In the dynamic world of e-commerce, providing functionalities that set your business apart is crucial. Selecting the right selling platform can contribute to achieving long-term success. There are plenty of tools to choose from, each offering unique features that can match specific needs. In this blog post, we discuss how to make a thoughtful selection of a e-commerce platform for your online store, emphasizing our comparative analysis and the rationale behind our final choice.

E-commerce platform landscape

The e-commerce sector has evolved into a fundamental part of modern commerce. It now constitutes a vast digital ecosystem, with a number of specialized platforms serving different market segments. The platforms that thrive will be those that recognize and adapt to the evolving needs of their customers, making every shopping experience unique and every customer feel valued. 

What modern consumer needs to come back to your store? 

With a variety of e-commerce shops currently available on the market, attracting and retaining customers is extremely difficult. Here are some key aspects, thanks to which customers will remain loyal to your online shop.

One of the most important advantages of online shops is convenience. Customers appreciate the ability to shop at any time, from anywhere, without the limitations of store hours and locations. The ease of browsing, selecting, and purchasing products online is a major factor in their decision to return.

Many e-commerce platforms use data analytics to provide personalized shopping experiences. This can include product recommendations based on past purchases, personalized discounts, or tailored email marketing. When customers feel that a store understands their preferences and needs, they are more likely to come back for the next purchase.

Easy return policy is a major advantage. Customers are more likely to revisit e-shops that offer easy returns and exchanges, as it reduces the risk associated with online purchasing.

Online reviews and ratings provide customers with valuable information about products before they buy. The ability to read others’ experiences and feedback can build trust and encourage repeat visits.

Another feature that can greatly influence customer loyalty is quick, affordable, and reliable shipping options. The assurance of receiving their purchases promptly and in good condition is crucial.

Responsive and helpful customer service, including chat support, email, and phone assistance, can significantly enhance the shopping experience. Good customer support can turn a one-time buyer into a repeat customer.

A well-designed website with intuitive navigation and a smooth checkout process makes the shopping experience pleasant and efficient, encouraging customers to come back.

Also, we need to provide secure online payment mechanisms, as they are crucial in building customer trust in e-commerce platforms. Additionally, offering a variety of secure and convenient payment options, from credit cards to digital wallets, not only enhances the user experience but also builds the credibility of the e-commerce shop.

As you can see, there’s a plethora of ways to improve the e-commerce experience on your e-store. Make sure to support these features and satisfied customers that are coming back for their next purchase are guaranteed. 

Introduction to Swell, Shopify, and BigCommerce

As we search through this advanced e-commerce landscape, platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Swell are outstanding platforms to base your e-store on. Yet, they all have a slightly different path to online retail success. 

Shopify is easy to use and comes with apps to extend its functionality, ideal for those just entering the digital sales arena. BigCommerce is focused on scalability and is ready to support businesses in their growth. Meanwhile, Swell focuses on providing a headless e-commerce solution that offers high customization. Designed for businesses looking for a highly adaptable platform, it allows for a unique storefront creation while managing the back end with ease. 

Our journey to choosing an e-commerce platform

The challenge

Our journey in selecting the ideal e-commerce platform was significantly influenced by a meticulously designed product challenge titled "Crafting a User-Centric E-commerce App for Sports Enthusiasts." This challenge wasn't just a task; it was an exploration of what sports enthusiasts really need and expect from an online shopping experience. It encapsulated the essence of creating an e-commerce platform that not only sells products but also offers a tailored, engaging, and effortless shopping journey.

Key needs identified in the Product Challenge

Each Product Challenge organized at Apptension has a number of criteria for product concepts to match in order to be further developed into a full-scale product. Here’s what our team was expected to include in the solution: 

Robust search capabilities

Recognizing the importance of enabling users to effortlessly search and locate their desired sports gear from a vast inventory. This required a platform capable of handling complex search algorithms and delivering accurate results.

In-depth product information

The need for comprehensive product pages that provide detailed descriptions, user guides, and specific use cases, particularly crucial for sports equipment, was evident. This called for a platform that supports rich content integration. 

Smooth checkout process

Our app had to guarantee a seamless, secure, and quick checkout experience, capable of handling various product bundles and payment methods efficiently.

Compare products

Being able to easily compare similar products based on price, features, user reviews, and suitability for specific sporting activities was a must. This demanded a platform with advanced filtering and comparison features. 

Variety and customization

Showcasing multiple product variants, such as sizes, colors, and models, and ensuring users find their perfect match was a key requirement. We needed a platform that excels in inventory management and customization with the ability to create products with countless variations. 

User-centric design

At the heart of the challenge was the objective to design an e-commerce solution that revolves around the user's needs. Understanding the sports enthusiast's journey from start to finish was crucial.


Ability to handle increasing traffic and sales volumes as our user base grows.


Flexibility in design and functionality to cater to the specific tastes and needs of our audience.

Comparative analysis: Swell vs. Shopify vs. BigCommerce

Usability and customization

In the world of e-commerce, a good platform you select should not only be welcoming but also versatile enough to embody your brand’s identity. Let’s compare the three leaders in the e-commerce platforms field to see which one matches the needs better. 

The user interface is crucial as it forms the first impression and influences the time spent on onboarding. Shopify leads in this area with its intuitive design, offering ease of use for both customers and store owners. Swell is functional, though not as seamless, while BigCommerce might challenge some users with its complexity.

The setup process is another critical factor. Shopify excels, ensuring a smooth and rapid start for any business, a clear advantage for those looking to quickly establish their online presence. Both Swell and BigCommerce demand more time and effort, with a setup that is manageable but not as streamlined.

Customization is where BigCommerce stands out, offering extensive options for businesses to tailor their sites. Swell follows closely, providing significant flexibility, particularly for those who prioritize a unique online storefront. Shopify, while offering a range of themes and apps, falls behind when it comes to in-depth customization. 

“In Shopify, it’s also possible to create our own storefront using Shopify's Storefront API,  But because Shopify lacked initial headless support this is not as customizable or flexible as Swell which is specifically built to support headless architecture.”

Regardless of these factors, all three platforms are designed to serve businesses of all sizes. However, the journey through setting up and customizing an online shop will differ markedly depending on whether you choose Shopify for its simplicity, BigCommerce for its adaptability, or Swell for its customizability.

Evaluating scalability

For the journey from a small start-up to a booming business demands a platform capable of adapting to increased demands. Scalability is a critical feature, ensuring that as your business attracts more traffic and sales, your platform can cope with the growth.

BigCommerce and Shopify are well-equipped for such expansion. They come with a suite of tools and a scalable server infrastructure, ensuring that they can support your business as it grows. Their high-performance hosting is designed to handle increasing loads, meaning your store should continue to operate smoothly even as the number of transactions climbs. BigCommerce and Shopify will likely appeal to those looking for an all-in-one solution to scale with minimal fuss.

Swell offers a unique take on scalability. While it doesn't provide hosting services, it supports integrations with powerful hosting platforms like Vercel, giving you the flexibility to scale your hosting as needed. Swell's standout feature is its focus on customer retention, with tools to build loyalty programs that help maintain a solid customer base even as you grow.

E-commerce platforms performance

Performance in e-commerce is crucial, with page loading speed being a critical factor that can significantly affect customer satisfaction and conversion rates. BigCommerce, Shopify, and Swell all understand this, though their approaches to site performance and optimization differ.

BigCommerce offers a robust architecture that supports fast loading times with advanced features for site optimization. Shopify's performance is known for its reliability and speed, facilitated by a global network of servers and a streamlined platform optimized for quick content delivery. Swell, as a more recent contender, focuses on a modern approach to web development, offering performance benefits through its headless architecture, which can lead to faster page loads, especially when integrated with efficient hosting solutions like Vercel.

Security of online store

Security is a cornerstone of any e-commerce platform, and BigCommerce, Shopify, and Swell each offer robust features to protect merchants and consumers alike.

All three platforms comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), ensuring that payment gateways are secure and that customer data is handled with the highest level of security. This compliance is crucial for building trust with customers and for the legal operation of an online store.

For data protection, BigCommerce and Shopify provide SSL encryption, a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a client. Swell uses TLS encryption, a more modern version of SSL with additional security features. Both SSL and TLS are cryptographic protocols that provide secure communications over a computer network, and their implementation is essential for protecting sensitive data like customer information and payment details.

Each platform demonstrates a commitment to security, with varying degrees of flexibility in user roles and advanced encryption technologies to keep customer data safe. Regardless of which platform you choose, you’ll find that security is treated with the importance it deserves, allowing you to focus on growing your business with peace of mind.

Documentation and support

Access to comprehensive documentation and reliable support is vital for the smooth operation of any e-commerce platform. BigCommerce and Shopify both offer extensive documentation and a blend of support channels, including phone, Swell’s strength lies in its engaged community and responsive live chat support, even as it continues to build out its documentation and support infrastructure.

API and integration

APIs and integrations are the backbone of a modern e-commerce platform, facilitating seamless connections with various services and applications. Here’s how BigCommerce, Shopify, and Swell measure up in this domain.

BigCommerce offers a robust API environment, which allows for extensive customization and integration capabilities. With RESTful APIs, developers can easily integrate with third-party applications and services, enhancing the functionality of their online stores. BigCommerce's APIs cover a wide range of functionalities, from product catalog management to order fulfillment, providing a versatile toolkit for businesses to create a tailored e-commerce ecosystem.

Shopify has set a high standard with its comprehensive API suite, which includes both REST and GraphQL APIs. The platform's extensive range of APIs and developer tools makes it possible to build rich, integrated shopping experiences. Additionally, Shopify’s App Store is one of the largest in the e-commerce space, offering thousands of apps for every conceivable need, ensuring that merchants can find the right tools to extend the capabilities of their stores with ease.

Swell is known for its API-first approach, with both GraphQL and REST APIs available for developers. This makes it highly adaptable and perfect for those who want to create a bespoke e-commerce experience from the ground up. While Swell's API documentation is expansive, offering many examples for usage, there are areas, particularly in GraphQL, where it is still evolving to provide the same level of detail as more established platforms.

Each platform provides powerful APIs and integration options, with BigCommerce and Shopify being more established and offering a greater number of ready-to-use apps. Swell’s approach is highly flexible and developer-friendly, catering to those who prioritize custom development and modern API utilization. 

Order management

Efficient order management, inventory tracking, and logistics are essential for maintaining customer satisfaction and streamlining operations in e-commerce. Let’s unpack how BigCommerce, Shopify, and Swell equip businesses to handle these crucial components.

BigCommerce empowers merchants with a comprehensive order management system that simplifies tracking and fulfillment processes. Its inventory management capabilities are robust, enabling real-time updates and stock-level alerts. These features ensure that businesses can effectively manage their sales pipeline from order receipt to fulfillment.

Shopify stands out with its intuitive order management interface that is user-friendly even for beginners. The platform’s inventory tracking is seamlessly integrated, providing merchants with the tools they need to monitor stock levels, set up automatic reordering, and prevent overselling, which is critical for maintaining customer trust.

Swell approaches order management with flexibility, offering customizable workflows to suit diverse business models. Its inventory tracking, while not as extensive as its competitors, still provides the fundamentals needed for businesses to keep a close eye on their product levels and manage orders effectively.

Shipping integrations

Integrating with shipping carriers is where BigCommerce and Shopify both excel, offering easy connections with major carriers like USPS, FedEx, and UPS. This integration facilitates automatic shipping calculations, label printing, and more streamlined shipping processes overall. 

BigCommerce and Shopify also provide seamless order tracking capabilities, allowing customers to stay informed from the moment their order is placed until it arrives at their doorstep. Real-time delivery status notifications keep the customer in the loop, enhancing their shopping experience.

Swell is building its capabilities in this area, focusing on API-driven integrations that allow for flexible connections with various shipping carriers and logistics services. While it may require more setup initially, it offers the potential for a highly customized approach to shipping and delivery.

Customer notifications

All three platforms support automated notifications, which are crucial for keeping customers updated about their order status. Customizable email templates in BigCommerce and Shopify, along with Swell’s API-based notification system, allow businesses to maintain consistent communication with their customers.

Which platform matches our requirements best?

Swell stood out as the ideal choice for this challenge because of its out-of-the-box features and great customization possibilities! Some of them are listed below. 

Headless ecommerce platform architecture

Swell, being a headless platform designed specifically for e-commerce, provided the flexibility we needed to create a unique, tailored online shopping experience.

Advanced product management

  • Swell allowed us to implement dynamic pricing conditions, such as discounts for bulk purchases or special prices for subscribers.
  • The platform supports product customizations like selection boxes, text inputs, and toggles. For example, in a snowboard shop, a toggle can be added for assembling the kit by a technician.
  • We could easily create product packages, like combining skis and bindings, enhancing the shopping experience.
  • Swell's feature to add and display related products enhances customer engagement and cross-selling opportunities.
  • The software has allowed us to create a wide range of unlimited product variants, satisfying the preferences of our customer base.  Additionally, it enabled us to include detailed and specific information for each product.

Order management

  • The admin panel offers a complete order overview, including payment status, and enables shipment management by adding shipping details.
  • Features like order cancellation and returns are streamlined, enhancing operational efficiency.

Promotions and discounts

The platform simplifies the addition of promotional offers and discount coupons, which are vital for attracting and retaining customers.

Sales reporting

Swell provides essential sales reports, offering insights for strategic decision-making.

Compare products

The comparison feature is our custom solution, Swell does not offer it out of the box. Maybe we should say that thanks to Swell's fully customizable platform and the ability to create custom tables and fields, we were able to easily add product comparison.

Integrations and customizations

  • Swell’s capability to integrate with third-party tools like Contentful, Mailchimp, Zapier, and Omnisend is undoubtedly a huge perk.
  • Unlike other headless platforms, Swell allows the addition of custom tables and fields to existing ones, enabling us to implement unique solutions easily.

Working with Swell from a developer’s perspective

Our Product Challenge also features developers who took a chance to analyze the platform’s functionality, try it in practice, and make a conclusion about its advantages and downsides. The results you will find below. 

Benefits from a development standpoint

Flexibility and customization

One of Swell's major strengths is its flexibility. The headless architecture meant we could design the front end without restrictions, allowing for creative freedom and the ability to tailor the user experience precisely. 

API-first approach

Swell’s API-first design facilitated seamless integration with our existing systems and third-party services. This approach significantly streamlined the development process, as we could work with familiar tools and languages. One of the most important features of swell, distinguishing it from other platforms, is the ability to very easily add custom models from the admin panel.

Scalability and performance

The platform's robust infrastructure supports scalability, ensuring that our application can handle increased traffic and transactions without compromising on performance.

Seamless third-party integrations
Swell’s compatibility with a range of third-party applications, like Contentful for content management and Mailchimp, and other email marketing tools, allowed us to integrate best-in-class tools easily.

Strong developer community and support
Access to a supportive developer community and comprehensive documentation from Swell was invaluable. This support network provided insights and solutions, making the development process smoother. Due to the fact that Swell is still relatively new to the market, the community is small. However, as the platform grows, its community will also grow.

Challenges and how they were overcome

Learning curve

Initially, adapting to Swell’s unique features and capabilities presented a learning curve. However, through collaborative learning sessions and leveraging Swell’s extensive documentation, the team rapidly became proficient.

Custom feature implementation

Creating custom features that were not part of Swell’s standard offering initially seemed daunting. However, Swell’s flexible architecture allowed us to add custom tables and fields, enabling us to build these unique features without significant hurdles.

Optimizing for performance

Ensuring that our application remained fast and responsive despite the complex integrations and features was a challenge. We overcame this by optimizing our code and utilizing Swell’s efficient APIs and server responses.

What next?

We hope you enjoyed our guide on creating an e-commerce site that makes your customers come back and our overview of the three popular e-commerce platforms for e-shop creation! In case you have any questions, make sure to ping us on LinkedIn! 

And, the next article in this series is coming soon! Stay tuned for an in-depth BigCommerce and Swell comparison!