The Path Forward: Evaluating eCommerce Platforms for Mid-Market Merchants

As a veteran of the Magento ecosystem with over 15 years of experience, I read the attached report, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Journey of the Mid-Market Merchant,” with great interest. While replatforming presents risks, the report confirms something I’ve observed firsthand: merchants feel trapped on platforms they dislike, facing rising costs and complexity.

In exploring alternatives for these mid-market merchants stuck on legacy systems, the report notes that “Shopify has become the top of the shortlist to consider in the market.” However, Shopify’s enterprise offering, Shopify Plus, has gained little traction with merchants above $100 million GMV. This leaves an opportunity for other players to meet the needs of merchants in the $10-250 million range. Here’s where Shopware offers a compelling alternative.

See Attached Report

The Appeal of Shopware for Mid-Market Merchants

As an open-source platform with 20 years’ dominance in Germany, Shopware combines flexibility and affordability. For growth-focused merchants on tight budgets, Shopware checks all the boxes:

Open-Source Savings

The open-source nature of Shopware translates to significant cost savings for mid-market brands. While proprietary systems like Magento and Demandware charge licensing fees and percentages of GMV, Shopware offers an open platform with no hidden costs.

Shopware’s business model centers on value-added services. The core open-source software is free. Revenue comes from helping merchants realize more value faster. This aligns incentives, as Shopware grows when merchants grow.

Flexibility Where It Counts

Mid-market merchants need flexibility to adapt platforms to their business needs without high costs or loss of organic traffic.

As an open-source solution, Shopware offers more flexibility than closed systems. Merchants can extend functionality through the vast open-source ecosystem or by building custom integrations.

Shopware also invests in flexibility for non-technical users through user-friendly interfaces. Low-code admin tools empower merchandisers to improve workflows without developer resources.

Innovation Without Disruption

Shopware stands out for continuous innovation without disrupting merchants. This reliability results from Shopware’s independent ownership and commitment to open source.

Shopware doesn’t have to answer to private equity firms pressuring short-term results. The company takes a long view of success, avoiding disruption from major architecture changes or leadership shake-ups.

Rather than forcing merchants into upgrades, Shopware maintains exceptional backwards compatibility. Merchants can upgrade to the latest innovations without redeveloping customizations or breaking site performance.

This stands in stark contrast to platforms sold between owners. As the report notes, “After [platforms] were acquired, the owners seemingly forgot about them. They have simply stopped innovating.”

Why Mid-Market Merchants Overlook Shopware

Given the clear alignment with mid-market merchant needs, why doesn’t Shopware appear on more RFP short lists?

The European Origins

As a German company, Shopware built its customer base in Europe. The platform powers over 100,000 merchants across the continent.

However, Shopware only recently targeted expansion in North America. Many brands simply aren’t aware such an established yet agile player exists. Limited awareness outside Europe causes Shopware to be overlooked.

Preconceptions of Open Source

Merchants associate open source with DIY systems lacking support. While technically possible to implement Shopware this way, the company focuses on providing reliable support services for merchants of all sizes.

Shopware offers fully managed cloud hosting with SLAs matching proprietary platforms. The company also vets solution partners to ensure successful implementations. Debunking open-source misconceptions will drive increased adoption.

Questions to Ask About Shopware

For mid-market merchants compiling RFP shortlists, Shopware deserves strong consideration alongside Shopify and Salesforce.

Here are key questions merchants should ask when evaluating Shopware:

  • Implementation Partners: Does Shopware have qualified implementation partners to support our project?
  • Hosting Options: Can we get Shopware hosted in a private cloud environment meeting our security needs?
  • Upgrades: Will upgrading break any customizations we build on the platform?
  • Cost Structure: Does the overall cost structure align to our mid-market budget constraints?
  • Performance: How can Shopware support our load requirements during peak seasons?

Signs Point to Accelerating Adoption

While Shopware adoption outside Europe remains in early stages, signs point to accelerating interest from mid-market merchants:

  • Shopware recently raised $117M to expand globally, with a focus on North America and Asia.
  • The company tripled North American headcount in 2022 as more brands discover the platform.
  • Shopware executives predict passing $1 billion GMV from US merchants within 3-5 years.

For merchants feeling trapped on legacy platforms, Shopware provides an enterprise-grade alternative matching mid-market requirements. The combination of flexibility, affordability, and support makes Shopware a compelling option relative to closed-source players.

As North American awareness and adoption accelerates, I expect Shopware will become a staple on mid-market RFP short lists alongside Shopify and Salesforce. Merchants overlooking Shopware do so at their own peril.


  • Brent W. Peterson

    Who is Brent Peterson? Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

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