The software required to run an ecommerce business

An ecommerce business requires multiple pieces of software to operate. Retailers must assemble a collection of software packages and services to create an effective ecommerce capability. This article describes the most common software types.

The following software packages and services are required to deliver ecommerce:

Software package / serviceDescriptionExample vendors
eCommerce platformThe ecommerce platform holds the products that are being sold, their prices, promotional rules and customer account information. It assembles and serves the pages in the ecommerce storefront to the customer's web browser, processes customer input for searching, adding to cart, checking out, managing customer account. In a headless commerce configuration, the ecommerce platform holds the data and processes the rules, but a separate technology assembles the web pages and serves them to the customer.

BigCommerce, Kibo Commerce, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Shopify

See ecommerce platform shortlist for a list

Payment service provider

The payment service provider (PSP) provides the services required for you to accept and process payments from your customers as well as refunds. There are huge numbers of PSPs (and aggregators of payment gateways) and you will have to do careful research and have a structured selection approach before committing and contracting.

Adyen, Amazon Pay, CyberSource, First Data, PayPal, Square, Stripe, X-Payments
Fraud management service

The fraud management service detects fraudulent orders and blocks them. A 2018 LexisNexis report indicated fraud had grown to 1.8% of retail sales. Fraud management is often included as part of the PSP service, but for more sophisticated or more cost-efficient needs, a separate service may work better for you.

Accertify, CyberSource, Kount, Payvision, Riskified, Signifyd
Content management system

The content management system (CMS) is often included within the ecommerce platform, but sometimes retailers choose to implement a separate CMS for more power and flexibility, especially when personalization of the storefront experience is important.

Adobe, CoreMedia, Episerver, Sitecore
Order management

The order management system (OMS) holds a view of inventory and collects and processes customer orders through to fulfillment. OMS is included in the ecommerce platform for simple situations, but required as a separate application when the number and variety of order capture channels and product fulfillment routes (e.g. ship from store, multiple warehouses & 3PLs) becomes a limiting factor in managing an efficient ecommerce operation.

Fluent Commerce, IBM Sterling, Manhattan Associates Active Omni
Digital asset management A digital asset management (DAM) platform holds and manages the digital assets associated with the store (i.e. images including 360, video)Aprimo, Bynder, Celum, Sitecore, Widen
Product information management The product information management system (PIM) holds and manages product data including product hierarchies, attributes, descriptions, translations, variants, associations between products (e.g. accessories, compatibility)Contentserv, Informatica, Riversand, Salsify, Stibo, TrueCommerce
Customer data platformThe customer data platform (CDP) consolidates all information known about customers and builds profiles and segments for more targeted marketing and digital experiencesAcquia AgilOne, Boxever, mParticle, SessionM, Tealium
A/B testing / multivariate testingA/B testing, or multivariate testing, software allows the retailer to experiment making variations to page design, layout, function and content with a small sample of customers to understand which variations produce better outcomes (such as improving conversion rate), before rolling out the winning formula to all website visitors.Optimizely
Product recommendationsProduct recommendations engines absorb signals from visitor traffic to the website and their actions to recommend additional products. These are often displayed as a set of links on product details pages (PDP) with headings such as "Customer also viewed" or "Frequently bought together".Kibo Commerce, Optimizely, Prudsys, Richrelevance
Address verificationAddress verification software improves the deliverability of a consignment (and sometimes the fraud rejection rate of the order) by improving the quality of address data being entered by the customer and therefore being passed to carriers and payment services. Includes auto-completing an address for faster checkout, verifying the accuracy and ensuring correct formatting for quality. Some address verification services only work well for US addresses, international platforms tend to cover many countries.Informatica AddressDoctor, SmartyStreets, Xverify 
Carrier management systemIn order to optimize the cost of shipping parcels you can use multiple carriers depending on the ship-from and ship-to locations, the time of day, day of week and service required. Mulit-carrier parcel management applications make decisions on which carrier to use for which order, and assist in shipping label production, booking carrier collections and processing payment. Carrier management systems tend to be strong in one country or region, so you might need multiple platforms for international operations.Consignor, Descartes, MetaPack, NetDespatch, Sorted
Web analyticsWeb analytics, while not strictly required to run an ecommerce business, is in place in virtually every ecommerce store. Web analytics tracks visitors, where they come from, how they arrive, what they do on the site and when they leave. Adobe, AWStats, Coremetrics, Google Analytics
Live ChatLive Chat solutions provide ability for visitors to interact with the merchant's customer services staff via a pop-up chat window. Opening hours of this service can be adjusted to the operating hours of your customer service desk and for high traffic sites, opportunities to interact via chat can be limited to VIPs or customers showing strongest intent to purchase.LivePerson, SnapEngage, Zendesk
Ad ServingFor sites with high traffic volumes looking to gain revenue from sources other than purchases, the web owner can install an ad serving solution to display adverts to visitors and derive an additional income stream from doing so.Adthrive, Ezoic, Google AdSense, Mediavine
HeatmappingHeatmapping software records the parts of a page where visitors are interacting most strongly, identifying highly used and under-used areas of each page to help inform the design of each page template.FullStory, Hotjar

In addition to the above software solutions there is a plethora of additional types that can be added to a web page for specific and niche function, far too many to list. 

This article was updated on April 26, 2021

M Ryan

M Ryan is an ecommerce consultant with twenty years experience working with retailers, consumer brand manufacturers and other consumer-facing businesses helping them to develop their ecommerce strategy, implement ecommerce technology and improve their ecommerce operations. He works extensively throughout US and Europe, with clients including global brands, large retailers and household names in consumer goods.