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Jan 12, 2022 | 10 minute read

Customize or Configure: Which eCommerce Approach is Right For Your Business?

written by Shaneil Lafayette

Having the right tech stack in place can be a game changer for any business - it can provide you with the agility to outmaneuver the competition, delight your consumers, and drive explosive growth in revenue. In the eCommerce space, the right type of solution for your business is one of the most important decisions you will make, and it can be a daunting task given the two main options available are so vastly different. Some prefer the traditional legacy Out-Of-The-Box option that you can configure, while others prefer the services-based option that you can build to your specific needs. We wouldn’t go as far as to say one is better than the other, but there will be a better option for you based on your business requirements. Therefore, it’s more important to understand how they differ and which one will be more compatible for your business. At the end of the day, the experience you provide to your consumers, and the resulting eCommerce sales you achieve, ride on choosing the best suited digital commerce technology to drive your business. In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of what it means to work with a configurable commerce platform platform versus building with a customizable commerce platform, key criteria for choosing one and how Elastic Path plays a role in helping you to achieve your ideal state.


What is a Configurable Commerce Platform?

A configurable platform typically provides brands with a bundled set of functionality to drive their online commerce business. All of these functionality were developed and deployed by a single vendor and packaged together as a single unit, for brands to leverage its pre-built/out-of-the-box functionality to get up and running quickly.

Traditional eCommerce platforms that offer out-of-the-box functionality include Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento, SAP Hybris, Shopify and Oracle. This means that these platforms will have an end to end solution that include features from storefronts, content management, and search to shopping carts, order management and shipping and fulfillment. For the features that are not outright available out-of-the-box, vendors have worked with third party solutions to build services that can be plugged into the platform to extend the existing functionality. For example, if you have chosen Salesforce Commerce Cloud as your choice of commerce platform, you could use a paypal or stripe plugin in order to process your payment transactions.


What to Expect When Working With a Configurable eCommerce Platform?

The primary and most obvious benefit of working with a configurable platform, is that you get all the features you need from a single vendor.

Therefore you can expect:

  • The platform costs will be cheaper than services based solutions.
  • There will be one centralized vendor to turn to for everything you need– whether something needs to be fixed or you simply want to make a change.
  • All features are pre-integrated with each other for easy usability.
  • Little to no technical background will be required to operate the platform.
  • Your eCommerce experience can be up and running quickly.

All of the aforementioned benefits are true if you want to deploy a basic website with simple business requirements. However, the more customizations and complex requirements your brand has to address, the more these benefits dissipate. You see, these platforms were built in the vendor’s vision of how an eCommerce platform should work. As such, they provide eCommerce teams with fields and templates that allow them to customize and configure their eCommerce experiences to a certain degree within their guidelines. However, the second you try to veer from the predefined box they have outlined for you, your eCommerce teams are forced to spend more time and money configuring your platform to your unique requirements. So how do you know if this option will be right for you?


Is A Configurable Platform Right For My Business?

Here are a few key considerations for choosing an configurable platform:

  • You want a standard store up and running fast
  • You need a fairly straight-forward store for selling standard goods or services (e.g. t-shirts via website only)
  • You want to develop your store without the help of an agency or partner
  • You are comfortable that the “out of the box” themes and templates sufficiently meet your requirements
  • You want to leverage simple configurations and settings such as SKU variation, multi-currency, multi-language, and tax variations by state, etc.
  • You want to leverage all eCommerce functionality via one vendor

If at least 50% of these considerations resonate with you then a configurable out-of-the-box platform may be a good fit. If you want a better idea of whether or not a configurable  platform may be right for your business, take our platform evaluation quiz and get expert advice from the Elastic Path team.


Want to See How Elastic Path Commerce Cloud is Future Proof?

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How Has The eCommerce Landscape changed?

The configurable platform approach has been largely positive as brands ventured down the path of doing business online for the first time, when consumer expectations drove the requirement for mostly simple, standardized commerce experiences. However, consumer expectations for modern, engaging experiences have skyrocketed over the past several years, mostly as a result of the leading internet giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. These businesses raised the bar in terms of what consumers expected, forcing commerce businesses to rethink the tech stack used to power their online businesses so they could keep pace, innovate and differentiate their brand. As a result, over the past 3-4 years, a market that was previously dominated by a few, large configurable, out-of-the-box platform vendors is now fortunate to have dozens of best-in-class commerce services providing much more robust functionality for the one thing they do. This has paved the way for services based solutions.


What Is A Customizable Commerce Platform?

A customizable commerce platform leverages best-in-class services to deliver all the functionality you would have previously gotten exclusively from your out-of-the-box eCommerce platform. A typical customizable commerce platform would include best-in-class services covering all the capabilities commonly included in a traditional out-of-the-box eCommerce platform, such as order management, inventory, Salsify product information management (PIM), TaxJar for tax, shipping, fulfillment, Contentful for the content management system (CMS), and Stripe for the payment gateway, just to name a few. Modern customizable  solutions include vendors such as Elastic Path, Commercetools, VTEX and Fabric. This means that while you can achieve an end to end solution with these platforms you and your team and/or hired agency will be responsible for building your unique solution.


What To Expect When Working With A Customizable Commerce Platform?

The primary benefit of working with a customizable platform is the complete control and flexibility you receive to design your commerce stack with best in class services to meet your specific business requirements. Therefore, you can expect:

  • To have the best service for each eCommerce functionality.
  • To build your solution you want the first time rather than configuring an out-of-the-box platform.
  • A high degree of flexibility to customize your eCommerce experiences.
  • A higher platform cost, but a significantly lower cost to make changes to your solution.
  • To be able to work with a variety of developers to bring your unique requirements to life.


While all the aforementioned benefits are true, you will have to take into account that a more customized solution may take some more upfront time and cost. In addition, you will also be trading in working with just one vendor, to many vendors, that your team will have to focus on integrating together for a seamless eCommerce experience. So while you can achieve your unique vision, you often take on more of the burden of building it. So how do you know if this option will be right for you?


Is A Customizable Commerce Platform Right For My Business?

Here are a few key considerations for choosing a customizable platform:

  • You want your eCommerce solution to your exact requirements, not configure a template.
  • You have a technical team, systems integrator or agency to help with building your solution.
  • You rely on your brand to differentiate you in market and you want to ensure that differentiation is reflected in your digital commerce.
  • You have an eCommerce strategy that includes multiple business models (e.g. B2B, B2C, and/or B2B2C), use cases, experiences, etc.
  • You want to be able to rapidly adjust your eCommerce solution to meet outpace competitors and meet market needs.
  • You want to enable omnichannel experiences with one solution.
  • You want to leverage complex configurations and settings such as price variation, account management, budget and spend limits and more.

If at least 50% of these considerations resonate with you then a services-based solution may be a good fit. If you want a better idea of whether or not a services-based solution may be right for your business, take our platform evaluation quiz and get expert advice from the Elastic Path team.



Interested in Learning About Elastic Path Commerce Cloud?

Launch and optimize innovative experiences fast, with a modern, headless, SaaS, API-first, & microservices-based commerce platform.

See the Future of eCommerce


Where Does Elastic Path Fall On the Platform Spectrum?

Elastic Path leverages a customizable approach to empower brands to build their Composable Commerce solutions. Composable Commerce is an approach that enables business and tech teams to bring their brand’s unique digital vision to life by launching and continuously optimizing digital commerce experiences that leverage multiple best-of-breed vendors composed together into a complete, business ready solution.

Traditional customizable platforms come equipped with MACH based technology (Microservices, API-First, Cloud-Native, Headless) that grant you the flexibility to design your unique solution. But as we mentioned earlier, eCommerce teams are often left to deal with the complexities of designing and configuring the solution.

Composable Commerce from Elastic Path on the other hand leverages not just MACH, but also assets like partner integrations, a marketplace filled with jumpstart solutions if you need to get up and running quickly, as well as full support to compose and optimize your unique solution.

Therefore, when you choose to work with Elastic Path you no longer have to compromise between the speed of configurable, out-of-the-box platforms and complexity of customizable solutions. This is all made possible by 3 main components of the Elastic Path Offering:

  1. The Core Commerce Solution- Elastic Path Commerce Cloud offers a Composable, omnichannel architecture which is designed with simplicity in mind so that you can deliver any use case or experience with built-in core commerce functionality, eliminating the need for messy customizations to be built and managed.

  2. Business Ready Solutions- At Elastic Path we have the Composable Commerce Hub which is a modern vendor marketplace that provides business-ready solutions so that brands can move with the speed of their business demands. It brings together a robust library of Pre-Composed Solutions™ and Accelerators into one central location, so brands can deliver business results in weeks, not months by eliminating the complexity of “composing” from scratch.

  3. Solution Assurance- Elastic Path offers Composable Commerce Experience Assurance ™ which gives brands who are embracing a multi-vendor approach peace of mind. This experience assurance de-risks composable, multi-vendor commerce solutions by providing holistic integration monitoring and one central contact when issues arise. So, instead of navigating across numerous vendors as you have to do with other MACH-based solutions, Elastic Path partners with you to manage and resolve all issues.


We truly hope this helped you to better understand how to choose between configuring an out-of-the-box platform and building a customizable commerce solution. As always if you have any questions or just want to learn more about how Elastic Path can help you to achieve your business goals, feel free to reach out us