Dec 16, 2019 - Justin Emond

Shopify Plus vs. Salesforce Commerce Cloud

In 2016, we built what was at the time (and likely still is) the largest Magento 2 store in the world by revenue. Within 18 months of that site launch, we closed our Magento practice. Give me one minute and I’ll explain why this is so important to the Shopify vs. Salesforce comparison.

Two reasons why we closed up our Magento shop: Making Magento scale exposed every single serious architectural limitation in the platform that the rewrite from Magento 1 to 2 failed to address. More crucially, it drove home how much Magento represented the past — custom code you host yourself. (If you want to better understand the fight between new and old platforms, here are the commerce winners and losers in 2020.)

Around that same time, everything became crystal clear on one of our earliest pitches with the Shopify Plus team. We were pitching a global food & beverage company with revenue measured in the billions. Shopify Plus spent the pitch talking about wild things like checkout-less checkout and how people wanted to shop online but how few brands understood fundamental changes in buyer behavior. 

I was immediately struck because when I pitched with Magento, all they talked about was license fees. Yep, as I said, it’s a platform of the past.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a platform of the past too

So what does all this Magento-bashing have to do with Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC)? Plenty, it turns out. I found out a few weeks ago that Salesforce was rewriting the entire codebase of Commerce Cloud. A full re-architecture of a platform they bought just two years ago for $2.8 billion dollars. That is a rather tidy sum to pay for something you have to rebuild two years later. 

It is quite telling that in the last five years while Magento had to completely rewrite their codebase (into Magento 2) and SFCC is having to do the same, Shopify Plus has continued to capture brands, buyers, and market share with their existing architecture that powers more digital commerce than any company on the planet, except for Amazon and eBay — it’s that powerful, proven, reliable, and ubiquitous.

Let’s talk innovation

A quick comparison of product innovation in the last 12 months is very telling.

Over the course of 2019, Shopify has announced or released massive API expansions, greatly expanded support for multi-currency and multilingual, enhanced tools for the back office fulfillment team, expanded 3D and augmented reality support, and, most startlingly, a nation-wide fulfillment network that will enable every merchant using Shopify, with the click of a button, to rival Amazon’s ability to get product into consumers hands incredibly fast. 

In that same time period, SFCC has announced a visual editor (something Shopify has had for years), integration with other Salesforce products (only useful if your organization is “all in” on Salesforce), and some personalization improvements.

And the code re-architecture underway will only slow innovation down further.

Dump the unreasonable costs, accelerate merchant velocity

Nothing demonstrates the developer velocity and ownership costs differences of these two platforms than a conversation we had with a prospect on SFCC. We recently pitched a national consumer goods brand that runs on SFCC today and wants to migrate to Shopify Plus. The prospect blurted out something unintentional that told me everything about why they were so eager to move. “I don’t want to spend $100k to optimize our SFCC checkout.”

I don’t want to spend $100k to optimize our SFCC checkout.

I was startled. We build sophisticated digital commerce experiences for major brands using Shopify Plus. If you gave me a cool $100k engineering budget to optimize the checkout on a Shopify Plus store, I’m not sure I could even find a way to burn those dollars.

Beyond development budgets, developer velocity, and time to market, SFCC has more onerous contracts and higher platform costs. SFCC contracts are typically longer, as long as seven years, compared to Shopify Plus’s 12-month contract and then month to month forever after. And Shopify Plus never loses on platform price to SFCC.

Don’t take my word for it. Throw a rock in your own professional network and you will find an IT buyer of Salesforce products that has fatigue over annual license fee increases and is more than happy to complain bitterly to you.

Embrace the future of commerce

Shopify Plus is winning by leveraging the twin benefits of having superior technology and seeing around the corner to keep themselves at the bleeding edge of how people want to buy online. No other platform provider comes close to Shopify’s relentless focus on making commerce better for everyone. That focus means that the entire intellectual output of the organization is around furiously pushing forward with any wild idea that makes buying better and easier.

The market has taken notice: Just look at Shopify’s stock performance over the last three years.

One thing that still surprises us in sales pitches for Shopify is hearing from prospects about whether the platform can scale. No platform is perfect, and Shopify like all other platforms has it’s rough edges, but scale is simply not one of them. Shopify runs 600,000 online stores and, yes, most are small, but several thousand are massive digital commerce operations. Shopify has unmatched scale both in the number of stores they run, the dollar value of the combined transaction flow across the entire ecosystem, and on individual stores.

How is this possible? A simple, ingenious engineering decision to decoupled transaction processing from the store level and manage it at the platform level. That means that a store running 15,000 transactions a minute is a rounding error on a platform that powers 600,000 stores and millions of transactions every minute.

This is the subtle strategy that so many detractors miss that is driving Shopify to new heights, not just on transaction scale but on more wild propositions like 3D buying, machine learning, security, and of course, the US-wide fulfillment network.

Our digital commerce experts can help you weigh the pros and cons of each platform based on your specific needs. Get in touch and we’ll give you our candid take, whether that’s Shopify Plus or another leading commerce platform.

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