A technology stack, or tech stack, refers to the collection of software solutions that support the different workflows in running an ecommerce website or online store. A tech stack includes a range of technologies, tools, and platforms that work together to enable different aspects of an ecommerce business.
As your business grows, the set of tools and software you use to power your online store can be a key competitive differentiator.
If you’re moving away from an all-in-one legacy system for more flexibility to pick and choose your tech stack, you’re in the right place. Here’s a quick overview of how to think about building the right tech stack for your unique business needs.
Table of contents
- What is an ecommerce technology stack?
- How to build a winning enterprise ecommerce tech stack
- 4 factors to consider when choosing tools for your tech stack
- Business functions to build your ecommerce tech stack around
What is an ecommerce technology stack?
An ecommerce technology stack, or tech stack, refers to the collection of software solutions that support the different workflows in running an ecommerce website or online store.
There are countless software solutions and technology options to consider when building your ecommerce store. And each component of your ecommerce operation—from payment processing, to inventory management, and shipping solutions—can use a different tech stack, depending on your needs.
Ecommerce tech stacks are usually made up of platforms, frameworks, tools, applications, and programming languages.
Taking it a step further, your enterprise ecommerce tech stack will have two aspects:
- The front-end (client-facing)
- The back-end (server-facing)
The front-end stack refers to the applications and languages that are used to develop and design your website or online storefront. Whereas your back end stack will be the server, application, and database that work behind the scenes to deliver information to the customer.
How to build a winning enterprise ecommerce tech stack
How enterprise retailers choose to build their ecommerce tech stack has far-reaching implications for their business operations. With so many different solutions to choose from, the key to success isn’t about selecting any one particular tool—it’s about ensuring that you have a solid foundation to experiment and scale effectively.
Here are some key things to consider when building a winning enterprise ecommerce tech stack:
1. Build on top of a managed commerce platform
The most successful platforms come with a curated set of primitives, workflows, and best practices encoded within. Well-designed opinions lead to better outcomes, and success for those who adopt them.
A well-designed API and opinionated abstraction encode best practices and allow for elegant, scalable implementations. For example, an opinionated templating language can effectively eliminate XSS and similar, rife client-side security attacks. Or, at least, make these attacks very hard to execute. A managed runtime with execution limits, caching, retry, and circuit breakers can also provide a strong contract and guarantee for predictable performance under extreme load.
Great opinions, encoded in platforms and SDKs, are an aide to organizations and their developers. They abstract common functionality and needs behind standard interfaces, constrain and eliminate bad patterns and choices, accelerate the path to value, and minimize development and maintenance costs.
2. Opt for a modular architecture
Ideally, your ecommerce tech stack should make it easy to install and swap new apps or integrations on demand to unlock new commerce capabilities.
For example, with Commerce Components by Shopify, retailers can take what they need, when they need it, and swap out pieces when they no longer have use for them. This is what makes a tech stack future-proof. Therein lies the power of modular and swappable components: a cohesive platform that compounds benefits for retailers at every stage of their journey without exploding integration and ongoing maintenance costs.
This is all made possible by Shopify’s partner and developer ecosystem—a robust network of more than 20,000 app developers and agency partners, who’ve built over 8,000 public applications, easily accessed by a robust network of ecommerce APIs.
3. Avoid too much component isolation
Component isolation is a design feature that can greatly influence how engineering teams are organized and staffed, and how the system scales. Good architecture leverages component and service isolation in appropriate places. Too much of it—a common microservices pitfall—can lead to brittle deployments that are hard to audit, scale, and debug.
Strong service-level separation and composition are key to a scalable and flexible enterprise architecture, which is best derived through the use of common shared infrastructure, code primitives, and service contracts. This is best provided by a platform, like Shopify, which enables teams to operate across services with reusable context and tools, and allows security teams to enforce system-wide guarantees.
Ultimately, the tech stack you choose for your business depends on your individual requirements. Smaller brands often opt for an all-in-one ecommerce platform with comprehensive end-to-end functionality. On the other hand, larger and more complex organizations may require a more diverse set of tools and ecommerce technologies—built from several discrete capabilities, both pre-built and custom-coded—to cater to their needs.
4 factors to consider when choosing tools for your tech stack
Finally, there are several factors to consider when choosing tools for your tech stack, including:
The best choice for your company might not be suitable for another business. Be sure you understand your business needs, as well as any third-party services and software solutions you’re already using. Here are a few factors to consider when making your decisions:
It’s essential to find a balance between the cost and functionality of your tech stack to ensure that your online store operates effectively without exceeding your budget. The cost of your tech stack is influenced by the size of your ecommerce brand and the complexity of your operations.
Tech stack affordability can fluctuate depending on the specific needs of your business. It generally ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and more elaborate tech stacks can cost tens of thousands or more.
Some pricier tools include advanced analytics and reporting tools, personalized product recommendation engines, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. A cost-benefit analysis can help determine if the investment suits your business.
While a complex tech stack can offer extensive functionality to support your online store, it also increases the operational costs of managing it. This includes additional time and resources for maintenance and updates.
On the other hand, a managed or all-inclusive platform will provide a range of tools and services, such as hosting, software updates, security, and technical support. This tech stack may be less expensive, but it may not offer the level of functionality your ecommerce business requires. Try to strike a balance between complexity and functionality.
To optimize your operations, ensuring seamless compatibility between your ecommerce technology tools and other tech solutions in your stack is essential. You can achieve this through direct integration or third-party services that connect different tools.
Direct integration means your tools are designed to work together seamlessly, with built-in connections that facilitate data sharing and communication. On the other hand, third-party services act as external connectors, enabling different tools to work together, even without built-in integration.
For instance, if you’re using a third-party shipping service that doesn’t integrate directly with your ecommerce platform, you can leverage a connector service, like ShipStation or Shippo, to bridge the gap and ensure smooth communication between the two tools.
Your current technology stack is your best starting point when assessing compatibility and the feasibility of adding or upgrading to new tools and systems. If your tech stack is built with a modular or composable architecture, adding or replacing components as needed is easier. Open-source ecommerce technologies can also provide greater flexibility for customization and integration of new features.
However, if your tech stack is tightly integrated or proprietary, it can be difficult to ensure compatibility with future tools without significant web development work.
Choosing tools and technology providers that offer comprehensive support—including technical support, bug fixes, integration, and custom development—is critical to ensuring you have the resources to address any issues that may arise and optimize your store’s performance.
With so many options, it’s essential to consider all the factors discussed above, including cost, complexity, cross-compatibility, and support. Whether you opt for a complete ecommerce platform or build your own tech stack, finding the right combination of tools and software solutions will help you achieve ecommerce success.
Business functions to build your ecommerce tech stack around
Now that you have an idea of how to build your ecommerce tech stack, you can start thinking about your specific business needs.
Below are the key business functions to build your enterprise ecommerce tech stack around, along with best-in-breed vendors to consider for each:
- Content management system (CMS). A software application used to create, manage, and update website pages without requiring technical skills or knowledge of programming languages. Shopify provides an intuitive user interface, allowing you to easily create and edit content, manage media files, and organize tools like templates, themes, and plug-ins. Or you can choose to have a headless CMS that separates where content is stored from where it is presented—the “head.” For example, Shopify’s headless tech stack uses a React-based framework.
- Shipping and logistics software. If you’re a growing enterprise business, you probably need more sophisticated shipping and fulfillment solutions. You may want to consider a 3PL integration to outsource your order fulfillment, warehousing, shipping, and other logistics needs to a third-party provider.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software. A tool that helps build and maintain customer relationships by managing customer data, tracking sales activities, automating marketing campaigns, and providing customer support. Examples include Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho CRM.
- Analytics tools. These tools provide essential data and insights, such as sales and revenue, customer behavior, website traffic, user engagement, and marketing effectiveness. This information is then used to make business decisions and drive growth. Popular analytics tools include Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics.