Open source e-commerce

Maxime Topolov
5 min readNov 28, 2016

Last days on my FB feed poped an interesting conversation between Robert Douglass (from, ex Commerce Guys and Drupal Commerce advocate), Dries Buytaert (creator of Drupal and founder of Acquia) and some other folks about Acquia’s e-commerce strategy.

To sum up :

Acquia’s strategy with commerce is clear : partnership. With Hybris, Demandware, Magento etc.

Aquia being the largest Drupal company in the world, that strategy sounds like Drupal Commerce being considered by Acquia not worth investment, at least not in a way to compete directly with Hybris or Demandware.

I think they are right.

I strongly recommend Drupal Commerce in many occasions and we’ve implemented it at Adyax for big organizations all around the world : Guerlain, Make Up For Ever, Eurail, Decathlon and many others, but I still think Acquia’s strategy is the right one.

Aparte : do you see any real open-source Photoshop or Word equivalent ? (Forget about Libre Office or Gimp, I mean real ones, used by the industry). No.

The reason is quite simple : those type of products do not need services to support and adapt them. You install Word, you use it, period. The entire added value of the product is in the product. One do not need to purchase hosting, professional services or costly support & maintenance. There is no way one can make any money out of an open sourced Word. That’s why it does not exist.

Same story for standard e-commerce. E-commerce platforms are standard in terms of features. Every single large RFP for an e-commerce platform is a 2000 lines XLS of features matrix, where you have to answer “COMPLIANT” on 95% of lines to have a chance to go to the final.

Stoooooop. I already hear you talking about PrestaShop, Magento or WooCommerce.

None of them, except Magento are real e-commerce platforms, able to sustain competition with Hybris or Demandware. And Magento is not a real open-source project (core contributions and roadmap are only managed by eBay teams, there is an entreprise version which is not open sourced, OSL/AFL licences VS GPL, etc…), at least it cannot be compared to Drupal community.

Drupal is not usable out of the box, you need to invest in agencies (like us), technical integrators (like them), hosting specialists (like them or them) or using some distributions and you’ll probably need support & maintenance from publishers of those distributions.

There is a large eco-system around Drupal, supporting it and making money out of it. You can create great things with Drupal, going from corporate sites, to entreprise applications, collaborative portals, media sites, social networks or e-commerce. Diversity and flexibility are precisely Drupal’s greatest powers, the very reason of it’s popularity and spread.

With standard e-commerce, the customization is mosty related to front-end design and some integrations with ERP, PIM and CRM softwares (that’s why SAP acquired Hybris and Salesforces acquired Demandware).

So, if we wanted Drupal Commerce being able to compete with large e-commerce platforms, some company need to spend hundreds of thousands of man hours to implement all necessary features (order management systems, logistics, anti-fraud, analytics, CRM, promotions engine, 3PL integrations, refunds, loyalty, gifts, etc…).

For what ROI ? Who will invest 5 to 10M$ in a product that will be free to use (GPL) and with little or no chances of services to sell (all-included) ? Commerce Guys themselves tried, failed and reborn as, a hosting company.

At Adyax, we implement Drupal Commerce when standard, out of the box solutions do not meet client’s requirements. When content mix with commerce features is very tight, when commerce requirements are extremely complex and specific to client’s buisness model.

Most of e-commerce today is a standard business, rules are same for each player, features roadmaps are dictated by Amazon. From my POV, there is no place for open-source projects on the high-end e-commerce market (large retailers, or any e-commerce selling goods over 500M$ of revenue. WooCommerce, Prestashop, and even Magento are operating on SMBs market share, under 100M$ of annual revenue.

So Acquia’s strategy is the good one.

Once we said that, what future for Drupal Commerce ?

As for Drupal itself, providing powerfull tool box for organizations dealing with commerce. Toolbox that will be used to build complex and specific solutions for every e-commerce platform that is not simply selling SKUs.

If you sell t-shirts, shoes, or any FMCG go with Hybris, Demandware or Magento. Monolithic solutions, hard to modify, as flexible as rocks, but full of features.

On the other side, if you’re operating B2B commerce, virtual goods, subscribtions, marketplaces, tickets, reservations, complex product configurators, real estate, or anything else complex and unique, you’ll need customization, you’ll need Drupal and Drupal Commerce and it’s endless flexibility. And there is no real alternative to Drupal Commerce.

Update / response from : Ryan Szrama, CEO and core contributor to Drupal Commerce

“ Commerce 1.x and Kickstart 2.x, all of our R&D time and money switched to Platform. The company was a majority Platform by head count before I separated as well. We stopped short of investing what we needed to, but the pivot to Platform wasn’t because Commerce had failed so much as our management thought a hosting product would result in longer term relationships with merchants. I believe it was initially subservient to a Commerce strategy, but it was pretty obvious we didn’t have the resources to do both and the bigger opportunity was for a language / application agnostic PaaS. Feel free to update based on that info if you want — the next bit is conjecture / forecasting on my part…

Bojan and I always knew we didn’t have the resources to compete with an ecommerce application vendor. But I don’t think that means we are without our niche, our highlights, or alternate strategies beyond deep integrations with another ecommerce application. I’d venture to guess 2017 looks more like launching a more capable 2.x and highlighting deeper integrations with standalone services that do part of what you’d typically grab an ecommerce application for. For example, having a select OMS partner is a big priority of mine, and as soon as you don’t have to customize your Drupal back end for decent order management, you can invest more on the front end or elsewhere in the project. Magento is better at order management out of the box, but even Magento realizes standalone OMSes are a strong future bet (cf. MCOM). I doubt I’d go with theirs, but I’m not opposed to it.

In other words, I believe Drupal Commerce can create more compelling shopping experiences than the alternatives, and our focus should be on core improvements and third party integrations that don’t make that a trade off in budget or functionality for stronger merchandising / store management capabilities.”



Maxime Topolov

Entrepreneur. CEO of I write about tech, dev and projects management.