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Blog • Industry News | eCommerce

eCommerce Platforms Buyer’s Guide

Last updated: 22 Nov 2019

This eCommerce Platforms buyer's guide is the ultimate guide to help you evaluate the best eCommerce solution for YOUR business needs.

buyers guide

Having the right tech stack in place can be a game changer for any business - it can provide you with the agility to outmaneuver the competition, delight your consumers, and drive explosive growth in revenue. In the eCommerce space, selecting the right solution(s) for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make, and it can be a daunting task given the sea of eCommerce technology vendors you will need to sort through. At the end of the day, the experience you provide to your consumers, and the resulting eCommerce sales you achieve, ride on your choice of digital commerce technology to drive your business.

The eCommerce Platforms market is crowded with dozens of vendors all claiming to offer similar capabilities and benefits - so how do you choose which solutions are best for your business?!  The reality is that there is no “best eCommerce Platform” or one-size-fits-all solution. None of the vendors is the best at everything they do, given the huge breadth of capabilities that commerce businesses expect when purchasing an eCommerce platform. Therefore, when doing your evaluation, it really comes down to matching your individual company’s own requirements, resources, and budget to each vendor’s offering - these factors will determine which eCommerce solution is best for you.

The aim of this post is to help business leaders, technology leaders, developers, and digital marketing agencies understand the key evaluation criteria to use when deciding which eCommerce stack will best meet your business’ and/or clients’ needs. Over the past several years we have helped thousands of eCommerce businesses navigate through the evaluation and buying process for their eCommerce stack. Many of those customers chose Moltin, and many others opted for another vendor instead. Many times we have guided prospective customers to one of our competitors because we thought it would be a better fit for their business needs. As a result of all these customer conversations, we’ve gotten a really good sense for the key factors that help businesses work through their buyer’s journey - and in this post we’ve taken all those insights and have broken down the key criteria to use when evaluating the various eCommerce platforms, solutions, and services into the following categories:

  1. Platform vs Services Stack
  2. Complexity of your business logic
  3. Desired level of UI customization
  4. Total cost of ownership
  5. Self-hosted vs cloud-based
  6. Commercial software vs open source
  7. Centralized vs decentralized architecture
  8. Integrations & Extensions
  9. Headless vs non-headless
  10. Type of digital experience being delivered

This is a comprehensive guide and we know it’s going to take a while to read through the entire thing, but we sincerely hope this post helps you in your process of evaluating, selecting, purchasing, and/or assembling the right commerce solution for your business. And even though we are one of the vendors hoping to earn your business, we have genuinely tried to make this post as unbiased as possible - because it’s more important to us that you pick the right solution for your business than it is that we convince you to use Moltin.

Note: if you’re in a hurry, can you skip to the TL;DR section or the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom of this post.

Buyer’s Guide Consideration #1:

Platform vs Services Stack

An important question that you need to consider when making a decision for the commerce solution to run your eCommerce business is whether you want to go with a traditional eCommerce Platform or a services-based commerce stack. A “Commerce Platform” is a set of functionality that comes bundled together as an “all in one” platform to drive your online commerce business. A “Commerce Services Stack” is a collection of fit-for-purpose services that drives a specific set of commerce functionality, composed together to deliver the overall commerce experience to your end-consumers.


Some background on how we ended-up with these various choices: over the course of the past decade, traditional eCommerce platforms such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento, SAP Hybris, Shopify, and others, have dominated the eCommerce technology landscape. The platform approach has been largely positive as businesses ventured down the path of doing business online for the first time and consumer expectations at the time drove the requirement for mostly simple, standardized commerce experiences.


However, consumer expectations for modern, engaging experiences have skyrocketed over the past several years, mostly as a result of the leading internet giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google raising the bar in terms of what consumers expect, forcing commerce businesses to rethink the tech stack used to power their online businesses so they can keep pace, let alone innovate and differentiate. As a result, over the past 18-24 months, a market that was previously dominated by a few, large platform vendors is now fortunate to have dozens of best-in-class commerce services providing much more robust functionality for the one thing they do. This new services-based approach differs from the traditional platform approach by leveraging best-in-class services to deliver all the functionality you would have previously gotten exclusively from your eCommerce platform. A typical commerce stack would include best-in-class services covering all the capabilities commonly included in a traditional eCommerce Platform, such as order management, inventory, Salsify product information management (PIM), TaxJar for tax, shipping, fulfillment, Contentful for the content management system (CMS), and Stripe for the payment gateway, just to name a few. Neither of these approaches is necessarily better than the other, they’re just different, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons, which we explore below. 


The primary benefit of going with a traditional eCommerce Platform approach, is that you get all the features you need to run your digital business from a single vendor. It’s the classic “one throat to choke” benefit of having a single vendor you turn to, for everything you need. The common downside of traditional eCommerce Platforms is two-fold: first, no vendor can be great at everything they do, so inherently you are compromising when you go with a single vendor for all your commerce capabilities. The vendor you choose will be great at some things, good at others, and potentially flat-out bad at some things. Second, eCommerce Platforms are by their very nature monolithic and rigid. Now, depending on your needs, this may be okay or even a good thing. If you have very standardized business requirements, then a monolithic solution might work great for your business. However, if you have complex business requirements and need the ability to control and customize the functionality of your eComm Platform, then you will likely struggle with the unnecessary complexities that come with trying to adapt your business requirements to the architecture of your eComm platform. This can be costly and will slow your time-to-market. 


On the flip side, when we look at a services-based commerce stack, the primary benefit is that you have complete control and flexibility to design a commerce stack based on your specific business requirements - no compromising for “out of the box” functionality in an eComm Platform that may or may not meet your requirements. The common downside of this approach is that it requires you and/or your agency partner to compose your chosen services together to deliver the overall consumer experience. Fortunately, there are solutions available such as Mulesoft or the Flows capability from Moltin, that make it easy to compose your chosen services and deliver a commerce experience that your consumers will love. 

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #2:

Complexity of your business logic

One of the most vital purchase considerations to evaluate when selecting the technology vendor(s) you will use to create and deliver your eCommerce strategy is the level of complexity of the business logic required to operate and execute against your unique requirements. By “business logic” we are referring to the encoding of the real-world business rules and workflows that drive the full purchase lifecycle with your consumers and ultimately your digital commerce business, for both B2C and B2B commerce businesses. Every business needs to determine how certain processes and situations are handled, and how the data is created, stored, and acted upon. In addition, depending on the type of business you run, any applicable regulatory requirements must be followed and you must be mindful of any special capabilities you're looking to deliver. As a result of these factors, the complexity of your business logic and your requirements for how you use your eComm platform will vary greatly - and the capabilities of the vendor(s) you choose to run your eCommerce business will need to match those requirements.


We can consider the complexity of your business logic on the spectrum of whether your company is more on the “standard” end of the spectrum, with simple business requirements, or more on the “complex” end of the spectrum with unique business requirements. Here is a list of few questions you should consider when determining which end of the business requirements spectrum you may fall on.


  • Do you sell any type of regulated goods or services (e.g. pharmaceuticals, firearms, alcohol and tobacco, CBD, gambling, financial services, healthcare, etc)?
  • Does your eCommerce business have a B2B component?
  • Do you have any eCommerce revenue from regional or international sales?
  • Do you desire to conduct eCommerce via emerging channels such as mobile, IoT, and omnichannel - in addition to your core commerce website?
  • Do your product SKUs have complex variations? 
  • Does your pricing for each product SKU vary at all by location? 
  • Will you need to transact in more than one currency?
  • Will you need more than one payment gateway?


If your answer was ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, then your business requirements may fall on the more complex end of the spectrum. Therefore, a traditional eCommerce Platform like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento may struggle to meet your requirements, as they are primarily designed to get a basic store up-and-running quickly for businesses with standard requirements. By standard requirements we simply mean your business doesn’t require any added specializations (mentioned in the list of questions above) to get your store fully functioning. These “one size fits all” platforms will be a great solution for your business because they require less time to configure and can easily present your products to consumers on the front-end with their built-in themes and layouts.


To address the businesses on the more complex end of the spectrum, there are a growing number of vendors available today that provide commerce solutions that provide the flexibility needed to deliver a commerce experience that fully takes into account the ability to flex around the customer’s unique business requirements. They address:


  • Businesses that operate in regulated industries by adding specialized features within the cart and checkout system to mitigate and provide solutions for restrictions of location, age, and requirement of licenses, permits, or certifications.  

  • Businesses with vast configuration by providing higher and more customized variants limit to keep the uniqueness of each SKU. 

  • Businesses with international commerce operations by providing multiple currency gateways and language translation to not restrict your consumers. 

  • Businesses that need personalized integration by allowing you to choose your personalized commerce stack (e.g. Taxjar for taxes) through an API-first approach.
  • Businesses that have complex fulfillment and return policies by having more intricate inventory management system.

  • Businesses that have different pricing based on location by designing personalized checkout systems to match location.

Some examples of these vendors that provide the level of flexibility needed to adapt to complex business requirements include open source offerings like Reaction Commerce and Magento Community Edition, Headless providers like Commercetools, and services-based options like Moltin. An important factor to consider when evaluating amongst the short-list of solutions that are able to address your needed level of complex business requirements is to make sure you pick a vendor that offers the right balance of speed and control. The potential downside of more control with vendors like Reaction Commerce or Commercetools is the fact that it can take a long time to implement (12-18+ months), so they can negatively impact your speed and time-to-market.  

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom



Buyer’s Guide Consideration #3: Desired level of User Interface (UI) customization

We can all agree that everyone wants to enable the best eCommerce digital experience for their consumers - whether it be delivered via a website, mobile app, IoT, omnichannel, or other experience. The quality of the consumer experience is critical to maximizing your revenue. However, time, simplicity, and ease of implementation are key determining factors of how you get to your desired end-result. If your company has limited time and resources, a solution like Shopify or BigCommerce that provides an out-of-the-box UI may be right for you. These solutions can be very beneficial if:


  1. You are a small store owner.
  2. Your products are in a very common, unregulated industry.
  3. You need a solution pre-made and ready to go, for fast deployment. 
  4. You have little technical experience. 

Although it’s relatively easy to get the UI for your store up-and-running with an out-of-the-box solution, by taking this route you’re probably going to have to give up control of the ability to customize your front end. Your design will predominantly depend on the paid theme or layout options offered on each platform. Out-of-the-box platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify have approximately 70 base themes to choose from, which you can also pump more monetary investment into to make it more customizable. However, this may not be the route that every company wants to take. If you require the ability to have full control of the customization of the UI of your store, then you need to look for a more flexible solution like Moltin or Commercetools.


The level of flexibility you get with a service-driven approach, like Moltin and others, means you don’t have to spend money, time, and resources on tweaking an out-of-the-box solution - you get what you want the first time around. However, with this option, you will have to implement certain elements yourself, which means either utilizing an agency or a developer. By choosing to build your front-end, you can take advantage of the following benefits: 


  1. To dictate the pace of the evolution of your software with your developer and get exactly what you want, sooner rather than later.
  2. Increase your productivity by eliminating rework.
  3. A design that specifically suits your business needs.
  4. Ability to build a customized experience that delivers more value than your competition, putting you in a better position to compete & win.

In summary, your needed level of UI customization will be dependent on the resources you utilize and your desired level of differentiation of the consumer experience your deliver

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #4:

Total Cost of Ownership

One of the primary decision factors we hear from businesses  when choosing an eCommerce platform is the total cost of the solution. Commonly, the cost of solutions are determined by your monthly revenue. Therefore, for customers who may be conducting business as a hobby or those who are simply not making substantial revenue, i.e. <$1000/month, a cheaper solution such as Shopify or Wix may be the right fit.


However, if your digital store is a main source of income and primary revenue channel for your business and is generating between $50 million and $1 billion, or even more in annual eCommerce GMV, there are other solutions available that will better support your store. The main players include Salesforce Commerce Cloud, SAP Hybris, Moltin, Magento, and Commercetools. Although these vendors come with advanced features, therefore often meaning a higher cost, we understand that the transparent cost of your solution is still a high priority. For these reasons, we have conducted a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison of the major players in this space to give you a better understanding of what you can expect from a TCO point-of-view.


For Magento customers that are considering migrating to Magento M2 or another eCommerce solution, we have also conducted a more in-depth overview of Magento's TCO.

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #5:

Self-hosted vs cloud-based

A key component that determines how well a commerce experience performs is where the technology powering it resides. Before Amazon Web Services (AWS) ushered in the cloud-era over a decade ago, self-hosted used to be the only option available to commerce businesses. Today, the vast majority of the market opts for a cloud-based solution over self-hosted, but for businesses who want some control over the infrastructure used to host their commerce solution, a self-hosted or on-premise option may be a good approach. With this level of control you should also consider the need to: 


  1. Own or lease all of the computer, network, and storage hardware, which will need to be upgraded every 3 - 5 years.
  2. Hire a systems administrator to manage and maintain your servers and other hosting infrastructure, which could cost approximately $70,000 - $125,000 per/year, depending on location.
  3. Purchase backup hardware to save data in the event that the server fails.
  4. Be completely responsible for data security and Payment Card Industry Digital Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance. Therefore, it is imperative that your administrator is good at configuring your server and stays on top of updates.
  5. Having sufficient infrastructure required to scale during peak times of sales, and mitigate the risk of slow performance of your website. 


On the other hand, there are cloud-based options where your commerce store would be hosted by a 3rd party vendor in the cloud. Cloud-based solutions allow you to focus on building, operating, and optimizing your store, while the cloud vendor focuses on managing the infrastructure that powers your store. With a cloud-based service like Shopify, Commercetools, or Moltin, you can expect:


  1. Zero capital expenses wasted on buying or leasing your hosting hardware.
  2. The option to customize your store by adding unique features that optimize and modify your site or checkout experience. 
  3. Control of infrastructure configuration and the overall architecture which enables higher degrees of performance.
  4. Significant control over security. 
  5. On-demand scalability to adapt to peak demand periods.

Back to considerations list at the top 

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #6:

Commercial software vs open source

Open source software has become more and more popular in recent years because the software uses source code that is freely available on the internet. This means, the information is public and the code can be modified and updated by other users which has claimed to be good for constant updates. The main selling point here is you get to edit and create exactly what you want from your commerce solution. Open source solutions like Magento Community Edition (Open Source) and Reaction Commerce can facilitate customization and innovation, but a common downside is that it can be difficult and cumbersome to try to customize and string third party applications into their framework. We aren’t saying it can’t be done, but it usually requires extreme organization, a team of expensive, experienced, and certified developers, and extensive efforts in research and assembly of the resources, to create a functioning store. 


Commercial software is a better choice for companies looking for their software to come with the backing of a vendor that is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the software to ensure it meets the needs of the most demanding commerce organizations. Unlike open source software, commercial source code is owned by a vendor organization and can only be updated through them. The main downside of commercial software from the likes of Shopify, Commercetools, BigCommerce, Moltin, and Salesforce, is that you’re beholden to the vendor’s roadmap to introduce new features you may want.

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #7:

Centralized monoliths vs decentralized microservices

Similar to Buyer’s Guide Consideration #1, which discusses the pros and cons of a platform vs services-based solution for your business, you may be the type of customer that’s looking to have all your eCommerce functionality in one place, via one centralized system. A monolithic application like a traditional eCommerce platform is built as a single unit. This centralized approach gives you the opportunity to have one vendor, providing everything you need to get your store up-and-running all in one place. Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud (FKA Demandware) are great examples of centralized, monolith platforms built this way. However, the downside of this approach is that it’s challenging for any single vendor to be the best at all the capabilities expected in an eCommerce platform.


A decoupled microservice architecture is the complete opposite to this. Moltin, Commerce Layer, and Commercetools to a lesser degree, are great examples of solutions that offer this type of decoupled architecture. The microservices architectural style aims to develop a single application as a suite of small services. Each of the commerce microservices runs its own process and communicates with lightweight mechanisms, often via HTTP and serverless functions. 


With this solution approach, you are able to pick each best-in-class solution for different parts of your digital store based on your specific business requirements, like tax calculation, shipping and fulfillment etc, and compose them into a single commerce stack. With this option, you get to pick the best tools for the job. A truly API-first solution will have APIs to fit all your needs, but also give you the opportunity utilize capabilities from another vendor, so you can seamlessly mix-and-match capabilities from different vendors in a way that meets your specific requirements. Through this type of architecture, you have the ultimate levels of choice, so that you can get the right level of control, flexibility, and functionality that your business needs. 

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #8:

Integrations & Extensions using  Plugins vs bolt-on APIs vs API-first approach

Regardless of the vendor you select for your eCommerce solution, you will likely need additional features to achieve a fully-functional online eCommerce store that meets your requirements. Solutions like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce utilize a plugin-driven approach to add additional features and functionality to your store, such as shipping, tax calculations, and optimized search engines. This plugin approach is fairly easy and quick to integrate and minimal knowledge is required to install these plugins. However, the downside of the plugin approach is that you have little-to-no control over their design (if they touch the frontend) and functionality, they tend to have limited extensibility, they are often singular point-to-point add-ons and lack contextual awareness of other installed plugins the overall technology stack, meaning they don’t play nicely (or at all) with each other.

In addition, in the case of Magento, BigCommerce, and Shopify, a community of 3rd parties usually builds these plugins, meaning there is limited quality control over how they are built, which could leave you with maintenance and security issues in the long run if they are not maintained correctly. With eCommerce Platforms that offer this plugin approach, you get the basic functionality that platforms like Magento and BigCommerce allow you to access. This may just suffice, as long as the requirements your store has and the complexity you are dealing with, falls on the “standard” end of the business requirements complexity spectrum discussed in Buyer’s Guide Consideration #2. However, if you did need the additional features offered by the service you have integrated via plugin, then you will typically need a customized Application Programming Interface (API) integration as a complement, which can get complicated with solutions like these. Therefore, if you have the standard requirements mentioned at the beginning of this post, plugins may meet your requirements.


To solve the issues with plugins, platforms have begun to introduce bolted-on APIs to expose limited aspects of their core functionality. These APIs are often tightly woven with the core commerce platforms logic and capabilities which make them a challenge to work with for more complex use-cases and projects.


Solutions like Elastic Path, Moltin, and Commerce Layer were built from the ground-up to be API-first and designed to be developer-friendly, enabling you to have full control over features, integrations, and tooling when using 3rd party services as a part of your overall commerce stack. As an eCommerce API, these services-based solutions not only provide control and flexibility, but you also get to eliminate the bloat of the platform and unnecessary complexity and rigidity that comes with the plugin-driven approach. The API-first approach for composing multiple services into a commerce stack allows you to choose what’s needed for your precise business requirements; be it technology stack, integrations, or feature requirements, without compromising on the design or consumer experience

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #9:

Headless vs non-headless

There’s a new buzzword on the block that everyone is talking about, and it’s called "Headless."  Before we can even get into choosing between headless or a traditional non-headless solution, you have to know what “headless” actually means first! Headless commerce basically describes the decoupling of the front end of your eCommerce experience (i.e. the user interface that the end-consumer interacts with when browsing and buying goods/services from your online store) from the back end (i.e. the rules that manage the business logic that powers your commerce business). Why is this important? Decoupling the frontend from the backend removes any constraining dependencies between the frontend and the backend, which allows for endless innovation opportunities and limitless creativity on the front end without any restrictions. This will prove to be a more efficient use of time for front end developers, as they can solely focus on providing highly innovative content, without the need to worry about the back end. 


Traditional non-headless platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Oracle ATG, and SAP Hybris use a monolithic system based on huge libraries that create internal dependencies to allow all the front end and back end components to work together. This highly-coupled system has to be run in a specific order for the entire system to work, which is very painstaking for front-end developers and usually requires highly skilled specialists with certifications from the platform vendor of your choice. This type of monolithic commerce solution may still be attractive to you, however, if you are looking for a cookie-cutter, rigid system that you have no control over (note: ouch! This last statement sounds harsh, but we honestly didn’t mean it that way. Some prospective customers we’ve spoken to over the  years value a system that is very rigid and cookie-cutter. For those customers, we advise them that Moltin probably isn’t the best solution for them, but we don’t mean to sound like we’re being disparaging of that approach.) 


Recently, given the popularity of the “headless” approach for the flexibility it offers, it’s worth noting that some traditional eCommerce vendors like BigCommerce, Magento, and Shopify are starting to offer a headless option. This may sound appealing, but please be aware that customers will often struggle to realize the benefits of a headless approach without using a system that was designed to be headless from the ground-up, because a monolithic platform that has it’s UI front end removed will likely not function well when the front-end it was built with is removed. It’s like buying a hard-top sedan and then deciding you want to turn it into a convertible by cutting off the roof with a saw - even with the most skilled craftsperson, the resulting car will certainly be less than elegant. 


If you would like a solution that enables full control over the front end of your commerce application, then a headless solution like Moltin, Commercetools, or Elastic Path will likely be a great option. The primary benefits of going with a headless solution are as follows: 

  1. High levels of flexibility in the design of the front-end UI.
  2. High levels of flexibility in the  build of the front end UI of your commerce experience in whatever front end language or framework best meets your business requirements, including modern Javascript frameworks and approaches like JAMStack.
  3. Ease of retrieval of data from the commerce components, for front-end developers to present it how they want.
  4. Adaptability across multiple platforms. 

Back to considerations list at the top

Skip to the "Is Moltin right for you?" conclusion at the bottom


Buyer’s Guide Consideration #10:

Type of digital experience being delivered

It’s important to consider the type of digital experience you want to deliver and the channels you want to use to connect with your consumers, both today and in the near-term (next 12-24 months), when selecting the eCommerce solutions you want to use to run your business. When the age of eCommerce first emerged in the late 1990s, it unlocked a new revenue opportunities for companies to be able to sell their goods online via websites and tap into a huge global audience of internet-connected consumers. Today, there is a whopping 12 - 24 Million eCommerce websites across the world. Many eCommerce platforms like Magento, Salesforce CommerceCloud, Oracle ATG, IBM WebSphere, and others, have generously contributed to the number of e-commerce websites out there today by providing platforms for you to upload your content to the web and begin selling goods and services online. This was groundbreaking at the time - however, technology has shown no signs of slowing down, and consumer expectations have evolved considerably since 1999. Today, with the internet at the tip of our fingers with our mobile phones, tablets, and other devices, the eCommerce industry has expanded to incorporate new innovations, with new revolutions still to come. 


The majority of eCommerce revenue is still transacted through a browser-based experience, but emerging channels such as mobile, IoT, voice, omnichannel experiences, or even AR/VR commerce experiences are gaining steam. If you’re looking for an eCommerce platform that is primarily suited for website-only experiences, then you will have many choices available, as almost every traditional eCommerce platform vendor in the market supports browser-based websites. However, if in addition to a core browser-based eCommerce website, you also want to include additional channels as a part of your consumer experience, then you will need to take a closer look at the capabilities offered by the vendors you are evaluating. For the most part, to support emerging channels and use-cases such as IoT, voice-enabled commerce, omnichannel selling, AR/VR, etc, you will need an API-first solution like Commercetools, Commerce Layer, or Moltin. 

Back to considerations list at the top

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Conclusion: Is Moltin right for you?


We’ve tried to be as unbiased as possible through the entire post above, so now we’ll be fully transparent that for this last bit, you’re getting our shameless sales pitch :) But in all seriousness, in addition to the considerations above, we hope the summary below helps you decide if Moltin is the right choice for your business. 


As you’ve probably guessed by now, Moltin is not a traditional, monolithic eCommerce Platform like Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, etc. So if we're not an eCommerce Platform, then what are we? Moltin provides a Commerce Service.


What is a Commerce Service?


  • Not a Platform: Traditional eCommerce Platforms were designed for a bygone era, when "e" Commerce was just getting started and simply having a standard website designed for a PC browser was good enough. Today's consumers demand engaging experiences, but commerce platforms are greedy and want to control all your business functions, and they make you run your business around the limitations of their rigid structure. Even headless commerce platforms like Commercetools that provide more front-end flexibility than traditional commerce platforms are rigid monoliths on the back-end, which is where your commerce business logic lives. Moltin is an API-first Commerce Service, powered by a native microservices architecture. Moltin was designed specifically to be open and flexible to adapt to your business requirements. 'Nuff said 😉
  • The engine at the core of your commerce stack: No commerce platform can be great at everything they do - it’s just far too broad a set of functionally. The most important functionality offered by a commerce technology vendor is the cart & checkout service that fundamentally creates the key pieces of a customer’s journey to purchase. However, the cart and checkout functionality within traditional eCommerce Platforms is either completely locked-down or highly rigid. They design it that way to serve the masses. At Moltin, we have taken an entirely different approach, because we believe you should have complete control over the cart and checkout workflow that your consumers experience. Therefore, we have built our cart and checkout “core” as a lightweight and flexible service that you can completely customize to meet your specific business requirements. Our approach is especially compelling for companies with complex business requirements. 
  • Fully customizable to your specific business requirements: We're the only commerce technology vendor, platform or services-based, that has Flows, which enables businesses to easily handle complex commerce workflows by simplifying, streamlining, & orchestrating complex business logic to your specific requirements without ever compromising flexibility and speed your business needs. What can you do with Flows? Flows enables you to create, relate, snapshot, and store custom data structures, drive real time events, and ultimately customize and streamline your cart & checkout experience. Flows is the game changer for businesses that need pinpoint control over their commerce logic.
  • The "glue" that integrates and orchestrates your entire services-based commerce stack: If you decide to go with Moltin instead of a traditional eCommerce Platform, then you may wondering…. “What about all the other capabilities I need, above and beyond just the cart and checkout, to deliver the overall experience to my consumers?” Great question! We know that even though we’re the core of your commerce stack, we’re still only one component of what you need to deliver an awesome experience to your consumers - therefore, we have built an event-driven mesh into Flows that seamlessly integrates and orchestrates all the other best-in-class services you need to deliver a commerce experience your consumers will love. That way, you don’t have to settle for mediocre, inflexible functionality across the board in your eComm platform - you can pick the best-in-class services that meet your specific requirements. You can use something like Algolia for search, Contentful for your CMS, Salsify for PIM, etc. We now live in a services-based world, and Moltin empowers you to easily embrace the services-based approach using Flows as the "glue" to quickly and easily build and deploy commerce experiences your consumers will love. 


Is our Commerce Service right for you?


The common link between our customers is that they are high-growth businesses that have sophisticated consumer engagement strategies. These sophisticated consumer engagement strategies fall into two categories:

  1. Complex business requirements: You want to sell your way with complex business logic, such as:
    • Selling regulated goods/services such as pharmaceuticals, firearms, healthcare, alcohol and tobacco, jewelry, CBD, financial services, gambling, and others
    • Mix of B2C, B2B, and/or B2B2C use-cases
    • Unique product configurations and bundling
    • Internationalization in multiple countries, languages, and currencies
  2. "Sell everywhere" strategies: You want to enable to a seamless sell-everywhere strategy across the omnichannel spectrum in order to drive conversion across more consumer touch points, including:
    • Modern JAMStack websites
    • Mobile apps
    • In-store (mobile self-checkout, magic mirror, digital kiosks, etc)
    • Commerce embedded in content sites
    • Social media commerce
    • IoT
    • AR/VR, and more
Only Moltin provides full control over the purchasing process with the speed and confidence required by your modern, fast-growing business. 




TL;DR: Summary of Moltin fit for each Buyer’s Guide Consideration:


  1. Platform vs Service vs Stack: Moltin is a great fit if you’re looking for a services-based commerce stack that provides the most flexible cart and checkout solution at the core of your commerce stack, and gives you complete control to quickly and easily compose and orchestrate all the other best-in-class components you need to deliver the overall experience to your consumers. If you’re looking for a platform where you get all your commerce functionality out-of-the-box from one vendor, we would suggest considering something like Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, or Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Also, if you’re looking for standalone service for something other than cart and checkout, such as standalone PIM, search, or tax solution, then we would recommend considering other point-solutions that address those specific use-cases. 

  2. Complexity of your business logic: Moltin is a great fit if you have unique or complex business requirements. If you have standard and/or generic business requirements, then a solution like BigCommerce or Shopify may be a better fit for your business. 

  3. Desired level of UI customization: Moltin is a great fit if you are looking for a solution that will provide the flexibility and control to customize the front-end UI to your unique brand and business requirements. If you’re looking for a solution with pre-made UI templates, then we recommend using something like Shopify. 

  4. Total cost of ownership: We’ll shoot you straight here. Moltin is not the cheapest option available on the market. Fortunately, we’re also not anywhere near the most expensive. We’re obviously biased, but our customers always tell us that we have the strongest TCO value proposition of any eCommerce vendor they’ve worked with. If you’re looking for a low-cost option, then we recommend considering Shopify or BigCommerce. If you’re looking for a high-end Enterprise option, then we recommend looking at Commercetools, Elastic Path, or Salesforce Commerce Cloud. 

  5. Self-hosted vs cloud-based: Moltin is a great fit if you’re looking for a cloud-based SaaS option. If you need to host your eCommerce solution on-premise, then we recommend looking at Magento Community Edition.

  6. Commercial software vs open source: This is one of the more binary purchase considerations on our list. Moltin is commercial software. If you’re looking for an open source option, then we recommend checking out Reaction Commerce or Magento Community Edition. 

  7. Centralized vs decentralized architecture: Moltin is a great fit if you’re looking for a decentralized architecture, where Moltin serves as the cart and checkout engine at the core of your commerce stack and enables you to seamlessly compose and orchestrate 3rd party best-in-class solutions to build a commerce stack that meets your precise business requirements. Similar to Buyer’s Guide Consideration #1, if you’re looking for a centralized architecture, then we would suggest considering something like SAP Hybris, Magento, BigCommerce, or Salesforce Commerce Cloud. 

  8. Integrations & Extensions: Moltin is a great fit if you’re looking for a solution that provides a services-based approach to integrating with the other best-in-class, 3rd party solutions you need as a part of your overall stack. This services-based approach is the right approach for you if you want control over how each 3rd party solution is integrated and how you orchestrate all the various components to deliver the overall experience in a way that your end-consumers will love. If you prefer out-of-the-box plugins, then we recommend considering Magento, BigCommerce, or Shopify. 

  9. Headless vs non-headless: Moltin is a great option if you are looking for a high level of flexibility of design on the front-end UI. Our headless approach decouples the front-end from the back-end to allow you to give you the freedom to constantly innovate across multiple platforms without having to worry about the back-end that controls data of the commerce components. If you prefer a solution in which you want to have little control or customization on the front-end UI because you don’t have any front-end developers or an agency partner, then a traditional pre-built solution like Magento, BigCommerce, or Shopify may be a better fit.

  10. Type of digital experience being delivered: Moltin is a great fit if you are looking for an awesome website-based experience today AND/OR are looking to broaden and diversify your commerce digital experiences to include mobile, IoT, voice, AR/VR, and other emerging channels over time. With the digital era constantly innovating, we heavily suggest that you consider the future of your commerce experience for your customers before locking in with a website-only based experience with solutions like Shopify or Wix.

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Back to "Is Moltin right for you?" 


Next steps


We hope you found this Buyer’s Guide helpful! We know it was a long read, but we wanted to make sure you have all the facts when making a big decision like this, so we took a lot of time and care to fully explore the various purchase considerations we consistently hear our prospective customers asking us when they are deciding which eCommerce solution is right for their business. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how Moltin can help you with your commerce initiatives, then please give us a shout and we’d love to jump on a call and show you Moltin in action. 

Also, we’d love to hear from you… what did you think about this Buyer’s Guide? Was it helpful to you? What did we miss? How can we make it better? We’re always working hard to provide content and resources that are helpful, so please let us know how we can make this guide even better! 




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