Roman’s Rants: Shop System Wars

Regularly, the commerce community passionately talks about which shop software is the coolest, hippest, fastest, feature-richest (if that is even a word) or simply the best. Believe me, having written several books on various shop software stacks such as Magento and OXID eShop I know what I’m talking about. You know what? It doesn’t bloody matter which software you use, it’s just a fucking tool!

Of course there are people devoted to this or that kind of software, either because they’re working for the company that is producing it or because they have invested time and money in figuring it all out and using it effectively. So quite understandably, they can get really passionate and defensive about this or that software. In a recent post on, Alexander Graf wrote a post titled The best shop system and left no doubt that he is referring to Shopware. (For those who have not been following the German commerce software scene, Shopware is a Zend-Framework-based software which has been around for some time but has really gained traction since they’ve decided to go Open-Source with parts of their products. We have interviewed their speaker in Berlin during this year’s Exceed conference.) Of course such a title is bound (and meant) to provoke and stir up a heated discussion – which is exactly what happened. A number of stacks such as Magento, OXID eShop, PrestaShop and xt:Commerce are mentioned and the usual arguments are exchanged.

What this and many other discussions of that sort fail to acknowledge is the fact that there are, very roughly speaking, two completely different and opposite views intermixed here.

Retailers and Customers

Sorry people, but users visiting an online store, willing to buy something don’t give a shit about what is running in the background! What they are interested in are things such as a professional apperance, intuitive usability, and of course, the products they are looking for for the prices they are willing to pay. Thank you very much! For retailers having an agency build their online store, the question which system the store will be based on should merely be a detail.  Again, it is a frigging tool! The most important thing merchantes need to be worry about is whether a) the output complies with their business model and b) how much it costs to setup and maintain the bloody thing. You don’t buy your car based on the manufacturer of the robots welding it together, right? You don’t care which power supplier you local baker uses to fire his oven that produces the yummy bagels  – get the picture?

Agencies and Developers

All the named ecommerce software suspects produce a bunch of HTML, CSS, JS along with some images that make the shop look like a shop. For agencies, the most important question is, how to most effectively produce the output that the browser delivers to his clients’ customers. You can make a science or an art-form out of it and make love to your code all night long. Or have some poor bastards manually code the HTML themselves. Gee,  if you could hook up a fucking toaster to the internet for it to deliver the right code for the merchants’ purposes, that would be the way to go! Hey agencies, hey developers, you choose the tool that is right for the job, whatever works for you and makes your cookies crumble. Be it Magento, be it Demandware, so be it. If you know your way around them, you will achieve great things with those products. If not – yet arguing the converse – you will fail miserably and lose your and your client’s money.

If you have read this blog for a while you may have noticed by now that commerce is a highly dynamic process and a standard software product can only take you so far. (BTW, even it’s a no-brainer: if you can use the brilliant new features of system X or Y, you competitor can – and will! – use them too.) At the end of the day, the ones who adapt to ever-changing markets the fastest will prevail. Don’t even try to think in decades of software usage. Most commerce projects are completely overhauled every 2-3 years, because nobody can predict what will be hot in online retailing in two years’ time – hell, the iPad is hardly two years old and has already and lastingly changed the way in which we perceive and plan online commerce!

Let’s continue arguing about shop software – they make us get to know the “other” guys and ideas. But let’s not even pretend that those discussions matter which direction commerce will take in the next years.

(Image by Tim Green aka atoach)

About Roman Zenner
Ich bin ich

7 Responses to Roman’s Rants: Shop System Wars

  1. “Of course such a title is bound (and meant) to provoke and stir up a heated discussion.”

    This worked out pretty well. Next time I will write something about “SEO is not necessary for serious ecom shops…”

    Totally agree with your points

  2. In a highly fragmented market like shop cart software it is to be expected that the community as a whole would be very passionate about their particular cart. There would not be so many options out there if someone didn’t passionately feel that the other options sucked enough that entirely new applications should be built.

    While I agree that the arguments around which systems are the best are sometimes counter-productive, and to the end user they really dont care, I’d argue that these types of discussions are exactly what is needed to drive innovation within the community, to have that next hot thing.

  3. Vlad says:

    Really punk! And well said.

  4. Pingback: Hosted e-commerce or not ? | Jean-Michel Morency

  5. Pingback: What is your strategic ecommerce tactic? « ecomPunk

  6. paulsmarsden says:

    Incisive insight with attitude and an acerbic tongue… Love it!

  7. Pingback: Retrospect: die ideale Shopsoftware

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