It’s a question that keeps the world up at night: of the major pet brands in the USA, including pet supplies and pet food, what ecommerce platforms are they using to run their websites?
To answer this, we did something not too shocking: we compiled a bunch of data. Before analyzing closely, let’s see the data itself. Here are the top pet brands, and which ecommerce platform each is using:
|Chuck & Don’s Pet Food||Magento|
|Hollywood Feed||FieldStack Omni|
|Pet Food Express||BigCommerce|
|Pet Planet Health||WooCommerce|
|Pet Supermarket||Oracle Commerce Cloud|
|Pet Supplies Plus||Sitecore Experience Commerce|
|Petvalu||Oracle Commerce Cloud|
And here is the summary of the data; the number of these brands using each ecommerce platform:
|Oracle Commerce Cloud||2|
|Sitecore Experience Commerce||1|
So today’s data is particularly interesting. Over the last few months, we’ve compiled and written hundreds of these analyses, covering lots of different retail categories, and in every major retail category we’ve analyzed so far, the most common ecommerce platform used by a top brand is Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Often the second most common platform has under half the number that Salesforce Commerce Cloud does – so it’s usually by a wide margin.
Until today. Well, almost. It depends on how you count a “tie” because of the 17 brands we reviewed, the most popular platforms are Salesforce Commerce Cloud (at 3 of the 17, for 17%) and Shopify (also at 3 or 17%.)
There are compelling reasons to use Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and there are also compelling reasons to use Shopify. The question, though, is: what is interesting and different about this space, whereby the leading platform of choice is merely tied with the usual third-place (or second-place) competitor?
Well, let’s review the virtues and defects of Salesforce Commerce Cloud (which I still call “Demandware,” being old-school myself) and Shopify. In short, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is built for high-volume retail and DTC ecommerce, prepared not only for scale but full integration with your marketing and also complex cases. On the downside, it’s not cheap. Shopify, on the other hand, is something like its opposite, on both levels: built for those for $30/month, super easy to boot-up your store (just click a button!) – but, in practical terms, once you start getting to non-trivial use cases (legacy integrations? Needing multiple extensions that don’t talk to each other and call other servers which substantially slow down the site, and so forth) you very quickly run up against its real-world limitations. But it’s very affordable, for even those with nothing just starting out!
As a result, since Salesforce Commerce Cloud is built for high-volume, complex ecommerce situations, it makes sense that it is used by the top retailers online. Shopify usually comes in second or third place in these listings partially because they’re aggressively trying to court and sell to larger brands (as both Shopify and Salesforce Commerce Cloud fight over the mid-market), partially because it is often used by smaller brands that have grown-up quickly, and partially it is just used by the smallest 5 of the top 20 or so we tend to analyze.
In this case, in the pet retail space, it seems to be a combination of all those factors above. The largest brands reviewed use others, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud (such as Petsmart) or HCL Commerce/IBM (like Petco). Shopify seems to be the brand of the smaller upstarts that have made it big.
But is that a wise choice? The answer is likely this: when you’re starting out and have very little, it is definitely a great choice. But then, as you grow, your ecommerce needs get more complex, and you want to do things like multivariate and A/B testing, fully integrated experiences consistent with marketing, and so forth – it makes sense to move to a platform with more power and flexibility. But replatforming is a huge pain, expensive, and is usually pushed off more and more and more until it can’t be pushed off any more.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Shopify aside, there are a bunch of other interesting results in this data. Let’s look at them.
Two of the top brands use WooCommerce (the native ecom integration of WordPress), which are Pet Planet Health and Mud Bay. WordPress is in a similar use case to Shopify; it’s basically the non-cloud equivalent. It is the classic free, open source blogging platform, with WooCommerce, the attempt from Automattic (WordPress’ creators; Hi, Matt!) to glam on an ecommerce engine on top. Hard to scale and built for the ease of install and maintenance, WordPress is a great choice to boot-up your own site; but once you’re ready to play with the big boys and girls, a replatforming makes sense.
(In the classic WordPress WooCommerce vs Shopify battle – since both fight over the same portion of the target market – the two questions I’d ask are: how content-heavy or content-focused is your strategy? And how important is it to you to control all parts of the platform? If you’re only small and starting, and if the answers to both questions are “very,” then WordPress makes more sense, otherwise, Shopify. WordPress, after all, is a content-first system, with ecommerce functionality only added later on.)
Magento makes an honorary appearance for 1 of the top brands, Chuck & Don’s. Magento is the traditional competitor of Salesforce Commerce Cloud at the high end; it’s what powered a substantial portion of the major ecommerce platforms a decade or so ago. But it’s been losing luster, even since its purchase by Adobe, due to the complexity brought on by its legacy approach. Today, I rarely recommend to clients to use Magento if they’re building a new site from scratch; it’s unusually complex and thus expensive to do even simpler tasks. (For all the mocking we do of WordPress and WooCommerce – I love you so much, and you know how many hundreds of WordPress sites I’ve run and loved, you know that, right? – I actually often recommend WordPress with WooCommerce instead of Magento: both open source, but more modern, more extensions, easier to maintain and upgrade and expand.)
One of the brands, Hollywood Feed, uses FieldStack Omni. They’re a smaller and up-and-coming player whose core value proposition is the ground-up integration of in-store retail with online retail ecommerce. While such integration is a hallmark of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, it isn’t The One Core Use Case; it’s just one scenario which it does well. The downside to FieldStack is, as a smaller competitor to Salesforce Commerce Cloud, there is just a smaller pool of developers, fewer plugins and extensions available, and you rely more on one smaller company whose future is uncertain – and I don’t mean “uncertain” in a particularly negative way; just observing that Salesforce, Shopify, and WordPress will definitely be around in 10 years, but FieldStack? Only the masters of the universe who have the future of the world planned out for the rest of us know!
Another honorary appearance is BigCommerce, used by Pet Food Express. BigCommerce is interesting because of their super-focus on the headless ecommerce strategy. Headless-first makes sense if you’re really investing in a custom front-end, and that makes sense if you’re planning a very custom end-user experience. Is Pet Food Express? I hope so because otherwise, their investment may not be worth it! I will observe that I do find their site unusually well designed for an ecommerce retail store, but that’s just a minor aesthetic preference. (And not as well designed as UV’s sites, of course!)
Pet Stuff runs nopCommerce – one of the first and ancient open source ecommerce platforms, but unlike WordPress and Magento, which run on the PHP with the “lamp” stack, this runs on… ASP.net. I know you almost had a heart attack reading that – is that still even around? That’s used today? Really? I’m in just as much shock as you are. I exaggerate; they are used by some big brands like Volvo and The North Face. One lesson is that decisions your company made two decades ago matter: once you’re in the Microsoft Universe, it’s very hard and expensive to escape. (I, too, made decisions 20 years ago that it is hard to escape from today, but alas, such is human nature – and corporate nature, apparently.)
And the same reasoning explains the other sites that round out the list. Pet Supermarket and Pet Valu are on Oracle Commerce Cloud, Petco on IBM’s Websphere (now called HCL Commerce), Pet Supplies Plus on Sitecore – while these are strong platforms, the most compelling reason to use them is because you already have been using them and you have your whole back-end built on their corresponding infrastructures. But if you’re choosing a platform or replatform today, there’s little reason to go there. Much better to run with a non-legacy player that either dominates the market or is a mid-sized specialist that does the balanced mix of what you need well (if you prioritize, for example, headless solutions or retail store integration, for example.)
Stepping back, each one has its pluses and its minuses. Which one is right for your case? I don’t know but I’d love to talk through the pros and cons of each, and help figure out what is right for you. Just drop me a note and let’s schedule a call: firstname.lastname@example.org