Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your store

Web & eCommerce

When it comes to selecting a platform for your eCommerce store, you’ll likely have a lot of questions…

  • How do I pick just one?
  • Will I make the wrong decision and need to start over?
  • What do I need to think about?
  • What are my options?

It’s normal to feel lost on where to start. This article has been designed to make your choice easier, and cover some of the factors to select the right eCommerce platform for your brand.

“Retail has always been a dynamic place, but the last few years have seen an evolution in consumer behaviour. There’s no doubt that online is growing and will continue to do so, but there are also bigger questions for the future of retail and how brands interact with their consumers.

eCommerce is a channel of opportunity, but it also faces fundamental challenges: the continued rise of Amazon, the impact of Brexit and the further globalisation of our economy. No forward-thinking brand can afford to be complacent – all must look to the future to assess those opportunities and challenges to ensure the best foundations are in place.

eCommerce is a channel of opportunity, but it also faces fundamental challenges: the continued rise of Amazon, the impact of Brexit and the further globalisation of our economy. No forward-thinking brand can afford to be complacent – all must look to the future to assess those opportunities and challenges to ensure the best foundations are in place.

The eCommerce platform a business chooses is a key part of this process, along with the wider technology stack. Shopify is playing an increasingly prominent role in supporting the retail brands of the future to create effective and sustainable multichannel growth. Growth that’s built around scalability, sustainability and serving their growing loyal communities of customers.” - Dan Conboy, Director of eCommerce Strategy, idhl Group

Whatever the future of eCommerce looks like, brands need a platform that can support them every step of the way. A platform that empowers you to offer your customers convenience, simplicity and immediacy so you can meet users’ growing expectations. A platform that unifies your online and offline worlds so you can offer a real omnichannel experience and reach more shoppers, wherever they are.

As a group with two eCommerce agencies in our ranks, the team behind Pinpoint and Statement have the expertise and experience of working with the very best eCommerce platforms. We’ve taken their knowledge to help you choose the right platform for your needs.

The different types of eCommerce platforms

Selecting a platform with a robust infrastructure is essential. Have you considered what type of infrastructure your business needs? There are three main types to choose from:

  • Open source
  • SaaS (software-as-a-service)
  • Headless

Open source

Open-source eCommerce platforms allow you to modify each and every aspect of the code. Popular with those who want full control of their eCommerce environment, if you opt for open source, you or your development agency are responsible for:

  • Hosting
  • PCI compliance
  • Security threats and vulnerabilities
  • Manual patches and platform update releases

For many brands, an open-source platform is simply too much to manage. As they can be expensive to maintain and require a high level of technical knowledge, some prefer a hosted SaaS or headless option.

However, there’s no denying this type of platform does have its benefits – the top one being flexibility. Every part of your code belongs to you which means greater visibility of your data and a better understanding of security. If your business is complex, we’d recommend looking at an open-source platform like Adobe Commerce.


SaaS platforms essentially mean you don’t own the software you operate on. Instead, you pay a monthly fee to use it, and this allows you to create your own online store.

With a SaaS solution, such as Shopify or BigCommerce, you’re able to go-to market fast and affordably. These types of platforms are good at removing certain complexities that come with having an online store. For example, platform updates, hosting, PCI compliance and security are all managed by the provider.

When considering development costs, a SaaS solution is a significantly cheaper option than open source. However, there is less flexibility and customisation due to a portion of the code being closed-off. Although, there are ways to work around this that ensure your online store is still tailormade to your brand such as flexible APIs.


Headless commerce involves your shopping cart being decoupled from your content management system (CMS). Instead of your entire website being run on the eCommerce platform, you can use a CMS such as WordPress or a design experience platform (DXP) like Adobe Experience Manager to design your website. Then, you can simply plug in your eCommerce solution, such as Shopify, to serve as the shopping cart.

Today, brands need their digital experiences to adapt across a range of channels such as a website, a mobile site, social channels and apps. By decoupling the ‘head’ from the ‘body’ – hence the name ‘headless’ – this option gives you more customisation while being powered by your favoured eCommerce platform.

While this option clearly offers a number of benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Firstly, a headless approach only provides one piece of the puzzle and will require you to invest in additional technologies which can make your site’s infrastructure all the more complex. Depending on how much business your eCommerce store does, you could also end up with issues around the volume of data that you need to send in or out of the platform which could limit your growth.

6 factors to consider when choosing a new platform

  • Your objectives and audience: Your objectives and your audience are the two factors that sit at the core of your decision. Think about what functionality you need your store to have, what your customers want and where you want to be in the future.
  • Cost vs budget: Once you’ve considered your objectives, it’s time to start talking numbers as this will have a big impact on the platform you choose. Although you don’t want to cut corners, you also don’t want to overpay. Do your research, consider what pricing structure best suits your business and weigh up the pros and cons.
  • Scalability: Will your platform be able to handle high traffic demands in the future? What about different currencies or language options? Ideally, your chosen solution should be flexible enough to handle traffic surges without your site crashing and going offline. It should also be capable of supporting your future ambitions, whatever they may be.
  • Security: Security is a big concern for every eCommerce business. Why spend considerable time, money and resource creating your online store only to leave it vulnerable to hacking? Although most eCommerce solutions today offer robust security standards, it’s important to understand whether you’re responsible for maintaining this or whether it’s looked after by the platform provider.
  • Integrations: When looking at eCommerce platforms, consider what tools you’ll require for your store to operate the way you want it to. Apps and integrations can extend the functionality and performance of your online store to create a better shopping experience for your customers, but they may come at an extra cost.
  • Timescales: If you’re working to a tight deadline, this needs to be considered in your platform choice. Different platforms take different amounts of time to get up and running and this timescale will heavily depend on your requirements.

What are your eCommerce platform options?

Every eCommerce platform has advantages and disadvantages. idhl Group is home to eCommerce experts who specialise in three of the top platforms: Adobe Commerce, Shopify and BigCommerce.

Shopify x Statement

Shopify has experienced a meteoric rise to the top of the eCommerce platform charts. Part of the idhl Group, Statement began as an online retailer and Shopify fast became the platform of choice. And it’s easy to see why…

  • Simple to get started: Taking care of hosting alongside security, updates, PCI compliance and the rest of the technical set-up, you don’t need to be a coding expert to get started on Shopify. No more worries about demand spikes, hidden costs or patching!
  • Rapid technology advances: Jam packed with powerful features, effortless management tools, automation flows and rich customisation capabilities, Shopify is at the height of technology advances. Applying these features to your store empowers you to offer a modern and fast shopping experience for your customers.
  • Transparent pricing: Their pricing structure is also very simple, so there are no hidden fees, and you can easily plan the costs into your forecasts to make budgeting a breeze.
  • Easy to use: Shopify not only offers shoppers a straight-forward user experience, but merchants too. The interface is simple to use which makes accessing your sales data, building reports and adding products quick, easy and self-explanatory.
  • Get to market fast: With unlimited bandwidth and 99.9 percent average uptime, Shopify provides constant peace of mind. Without these worries, you can spend your time creating engaging shopping experiences for your customers and scaling your online business.
  • Growing community: An incredible community has grown around the platform. Not only does Shopify offer 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone support but there’s also a wealth of Shopify Plus developers and creatives out there.
  • The app store: A great advantage to choosing Shopify or Shopify Plus is the Shopify app store. Anything you require that isn’t already built into the platform can usually be fixed with an app. From reviews to payment providers, to shopping options and search functionality, their app store offers a wide range of first-class technology that are speedy to place on your site.
  • Powered by headless: Powered by headless commerce, you can plug in all the systems your brand needs including your CMS, ERP, PIM or CRM to reach your customers wherever they are. Bridging the gap from traditional to modern retail, Shopify connects the online and offline worlds into one seamless solution.

While Shopify has plenty of pros, there are naturally certain projects and brands that it won’t be as suited to. If you have a complex selling model or require access to every part of your code, an open-source solution, like Adobe Commerce, may be better suited to your needs.

Adobe Commerce x Pinpoint

Adobe Commerce, previously Magento, has been in the eCommerce world for a long time. The platform offers various solutions depending on the size of your online business and is most suited to established retailers with complex selling models for a number of reasons:

  • Extremely customisable: As Adobe Commerce is an open-source platform, it offers impressive customisation allowing you to customise your store from the ground up and offer extensive functionality to your audience. However, with customisation comes complexity and you would be best supported by an experienced developer to help you create and launch your eCommerce store.
  • Updates: As this isn’t a hosted platform, you, or your web agency is responsible for looking after updates, upgrades and hosting. Updates are designed to ensure your site performs at its best while keeping your business and customers secure online. This can make Adobe Commerce trickier to protect as it can quickly become vulnerable to security threats and exploitation if upgrades are not maintained.
  • Scale your global presence: Adobe Commerce offers all the functionality you need to scale your brand into new, foreign markets. The platform’s multi-store functionality means that localised sites can be managed from a single admin interface while sharing the same codebase.
  • Adobe Commerce extensions: The Magento Marketplace is a big one, allowing you to browse 1000s of free and premium extensions to extend the functionality of your online store. Whether it’s payment gateways, search providers, customer support, site optimisations, security options or countless other services, you can add impressive functionality through a simple install process.
  • Total cost of ownership: No matter which platform you choose, your eCommerce site will require ongoing investment. We advise considering your budget from a total cost of ownership perspective. With an open-source platform, it’s unavoidable that you will face higher ongoing support and maintenance costs compared to a hosted platform due to updates and maintenance being your responsibility. However, dependant on what your online store requires, over time, it may actually end up offering a lower total cost of ownership.

There’s no denying this platform has a range of positives to explore and could well be the right option for those who want a fully customisable store to support their complex selling model. While it’s robust, adaptable and modern, it’s important to get the advice of an expert Adobe Commerce agency  on which option is best for your brand.

BigCommerce x Pinpoint

Like Shopify, BigCommerce is a SaaS, and you’ll find everything you’d expect from an eCommerce platform. Boasting tons of built-in features designed to reduce the need for third-party apps, there are four versions available including Standard, Plus, Pro and Enterprise. ​With impressive functionality and a pretty easy-to-navigate interface, it’s easy to see why many merchants opt for this solution:

  • Pre-built themes: BigCommerce is aimed at those with little to no design experience. There’s a good selection of themes available for those looking to get up and running fast rather than creating a custom store design. The platform wants you to get selling quickly which means set-up is simpler than many other platforms out there.
  • It’s extremely reliable: BigCommerce claims to offer a 20 percent faster server response time than other eCommerce platforms and a 99.99 percent uptime. Security is also top notch and offers everything you need to protect your online store from credit card breaches and cyber-attacks.
  • Internationalisation capabilities: If your objective is to scale on a global level, BigCommerce can support your ambitions. From international payment providers to native language support, you’ll have access to features that empower you to sell anywhere.
  • Easy to reach: BigCommerce provides 24/7 support to its merchants through a range of channels including phone, live chat or email. They also offer a variety of guides that include how-to tips and eCommerce marketing and strategy pointers.
  • Integrations: Whether it’s ShipStation, Facebook Ads or Google Shopping, BigCommerce integrates with the majority of apps. This makes your selling, logistics and marketing a lot easier to manage. They’re also a front runner in headless commerce solutions thanks to their integration options such as the headless Wordpress plugin.

In general, BigCommerce is a solid choice of platform that should fit most growing stores. It’s simple to use, flexible and can scale with your brand.

Working with idhl on your eCommerce store

idhl Group build smart eCommerce websites using the very best technology. With capabilities across BigCommerce, Shopify and Adobe Commerce, these platforms and our teams provide choice.

Whether you need a new build or a replatform, we always listen first to understand how we can help before providing the right solution for you. Our eCommerce solutions enhance your users’ onsite experience, not only driving sales and increasing conversions but also reducing the need for customer queries.

There are plenty of eCommerce platforms on the market today and each have their strengths and weaknesses. We understand the choice can be overwhelming. Stripping it back to your objectives, the functionality you require, and your future plans makes that final decision a little easier.

The choice yours, but if you want some guidance to help you make the right decision, our team are here to help. Get in touch to start growing your eCommerce business today.

Explore our eCommerce agencies


The Shopify agency for ambitious brands, Statement specialise in the design, build, replatform and optimisation of Shopify Plus websites. Take a look at some of their work:


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- Goose Island

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- Lords & Labradors

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Experts in Adobe Commerce and BigCommerce, Pinpoint provide choice backed by the know-how to help you make the right platform decision. Take a look at what they do:

- Leeds United

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- Casio

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- Osprey

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