Choosing a Technology Stack for eCommerce Development
A Technology Stack conundrum may seem like a big deal, specifically for non-tech entrepreneurs.
Will it scale?
Will I be able to hire developers?
Is it reliable & tested enough?
Is there a community to help with technical issues if you get stuck?
What’s the best combination for my business niche?
Choosing a tech stack for eCommerce is even more worrisome, as seconds lost in page speed loading translate into lost revenues. Moreover, the distribution part of the stack is as important as the product part.
Zoolatech specializes in custom eCommerce development. Forgive us some bragging here, but with clients like Nordstrom, we may righteously claim we know a thing or two about the best technology stack for retail eCommerce.
Let us break it down for you in this piece so you can develop your eCommerce business with peace of mind – and a few dollars of your budget saved, potentially.
What Is A Tech Stack?
Technology stack is a combination of frameworks, tools, apps, platforms, and programming languages employed to develop a website or a mobile application.
As technological tools and platforms layer up one on top of another to ultimately create a fully functioning system, the term sprang from the notion of technologies being stacked on top of each other.
There are 2 main parts of this ecosystem:
- the front end [client-facing]
- the back end [server-facing]
Let’s examine those in further detail for the best understanding.
Technology Stack for eCommerce Development
Front-End eCommerce Technologies
The front end is a client-facing suite of tech tools in web and app development. There are three main names here and the best thing is that there are no choices to be made (yes, no mistakes at this stage too).
Three front end technologies that are always used alongside each other are:
- HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language)
- CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
- Java Script (the JS libraries used for front end development are React, Vue, Angular, jQuery)
While those are the basic ones, SCSS, LESS, and SASS are also used for client-facing development.
On top of that, when all is said and done, assembly is executed with the help of tools like Gulp, WebPack, and Crunt.
All of these tools are used at the same time by front end developers, who design and program every pixel, letter, and button facing the client during browsing of the web or use of an app.
Back-End eCommerce Technologies
The server-facing part of the technology, aka back end, employs an army of tools and frameworks to perform its functions.
If we were to use a metaphor for front end and back end functions, this would be it:
Imagine you ask your friend to pass some salt at the dinner table. What you can see is her hands passing it to you, she has ears to hear your request and eyes to see the salt and you nearby. This is the front end of things.
What you don't see is how the sound waves hit the hearing apparatus, the signal is transferred via neurons to the brain, the brain registers a required action and gives the command to move the closest hand to the salt shaker, lift it, pass from one hand to another, closest to you now, smile and say: there you are. Meanwhile, the heart is pumping blood, the lungs are trafficking oxygen, etc. – all of the processes allowing the salt to ultimately reach you. You get the idea.
So there are a lot of processes that we are blissfully unaware of happening inside the salt bearer, but which, in fact, allow her front end to look like she is coping with the task requested by you.
Let’s review the main back end technologies in detail:
Choosing an operating system (OS) is the first decision to be made. This technology has the most familiar terms for non-techies: 4 major OS brands (with their statcounter June 2020 OS global market shares in brackets) are:
- Google’s Android [38,3%]
- Microsoft Windows [36,55%]
- Apple macOS [iOS 14,4% & OS X 8,35%]Linux OS [0,81%].
Web servers are software that takes requests from users, analyzes them, and provides an output of the requested documents to the user. Two major web servers that are both open source and free are Apache and Nginx.
Apache is nine years older, so it’s a more tried and tested system with 1995 as its founding year. Nginx is younger but is gaining popularity among developers due to an architecture that’s different from Apache, and allows users to process an unlimited number of requests simultaneously, making it a perfect server for high-volume websites.
Databases are a vital part of the backend ecosystem, that allow you to maintain and process a lot of data points. The most popular databases are:
The most popular storage solutions are:
Programming languages use different syntax to command a computer to do whatever is desired. These are the major programming languages used in a website technology stack with respective frameworks [in brackets].
- Ruby [Ruby on Rails]
- Java [Spring]
- Python [Django, Pylons, Flask]
- Scala [Play]
- PHP [Laravel]
Below you can see three images of Programming languages’ popularity rankings by PYPL GitHub, Tiobe, and a mixed rating based on a survey of 57,000 developers by Statista.
Popular Tech Stacks for Tried & Tested Web Development
The quickest tech stack for app development that has two drawbacks to fast release: it is not as scalable and it is rather low-performance.
- Operating System: Linux
- Web Server: Apache
- Database management: MySQL or MariaDB
- Scripting Language: Perl / PHP / Python
The Django Framework that is used alongside Python provides a high-security level for backend development:
- Web Server: Apache
- Database management: MySQL or PostgreSQL
- Scripting Language: Python
Probably the best technology stack for an eCommerce website, this one is widely used to develop online stores:
- Database management: MongoDB / MySQL
- Backend framework: Express
- Web Application Framework: Angular
- Backend platform: Node.js
Microsoft’s proprietary stack developed during the early 2000s has partially become open source, prompting further traction.
- Operating System: Windows (but you can use Linux & MacOS)
- Framework: ASP.NET
- Web Server: Microsoft SQL
- Database management: various
Choosing A Tech Stack for eCommerce: Tips & How-To
Make Sure it’s Compatible with Existing Stack
If you are not a startup entrepreneur who is dwelling on technology stacks for web development from scratch, existing tools and frameworks are your best starting point. Ensure that new platforms and tools are compatible with the solutions you currently use.
What Are You Good at? Make it Personal.
Startups are usually budget-sensitive, we get it. We have all been there. This is why listening to your own experience and addressing your teams' strengths is a surefire strategy to adopt. If you have a developer on your team with specific skills, consider building a website leveraging this set of skills as a priority.
Is your project more on the academic or scientific side? Is it a one-pager? Is it a multi-level eCommerce Machina with thousands of SKUs? Is this a mobile app that is never to become a website at all?
When you understand your initial project requirements, inclusive size, and niche-specific characteristics, you can narrow down your choices in terms of the technology stack for eCommerce development quite significantly.
Consider Development Lapse Time
Time to market is another factor to consider when selecting eCommerce technologies to adopt in your project.
If you just need a quick app to test an idea, you may well do with a LAMP stack. If your development lapse time allows for an unhurried approach with emphasis on quality and agility, you will hardly opt for LAMP then, given its low scalability and mediocre performance.
Grow with Me: Scalability
Scalability in eCommerce is the fundamental factor that can make it or break it for a company’s growth.
If you get your distribution stack to be as great as your product one, you may need to scale: fast & furiously.
If your platforms and frameworks are not capable of scaling fast without much extra investment in terms of talent, time, and capital, you will be losing market share and facing potential lost revenues by the minute.
Tried & Tested vs Young and Ambitious
Maturity means smooth operation, yet it may sometimes also mean old school ways.
State-of-the-art trendy technology may involve revolutionary approaches and innovative solutions, but it definitely means bumps along the road.
Your choice. Sparkly things syndrome may not be a good one to have in IT.
Talent Availability & Recruitment
Talent usually follows the money. So those processes are interdependent. The more popular a technology is, the more developers master it. On the other hand, the easier and more user-friendly technology is, the more developers love mastering it.
On yet another end of the spectrum, as much as developers are not too rare for a very specific framework, talent is available in all price ranges across all languages and skills.
Be sure to take into account talent availability in your area or remotely for your chosen tech stack for eCommerce.
Developers Anonymous: Turnkey Solution to Deal with Hiccups
An extensive developer community and open source have been around for years and are a very welcoming, understanding and giving crowd. Ensure that the tech you use for your project has extensive documentation, community, and support.
Budget Planning: Hardware Requirements
Some software may need a few servers to perform some basic functions. Triple check your selected solutions for this hardware requirement aspect, specifically if your company is a budget-sensitive eCommerce startup.
Technology Stack Examples: The Big 5 eCommerce Players
We have checked the top five eCommerce businesses in the world and the following are their tech stack examples. This is not to say that if you use the same tools you will be able to achieve the same levels of eCommerce success, no.
But they are empowering. You may find some logic and pick cues in the choice of tools by the big players. Please welcome, ladies and gentlemen: Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Target, and Etsy tech stacks.
Third-Party Technology Solutions for Technology Stack for App Development
Distribution is now one of the most important parts of the puzzle when it comes to succeeding at an eCommerce project.
This is when your third-party solutions play a major role, on top of the web tech stack. There are multiple choices, so we suggest a deep dive into all of the options in this article: best 14 retail software solutions for retailers and etailers in 2020.
Let’s review some major solutions below, with some of the popular web technology examples being:
- Payment Gateways
- Email Marketing Software Solutions
- Social Media Marketing
- Inventory Management Software
[$£¥ currencies supported; countries supported; transaction fees]
Below are the payment gateways that are the most popular ones out there. While the big suspects are well known, the decision on which one to choose needs some attention for these reasons:
- While the transaction fees look similar, they are not in fact: different T&Cs are available depending on the number and volume of transactions. So it’s best to approach the mission of choosing a gateway based on a forecast of your expected transactions.
- Some payment gateways are more localized, so if you are not from USA or European markets, see which of the providers may have penetrated your specific country of interest better.
[$£¥ 25 currencies; 200 countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
[$£¥ 12 currencies; USA, Canada, Europe, Australia+; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
BrainTree [division of PayPal]
[$£¥ 130 currencies; 45 countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
[$£¥ 135 currencies; 35 countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
[$£¥ ?? currencies; ?? countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
[$£¥ 150 currencies; 50 countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
[$£¥ 60+ currencies; 234 countries; transaction fees: %2.9 + $0.3]
Email Marketing Software Solutions
When it comes to distribution, forming brand loyalty, driving brand recognition, and growing your upsells, email marketing is still one of the best tools out there.
Check out Capterra’s top 20 email marketing software solutions for unbiased ratings, and see our picks below:
Social Media Marketing
Social media is big now, but it’s only a toddler in terms of its genesis. Presence across all platforms is an expectation and a major driver in molding a strong relationship with your potential client base.
These best social media marketing software solutions offer post scheduling tools, advertising management platforms, and more:
CRM (Customer Relations Management Software)
Customer Relations Management system is a must-have for any business. It's one of the fundamental success factors for eCommerce. These sophisticated, yet relatively cheap, platforms combine contact management, task management, pipeline management, calendar, and more.
These are the best CRM software solutions we love:
Inventory Management Software
In a realm as competitive as eCommerce, your stock full but also optimal for actual levels of demand is a crucial success factor.
Check out these top inventory management solutions, fit for eCommerce and retail alike:
Modern eCommerce Platforms
There are also eCommerce platforms out there that allow startups to establish an online shop in the shortest period possible with minimal upfront investment.
If you are one of many budding eCommerce entrepreneurs, you might want to consider one of these best eCommerce platforms:
eCommerce Development With Zoolatech
Zoolatech is a Silicon Valley-rooted company with a developer team based in Kyiv, Ukraine. A win-win formula for both: our customers and the company.
You get all the expertise and immersion into the eCommerce realm that Silicon Valley offers at a Ukraine-level price tag.
We specialize in custom eCommerce development and retail website development, so you can rest assured we know every little nuance there is to watch – to save you time and money. We will guide you to a perfect tech stack for your eCommerce website from A to Z.
Our skilled technical team has worked with every popular tech stack out there and knows the ins, outs, pluses, and minuses. We are the masters of the eCommerce backend and gurus of online store front ends.