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eCommerce

Building an eCommerce Tech Stack

Gibson Toombs
September 9th, 2021
8 MINUTE READ

Your eCommerce tech stack plays a critical role in the current and future performance of your business. A modern tech stack—built with advanced software, frameworks, programming languages, and third-party technologies—allows your business to facilitate powerful customer experiences, maintain a competitive edge in the market, prevent cyberattacks, adopt new trends and technologies, and scale for the future. Conversely, a poorly built tech stack will lead to user experience (UX) issues, poor data security, inefficient development workflows, and other problems that can hurt your business’ bottom line. 

So what goes into building a modern eCommerce tech stack? In this article, we’ll discuss the various technologies involved in this process, important factors to consider when evaluating different solutions, and how to get started building a tech stack that matches your business’ unique goals and requirements. 

What is an eCommerce tech stack?

Before we get into the specifics, let’s make sure we fully understand the concept of an eCommerce tech stack. In simple terms, a tech stack is a collection of solutions that developers use to build and maintain websites, web applications, or mobile apps. This includes web servers, programming languages, frameworks, databases, and more. Each solution plays a distinct role, working together to create a technological ecosystem that powers the end product—whether it be a DTC online store, a B2B portal, or a digital marketplace like Amazon. Now, let’s get into the key technologies that make up modern eCommerce tech stacks. 

Front-end vs back-end development

Every tech stack consists of two parts: the front end and the back end. The front end—or client-side—refers to the tools used when building and modifying digital products that end-users interact with. This means product pages, client portals, search and navigation bars, and other website features and functionality. The main goal of front-end development is to ensure that the site or app is fast, intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, and personalized for various user personas. Here are the main technologies involved: 

  • Hypertext markup language (HTML): The standard programming language structure for digital documents—or web pages—displayed in a browser. 
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): The sheet language used to define the specifics of a web page, such as its layout, colors, and fonts. 
  • JavaScript: The programming language that provides interactivity to web pages. 

The back end—or server-side—is a bit more complicated than the front end. It deals with the logic and inner workings of a site or app—in other words, all of the elements the end-user never interacts with. Back-end developers rely on these tools and technologies to keep the client-side functioning:

  • Web servers: The software responsible for processing user requests. When a customer clicks on a link to your site, their browser sends a request to the server, and the server sends back the requested files, allowing the user’s browser to load the web page. The most common servers in eCommerce tech stacks are Apache and Nginx.
  • Databases: The software used to collect, store, and manage various data points, such as transactional history and customer details. Popular eCommerce database management systems include MySql, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL. 
  • Programming languages: Different programming languages can be used to design and modify back-end applications. The most commonly used languages are Python, Ruby, C#, Java, and PHP.
  • Frameworks: Libraries of code and reusable methodologies that allow developers to build applications faster and more efficiently. Popular frameworks include Laravel and Django. 

It’s important to note that—as a non-technical business owner—you won’t necessarily need experience working with these technologies to build a modern eCommerce tech stack. That’s where a web development agency like Codal comes in. 

Separating the front end from the back end

The traditional eCommerce tech stack has a monolithic architecture, where the front and back ends are tightly coupled as a single solution. This means that when one component in the stack isn’t working properly, the entire system can fail. So any changes made on the client-side will result in additional work on the server-side as well. To create a more flexible system, many eCommerce developers are decoupling the front end from the back end, so the two sides can operate independently of each other. This is known as headless commerce. 

Working under a headless architecture, front-end developers can modify the UX faster and easier than ever before. They can implement new sales channels, add more personalized content, and update page designs—all without disrupting any key back-end processes. This allows eCommerce businesses to be more flexible when it comes to improving the customer experience, adopting industry trends, integrating new technologies, and so on. 

Third-party technologies used in eCommerce tech stacks

Unlike the old days, businesses in the digital age don’t have to spend extensive time and money developing proprietary software to run mission-critical tasks. Rather, there’s a wide range of SaaS products you can leverage when building eCommerce tech stacks. Here are the most essential third-party technologies for eCommerce stores: 

Ecommerce platform

Every eCommerce website is powered by an eCommerce platform, with the most popular solutions being Shopify and BigCommerce. These platforms allow businesses to list and sell products online, as well as manage their site content, marketing, and analytics. It’s important to choose an eCommerce platform that integrates seamlessly with the other third-party solutions essential to your business. 

Product information management (PIM)

PIM software provides a single source of truth for all of your business’ product data, content, and other resources. As your business expands to multiple sales channels, like Amazon and Facebook, keeping product pages updated with the correct information becomes more complex—especially if your business is frequently adding new products and making modifications to existing ones. Also, selling different products in different geographical locations adds another layer of complexity. PIM software allows your business to go omnichannel by effectively streamlining—and in certain parts, automating—the process of managing and updating product information. Common PIM solutions include Salsify, Informatica, and Plytix.     

Inventory management 

Similar to PIM, inventory management software—also referred to as an order management system (OMS)—helps businesses stay on top of managing their products across multiple sales channels. This technology allows you to keep track of which products have been sold, shipped, lost, or returned—so that product availability on the front end remains accurate. Businesses with poor inventory management sometimes display out-of-stock items on their site, causing confusion and frustration for customers during checkout. Some of the most popular inventory management systems to consider are ShipStation, Zentail, and Linnworks.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

ERP software integrates with your business’ PIM, OMS, and other solutions to manage day-to-day tasks such as accounting, compliance, procurement, supply chain operations, and more. This is often where essential business data is tracked, like product SKUs, purchase orders, payroll, and production capacity. In simpler terms, the ERP’s main goal is to facilitate a smooth flow of information between all of your business’ departments, functions, and third-party service providers. Some of the top ERP solutions on the market today are Oracle, Sage, and Microsoft Dynamics. 

Analytics

Data analytics play a key role in increasing revenue and growing your business. Tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics help you understand your customers’ behavior, so you can gradually improve the buyer journey over time. By collecting, visualizing, and analyzing relevant data via smart dashboards, you can gain valuable insights—such as when users are most likely to visit your site, which pages get viewed the most, and where customers usually fall off in the checkout process.

Important considerations when building an eCommerce tech stack

As you evaluate different tools and software, there are certain factors you’ll want to keep in mind. Here are some helpful tips for building an eCommerce tech stack:

Scalability

The scalability of your eCommerce tech stack can make or break your business. As you bring on more customers and third-party solutions, your technological infrastructure must be able to handle the additional bandwidth. Let’s say your web server has trouble handling a sudden spike in network traffic, causing your website to slow down or crash. Or your outdated database gets hacked, leading to the theft of private customer information. Problems like these can lead to a significant loss in revenue, a damaged brand image, and even legal fees. This is why every solution in your tech stack must be built to scale alongside your business’ long-term growth. 

Talent availability

Before choosing specific programming languages, frameworks, and other third-party solutions, you’ll want to make sure your current and future developers have experience working with those technologies. Different developers have different specialties. For example, some are used to writing applications exclusively with Java, while others prefer using Python. When choosing a tech stack, you’ll want to make sure you remain on the same page with your development team, while also keeping in mind the additional development needs that will present themselves as your business scales.  

Compatibility

All of the solutions in your new tech stack should be compatible with each other, as well as the current and future technologies in your business’ ecosystem. If your company is powering mission-critical tasks on outdated software, it’s probably time to modernize those systems with new software. Many organizations, for instance, move away from on-premise servers to cloud-based environments, so they can store more data, lower costs, and improve security. 

Get started building an eCommerce tech stack for your business

When you’re ready to build a tech stack for your business’ eCommerce site, web app, or mobile app, how do you get started? The first step is to partner with a team of web developers and designers—experienced in building eCommerce experiences

Here at Codal, we’ve got over a decade of experience building tech stacks for eCommerce businesses across all industries. Once we understand your company’s goals and requirements, we’ll help choose the right tech stack—with cutting-edge, future-proof technologies that we’ve worked with countless times before. And after we’ve strategized, developed, tested, and launched your site or app, we’ll continue to provide technical maintenance and support, so that your business’ growth is never interrupted. 

Ready to get started building an eCommerce tech stack? Get in touch with Codal today!

Gibson Toombs
AUTHOR

Gibson Toombs

Gibson Toombs is a Technical Content Writer at Codal. His writing career began in 2015 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Since then, he has worked on many projects, covering a wide range of technical topics, from solar energy to cybersecurity. When he’s not taking complex ideas and turning them into easily-digestible pieces of content, Gibson can be found playing guitar and writing songs at his apartment in Chicago.

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