The Ultimate Guide to Building the Best DTC eCommerce Tech Stack

As a DTC eCommerce business grows, having the right technology stack in place becomes increasingly essential. Because at its best, the right eCommerce tech stack empowers your business to thrive and adapt to the ever-changing DTC landscape. At its absolute worst, eCommerce technology is more than just a daily frustration — the wrong tech will hinder your growth potential for years.

But how do you know what constitutes a “good” eCommerce tech stack? And how exactly do you leverage a tech stack to its full potential? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various elements of an eCommerce tech stack, how to build the best one for your business, and common tech pitfalls to avoid.

Key Takeaway

  • eCommerce success hinges on effective back-end tech that promotes user-friendly experiences. However, navigating numerous available solutions can lead to tech pitfalls, causing poor performance and stressing your digital product team. Regularly reviewing and aligning your tech stack with your business needs can drive growth.

Let’s dive into everything there is to know about building the perfect tech stack for growing your eCommerce store.

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What is an eCommerce Tech Stack?

An eCommerce tech stack is a collection of software tools, platforms, and technologies that enable businesses to create and manage an online storefront.

Tech stacks encompass everything that makes up the infrastructure of an online store, such as:

  • Analytics solutions

  • Customer support

  • Payment gateways

  • Payment processing

  • Accounting systems

  • Warehousing providers

  • Inventory management

  • Marketing automation platforms

  • Content management system (WordPress)

  • Customer relationship management systems (CRMs)

  • The front-end and back-end layers of your eCommerce website

  • The eCommerce platform used to host your website (Shopify Plus)

  • And more

With the right tech stack, you can streamline your operations, enhance customer experience, and ultimately achieve higher, more sustainable growth in the eCommerce industry.

Now that we’ve laid out exactly what creates your eCommerce technology stack, exploring each part in-depth will help you understand each component’s role.

The Core Elements of an eCommerce Tech Stack

Building a robust and efficient eCommerce tech stack requires first understanding its key components:

eCommerce Platforms: The Best Starting Point for Most DTC Brands

eCommerce platforms are the backbone of your online store, as they provide the foundation for product listings, payments, and customer management. Platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce offer a wide range of features, including payment processing, campaign tracking, and inventory management.

Primarily, eCommerce platforms function as the hosting solution for your storefront — hosting your pages as a CMS, displaying your brand to the public, processing orders, and storing customer data in a single system. eCommerce platforms also help you manage shipping, taxes, discounts, and a wide variety of other important store functions.

As different platforms offer unique features and benefits to eCommerce businesses, here’s a short overview of some of the most popular platform solutions leveraged today. That way, you can make a more informed decision about the platform you choose:

  • Shopify is a cloud-based, multichannel eCommerce platform for small and medium-sized businesses. It offers an extensive suite of tools to help merchants build and manage their online stores, including payment processing, inventory management, shipping solutions, marketing automation, and more. Shopify provides its own programming language called Liquid, which enables developers to customize the look and feel of their store. Additionally, it supports integrations with popular third-party services such as Google Analytics and Mailchimp.

  • Shopify Plus is an enterprise-level platform for larger businesses with a higher sales volume. It offers many features, including unlimited products and staff accounts, advanced analytics tools, automated tax calculations, and more. Additionally, Shopify Plus integrates with third-party apps like Google Shopping Ads and Amazon Pay to easily manage your online store from one place.

  • Magento is another popular choice among eCommerce stores due to its scalability and flexibility. It’s open-source software means it can be customized according to the needs of the business owner, or developer working on the project. With Magento, you can access powerful marketing tools such as coupon codes, discounts and loyalty programs, and integration options with payment gateways like PayPal or Stripe.

  • BigCommerce is ideal for those looking for an all-in-one solution that includes hosting services and basic eCommerce functionality, such as product management tools and order processing capabilities. This platform also offers a wide variety of themes so you can customize your store’s look without any coding knowledge at all.

  • WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that allows users to quickly set up their online store within minutes using existing WordPress themes installed on their website. This plugin provides basic features such as inventory management, but also integrates with many other plugins so that you can add additional functionalities depending on your business type.

eCommerce platforms are built to be extensive, offering many tools and basic functionality for online stores. But they don’t provide everything. There are always add-ons — many of which we’ll cover below —that offer additional features to help fill in the remaining gaps in your tech stack.

Notably, depending on the size of your business and internal team and the revenue model you operate on, choosing a headless commerce solution may make more sense for you than a traditional platform. Headless commerce involves decoupling a website’s front-end and back-end layers to maintain the technical solution independently of the presentation layer. This approach allows for greater flexibility in the design and implementation of your online store and can help you create a seamless, user-friendly shopping experience.

And, if you’re thinking about migrating between platforms, save our complete replatforming checklist to help your replatforming go as smoothly as possible.

Shopify Plus is an enterprise-level eCommerce solution with extensibility.

Analytics and Data Management Systems: Clarifying Customer Acquisition

Analytics and data management systems are crucial for your eCommerce business, enabling performance monitoring, customer behavior analysis, and marketing strategy refinement. Tools like Google Analytics give real-time user insights, while systems like ShipBob’s assist with inventory management and notifications.

AI-powered assistants collect data from customer interactions, further enhancing the user experience. This data-driven approach improves customer satisfaction and fosters business growth.

In summary, analytics platforms provide insights into customer interaction and purchase habits, aiding in customer acquisition, increasing average order values (AOV), and customer retention.

Analytics and data management systems will help you answer key questions about your customers’ behavior, like:

  • Which pages do people visit on my website?

  • How engaged were my website visitors?

  • Where did my site visitors come from?

  • Which customer touchpoints are working for us?

Some popular analytics and data management systems include:

  • Elevar

  • Source Medium

  • Google Analytics

  • SARAS Analytics

Accounting Systems: Keep Your Finances Straight

Your accounting system manages all the money and cash flows in and out of the business. Your accounting system is your single source of truth for eCommerce finances. It integrates closely with your eCommerce system, translating store data into real revenue numbers. In addition to helping you understand your numbers, accounting systems provide reports for taxation and your financials to keep you ahead of tax day, raising investments, and more.

Staying on top of your finances via an accounting system allows you to focus on what matters most — growing your online store and meeting your customers’ needs.

Popular accounting systems in tech stacks:

  • Xero

  • Wave

  • Quickbooks

  • Freshbooks

Warehousing Systems: More Than Just Shipping Tools

A warehousing system processes orders from your website, converting them into trackable shipments. This is crucial to the smooth operation of your eCommerce business, handling inventory management, order fulfillment, and shipping logistics.

Efficient systems also offer real-time stock levels, aid in demand forecasting, and streamline inventory replenishment.

Here are a few examples of popular warehousing systems:

  • ShipBob

  • ShipHero

  • ShipStation

Warehousing systems can help manage your inventory and shipping logistics.

Returns Provider: Making the Inevitable Customer Return Much Smoother

Returns providers are essential in managing customer returns and exchanges. Returns have a notorious reputation for being complicated inconveniences. In fact, 38% of U.S. consumers shopping in online retail are hesitant to buy from a brand again after one bad return experience.

So, a smooth return process can actually enhance your customer experience and foster customer loyalty, ultimately leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth marketing.

Popular returns providers include:

  • Returnly

  • AfterShip

  • Happy Returns

  • Loop Returns

Email Management System: Nurturing Customer Relationships

Your email management system is a key communication channel with your customers. It nurtures relationships, keeps your business top-of-mind, and supports automated email marketing. This drives traffic, enhances conversions, and retains customers.

With it, you can offer customer support, send newsletters, execute targeted marketing campaigns, and share updates or deals.

Popular email management systems in eCommerce:

  • Drip

  • Klaviyo

  • Omnisend

  • Mailchimp

SMS (Short Message Service) Tools: For a Direct Connection

Like email, SMS is a tool for directly connecting and providing information to your customers via text messages. Platforms like Postscript integrate with Shopify, allowing store owners to manage SMS marketing from a unified dashboard.

Incorporating SMS into your eCommerce tech stack can boost engagement and conversions through timely, relevant messages.

Keep in mind, however: there are a lot of strict regulations you need to follow when it comes to using SMS. When done right, though, it allows for a light, one-way conversation directly to your target customer’s phone.

Popular eCommerce SMS systems:

  • Attentive

  • Postscript

SMS systems allow you to communicate directly with customers.

CRM (Customer Relationship Manager): Keep Your Customers Organized

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems manage customer relationships and interactions, often merging with email systems in the same tool. They store crucial customer data, like purchase history and shipping preferences.

The main role of an eCommerce CRM is to centralize pre-acquisition activities. It records interactions with your brand, such as abandoned carts or chat conversations. This information facilitates conversions and enhances customer satisfaction.

Popular CRMs you might choose from:

  • Drip

  • Klaviyo

  • HubSpot

  • Omnisend

  • Mailchimp

Mailchimp can function as both an email system and a CRM.

The Help Desk: Keeping Customers Happy

Help desk software solutions are vital for efficient customer support and problem resolution, maintaining customer satisfaction and trust. It allows your customer service team to engage with customers, address their concerns, and keep track of all interactions.

Platforms like Gorgias offer live chat support via Facebook Messenger and SMS, and facilitate automated responses to common queries and issues.

Examples of popular help desk systems:

  • Gorgias

  • ZenDesk

  • Intercom

Reward / Referral System: Building a Community Around Your Brand

A reward and referral system encourages word-of-mouth marketing through incentives. It transforms satisfied customers into promoters by offering benefits such as discounts or gift cards for referrals, creating a loyal community of brand ambassadors.

Incorporating such a system in your eCommerce tech stack supports customer acquisition and retention, significantly contributing to your store’s growth and success. Referred customers, likely connected to your brand ambassadors, may become lifelong patrons.

Popular reward/referral systems used by DTC brands:

  • Smile

  • Yotpo

  • Refersion

Subscription Platforms: Helping You Raise LTV Instead of Churn

Subscription platforms are powerful tools for managing recurring billing and subscription-based products. As subscription models have become increasingly popular in eCommerce, and can even be an effective way to raise LTV, you need an intuitive system to help you manage each facet of a subscription model.

Platforms like Recharge enable seamless management of subscriptions and billing, reducing manual labor and providing a smooth subscription experience for your customers.

Popular subscription platforms to consider:

  • Bold

  • Upscribe

  • Recharge

Review System: Earning Credibility

Review systems play a crucial role in collecting and displaying customer feedback and ratings, which are instrumental in building trust with potential customers and improving overall business performance. By enabling customers to share their experiences and opinions, you can gain valuable insights into areas for improvement and showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction.

A review system can also enhance the credibility of your online store. Because if you have a high rating, great social proof encourages future sales. 

Popular review systems include:

  • Junip

  • Yotpo

What is the Best eCommerce Tech Stack?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to eCommerce technology, as the optimal solution will depend on your specific business and its needs and goals. Factors such as the size and complexity of your business, as well as your target market, product range, and budget, will all influence the ideal tech stack for your online store. The key is to carefully evaluate your unique business requirements and research various eCommerce solutions to find the best fit.

In our view, however, mid-market DTC eCommerce brands will likely see the best tech stack as a combination of Shopify Plus, React/Node.js, and GraphQL, with headless architecture being ideal for scalability and performance optimization.

This allows businesses to have complete control over their front-end experience while leveraging powerful back-end technologies like APIs and microservices to reach maximum efficiency in operations. A/B testing tools like Optimizely can optimize user experiences across all channels for maximum conversion rates.

Building the right eCommerce tech stack will depend largely on your business needs.

How To Build the Best eCommerce Technology Stack for Your Business

Building the best eCommerce tech stack for your business involves:

  • A careful assessment of your business requirements.

  • A thorough evaluation of various eCommerce solutions.

  • Ensuring scalability and seamless integration between the different components within your tech stack.

With so many factors to consider, you and your team should take the time to understand your business needs on a comprehensive level.

1. Assess Your Business Requirements, Short and Long-term

When building your eCommerce tech stack, start by assessing your business requirements and identifying specific goals. This may involve analyzing your customer base, product offerings, and market trends, and then consulting with stakeholders and users whom the tech stack will impact.

2. Evaluate Available eCommerce Solutions

Once you clearly understand your business requirements, the next step is to research and evaluate various eCommerce solutions to find the best fit for your online store. This may involve comparing features, pricing, and ease of use of different tools, as well as considering factors such as scalability, security, and integration with other components of your stack.

By taking the time to thoroughly evaluate different eCommerce solutions and compare them to your needs, you can ensure that you select the best tools and technologies for your business today, and tomorrow.

Building a Scalable eCommerce Tech Stack

Scalable eCommerce tech stacks are adaptable eCommerce tech stacks. Scalability allows your business to easily add, remove, or replace components as needed, ensuring that your eCommerce store remains agile and responsive to changing industry trends.

One way to build a scalable tech stack is by adopting a modular architecture for seamless integration and compatibility between all the tools and technologies in your stack.

Modular Architecture

Modular architecture is a design strategy that involves dividing a system into autonomous, interconnecting components (modules) that perform a specific function. A modular approach allows for increased scalability and flexibility, as each module can be updated or replaced without impacting the other modules.

So, as your business grows and evolves, you can easily incorporate new features and services to meet changing needs.

A Brief Overview of Modular Architecture

  • Microservices: With a microservices architecture, brands can pick and choose features and apps at every level of their eCommerce technology stack. However, with complete customization comes the need for a lot of technical support.

  • Composable Commerce: Composable commerce, a popular choice for modular enterprise eCommerce solutions, strikes a balance between rigid monolith platforms and granular microservices architectures. While microservices decompose an application into independently deployable services, composable commerce utilizes pre-built components (Packaged Business Capabilities) that can be interchanged as required.

Integration and Compatibility

Integration and compatibility are essential parts of a scalable eCommerce tech stack, as they ensure seamless communication and data sharing between different tools in your stack. With seamless integration, you can eliminate manual data entry, improve staff efficiency, and provide a better customer experience by enabling real-time updates and personalized interactions.

To ensure integration and compatibility in your eCommerce tech stack, it’s important to choose tools that offer well-documented APIs and are designed to work together with minimal friction.

What to Look Out For When Building an eCommerce Tech Stack

Building an eCommerce tech stack can lead to pitfalls such as: choosing an inappropriate tech stack for your business size, ignoring scalability, facing vendor lock-in, neglecting security, and encountering integration issues.

Take a second to explore each potential pitfall below.

Wrong Tech Stack for Your Current Phase of Growth

Through more than a decade of working with eCommerce brands, one of the most common mistakes we see brands make is choosing the wrong tech stack for the current stage of their business. For example, many new startups look to the biggest companies in their space for inspiration. But these large companies have usually matured their technology using an iterative approach.

And choosing the wrong tech stack for your business size today will lead to unnecessary costs and complexity in the future, as well as hinder your flexibility and growth potential.

Not Considering Scalability

On the flip side of “wrong tech size,” you should keep your tech stack’s scalability in mind. Scalability is critical when building your eCommerce tech stack, as it allows your business to adapt to changing market conditions. And, as your own business grows, your tech stack will need to accommodate increased demand and traffic without becoming overwhelmed or crashing.

A scalable tech stack enables you to easily add, remove, or replace components as needed, ensuring that your online store remains agile and responsive, and adaptable.

Vendor Lock-In = Restriction of Your Brand

Vendor lock-in occurs when a company becomes too reliant on one technology or service provider and finds it difficult to switch to another provider if needed. This can limit your flexibility in adapting to new technologies or market conditions and impede your eCommerce business’s growth.

To avoid this issue, try to research multiple providers before committing, and ensure you’re able to switch if push comes to shove. In the same vein, consider tools and technologies that offer flexibility and/or open APIs to retain agility.

Keep Store Security Top of Mind

Security is essential in eCommerce to protect customer data, maintain trust, and avoid financial losses due to fraud or other malicious activities. Security breaches cause serious damage to finances and brand reputation, so companies must ensure that all components of their tech stack are up-to-date with the latest security protocols and measures at all times.

Securing your eCommerce tech stack involves implementing encryption, authentication, and protection against common threats like phishing, malware, and SQL injection. It’s also important for companies to consider how secure their tech stack will be when selecting payment gateways or customer data storage systems.

Easy Integration is a Must

Finally, companies must consider integration challenges when building an eCommerce tech stack — particularly between different platforms such as marketing automation tools, analytics software, and CRM systems.

If these components don’t integrate seamlessly, it could lead to problems down the line, so it’s in your best interests to do thorough testing before implementation whenever possible.

Optimizing Your eCommerce Tech Stack

To optimize your eCommerce tech stack, regularly review and update your various components to stay current and maintain a competitive edge. This includes balancing costs and functionality so that your business gets the most value from its tech stack without overspending.

Consistent Reviews and Updates

Regular reviews and updates are essential for maintaining both the effectiveness and competitiveness of your eCommerce tech stack. Stay abreast of industry trends and developments, evaluate the performance of your current tech stack, and make any necessary changes so that your online store remains adaptable to changing market conditions.

And, while jumping on the latest tech bandwagon is often a quick path to a lot of headaches down the road, you should regularly measure benchmarks for your brand and storefront. That way, if your tech begins to hinder your growth KPIs, you can prepare to migrate platforms if necessary or allocate investment for improvements to your site’s usability and performance.

Maintaining the Balance Between Cost and Functionality

Balancing costs and functionality is crucial for your eCommerce tech stack to remain effective and efficient without exceeding your budget. Carefully evaluate the features and capabilities of various tools and technologies and their associated costs to find the best balance between performance and affordability.

Wrapping Up

The makeup of eCommerce tech stacks doesn’t just impact day-to-day business operations, but user experience and business growth for years to come. While there is no “best tech stack” perfect for every DTC business, failing to properly assess your business needs and align those needs with suitable tech solutions can create even more numerous and complex challenges in the future.

So, as you’re building or expanding your own technology stack, always be sure to:

  • Keep scalability and integration in mind

  • Understand the various elements that make up your tech stack

  • Aim to find solutions that support you and your team in daily operations, as well as make it easier for customers to shop from your store

  • Stay vigilant for potential pitfalls such as wrong tech stack size, vendor lock-in, security concerns, and integration issues

  • And finally, prioritize regular reviews and updates to stay within industry benchmarks

Tech Stack FAQs

What is an eCommerce tech stack?

An eCommerce tech stack is the suite of tools, platforms, and technologies used to create, launch, manage, and grow an online business. This tech stack includes web hosting, website building platforms, CMS solutions, payment systems, customer support solutions, analytics tools, and more. Together, these technologies enable an eCommerce business to operate effectively and better connect with their customers.

Which technology is best for eCommerce website development?

Based on the most commonly accepted advice, the best technologies for eCommerce website development include Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce. These platforms offer advanced features, scalability, flexibility, and ease of use to make eCommerce site development easy and efficient.

What is the most important component of an eCommerce tech stack?

When it comes to constructing an eCommerce tech stack, a holistic approach is paramount. With all its components — from eCommerce platforms and analytics tools to customer service systems — working together in harmony, you can create an optimal experience for your customers and internal team.

What is the role of security in an eCommerce tech stack?

Security is critical to the success of any eCommerce venture, as it ensures data safety and keeps customers’ trust in your brand. Robust authentication protocols, encryption solutions, and thorough protection from common threats should be part of your eCommerce technology stack. That way, you can guarantee a secure online shopping experience.

How can I ensure scalability in my eCommerce tech stack?

For a scalable eCommerce tech stack, build with scalability and growth in mind from the start. Choose components that integrate well, are open source and lightweight, and prioritize quality performance instead of complex features.

Can’t Figure Out How to Make Your Tech Work For You? Build the Tech Stack Right For Mid-Market DTC with Anatta

Building the right tech stack for your eCommerce business can be daunting and, at times, a serious learning curve. But a robust solution is essential for your brand’s long-term growth.

So, if you’re currently building your own brand’s online shopping experience, or you need support optimizing the performance of your current stack — don’t hesitate to get in touch with Anatta’s team for support.

  • avatar
    Nirav Sheth
  • Nirav is the CEO and founder of Anatta. Nirav received his engineering degree in 2006 from George Washington University. Prior to Anatta, he served as founder of Dharmaboost, a software company working with Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, and New Leaf Paper. He is also cofounder of Upscribe, a next-level subscription software for fast growing eCommerce brands.