Skincare is everybody’s favorite up-and-coming ecommerce category: a booming space; a way to get at the evergreen beauty space but that’s more inclusive of men; it’s very 21st century, in other words.
A question about this growing space that keeps everyone up at night (I’m sure) is this: what ecommerce platforms are the major players in the space using?
To answer this question, we did a review of the top 30 brands and what platforms they’re using. Before looking for what’s surprising & interesting in the data, let’s first look at the data itself.
Here are the top 30 skincare brands and which platform each is running their ecommerce on:
|Skinwear & skincare||Platform|
|Dollar Shave Club||Atlassian Cloud|
|Dr Dennis Gross||Magento|
|Neal’s Yard Remedies||SFCC|
|Tata Harper Skincare||Magento|
|The Art of Shaving||SFCC|
Now, let’s sum it up. Here is a summary list, by platform, of the most popular ones used by skincare brands:
There are a few interesting details from this list. Let’s dive in to find them.
The first detail worth observing is that the most popular platform used, by far, is Salesforce Commerce Cloud (ahem, ahem, “Demandware”), which of the top 30, 11 use it – that’s 37% of them. After reviewing dozens of DTC markets, this is just about average; in the major online retail markets, it tends to be the pattern that 30-50% of the top 30 brands use Salesforce Commerce Cloud, so this is smack bang in the middle average.
Why is Salesforce Commerce Cloud/Demandware so popular at the top of the market, used by the big name brands here like, say, Neutrogena? Likely because this is precisely the primary use-case that Salesforce Commerce Cloud was built for! Salesforce Commerce Cloud is designed for complex ecommerce needs for high-volume shops. Cases like: you have complex retail physical stores whose systems you need to integrate with; you want to do serious A/B testing and have the very different versions consistent across all touchpoints including emails; you have complex legacy systems you want to integrate with; you want to avoid the problems if having lots of plugins/extensions/cartridges and not having the left one be able to talk to the right one (cough, cough, the Shopify problem, cough, cough); scaling without sacrificing speed; and so forth.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s upstart competitor in the high-volume online retail space is Shopify. Shopify started at the low-end $30/month space – the precise opposite market as Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s – and now they’re trying to move from the low-tier to the mid-tier part of the market. And they’re succeeding at least in this skincare space, coming in second place in the top 30, with 5 of them (that is, 16.667%) of them using Shopify.
But it shouldn’t be surprising that the 5 brands that use them are probably the 5 smallest brands on the list. That makes sense: Shopify is great for small and starting brands, but once you have more sophisticated needs, well, there are much better brands out there.
In third place is Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s traditional competitor, Magento, once upon a time the classic go-to ecommerce platform for high-end needs. A decade ago, Magento would have probably dominated this list; but today it’s in third place with 4 of the 30 – or 13.333%. Magento famously has had challenges scaling, and as a classic, open-source project, it wasn’t architected for the cloud-first approach everyone is using these days. Adobe’s purchase of Magento didn’t give it as much of a lift as we would have hoped.
A surprising result on this list is that Drupal is still in use – and by two of the biggest names out there, Estée Lauder and Clinique! Drupal, good old Drupal. Drupal has been powering sites seemingly since the dawn of time and who even knew it was still around. And it’s surprising that two of the biggest brands, with endless budgets behind them, would be running on an ancient platform known for being slow and complex, that has a small fraction of the extensions/plugins available as well as the dev talent of any of the more modern platforms.
The explanation is that replatforming is a complex, risky and expensive endeavor. It’s a funny form of the Sorites Paradox: how many strands of hair do you need to remove from a head of hair for a ‘hairy’ head to be considered a ‘bald’ head? In other words, just a little bit less (or a little bit more) of something, just a tiny bit per day, every day slowly over time, eventually moves you from one category (hairy) to another category (bald), in a way that is almost imperceptible on a daily basis.
So here’s what’s likely happening at Estée Lauder’s and Clinique’s offices: every quarter, they ask themselves, “is it worth all the time, energy, money, and risk to do a huge replatform now?” and the answer is, “No, it won’t improve our Q4 bottom line, let’s stay as is.” When viewed on a quarter by quarter basis, this makes sense. But when you step back and look at it over a 15 year timeline… by losing only a strand of hair a day, over this time, the hairy man has become bald, and the modern platform has turned ancient.
BigCommerce has made a surprisingly strong appearance on the list, with 3 of the top 30, at 10% (see Mom, I’m great at math!). And with Gillette, they have one of the biggest skincare brands out there as well. BigCommerce has been building itself up as a leader in the headless angle of ecommerce, and it has been winning over some name brands. BigCommerce is an interesting choice: modern, built cloud-first, built for scale (unlike Shopify!) and they’ve been getting some big wins lately. But their strength and their weakness is in their headless-first focus. Headlessness: an approach to ecommerce platforms that has lots of theoretical benefits and allows you to create a much more flexible and powerful front-end; but one whose benefits are really not needed by 99% of ecommerce stores, who have very straightforward needs for their ecommerce front-ends. Is the extra cost, time, and hassle worth it? Maybe, maybe not – and it depends on your content and front-end strategy.
A bunch of other platforms make an appearance at the tail-end of the platform body. The ever-favorite Dollar Shave Club runs their ecommerce on Atlassian Cloud, an Australian favorite which is consistent with the Dollar Shave Club’s western US, almost cowboy, marketing. But it actually does make sense, despite Atlassian Cloud’s secondary performance as an ecommerce platform, because Dollar Shave Club is now owned by Unilever, and Atlassian is exactly the sort of platform that international conglomerates flock to these days. (I would guess that when Dollar Shave Club made its name, they were using something more home grown.)
In conclusion, choosing the right ecommerce platform is a complex choice, and each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, and the cases where it is stronger, and where it is weaker. Are you looking at different ecommerce platforms? Let’s talk about it, I can strategize on this endlessly. Just drop me a line to schedule a call: firstname.lastname@example.org