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Choosing the Right B2B eCommerce Platform

Part 3 - Categories of eCommerce Platform

Once you have your website goals and have taken to heart the common mistakes that are made, you can research platforms to find one that will let you achieve your goals.

Because eCommerce websites have different objectives, product ranges, types of customer and address different markets, there are many different platforms to choose from.

They can be broadly classified into the groupings below.

  • Entry-Level eCommerce Platforms
  • Mid-Level eCommerce Platforms
  • Large eCommerce Platforms
  • 360 Commerce

1. Entry Level SaaS Platforms

WIX, Rocket Spark, Squarespace etc.

There are a number of Software as a Service (SaaS) eCommerce companies that provide platforms in the cloud such as Wix, Rocket Spark and Squarespace etc.

You can build the site yourself and a developer is not obligatory, but it is best to have a designer build the site as poor design and User Experience are not good for your brand and will also make site visitors less likely to buy.

These generally have good content and design capabilities as well as basic eCommerce features that are good for simple Business-To-Consumer (B2C) online shops but not B2B business which are far more complex.


  • Low cost
  • There are many website companies familiar with these systems who can design and implement your site and support you over the life of the site
  • You will be able to manage most aspects of the site yourself with a bit of help from Google


  • Not Suitable for business-to-business complexity i.e., credit card payments only and no on-account payment, contract pricing, quantity breaks etc.
  • If you have specific business needs that are not possible with these entry level services, this option is not for you
  • You can’t modify the eCommerce functionality to get a competitive advantage or meet an unusual need
  • Many third-party plugins required
  • They are weak on integrations to accounting or ERP systems


Can be a good solution for simple small business that sell to consumers (B2C), but are not for the vast majority of Business-to-Business sites. Therefore, we would not recommend these platforms for any B2B e-Commerce website.

Shopify - Entry Level SaaS Platform That Prioritises Ecommerce

We are only going to cover one option in this category – Shopify.

Shopify is a step up from the other entry level SaaS platforms in terms of eCommerce options, but you will need a development company to get your site live.

Add-On App Limitations

Shopify has an app marketplace but because they are add-ons to the core Shopify application, they are not always compatible with each other, are not always a good user experience, do not always have good support and sometimes the developer selling the app loses interest in them or goes out of business.

  • Support is sometimes withdrawn by the add-on app developer
  • They sometimes become incompatible with other add-ons
  • They sometimes become buggy as other components are replaced or upgraded

Shopify developers rely heavily on third-party add-ons to provide many essential functions. Sometimes they install multiple add-on apps and then figure out how to make them all work together and keep them working as Shopify evolves.

There is an additional problem in that every three months, Shopify releases a new version of their API’s that allow developers to connect other applications such as an inventory system to Shopify.

That means that if you want integration to any other system, your developers will be spending time working on the integration at least every year and maybe every three months and that all costs.

Source: API Deprecations and Versions at Shopify

Design Limitations of Shopify

Shopify requires page templates and themes to be built or modified using Liquid which is Shopify’s own programming language. This means that you will need a Shopify Liquid developer unless you are very good at HTML, CSS and Liquid (and you have nothing more lucrative to do with your time).


  • You will need a development company to get your site live
  • The price of the add-ons can add up to a significant amount
  • Shopify takes 2.7 % fee of sales. This can push the monthly fee up to $10,000 plus on sales of 300k per month


  • Can be a good solution for B2C sites if you business is simple enough but is not a good option for Business-to-Business sites
  • Can be low cost if your needs are simple. This may not apply if you need a lot of add-ons apps


  • There is limited ability to modify Shopify functionality other than the appearance of a site and page layouts and these both require a developer. Add-ons apps can be used but because they are add-ons, the user experience is not always ideal and there is an ongoing cost to keep it working. They also can be unstable
  • If you need functionality that is not in core Shopify, it can be difficult to achieve this
  • The checkout pages cannot be changed in any way apart from styling unless you are using Shopify Plus which has a reported minimum cost of $US2,000 per month. For example, you cannot add an extra field in the checkout page to collect extra information about an order
  • Not Suitable for business-to-business complexity such as contract pricing, quantity price breaks etc.
  • If you have specific business needs that are not possible out-of-the-box Shopify this option is not for you
  • Poor content management capabilities
  • Integrations to ERP systems are not part of Shopify and if you get one built or from a third party, it will require developers to check it and make changes if required each time that new versions of Shopify’s API’s are released and possibly make changes
  • No ability to provide a customer portal to your accounting system


Shopify is a suitable solution if you have simple business needs and can accomplish them without any customisation or many add-on apps and you just want the site to take orders.

We would not recommend Shopify if you have ‘on account’ customers and complex product pricing, shipping needs or you want to offer your customers a portal for such purposes as downloading price lists, invoices and quotes etc. If your business needs additional functionality in the core of Shopify, now or in the future, you would not be able to have it.

2. Mid-Level eCommerce Platforms

SaaS Platform - Magento

Magento was developed largely by volunteers as an open-source product.

Adobe bought Magento in 2018 and stopped all development on its earlier eCommerce product Adobe Business Catalyst which was retired in 2021. This meant that tens of thousands of companies had to involuntarily replace their sites. There is a bit of a pattern here. In 2014 Magento shut down their Magento Go version forcing website owners to change platforms.

Magento is available in two versions being Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce.

The Open-Source version does not have B2B Functionality. (Source: )


  • A large amount of functionality
  • Can handle quite large product catalogues
  • The Commerce version is available on a cloud platform
  • Functionality in the Open-Source version can be modified by a developer


  • The Commerce version has high fees and will cost around $24,000/year or $40,000 for the cloud version
  • A high level of technical skill is needed so you will need in-house developers or a Magento development company’s support
  • Hosting is required for the Open-Source version as it is not a cloud product
  • Magento Open Source is versioned and upgrading to new versions sometimes costs a lot if your site has been customised
  • Does not have a good reputation for Search Engine Optimisation
  • Uses templates and themes which have less flexibility than 360 Commerce’s component architecture which also eliminates the need for developers
SaaS Platform - BigCommerce 

BigCommerce is a Software as a Service (SaaS) product meaning that you don’t have to worry about hosting. It comes with a choice of twelve free templates and the design of these can be customised by people who have HTML and CSS skills. There are other templates and themes that can be purchased. (Note that template architecture is outclassed by 360 Commerce’s configurable component architecture.)

There are three levels of pricing from the basic at $US29 a month to the pro at $US299 for the licences. For companies earning over $US400,000 per year you will need the enterprise version.

The enterprise’s plans begin at about $US400 per month and can range up to $US15,000 per month.

The Big Commerce entry level price is higher than Shopify’s price for a product that reportedly has less functionality at that price level. This is offset by the ability to purchase your way up to the higher levels which have more functionality.

However, there is a pricing catch – the different levels have annual sales limits.

For example, the entry level package has a sales limit of $50,000 per annum.

The other similarity with Shopify is that the functionality is completely locked down so there is no possibility of adding any core functionality that you might need now or in the future.

You might get lucky and what you need is added to the platform, but you will have no influence on that happening.

Also, like Shopify, there is only a basic content management capability which means that your website will primarily function as an ordering system.


  • More functionality than Shopify
  • Is Software as a Service (SaaS)


  • Not suitable for complex B2B eCommerce (same as Shopify)
  • Basic content management (same as Shopify)
  • If core functionality that you need doesn’t exist, you won’t be able to have it
  • Uses templates and themes. This means much less flexibility than 360 Commerce’s component architecture which eliminates the need for developers for great page content


BigCommerce is suitable if you mainly want to make sales to consumers (B2C) and you have functionality requirements that are not available in Shopify Plus. If your business needs additional functionality which is not in the core of BigCommerce, now or in the future, you will not

Custom eCommerce Websites - Word Press etc.

There are website developers in the market who specialise in building custom ecommerce sites using popular Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Word Press & Woo commerce

This option, in fact, is not a website platform, but rather a CMS framework. You would only go with this option if you couldn’t find a SaaS platform that addresses your specific needs.

These websites tend to be put together using bits and pieces of add-ons plus custom code to make an eCommerce site. Most of the CMS’s and add-ons are focused on B2C retail, for example using ‘Add-to-cart’ which is not suitable for large repeat orders, or they can’t handle on-account, or complex contract pricing.


  • If you have unusual requirements not available from SaaS platform providers and that are essential to have and want total control, then it might be the best solution


  • There can be a big gap between what you think you are getting and what the development company thinks you want
  • Costs can quickly balloon
  • The time to complete the project can easily blow out

(Over 70% of these projects fail on budget, time and functionality based on international research)

  • You might not know what you really needed until you go live
  • Ongoing costs can be high – e.g., when new technologies come out or you need to add new functionality or the many add-ons the developers put together are often not supported, become incompatible
  • There is a danger you will try to match a large, deep pocketed competitor’s custom site feature for feature when, in fact, they are not important to the majority of your customers
  • The business model of custom development does not favor longevity of the website developer company so there is a high failure rate (in Auckland this was over 70% for the eight years to December 2017)
  • You will possibly need to redevelop your ecommerce website every 5 to 7 years as website technology and CMS platforms evolve

3. Large eCommerce Platforms

There are large platforms that are suitable for very large, complex enterprise level businesses. The main ones we see used for NZ sites are;

  • Sales Force Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware)
  • IBM Websphere Commerce
  • Oracle Commerce Cloud
  • Intershop
  • EpiServer Commerce Cloud
  • SAP Commerce Cloud

Implementations are typically in the range of hundreds of thousands to several million dollars.

There are probably less than 30 ecommerce sites in NZ that are built with these products and many of these are branches of overseas companies that are obliged to comply with global directive regardless of the suitability for the local operation.

They are typically only chosen by very large companies that have specific requirements and large volumes of products and transactions. Interestingly, in our experience, high price does not always mean better functionality.

ERP Portals

Cloud based ERP (accounting) systems often have web front ends which enable a catalogue of products to be displayed and orders to be placed.

These systems are little more than a window that allows buyers to access certain parts of an ERP system.

The problem is that for most companies their website has to do much more than that.

We covered the Customer Purchasing Cycle in Part 1 above but have repeated the top-level here because it is of significance to ERP Front End Systems.

  • Awareness of having a need
  • Search for suppliers
  • Research potential suppliers
  • Select a supplier
  • Purchase
  • Repeat purchase
  • Loyalty

The first four bullet points require good content which means that a great eCommerce platform with great Content Management capabilities is required. ERP Front End Systems mostly only provide a simple text editor for content and this content will not work well on mobile devices.

360 Commerce by comparison has 24 marketing components and 20 eCommerce components – all of which are mobile optimised and highly configurable.


  • Can handle large volumes of SKU’s, transactions and prices etc.
  • Adequate for customer self-service such as reprinting invoices statements etc.


  • Mainly focused on transactions
  • Limited content capabilities
  • ERP vendors are not experts in eCommerce by a long stretch
  • If you have multiple companies each with a different ERP you will not be able to use the same platform for all those companies thus losing potential economies of scale and standardisation of website processes
  • The day you replace your ERP system, you will also have to replace your website
  • High implementation costs
  • It is also hard to find implementors/support companies in Australia and New Zealand for this option
  • Ongoing fees are very high, $US5,000 per month and upwards is typical
  • Developers are always needed
  • Some of them are reported to be very slow


A “one-stop-shop” for both ERP and an eCommerce website might sound appealing but the reality is that this option will largely only address the transactional aspects of your website.

360 Commerce, by comparison, has ERP integrations which means that the transactional aspects of your site are covered as well as all the other important parts of customer purchasing cycles.

4. 360 Commerce

An innovative eCommerce platform  in a class of its own. 360 Commerce has a configurable component architecture that does away with the old concepts of templates and themes. It is suitable for the smallest of websites up to large and complex websites.

This component architecture flexibility allows any business to meet its business and website goals simply by using the right components on any page and configuring them to meet business goals.

In addition, the 360 Commerce user experience group technology allows business to provide different content and experiences to different user types.

The combination of components and user experience group experience means.

  • Brands can be communicated more powerfully
  • The site will have more value to the customer
  • The site will be easier to navigate
  • It is more likely that prospects will make contact
  • It is more likely that prospects will become customers

All of the above is achieved with 100% configuration and is done by our clients.

Many eCommerce platform vendors claim power, flexibility and the like. We invite you to contact us for a demonstration to see that we have taken power and flexibility to the extreme – all at a lower cost to our clients.

  • 360 Commerce can be integrated to any modern online application such as ERP systems or a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).
  • No third-party company or product is involved in our integration modules and they are robust, failsafe
  • Comes with great error reporting on a transaction-by-transaction basis. This ensures that there is no finger pointing and time-wasting investigation when something goes wrong with an integration transaction.

360 eCommerce has many features that multimillion-dollar systems have because it was built from the ground up with an innovative component architecture and to be exceptionally good at both B2B and B2C. Add-on apps are not required because of the depth of the core functionality of 360 Commerce and, you can ask us to add any additional functionality you require to the platform.

All our clients have access to all new functionality in the core product. Because we don’t have versions and are continuously upgrading 360 Commerce, new functionality will not be version locked as happens with other platforms. 


  • Excellent return on investment
  • 100% configuration means your site can be ready for content loading in a few hours
  • An innovative component architecture means that you can be more agile as your needs change
  • Microsoft’s world class cloud infrastructure for security and reliability
  • 100% Microsoft technology
  • No need for custom functionality means that your site cannot get orphaned as the platform evolves
  • Robust fail-safe ERP integration
  • Predictable monthly costs
  • Head office is in New Zealand


  • We’ll let you know if we find any.


Contact us if you would like to find out more.


Where Does 360 Commerce Fit In?

360 Commerce is a powerful, integrated, scalable B2B/B2C eCommerce platform. It was built specifically for B2B environments and has all the features to meet the complex needs of B2B businesses and customers while also providing a great B2C retail solution on the same platform.

The unique 360 Commerce platform architecture is constructed of configurable components that provide over 200 features, all of which can be configured to your business needs.

Save Time and Reduce Risk - Get A Copy of the 360 Commerce Feature List

To save you time we have created this checklist of existing 360 Commerce website functionality. Having this list in your hands will mean that you won’t forget anything and will also give you the ability to assess different platforms for functionality.

Download Free Feature Checklist Now

About the author

Jason Platt

Jason Platt

I admit that I’ve always been a bit of a geek. At 12 I dismantled our new family TV to see how it worked, and, yes, I did have a few problems putting it back together! I still have an inquiring mind and believe it’s absolutely essential for anyone seeking to lead from the front in the online industry.
I have a strong background in strategic business and management having held managerial and executive positions in the online industry for over 20 years.