As your business grows, your ecommerce tech stack represents a key potential advantage over your competitors. This set of tools and software powering your online store should create a compelling buying experience—the kind that will prove your business is dependable and forward-thinking. And encourage customers to stick around and spread the word.
But it’s not easy. Innovation can be costly, and these days, tech leaders of all sizes are challenged to rationalize costs while increasing stack agility. In fact, 67% of companies are changing or planning to change their current commerce platform architecture to prepare for the future, according to our recent SaaS Commerce Platforms report. Choosing the right platform to build your tech stack around is crucial.
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 build the right tech stack for your unique business needs.
Table of contents
- What is an ecommerce technology stack?
- Will your ecommerce platform grow with your business?
- How to build a winning enterprise ecommerce tech stack
- Four 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.
Will your ecommerce platform grow with your business?
A recent 2023 Forrester report found that 30% of digital projects fail in their first year, often because companies tried to do too much, too quickly. It’s important that your ecommerce platform grows with your needs, rather than bogging you down. Here are some potential pitfalls we’ve noticed in recent years.
Migrations are often complex and expensive. Business-wise, they can be risky propositions, diverting your technology away from revenue potential.
It's also not ideal to lock your business into a relationship with one platform, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud—you'll have to hire trained developers to build out new features, which is time-consuming and expensive.
The composable commerce approach can be very appealing. Theoretically, it gives you a lot of flexibility, letting you customize your tech however you choose. This is great for digitally mature companies like Amazon with floors upon floors of developers. But for most companies the lure of potential innovation comes with a burdensome cost. Adding more microservices increases complexity, maintenance, and reduces time to market so development teams are pulled away from working on projects that will increase the bottom line.
Enterprises need a platform powerful enough to grow with them. In a recent survey by the International Data Corporation (IDC), it asked a 1,000 business leaders about their tech stacks and sales strategies. Business leaders say a lack of technology scalability was the second most common internal challenge (31%), behind a lack of digital skills (38%).
The common thread through all this is optionality. Shopify empowers businesses to choose from a suite of headless, composable, and full platform options. The same IDC survey found growing preference for optionality; specifically, 45% of the 1,000 companies surveyed utilize a composable front-end with a full-stack back end—Shopify’s preferred blend. Whatever combination you’re looking for, our expanded enterprise offering for 2024 is ready to provide endless ways to scale your operation. There’s no amount of checkout traffic we can’t handle—we’ve done 40,000 checkouts per minute with ease.
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 client-side security attacks. Or at the very least, it can make these attacks difficult 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, as well as how the system scales. Good architecture gets the most out of 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 helps teams operate across services with reusable context and tools, also allowing 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 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 prebuilt and custom-coded—to cater to their needs.
Four 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 use 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 we’ve just covered, 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.
Here are the key business functions to build your enterprise ecommerce tech stack around, along with best-in-class vendors to consider for each:
- Content management system (CMS): This is 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 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.
- Checkout conversion. Shopify possesses the world’s best-converting checkout. Our overall conversion rate outpaces our competition by up to 36% and by an average of 15%, according to an independent 2023 study by one of the Big Three global management consulting companies. Shopify checkout is also available as a module. Shop Pay, our accelerated and secure checkout offering, is designed to increase conversions and streamline the shopping experience. According to the same study, Shop Pay can lift conversion by as much 50% compared to guest checkout, outpacing other accelerated checkouts by at least 10%.
Ecommerce Tech Stack FAQ
What is a tech stack in ecommerce?
Common ecommerce tech stack components also include content management systems, payment gateways, customer relationship management systems, and inventory management software. The choice of tech stack depends on the particular ecommerce business's requirements, scalability needs, and budget. A well-optimized tech stack can ensure a secure, reliable, and efficient online shopping experience for customers.
How do I choose the right ecommerce tech stack for my business?
Choosing the right ecommerce tech stack depends on your specific business requirements and goals. Consider factors such as your product range, target market, expected sales volume, budget, and scalability needs. Evaluate different platforms and software solutions based on features, integrations, ease of use, customer support, and pricing. It's also helpful to seek recommendations from industry experts or consult with an ecommerce technology specialist.
How often should I review and update my ecommerce tech stack?
It's important to periodically review and update your ecommerce tech stack to keep up with evolving technologies and changing business needs. Regularly assess the performance and effectiveness of your current stack and evaluate new solutions or upgrades that can enhance your ecommerce operations. Stay informed about industry trends and advancements to ensure your tech stack remains competitive and aligned with your goals.