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How To Choose The Right Technology For Your Enterprise Ecommerce Storefront

how-to-choose-the-right-technology-for-your-enterprise-ecommerce-storefront
How To Choose The Right Technology For Your Enterprise Ecommerce Storefront

The world of enterprise ecommerce continues to evolve rapidly. Consumers’ expectations for online shopping experiences become more demanding as underlying technologies grow more sophisticated. To keep your enterprise ecommerce storefront competitive, it's important to adopt the right technologies today—and have the agility to add new capabilities rapidly in the future.

A 2023 study by Mirakl found that 75% of consumers planned to shift more of their spending online to find better value. If your ecommerce storefront isn’t delivering the best possible experience, you may need to evaluate your current platform architecture and consider a change. A recent Shopify IDC report found that well over half (67%) of companies are changing or planning to change their current commerce platform architecture in the next few years.

In this article, we’ll review the most current technologies you can build your ecommerce storefront with, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and strategies for choosing the right approach based for your enterprise.

What technologies can you build an ecommerce storefront on?

During the past few years, the technologies powering the most robust ecommerce experiences have grown more powerful—and in many ways, more complex. The landscape of enterprise ecommerce is also incredibly diverse, with different types of consumer expectations and behaviors to consider when crafting the perfect buying experience.

There are several options for building your ecommerce storefront, from a single, integrated platform to a fully distributed microservices approach. Factors such as the availability of in-house development expertise, the complexity of your requirements, and the number of providers you want to integrate with will all impact which approach works best for your online store. Let’s take a quick look at four technologies you can use to build your ecommerce storefront.

Full-stack ecommerce platform

Many retailers choose to use a full-stack commerce platform for their ecommerce storefronts, due to the simplicity and ease of use. Because this approach requires the least amount of technical involvement, many businesses choose a full stack platform when they need to go to market quickly. Having the front end and the back end of an ecommerce website tightly coupled allows everything to work seamlessly, minimizing the risk of downtime and other technical problems.

Headless storefront

A headless storefront is a more complex approach to building your ecommerce storefront. This approach decouples the front end (where the storefront is) and the back end (where the databases and inventory systems are). Usually, the back end is accessed through API calls, allowing much more flexibility. Separate development teams can work on the different “ends” of an enterprise ecommerce website completely independently. This allows developers to choose from a wider range of technologies and integrations, while also giving them a way to add new features and upgrades faster.

Modular systems

Headless ecommerce storefronts can be built using a modular approach. In a modular system, the underlying technologies that power your ecommerce storefront are organized into reusable, prebuilt modules. New capabilities and features can be added, upgraded, or replaced simply by selecting and adding a new module. This reduces the development workload for in-house teams. If a technical issue arises, it’s usually limited to a single module, lowering the impact on the entire system.

A microservices or composable approach

Retailers that have very robust in-house development teams, as well as extremely innovative and complex technical requirements, often choose a microservices or composable approach. This is the most loosely-coupled way to build an ecommerce storefront, meaning every service and component is fully independent from each other. With an ecommerce storefront built with microservices, large development teams can work on many different parts of an ecommerce website separately, enabling rapid deployment of upgrades, features, and new technologies.

What is the best ecommerce storefront option?

Retailers are as unique as their customers, so it’s important to consider several factors when deciding the best option for your ecommerce storefront. One of the most important is how much investment your business has made (or wants to make) in having extensive development expertise in-house. Other factors include how fast you need to get to market, your commitment to rapid innovation, and how robust and specialized your buying experience is.

Choosing the technology that will meet your storefront’s needs today is only part of the process. Consumer behaviors and expectations change rapidly. Once a new capability is offered by enough retailers, it’s not long before that becomes an expected part of every buying experience. The best approach is to find a platform provider like Shopify that flexibly supports multiple ways to build ecommerce storefronts. A retailer can start out with a full-platform Shopify store and then decide to go headless with Shopify Plus or the Shopify commerce components plan—all without the headache of migrating platforms.

How to choose your ecommerce storefront technology

There are many factors that go into deciding which storefront technology to choose. The choice is often driven by customer base, in-house tech resources, go-to-market timelines, and other technological requirements that are unique to your business. At Shopify, we’ve helped numerous enterprises evolve their ecommerce storefront, and have found some common characteristics in the types of businesses that use each approach.

Full-stack platforms for ecommerce

Not all businesses move to a more complex solution as their revenue grows. Shopify’s full-stack platform supports retailers that as they’ve grown to generating $100 million or more a year. These businesses often don’t have to keep development resources in house, and can go-to-market with new brands and products very quickly. Businesses that get the most benefit from a full-stack platform only need to integrate with a few third-party applications. They also tend to have straightforward products and buyers. Their ecommerce storefront usually just needs to deliver an easily-browsed catalog and a clear, simple buying process. A full-stack platform lets retailers keep their underlying technology as simple as possible while they focus on growing their business.

Headless storefront

Retailers that have larger technology budgets, more complex technology requirements, and higher revenues often choose to build a headless ecommerce storefront. This allows them to provide their site visitors with advanced features and capabilities, such as integrated video, advanced search, and personalized recommendations.

Businesses that have the most success with a headless approach have in-house development and product teams. A headless approach gives developers who are comfortable with front-end coding languages a way to test, experiment, and innovate the storefront without impacting the back end. It also provides a way to meet complex requirements such as strict rules around URL structure.

Modular and composable systems

Not all enterprise ecommerce storefronts require the same levels of technical complexity to be successful. A storefront built with a modular or composable system allows development teams to quickly integrate with any third-party systems or software they choose—without having to write and test the underlying code.

Modular ecommerce storefronts provide businesses a lot more choice in what vendors and providers can be added to the platform. And because modules are prebuilt, they integrate seamlessly, keeping development time and costs somewhat lower.

Custom build or microservices approach

If your business is ready to make a significant investment in delivering a highly customized and optimized ecommerce experience, a custom build or microservices approach can be a good solution. If rapid innovation is a major part of your overall business strategy, and you have highly skilled in-house development and product teams, this approach will provide the most agility.

When your ecommerce storefront is built with microservices and components, every function is separated out, allowing even the smallest pieces of the front end to be changed, updated, added, and deployed separately. For example, retailers that use Shopify commerce components can solve complex technical challenges and innovate extremely quickly, while remaining on a purpose-built ecommerce platform. This lets IT teams at even the largest enterprises focus on delivering amazing ecommerce experiences without wasting time keeping the lights on

What are some ecommerce storefront must-haves?

A great buying experience

With consumer expectations growing every day, you need to be sure your ecommerce storefront delivers a robust buying experience. Regularly upgrading your storefront can give a much-needed boost to conversions and bottom lines.

For example, adding videos is a great way to improve the buying experience. According to Wyzowl, 82% of people have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video. Personalization is another must-have: Adobe recently found that ​​51 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase and 49 percent are more likely to become loyal to the brand if content on the website is personalized.

Lightning-fast load times remain incredibly important to modern ecommerce storefronts. Slow load times can impact revenue and repeat business significantly. A survey by Portent found that a website that loads in one second has a conversion rate three times higher than a site that loads in five seconds. Shopify offers the stores they host a performance dashboard and speed score so they know exactly how to make improvements.

A last must-have for ecommerce storefronts is optimized checkout. Cart abandonment is an ongoing challenge, and a recent survey found that 22% didn’t complete the purchase process because checkout was too complex. Shopify continually optimizes their checkout options for retailers on the platform to help them boost revenue.

An omnichannel strategy

Having multiple brand touchpoints as part of your overall buying experience drives brand engagement and increased revenue. Omnisend found that marketers using three or more channels in a campaign earned a 494% higher order rate than those using a single-channel campaign.

Optimizing your ecommerce storefront for omnichannel retail helps deliver a unified brand experience to your buyers. Having a storefront that can respond to buyer data, such as purchase history, browsing behavior, and demographic information, can help you tailor the buying experience to your customer’s preferences. Shopify customer LeSportsac grew revenue by 37% after implementing an omnichannel strategy that included a customized storefront experience for returning customers.

Supporting global commerce and cross-border selling

Optimizing your ecommerce storefront to sell and ship globally allows businesses to generate revenue from a larger and more diversified customer base. For example, when boutique jeweler Made by Mary used Shopify Markets Pro to make numerous buying improvements for international site users, orders increased by 90%.

To provide a better experience for new international customers, ecommerce storefronts can be localized to include translated content, adapted imagery, multi-currency pricing, and more. Businesses can upgrade checkouts to accommodate local payment methods and add new shipping processes to reduce international delivery time and cost. Adding the right technologies to an ecommerce storefront allows retailers to reach new global markets quickly and grow revenue.

Delivering a tailored experience for B2B Buyers

Even if your business is primarily B2B (business to business), delivering a more “consumer-like” experience in your ecommerce storefront can improve your bottom line. A recent study found that 90% of B2B buyers want a DTC (direct-to-consumer) experience from the suppliers they buy from.

Making your ecommerce storefront similar to other DTC buying experiences can mean offering personalization options, better discounts, streamlined checkout, and faster shipping. According to McKinsey & Company, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. If you are a B2B business, making your storefront feel more like a typical consumer website can help you keep up with buyer expectations and stay competitive.

Evolving your ecommerce storefront on a single platform

The ecommerce landscape continues to grow and evolve in response to consumer trends, behaviors, and market shifts. Ecommerce technology is also advancing every day, providing new ways to innovate online storefronts. But if you choose to add new technologies—or even change your stack completely—you don’t have to change your platform if you pick the right provider.

Shopify supports online retailers at all stages of their journey. Retailers can adopt more sophisticated technologies over time while remaining on the same flexible, scalable, fast, and secure platform.

Ecommerce Storefront FAQ

What is a storefront in e-commerce?

Within ecommerce, a storefront is the online interface that customers use to browse, choose, and ultimately buy products. Early ecommerce storefronts simply offered browseable catalogs that allowed you to buy items online. As technology has improved, storefronts now offer personalized recommendations, reviews, localized content, product videos, interactive product demos, and much more.

What is ecommerce retail store?

An ecommerce retail store is a digital platform that allows consumers to buy products or services online. Businesses operate ecommerce retail stores to sell their products to a broader, more distributed base of customers. An ecommerce retail store usually offers browseable catalogs of products, allowing customers to select (and sometimes customize) items or services and purchase them online for delivery or pickup. Ecommerce retail stores incorporate many technologies, such as secure payment systems, shopping carts, checkout, and real-time inventory management.

How do I set up an ecommerce storefront?

Depending on the size of your business, setting up an ecommerce storefront can be as simple as a few clicks. For larger enterprises, however, setting up an ecommerce storefront can involve research and planning, development teams, project management, and much more. Because the setup process can vary widely depending on the size and type of ecommerce storefront you want to build, it’s best to choose a flexible platform like Shopify that can support everything from very basic online stores to personalized, dynamic shopping experiences built with modules or microservices.

What is an example of an electronic storefront?

One example of an electronic storefront is Sennheiser, a premium brand for headphones and soundbars. They operate in 25 markets, and use a headless architecture to power their front end. This allows Sennheiser to provide an intuitive, streamlined experience for their international customer base. For example, they enable customers in 119 different countries to see their local currency while shopping and during checkout. The storefront is also auto-translated based on the region the customer is in. Altogether, Sennheiser operates five electronic storefronts, all using just the right combination of technologies on the Shopify platform to provide a robust ecommerce experience.

This article originally appeared on Shopify Plus and is available here for further discovery.
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