

3. Which architecture is coherent with my vision? 

This is very actual topic and despite it could be quite technical it is so critical for the future vision of your e-commerce project, that is why you should always concern about it: the architecture.

In fact, we have three main streams:

  • Monolith platform offering a huge marketplace of extensions;
  • Monolith or business services based platform exposing its features (full or partial coverage) with an API layer allowing a decoupled front-end (headless);
  • Microservices based, API first, cloud native allowing a full headless commerce;

Monolith platforms focusing on marketplace of extensions

This kind of platform has dominated the e-commerce IT scenario focusing on offering hundreds or even thousands different extensions or templates covering any type of requirement. The average evolution of this platform bring to the creation of a "Frankenstein" platform.

In fact, despite it can be really easy the integration of different payment methods, advanced features and very cool templates, the result is a giant mix of spaghetti code where each piece belongs to vendors.

Does it work? It does and it allows to cover possible advanced requirements in a few clicks (this is the real magic of this kind of platforms). It is fantastic from the pure functional point of view but it could lead to have a platform which is not possible to optimize and maintain through the years.

Examples are WooCommerce, Magento, Prestashop, Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud and BigCommerce.

Is it advisable use this approach? I would say for small or medium business focused just on one single channel and not really interested to invest in a developer team, it could be still a great way to setup your e-commerce especially if the platform is SaaS.

However Gartner predicts,

"By 2023, organizations that have adopted a Composable Commerce approach will outpace competition by 80% in the speed of new feature implementation."

What is exactly Composable Commerce?

In a nutshell, it is the possibility to integrate "best of breed" services (CMS, Taxes calculation, Ratings & Reviews, and so on ...) through the use of APIs. In other words, connect headless systems, like in a puzzle, showing up a unified front end.

In this way, the integration of different services will be faster, totally controlled and allowing the creation of a coherent and unified front end (the main ingredient is the adoption of APIs) but also back-end flows.

Leading platforms understood this requirement and started to take actions, in two main directions:

1. Business services based platform (refactoring the product, creating an API layer and also splitting the main functionalities in new business services and sometimes in microservices)
2. Microservices based platform (new generation of platforms built with microservices since their conception)

Business services based platforms allowing headless front end

Many platforms understood the need to provide an headless UI, so they refactored their core features and introduced a new API Layer.

Even monolith platforms allow an headless experience. However it is very important to understand, once you decid to go headless you loose the possibility to integrate main part of the extensions available in the platform's marketplace. 

So basically, one of the main advantages of the previous category of platforms, it is not valid anymore. It can of course still be great, but say goodbye to instant integrations (at least for the front end part).

At this point you could wonder, why should I go headless? Short answer is to allow the famous multi channels experience and split the development in a very clean and decoupled way. Lately internet got full of information about headless.

Many solutions like SAP Commerce, HCL Commerce, Adobe Magento and Salesforce Commerce Cloud (between others) are quickly evolving and they already allow to have a headless frontend and also an ecosystem of tools / platform which cover critical requirements (CMS, OMS, PIM and so on).

It is also interesting how new front end assets or even services (Front-end as a Service) are spreading around. In particular Vue front end store, NextJs Commerce and Mobify (recently acquired by Salesforce).

With headless commerce (and so the APIs) you can also implement blazing fast front end adopting the JAMStack philosophy.

Microservices based platforms (the new generation)

The new generation of platforms go under the definition of MACH: Microservices, API First, Cloud native and Headless.

The idea is to provide a full set APIs, based on different and independent microservices, totally deployable in a cloud environment and allowing to provide a full headless experience (not just the front end but also for CSR, administration and so on ...).

MACH and Composable Commerce platforms rely on the idea of coordination of "best of breed" services. They do not pretend to provide the best CMS, own payment service, OMS or PIM (Product Management System) but they suggest to use the best services in each field.

Relevant example of these new generation platforms are: VTEX, Elasticpath, Commercetools, Reaction Commerce and CommerceLayer.

They are platforms super friendly for developers with an incredible technology stack. They focus on articles, prices, inventory, contracts ... the core features. If you expect to already have covered features like content management, digital assets, feeds, analytics and so on, you should consider previous category of platforms. 


At the end it does not exist the best platform but it indeed exists the platform matching the requirements needed by your model (B2C/B2B/B2B2C), your strategic plan, your typical buyer and your vision.

We have provided three main points to narrow down your list of candidate platforms. However the choice is not easy at all.

In Orienteed we work daily with different solutions and technologies. We know pretty much pros and cons of each main platform (of course not all the solution existing in the market). 

Before making a suggestion we always run an accurate analysis listening first of all your specific requirements.

Are you ready to take the decision? if you need, we are here to help you choosing the platform fits your company and eventually even implement your visionary e-commerce!

Contact us