Ecommerce Tech Stack: What You Need to Know
January 7, 2022
Online brands continue to thrive thanks to the ecosystem of services and technology available.
At every stage of the ecommerce supply chain, there’s a solution — from order processing to ecommerce fulfillment. Ecommerce technology has allowed businesses to take their brands from zero to retail hero.
But developing the right technology stack can be tough. The key to building a reliable ecommerce technology stack is to identify the gaps in your supply chain and find the right solutions.
In this article, we’ll cover what an ecommerce technology stack entails, why it’s important, and walk through the top ecommerce solutions on the market.
What is an ecommerce technology stack?
An ecommerce technology stack refers to a collection of applications, frameworks, platforms, and other solutions that are needed to run and manage your ecommerce business.
Ecommerce technology and automation solutions are designed to integrate with leading ecommerce platforms and other solutions to create everything from an efficient supply chain to a solid ecommerce infrastructure.
For example, the image below is from a CNBC vide clip that lists the top players from DTC tech stack ecosystem.
The graphic mentions leaders of each category that serve a different function in running an ecommerce store.
Why is an ecommerce tech stack important?
With the ecommerce industry becoming even more competitive, the right tech stack can help ecommerce businesses improve logistics efficiency, automate time-consuming processes, and save on costs.
From the customer’s perspective, brands are able to enhance the customer experience using automation and other solutions to ensure customer expectations are met, such as automated order tracking, fast and efficient returns management, and visibility into the last-mile delivery process.
Ecommerce web development tech stacks
To understand how a technology tech stack operates, let’s take a closer look at how web development works. The ecommerce web development tech stacks can be divided into two major components: front-end and back-end.
These are the external-facing applications and languages that are used in developing and designing your ecommerce website (online storefront), often taking up a significant portion of your ecommerce website costs.
In other words, front-end development is what makes your online store aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.
The main ones include:
- Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): Language to add style to HTML documents
- Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): Standard markup language used for developing web pages
Back-end is responsible for functionality. These are the server-facing applications and languages used to support your ecommerce website and software solutions that are able to interact with one another.
Much of back-end development is custom. The main categories of back-end functionality include:
- Databases: These help to access and manage information relevant to your ecommerce operations (DynamoDB, Firebase database, MongoDB, MySQL, and PostgreSQL are a few examples)
- Storage: A system or strategy for storing and managing data (AWS S3 and Firebase Storage are a few examples)
- Web server: A computer program that takes requests from users (website visitors), analyzes them, and then distributes web pages according to those requests
Ecommerce technology solutions use a variety of front-end and back-end functionality to allow brands to build a custom technology stack. For example, ShipBob’s API can be used to custom-build an ecommerce logistics ecosystem that directly connects with ShipBob’s technology.
“ShipBob has an open API that allowed our tech-savvy company to operate exactly how we wanted. Other 3PL companies only had simple technology like a very basic Shopify integration.”
Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne
11 areas to build your tech stack around
When building an ecommerce technology stack, there are various aspects of your ecommerce operations to take into consideration. Here is an overview of the primary areas to build your tech stack around.
1. Ecommerce platforms
An ecommerce platform is where you’ll build your primary online store.
Once you have a custom domain (your brand’s name!) and a website host, you can choose from a variety of ecommerce platforms to easily build out a well-designed, functional online storefront.
Some of the leading options include:
In addition, it’s not uncommon for online brands to sell on multiple channels.
Multichannel retailing involves selling on marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart Marketplace, as well as social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook.
Order & inventory management
For ecommerce businesses, efficient order management helps keep track of all orders as they come through from multiple sales channels.
Moreover, you need a robust inventory management system to keep track of real-time stock levels, insights to help forecast demand, and tools to streamline the inventory replenishment process, such as automatic reorder point setup.
Some of the best order and inventory management solutions include:
Many 3PLs like ShipBob provide advanced fulfillment technology with built-in inventory management tools, which allows brands to track fulfillment, inventory, orders, and shipping using one dashboard.
However, if you’re a brand that requires a more robust solution, the inventory management systems listed above directly integrate with ShipBob’s technology.
“ShipBob’s Inventory Planner integration allows us to have all of our warehouse forecasting and inventory numbers in one platform. We can create ShipBob WROs directly in Inventory Planner and have the inventory levels be reflected in our local shipping warehouse and ShipBob immediately.
It also provides forecasting for each individual ShipBob warehouse, so we know how many units we need to ship each week to cover a certain period and also to not run out of stock.”
Marc Fontanetta, Director of Operations at BAKblade
Order & payment processing
To speed up the order-to-cash process and ensure orders are processed accurately, consider a technology solution that allows you to efficiently process payments and orders.
A fully automated order processing and/or payment processing system can integrate with an online store (or even multiple sales channels) and automatically process and verify orders as they are placed online.
From there, the order status is updated in real time, and customers are notified that the order is being processed.
Some of the popular order and payment processing integrations include:
If you outsource fulfillment, be sure the order processing solution integrates with your 3PL’s technology.
“ShipBob offers fast order processing, which is important when we’re getting hundreds of orders each day. We wouldn’t be able to fulfill the volume we’ve seen — up to nearly 13,000 orders per month — on our own.
We’ve had three holiday cycles with ShipBob, and the most recent Q4 was our smoothest yet.”
Manuel de la Cruz, CEO at Boie
Fulfillment & shipping
The right solution can automatically search for the best route by aggregating carrier data, verifying an order, and sending it to the closest warehouse or distribution center (and easily generating shipping labels).
The best fulfillment and shipping solutions are:
“When I was looking for a 3PL, we were a startup growing at a rapid pace and felt that ShipBob understood what that meant because they were also in the same stage. We were able to grow beside ShipBob and they scaled with us.”
Jason Ton, CFO of 100 Thieves
Logistics automation with direct integrations and API solutions allow online brands to run their logistics operations from a centralized system, which provides more visibility and accurate operational data.
Customer service & support
Ecommerce customer service is essential. A great customer service experience ensures you retain high-value customers and convert new ones.
Integrating a customer service and support solution enables you to manage all interactions and relationships with your customers, providing an exceptional and consistent experience throughout all touch points.
You might even need to outsource customer support to a third-party partner if you want to leave it to the experts. Some of the best solutions for customer service and support are:
Product information management
Fast-growing ecommerce businesses are constantly introducing or discontinuing products, which can be a heavy burden to manage.
Fortunately, there are solutions available for SKU management and catalog management, making it easier to view, manage, edit SKUs, and make real-time updates so the right products are being displayed on multiple sales channels with accurate stock level information.
Here are the best solutions for product information management:
Enterprise resource planning
If you’re a large brand or enterprise, to seamlessly keep track of and manage inventory across multiple sales channels, you might need an ERP inventory management system.
ERP is short for Enterprise Resource Planning and these systems are designed to manage and track inventory across multiple channels, including both wholesale and retail distribution.
Some of the top solutions include:
This includes ensuring that your stock levels are updated in real-time through multichannel inventory management.
The best multichannel platform options include:
“We want to continue to become a more multichannel brand and work with bigger retailers. We’ve done some B2B orders with ShipBob, including Urban Outfitters, and now we’re in talks with some larger wholesale accounts. We’re also testing subscription box partnerships.”
Manuel de la Cruz, CEO at Boie
To provide an exceptional customer experience, the returns process should be as effortless as the purchase and delivery processes.
Your tech stack should include a powerful returns management system to speed up the process and encourage a customer to make an exchange or make another purchase in the near future.
Some of the top returns management solutions for ecommerce are:
“The ability to work with one of the co-founders of ShipBob to launch a new, custom returns process was awesome. Returns were taking a lot of time and resources to process on our end, but ShipBob was super helpful and critical in creating a solution for us.”
Nikolai Paloni, Co-Founder of Ombraz Sunglasses
One of the most critical elements to include in your tech stack is integrating a solution that enhances visibility by recording, collecting and displaying real-time insights and data throughout your supply chain (as well as marketing attribution, demand planning, and more).
Whether it’s a full-suite fulfillment solution or an inventory tracking system, many leading ecommerce platforms come with built-in analytics tools to help you track performance.
For instance, ShipBob’s entire logistics network is powered by the same proprietary warehouse management system (WMS), which provides insights and real-time data to help with decision-making, inventory forecasting, distribution, and other supply chain planning initiatives.
“ShipBob’s analytics tool is also really cool. It helps us a lot with planning inventory reorders, seeing when SKUs are going to run out, and we can even set up email notifications so that we’re alerted when a SKU has less than a certain quantity left. There is a lot of value in their technology.”
Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne
Marketing is an area you can’t afford to overlook, because it’s the very reason why you attract customers to your store. There are a variety of marketing automation solutions for email marketing, social media, cart optimization, and more.
With the right marketing tech stack, your marketing team can focus on strategic initiatives rather than be bogged down by time-consuming, tedious tasks.
Some of the top solutions include:
5 tips on building a winning tech stack
Beyond factoring in the above areas when building your tech stack, there are a few ways you can go the extra mile to get ahead of the competition. Here’s how you can build a winning tech stack for your ecommerce business.
1. Go headless
To personalize the customer experience more effectively, consider going headless. Headless ecommerce involves taking apart your website’s front-end and back-end layers. This enables you to keep the technical solution separate from the presentation layer, so developers can easily make changes and adjustments.
By having the presentation layer separate from the technical solution, it becomes easier to add customization and personalization to the customer experience.
2. Avoid plugin overload
Some website platforms use plugins to optimize pages and functionality, such as WordPress. Too many plugins can significantly slow down your website, which can ruin the customer experience.
Instead of using multiple plugins for different functionalities, find a platform or a tech solution that has many of those functionalities in one.
Website platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are designed to optimize online stores with the right applications, APIs, and direct integrations, making it much easier to build out a high-functioning ecommerce site.
“Our old store was like Frankenstein’s monster. We would find some vulnerabilities and technical issues caused by the immense amount of applications that were added onto our site. Every time we wanted to implement something, we had to add an app. It was like adding accessories to the outside of a car that aren’t part of the core design of the car.
Now, BigCommerce allows us to build and create anything we want instead of just downloading another app. They also give us the most open amount of access, and we spend less money.
The consolidation of apps has been great instead of installing a new app for every little thing. We have greater control over how we design and build new features into our website. Plus, it integrates with ShipBob, which was a must-have for us.”
Wes Brown, Head of Operations at Black Claw LLC
3. Build with modern & flexible languages and frameworks
While there are plenty of languages and frameworks to build your website with, opt for ones that are modern and flexible. This will save you time, even when building the most complex websites or applications. Plus, you can easily run tests and make changes to your website if there’s flexibility.
For instance, Shopify offers over 70 website templates that are easy to customize. This gives you full control over the design (including the HTML and CSS) so you can build out pages, optimize your cart, and integrate marketing, fulfillment, and shipping solutions to build out a functional tech stack.
4. Prioritize tech that solves your greatest challenges
Whether you’re struggling to provide great customer service or looking to optimize your fulfillment process, investing in supply chain technology can help you solve some of the biggest ecommerce pain points.
Maybe you have high return rates due to low order accuracy, or maybe you have high cart abandonment rates due to high shipping costs – whatever it is, digital logistics solutions can help you solve them.
5. Be careful not to rely too heavily on tech
Technology solves a lot of ecommerce challenges and improves your operational efficiency. However, don’t fall into the trap of relying too heavily on tech for everything. Technology is meant to help save costs and keep operations lean, therefore you want to make sure you know how the technology will benefit your business.
Before you invest in digital supply chain transformation, be sure to track important ecommerce KPIs. This way, you can start to collect data, identify inefficiencies, and make decisions on where technology can play a role in optimizing your supply chain.
How ShipBob helps scaling ecommerce brands
One of the best ways to streamline logistics is to outsource it all to a tech-enabled 3PL like ShipBob that offers a robust retail fulfillment technology solution along with a international fulfillment network.
ShipBob easily fits into your new or existing ecommerce tech stack with direct integrations to all leading ecommerce platforms and partnerships with some of the most renowned ecommerce solutions. (Take a look at our list of tech stack partners here.)
“We researched 3PLs and found a great solution in ShipBob. They worked really well with our core tech stack. ShipBob also owns the entire stack: inventory and order management system, warehouse management system, and their fulfillment centers.”
Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.
To learn more about ShipBob fits into your ecommerce tech stack, contact our team today by requesting a quote below.
Ecommerce technology stack FAQs
Here are answers to the most common questions about ecommerce tech stacks.
What is an ecommerce tech stack?
An ecommerce tech stack refers to a set of technology applications, tools, and frameworks that are used for building and managing an online brand’s entire digital ecosystem.
What is the best ecommerce tech stack?
This will depend on the solutions an online brand uses to run their ecommerce business. There are several technology solutions to choose from in the following areas: ecommerce platforms, order and inventory management, payment processing, fulfillment and shipping, customer service and support, product information management, multichannel platforms, returns management, analytics, and sales and marketing.
What technologies are used in ecommerce?
Ecommerce businesses have access to cloud-based solutions, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning and even blockchain technologies to utilize the full power of digital tools for everything from sales to supply chain management.