Beyond the ‘Best’ eCommerce Platforms: A Five-Part Guide for Leaders & Learners

Beyond the ‘Best’ eCommerce Platforms: A Five-Part Guide for Leaders & Learners

What Are the Best eCommerce Podcasts? Top 25 for Retail, DTC, and Business Leaders

  1. eCommerceFuel Podcast
  2. Retail Remix
  3. Unofficial Shopify Podcast
  4. Stairway to CEO
  5. The Jason & Scot Show
  6. Hit Subscribe + The Recap
  7. eCommerce Evolution Podcast
  8. Oopsie Podcast
  9. Ecommerce Conversations
  10. Go to Millions
  11. Ecommerce Playbook Podcast
  12. The Andrew Faris Podcast
  13. Down to Chat (DTC) Podcast
  14. Modern Retail Podcast
  15. Limited Supply with Nik & Moiz
  16. Nine Figure Operators
  17. Influencer Marketing Blueprint
  18. DTC Newsletter Podcast
  19. eCommerce Fastlane Podcast
  20. The Ecom Gold Podcast
  21. Ecommerce Influence Podcast
  22. You Are Not Your ROAS
  23. Chew on This Podcast
  24. My Wife Quit Her Job
  25. Masters: Shopify Podcast
  26. Make It Big Podcast
  27. Future Commerce

Few topics are as central to online retail as eCommerce platforms. So, it’s no wonder reviews, best practices, and checklists abound.

Unfortunately, breadth does not equal depth.

If you’re looking for another ranked rehashing of feature comparisons — Shopify vs. BigCommerce, WooCommerce vs. Magento, Amazon vs. DTC — this guide isn’t for you.

However, if what you crave is a comprehensive examination of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going, then welcome to …

eCommerce Platforms: A Comprehensive Guide by Future Commerce

Having covered the overlap of commerce + culture for over half a decade, this guide brings together our most popular and helpful content into a single source.

We’ll explore the following five topics (each with links to the original content for further research if you choose):

  1. The Best eCommerce Platform Doesn’t Exist
  2. The Real Danger of eCommerce Solutions
  3. The Cyclical Opportunities of Online Stores
  4. The Five Ways to ‘Qualify’ Good Software
  5. The Gift of Maturation & Building Tech Stacks
A photo-realistic image of a single lightbulb illuminated, set against a dark background. The lightbulb exudes a warm glow, with the filament inside clearly visible and casting soft light that reflects subtly on the surrounding darkness. The image should capture the texture of the glass and the intricate design of the filament, creating a sense of depth and realism. This portrayal aims to convey the beauty of simplicity in technology, focusing on the lightbulb as a symbol of innovation and insight, in a landscape format of 1200x600 pixels.

1. The Best eCommerce Platform Doesn’t Exist: Beware the Choice of ‘eCommerce Features’

Platforms Don’t Solve Problems, People Do

  • Date: November 4, 2022
  • Guest: Yitzchak Lieblich, Web Solutions NYC

In the bustling digital marketplace, eCommerce platforms have become the backbone of many businesses. They offer a conduit for companies to reach their customers, facilitate transactions, and ultimately drive growth.

Platforms, however, are not a cure-all for any business challenges. They’re tools. And, like any tool, effectiveness depends on the skill and knowledge of the person or people wielding it.

Technology doesn’t solve problems; people do.

This might seem like a simple statement, but it’s a fundamental truth often overlooked. Platforms provide frameworks. People identify issues, devise solutions, and implement changes.

Consider the analogy of a light bulb. It’s a marvel of human ingenuity that we often take for granted. We flip a switch, and the room is illuminated. Behind that simple action is a wealth of human potential and experience. The light bulb didn’t invent itself. It was the result of countless hours of experimentation, failure, and eventual success not only by dedicated individuals … but entire communities.

The same principle applies to the eCommerce ecosystem. From payment gateways and logistics to inventory and tax calculation, it’s all built on a totality of human potential.


“Open source is really not software at the end of the day. We started this series with Ben Marks saying that software is the least interesting part of open source. It’s the totality of human potential. And I know that sounds really farfetched and very self-aggrandizing, especially if you’re in the open source ecosystem: ‘It’s the totality of human potential all coming together.’

“But in reality, it is building on, in the way that civilization is built; it’s like we are building and creating progress, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We stand on the shoulders of giants.”

As it relates to eCommerce sites in particular, open-source software is a testament to the power of both individuals and communities.

This means that when you create something “new,” you’re starting from an unfair advantage. You’re creating on top of a stack that’s already solved a myriad of problems, many of which you’ll never even have to think about.

As tempting as it is to think, the success of an eCommerce platform is not determined by the number of features it offers or the technology it uses. It’s determined by the people who use it, the problems they solve, and the value they create for their customers.

The right choice hinges on the unique needs of each business. Every company is unique, every merchant is unique, and every vertical is unique. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. You can’t just plug in a solution and expect it to work for everyone. You need to understand the specific requirements of the business and then choose the right platform based on those requirements.

When choosing an eCommerce platform, look beyond the platform itself.

Consider the people behind it, their expertise, and their ability to solve problems. Most notably, consider the community that surrounds it.

It’s about putting people first, treating them like human beings, and recognizing that they are the ones who drive the company. When you have happy developers, you have happy code. When you have happy code, you have happy customers. And when you have happy customers, you have a successful business.


“Sometimes — or many times — merchants come, and they say, ‘Right, we are on this platform, and this is what we want to do. And they haven’t stopped to ask themselves, why are they on the platform? What are the pros and cons of this versus something else? ... This is what they inherited, this is what they’ve had for years, and it’s worked, so why change it?

“But if you’re looking to do a migration or a re-platform and you’re not sure where, well, let’s understand what you need. Let’s architect it, let’s get all the business requirements for today and the roadmap for the future, and then look at what we have on the table available in terms of platforms.

“There’s no shortage of eCommerce platforms. They all have their pros and cons. How can we make a decision on which one before we know the requirements?”

eCommerce Platforms: brown rocky mountain beside body of water during daytime
Photo by Elliot Cullen on Unsplash

2. The Danger of eCommerce Solutions: Amazon, Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, Et. Al.

The Rising Tide and the Erosive Effect of Digital Platforms 

  • Date: April 21, 2021
  • Author: Phillip Jackson

Much like our physical world, the digital landscape is subject to the relentless forces of change and erosion. Picture the Florida coast, where the rising tide and its erosive effect have been reshaping the landscape for decades. This same phenomenon is happening in the realm of digital commerce platforms

Visualize the stages of erosion in the world of technology platforms.
A visualization of the stages of erosion in the world of choosing eCommerce Platforms. Detachment, transportation, and deposition

First, it begins with detachment. Where the ground separates from the mainland. In the context of platforms, this is seen in the rate of change of integrated third-party technologies in large ecosystems. The velocity and magnitude of growth in the number of solutions can serve as a signal to the core platform that the market demands a native solution.

A prime example of this occurred in 2020 when a major digital commerce platform announced that it would be offering subscriptions directly within the checkout, thereby competing against a growing ecosystem of subscription providers on the cloud platform. This is not an isolated incident. There are hundreds of platforms competing today as digital commerce becomes more ubiquitous.

Second, the next stage is transportation. This occurs when market leaders achieve escape velocity from the ecosystem that gave them their success. In pursuit of growth, apps in the ecosystem will seek to integrate into other platforms.

For API-based businesses, this horizontal scaling is part of their DNA. This expansion beyond the originating ecosystem redistributes the marketing dollars and specialization, creating a transportation effect.

Third, the final stage of erosion is deposition. Here, third-party apps become recognizable brands in their own right, they become independent of their host platforms. This independence also extends to the customers of the monoliths.

For brands looking to migrate away from their existing platform, the transition is eased by having continuity in their other tech investments. This independence from the monolith platform is a result of diversifying their investment.

Unfortunately, this cycle of erosion leads to a shallow, homogenous digital experience.
eCommerce Platforms adoptions graph. Number of solutions over time leads to direct competition for eCommerce platforms.

The ubiquity of platforms — first Magento (now Adobe Commerce) and WooCommerce (WordPress); then Amazon, Shopify, and BigCommerce; now Wix, Squarespace, and Prestashop — has led to a sea of sameness.

Everyone looks and behaves similarly, has similar functionality, and has similar abilities to hire the same people to create the same functionalities with one click. As with any drag-and-drop template, this homogeneity creates challenges for eCommerce stores which now have to spend an increasing amount of money to stand out.

How do we stop the erosion?

The answer lies in unbundling the monoliths into focused, vertical, industry-specific solutions. The digital commerce technology stack is no longer a one-size-fits-all proposition. We are now seeing the growth of verticalized digital commerce platforms that solve the challenges of particular industries.

For example, specific platforms are serving online furniture retailers, addressing the unique omnichannel challenges of a furniture business. These platforms solve specific challenges more directly, resulting in stickier platforms and fewer inroads for mass tech partner integration.

All platforms eventually eat their own tail, and the cycle will begin anew. The key is to stay ahead of the curve, adapt, and evolve. After all, the only constant in both the physical and digital world is change.


“[Shopify] has given so many people so much opportunity [but it’s] also the thing that has so homogenized experiences that we are now suffering from a sea of sameness.

“The ubiquity of [Shopify] has created other problems for entrepreneurs who now have to spend an ever-increasing amount of money to stand out among everybody else that looks and behaves the same, has the same functionality, has the same ability to hire the same people, to create the same functionalities with one click.”

We’re witnessing a fascinating tug-of-war between high-complexity environments and high-commodity environments, and the impact on the shopper is profound.

Consider consumer brands. Off-the-shelf software has met the needs of the shopper. Add a few items to your cart, checkout, and you’re done. But when we delve into specific vertical sectors such as automotive, food, furniture, manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals, things get more complicated.

Which industries are keeping up with the times, and which ones are lagging behind? How can developers navigate these verticals to push the boundaries of customer experience? How can we create digital commerce experiences that customers want to use?

The answer lies in understanding the history of online transactions and stores.

The Best eCommerce Platforms: MacBook Pro showing programming language
Photo by Emile Perron on Unsplash

3. The Cyclical Opportunities of Online Stores & eCommerce Websites

Decoded: The Vertical Limit | Future Commerce 

  • Date: June 15, 2023
  • Guest: Boris Lokschin, Spryker

The landscape of digital commerce platforms is evolving at a rapid pace. The traditional notion of a “developer” is being challenged, and the rise of low-code and no-code platforms is reshaping the industry. Amidst this shift, software development continues to thrive, particularly when it comes to crafting highly complex experiences.

There’s no such thing as a best practice. The game has changed, and the rules are being rewritten.

Every couple of years, a new vertical begins to transact online. It always starts the same way. People say they’ll never buy fashion without trying it on, a sofa without sitting on it, or cosmetics without testing. Over time, the level of sophistication goes down, and the level of commoditization goes up.

Brands that can adapt quickly to these new channels can gain a significant advantage.

Consider food and groceries. Around the world, different business models are being tested. Delivery, curbside pick up, click and collect, fixed-route deliveries, drone deliveries — the list goes on. The opportunity costs and time costs of buying groceries in a supermarket are high, especially for a task that is largely standardized.

On the other end of the spectrum are infrequent purchases like automobiles. These purchases tend to be tied more closely to a person’s identity. They see themselves as a person who drives a certain type of car or wears a certain type of sneaker. The psychology of buying and the channel in which we buy are deeply intertwined with our identity.

Likewise with furniture. Traditional furniture storefronts are often massive, yet they can’t possibly display all the variants, colors, and materials for each piece. In contrast, an online platform can showcase a full-screen picture of a sofa, allow you to change color and material with a click, add in 3D data and augmented reality capabilities, and you can see how the piece would look in your actual living room.

However, it’s not all about convenience. The psychology of buying plays a significant role as well.

For high-frequency purchases like groceries, your identity may be tied more to the channel you purchase in. You’re not just a grocery shopper; you’re a Costco shopper, a Target shopper, a Walmart shopper. For lower-frequency purchases like cars, your identity is tied more to the product ownership itself.

For marketers and developers, this is a golden era. Operating in high-sophistication, low-commodity environments presents a wealth of opportunities. From solving complex logistical challenges in the food and grocery sector to leveraging AI and machine learning for predictive learning and buying patterns, the potential is vast.


“Every category starts with not being yet commoditized and being super sophisticated. So very hard to crack. Even selling green T-shirts online 20 years ago was a huge undertaking. And over time, you kind of have this sinuous curve kind of effect. 

“[T]he level of sophistication goes down, and the level of commoditization goes up. Then comes the next kind of cycle. And then, it starts again with cosmetics and fragrances, with high sophistication and low commoditization. And then it changes.”

eCommerce Platforms: turned on black and grey laptop computer
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

4. The Fives Ways to ‘Qualify’ eCommerce Software: What Is Good?

What Frameworks Should I Use to Qualify Good Software for My Business?

  • Date: June 2, 2023
  • Guest: BJ McCahill, KASHIYAMA

Navigating the intricate universe of eCommerce platforms requires a keen understanding of your business needs and a strategic approach to software selection. The stakes are high, and the choices are many.

Far more than a website builder for small-business beginners or social-media dropshipping, leaders at the enterprise level need clear-cut guardrails.

(1) Seamlessness

This term refers to a smooth, uninterrupted customer journey — from the moment someone lands on your website to the final purchase. Achieving this level of optimization requires the appropriate software and solutions, coupled with a deep understanding of your specific business requirements.

It’s about ensuring that every interaction, every click, and every decision that a customer makes on your website is intuitive, effortless, and satisfying. It’s about eliminating friction to make the shopping experience as enjoyable as possible. And it’s about marketing that’s not only seamless (on and off of the platforms you control) but also engaging, personalized, and memorable.

(2) Data Management

Data is the lifeblood of operations — the fuel that powers your marketing campaigns, inventory management, customer service, and every other aspect of your business. However, managing data, especially when dealing with a high level of customization, can be a complex task.

For instance, selling custom-made clothing involves handling an enormous amount of data. Each product has its own set of specifications, its own set of options, and its own set of variables. Therefore, your platform must be capable of managing this complexity (scalability), handling millions of product combinations without faltering. It must be robust, reliable, and flexible enough to adapt to your evolving needs.

(3) Pricing & Payment Processing

Choosing the right platform is akin to purchasing a custom-made suit. It involves considering your unique needs, budget, and long-term objectives. It’s about finding a solution that fits your business. One that enhances your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses.

It’s not the price tag alone; it’s the value that the platform brings to your business … with all attendant costs counted.

Look beyond the sales pitch and delve deeper into the total cost of ownership: including initial license fees, implementation costs, credit card and payment processing fees, ongoing maintenance, and customer support.

(4) Integrations

If your business already utilizes certain software, your new platform must integrate directly with these existing systems. This integration is crucial for maintaining a smooth workflow and avoiding potential complications. Ease of use requires careful planning, meticulous execution, and ongoing monitoring to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Integration is like a symphony, ensuring that all your systems work together in harmony and that they are all aligned toward a common goal. It’s about breaking down silos, fostering collaboration, creating a unified, cohesive, and efficient workflow.

(5) Agency Partners

Your agency partner plays a significant role in this journey. They are your ally, your guide, your mentor. They bring a wealth of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and a wealth of insights to the table. They can help you navigate the complexities of the eCommerce landscape, avoid common pitfalls, and make the most of your investment.

Choose your partner wisely.

Seek an agency that specializes in the platform you've selected, one that understands your business needs and can help you achieve your goals. It’s not just about technical expertise; it’s about business acumen, strategic thinking, and a commitment to your success.


“The most important thing … is defining your business requirements. I know maybe you cannot get these perfectly defined, but the more that you can, the better off you're going to be.

“Getting buy-in from all of the divisions with these requirements is going to be key because when things are changed, or priorities are shifted, it can kind of throw a wrench into the eCommerce stack that you’re building.”

eCommerce Platforms: woman placing sticky notes on wall
Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

5. The Gift of Maturation & Building Your eCommerce Tech Stack

How Platform Maturation Begat Product Innovation

  • Feb. 17, 2021
  • Author: Phillip Jackson

How Do I Build an eCommerce Tech Stack?

  • February 21, 2020
  • Guest: Scott Hill, SVP of Product at Brightpearl

The maturation of eCommerce platforms and the evolution of tech stacks have been instrumental in shaping not only the landscape of online commerce … but the nature of the products themselves.

The shift from channel innovation to product innovation — as well as vice versus — has been a significant game-changer, allowing online businesses to focus more on their core product offerings and less on the complexities of supply chain management and product development.

The levers in eCommerce can be broken down into three areas: traffic, conversion, and AOV.

As eCommerce platforms have matured, businesses have started to pay more attention to why customers intend to purchase rather than just how they complete a purchase. This shift has led to a greater emphasis on user interfaces (UI), user experience (UX), and the art of storytelling.

The digital world reinforms the real world, opening up exciting possibilities for product innovation. Brands are now able to overlay digital experiences onto real-world interactions, creating hybrid shopping experiences that blend the best of both worlds.

In this new era of eCommerce business, prototyping is becoming increasingly important. Brands are embracing an open-source mindset, iterating and developing their products in the open. This approach is fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration that is reshaping the industry.

On the other hand, building an eCommerce tech stack is a complex task that requires careful consideration and planning. The first step is to understand the fundamentals of your business and the specific needs of your customers. The tech stack should be designed to support these needs and facilitate growth.

The goal of building an eCommerce tech stack is to automate and make great efficiencies for businesses so that they can focus on growth.

However, navigating the complex world of technology can be challenging, even for the most technologically savvy merchants. The key is to understand what technologies and platforms are essential to the business’s success and how to integrate them effectively.

The maturation of eCommerce marketing tools and the evolution of tech stacks have set the stage for a new wave of digital product innovation. The pioneers of the past have laid the groundwork, and the innovators of today are building on that foundation to create a brighter future for eCommerce.

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