eCommerce Platforms — Wassup

Well 2022 is fun. Anyone not sleeping 🙋?!

I’m going to cover here what I think is happening around the eCommerce platform space, just bear in mind its from my limited viewpoint, and within the scope of the bias I clearly have 😃.

Why do I write this? Well I think for one we could all do with something to read apart from the general crap on twitter right now. So here to entertain, and here to get some feedback. Interested in what you think.

Any I should preface I’m writing this pretty quick, Im not sitting here doing a ton of research. And super happy to be wrong.

So where we at currently? Let’s run through via platform. In no particular order.

Shopify

  • Employing half the world
  • Share price tanking
  • Reset on fulfilment side
  • Moved to fully remote — opened them up to better talent
  • Had quite a few senior people bleed out

Shopify continues to do well. Its a weird one as I get the sense with Shopify they can’t decide if to be like Amazon and own it all or be partner friendly.

From a merchant perspective no doubt the ease of use with Shopify is great. In that also lies its issues, its still lacking around suiting the largest players in the market.

In terms of the partner ecosystem lets just say its relationship is wobbly. When I talk to Shopify sales staff (AEs) they are extremely receptive. The problem is the senior side of Shopify isn’t putting in many initiatives to promote the partner ecosystem, and then the partner ecosystem is just wary because they have seen some of the real blowups that went on, and continue to.

Which is a shame. I’d like to see Shopify get more inclusive, and the Shopify ecosystem, it feels a little like a close clique and I think in today’s world we just need to open up a bit. Shopify kind of suffers from what Magento did a few years back — if you went off Magento you were scandalous (trust me I know I did it). The reality is many agencies/partners are now multi-platform, come on guys lets get over this and get a bit more aligned so we can support merchants better.

BigCommerce

With BC what I see is:

  • Company is ripe for acquisition at its current share price
  • I think investors will flock to this as time moves on, its got solid financial underpinnings
  • The move to B2B and the mid-market is sound — they seem to be moving away from that churn heavy bottom of SMB market — and that will make them more resilient — B2B still very much required in a crash
  • Strong partner decisions being made — their partner friendly approach is making for strong strategic partnerships
  • Collaborative approach — they listen
  • Strong growing presence in the UK/EU

I only see BigCommerce from my side, but from what I see they have a lot of substance, less of the hype. I am not on agency side though so hard for me to truly talk to the tech stack there. I see them picking up some good brands, and I think that will continue.

Adobe Commerce

Adobe has lost a lot of key old school Magento people lately. There is no doubt Commerce is very important to Adobe, the trick is now going to be do they have the talent to execute. Adobe for the most part is a truly Enterprise play and I think Adobe Commerce will do well in that space — but it seems to be going the way of Demandware with Salesforce — brands will be in the low thousands at most, but much higher revenue. The question is do the brands want to go there — and I think this really depends on the strength of the other Adobe tools around Commerce. Adobe really has an opportunity to truly innovate on the eCommerce experience, will they take it?

On the partner side its been kind of funny to watch. We really are their only solve for shipping in checkout but the partnership is non-existent. It’s a club, and they are shooting themselves in the foot daily by not working with the mature partner ecosystem out here. Its a point of snobbery IMO — not a fan honestly, so letting them get on with that. I wish they would come back to the table, but hey the agencies know better so I’ll keep working there in the meantime.

Lastly I should add Gary Spector left — I think he was pivotal at Adobe, and I’m guessing but I’d assume of late less involved. So is there any immediate impact — unsure, not in the know — long term we are just missing a ‘person’ in there — and eCommerce is quite ecosystem led — in this case its clearly just going down the Accenture/Deliotte lets build it all and charge millions of bucks route — certainly a play, just frustrating to see them throw away the opportunity with Magento but c’est la vie.

Magento OS

Clearly the writing is on the wall for the Magento Association to take over Magento OS. This is Adobe Commerce’s competitor on pitches. Adobe wants it gone. It didnt get OS, it didnt get ecosystem, and unfortunately covid came and we didnt have a chance to teach them the power of it. we are where we are.

I love Magento. I have fond memories of it over the years. But I also know things are changing. Is there space for Magento — absolutely — is it going to shrink more — yes. Could we have stopped that — yes, and trust me I tried. When M2 was coming out I stood up in Austin forum and said to the senior mgrs at Magento what the hell are you doing — you have created something so complex you will stop the 200mph train that is Magento. The tech stack was over-complex, it was a computer science theory lesson in design patterns (done badly IMO), and well it was just an issue. I remember people going to me “We need our own UI framework” and I’m going “Use Bootstrap you idiots” and getting knocked down. Well that worked out well. Interestingly Shopware uses Bootstrap…..

My concerns for Magento are that its becoming increasingly closed. I’m really really not a fan of the Magento Association rhetoric at moment. I get their issues — they are saying if you dont want to be a part of the solution then shut up. But this is a very limiting way of behaving. Reality is a lot of people have stuff going on, and we can’t commit the time, or we just do not want to play that role. In my own case I know that I would never be perceived as unbiased, so I think if I took a role at the Magento Association I’d be constantly undermined and pounced on, esp as I’m also polarizing — and TBH for my own mental health could do without it. Plus my job is more than full-time, I don’t even see my husband some weeks, I have to be aware of my limits. Does that then mean my voice is not required?

Well maybe — I get it. But what a shame if that's how its going. The whole beauty of Magento is that its not a club. That association, whilst I get the reasons, was a death knell for the ecosystem. And I called it. Because we were self-managing before. With the introduction of the association suddenly we had ‘rulers’. Say what you want to tell me not the case — that is how many saw it. And we got shot down — “I’m in charge so please be quiet, be the solution……”. And that continues. Well we will slowly shut up, I’m kind of there now tbh, I sat and nearly tweeted many a time but just went what do I care anymore. And frankly I care less and less as time continues. What a shame that is.

Its coming back to business. Look people are inherently biased because it helps them. Some have a very vested interest in Magento continuing, myself included. We have many many years of experience here. And its a superbly powerful platform. Yes its an investment, so are the others really, the great thing about Magento is its essential unbound — you can do everything — question is do you want to — for some the answer is a firm yes.

When I was truly in the Magento ecosystem (and I’d like to feel I still am) I always fought for it truly truly inclusive. At a business level and at a community level. My reasons? Well I got a break — luck, timing, a bit of hard work. But I saw behind me many people who didnt, and it wasn’t their fault. I wanted to create that utopia — I wanted a level playing field. Maybe its in part due to my background, I’m not sure — but I think a healthy ecosystem has all types of players, it has diversity, it has inclusivity. I firmly believe in that — like a bee hive — we need the different types for it to flourish. Yes call me utopian.

I’ve said before “I never wish to belong to a club that not everyone can join” and it worries me that the Magento Association is doing exactly that with its paid membership to vote/belong. I get it, we want to be a part of the Magento future — but I think we need to see a fully diverse and inclusive group there — and I’d like to see more of a separation around how its run — who is doing what, what are we paying for, where are we heading here. It feels a bit rudderless at moment, and I maintain its lacking clear leadership. It also feels a little controlling on twitter, and I’m kind of not a fan of that. My staff say to me Magento feels like a clique, they don’t feel they can join, or in fact have any major desire to.

Personally I feel like they need to find that leader, and that unbiased leader — much like at TYPO 3 they had Matthias, if you read his backstory he stepped away from his firm to be the CEO of TYPO3 and that was what was needed. No I’m not planning to retire from ShipperHQ before you ask :)

Magento firmly has a future. It needs more voices, it needs collaboration, working groups, it needs voices worldwide to talk, I’m concerned it seems to be going to a fully EU voice — and with Shopware on its tails that could spell disaster for it overall.

But do I have all the answers? No. Do I think the people involved are giving their all? Yes. And I applaud them. Just maybe realise in the role you have that throwing stones is probably not going to help you cement your supporters. When you take on that role you take on debate — and I’ll say again this is what Ben Marks and Sherrie Rhodes successfully navigated — they were able to listen to all sides of the ecosystem — I’m not sure I see that person/group there now — its possibly Eric Erway, but you have to wonder his long term involvement here. I personally applaud all he has done.

Other Platforms

Salesforce Commerce Cloud — I think these guys are regrouping. This is Adobe Commerce main competition. Be interesting to see if they decide to go after the Shopify Plus crowd. I dont see it, think they will stay in the Enterprise.

Cart.com — This is an interesting play. Gary Spector just headed there. I see them firmly in the mid market-Ent. They remind me of a slightly downmarket, VC hyped Radial (remember eBay enterprise with fulfilment?). They definitely have momentum, its been done via acquisition (including the core eCommerce platform), and the URL is great. I really don’t see them hitting too much on the other platforms, and it remains to be seen if the VC community can manufacture an eCommerce behemoth. There is space, they have work to do, and with Gary at the helm all is possible.

WooCommerce — Just drowning in the SMB/Wordpress space. Tough tough. Lots of merchants though — just lacks real strategic focus IMO. Its a nice OS product.

eCommerce in General

I’m not sure of how you all feel, I’m a CEO and we grew pretty fast (albeit bootstrapped), for me its been a real rollercoaster, and I’m ready to breathe some fresh air.

What I see now is a bit of a softening. From everything I’ve read we have this kind of thing going on — commerce growth will slow, but its not going into decline. Consumer behaviour has fundamentally changed, the way we shop has shifted, and thats not going back anytime soon. BTW I drew this slide as a projection/guide, its not based on real data so don’t shoot me.

For companies like mine its a time to just rebalance. We have had so much inbound its been crazy, and its nice to just settle a bit and refocus the team down on true growth. I think across the board in the tech and retail space we are going to see this — we need to all move away from this crazy panic lets run run run and into a more methodical strategic approach to growth. Measured growth.

From a retailer perspective the high street is definitely back — and people have bigger money to spend right now. Are they spending? Well I think at the luxury end yes — you can see that Gucci had a strong Q1, wages are up, people are spending, tho they are getting impacted by China trading.

On the home side well havent we bought it all? Thats the question — and do we want more? We have the gym, the dog is fully fluffed up, we tried bread making and gave up, even pasta machines got an outing. So I’d see a softening here. The big question will be if inflation continues and then jobs start to get hit will we see a big shift to essentials. The jury is out on this economy, I think its unlikely to get crazy crazy but I think we will def see more of a return to normal levels.

The other impact on retailer growth is likely to be the impact of the China lockdown. Its weird, we were moving to this global world not so long ago. But more and more it looks like we are removing dependencies where we can, the war with Russia hasn’t helped here — I think firms that are actively promoting manufacturing in their own country will have an edge esp if things hot up on the war front.

People ultimately want quality and uniqueness, if you are in that space I don’t see demand dropping too far. Likewise the essentials are always required, plus with all the mental health ramifications I’m pretty sure we will all still need our ice cream and chocolates — as I said we have changed, life has changed.

Conclusion

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