Our 8 favorite tools for monetizing your Jamstack website
Who said ecommerce and Jamstack didn't mix? Here's a list of our favorite tools that make selling on the Jamstack a breeze.
The Jamstack and ecommerce are a lot like chocolate and avocado. At first, they don't sound like they'll go together, but they actually work really well; once you try it and realize the potential, you'll find that there's a whole community of people ready to share their amazing recipes on how to make them taste great together. In the same way, the Jamstack can sometimes appear incompatible with ecommerce, but it doesn't have to be! Here are our top ten favorite tools to help you start selling on your Jamstack site:
TakeShape's API Mesh enables front-end developers to harness the power of the Jamstack by stitching together multiple external APIs with an intuitive internal CMS. I've actually been working on a series of livestreams about hydrating a product page with content from the TakeShape CMS and pricing data from Stripe, and while that might seem complex, TakeShape handles it smoothly. I just have to make one GraphQL request, and exactly the data I need arrives at the client, regardless of where that data originally came from. I wrote a summary article about those streams so you can see the process; you can check it out here.
I'm a little biased towards TakeShape, so I'll skip the ratings for this one, but I honestly love it; I'm including it in almost every project nowadays and think it's awesome.
The whole point of ecommerce is to make money, so you need a tool to collect payment information and actually charge your customers. Stripe is the gold standard here. It's super simple to use, especially with the kits and libraries they provide, like Checkout and Elements. Their documentation is best-in-class, and their developer support team is the most helpful I've ever had to deal with.
Some more complicated setups can start getting difficult to manage, as Stripe locks you to using their system of products, subscriptions, prices, and customers, but that system is more than adequate for the vast majority of use cases. You do have to use something on the server-side for this, since Stripe requires that you keep one of your API keys secret for obvious reasons. On the Jamstack, that means running it on a host that supports serverless functions or funneling the requests to Stripe through an API Mesh like TakeShape.
All in all, I give Stripe a 9.5/10 based on its incredible developer experience.
Snipcart's tagline is
Snipcart is flexible enough to handle almost any use case well, but there are some situations where you might be better off reaching for a more low-level tool. For example, I was looking into building a marketplace, and the guys from Snipcart told me that having money moving from a buyer to a seller would be difficult to implement without the money first going through a single account, which opens you up to higher transaction fees and getting taxed on those transactions differently depending on your jurisdiction.
Snipcart isn't the magic solution to every ecommerce need, but it absolutely nails its intended functionality, so I can confidently give this a 10/10.
Ecommerce is more than just paying for a product online; one of the core concepts in ecom is the membership subscription. Memberful aims to simplify and abstract away the difficulty of this often tricky payment model, and man, does it succeed. Take a look at this guide for an example of its simplicity. It's definitely designed with non-developers in mind, so this will be a perfect fit for you if you're trying to paywall content on a larger site with dedicated content managers, if you're working on a site without a backend (like a Jamstack site), or with a Wordpress site (they've got an excellent and well-maintained plugin).
One thing I like about Memberful is that they're honest about their tool not being for everyone. In their own words, "we'd rather recommend a competitor that’s a better fit for your business than try to hard sell you on Memberful." They go on to list some situations where Memberful might be a little tougher to use and then they offer some better alternatives. For example, Memberful works best on digital content, so if you're selling physical products via an online experience (like Butcher Box or Dollar Shave Club), you might be better off with an all-in-one solution like Square.
It's less flexible than other solutions, but Memberful takes the master-of-one over the jack-of-all-trades approach, so they make up for it by perfecting their core feature set. They've definitely earned my approval: 9/10.
Authentication is really hard to get right, and no matter how many times I try to roll it myself, I always fail. But then I heard about Auth0, and I believe I physically sighed in relief. They just give you a login system with best practices built right in, something I was really bad at building previously. Their security experts have already worked out solutions to fraud and other problems that modern ecommerce platforms are bound to face at some point or another.
That said, Auth0 can be difficult to get started with. It takes a bit of knowledge about those best practices to use Auth0's platform correctly without introducing more bugs and vulnerabilities. Thankfully, they've taken care of this by creating an excellent store of educational content on this topic to make integrating with them far easier. If you're interested in learning about how to work with Auth0, the best place to start is their blog.
With that said, it's the most powerful solution to one of the most common problems on the Internet: authentication. Auth0 earns a 8/10 from me.
If Snipcart is the easy-to-use, build-into-your-existing-website shopping cart solution, Foxy.io is the super-powerful, only-for-devs, uber-customizable shopping cart solution. It's not better, just different from Snipcart, and so we use it in different scenarios. Perhaps when our small-town Mama's Pizza wants to start selling their pizzas online, Snipcart would be best, but Foxy.io might be the powerhouse needed to turn the gears behind BestBuy's website (large, but still with a single seller). Foxy.io doesn't manage inventory, while Snipcart does. Large sites like BestBuy likely are already handling that with a custom inventory solution, while something small like Mama's Pizza might make use of the inventory features of Snipcart to store their limited slate of pizza options. Foxy.io also can handle more payment gateways, which is unnecessary for smaller sites but could be critical for something as large as BestBuy.
I really like how they put it on this page: "FoxyCart is not a turnkey solution. This generally makes FoxyCart perfect for some and just plain wrong for others." I couldn't have said it better; Foxy.io (what they call it now) does the cart and checkout really well, but if that's not the largest part and central focus of your website, then you might be better off with a simple solution like Snipcart.
It's perfect for a small set of ecommerce sites, but go with Snipcart for everything else. I give it a solid 6/10 though.
Ah, SendGrid. Where were you all my life? Emailing is super difficult. The World Wide Web has evolved for the last 25 years, but the whole emailing system is stuck in 1996. SendGrid is kind of like a translator between that nonsense we had to deal with ages ago and the modern way we work with APIs. With customer outreach, support, and marketing being such a big part of the ecommerce world, tools that can make emailing easy like SendGrid have become absolutely indispensable. There's not that much to say about SendGrid other than the fact that they're trusted with handling crucial parts of the architecture of big websites like eBay, Nextdoor, Uber, AirBNB, and Yelp.
It does lean more towards being developer-friendly over content-creator-friendly, so you might find the interface a bit clunky if you're using SendGrid for blast emailing at a bigger company with dedicated marketers. It also looks like they funnel a lot of resources into development, which leaves customer support to focus on the biggest customers, so some smaller users have reported long stretches of time going by before hearing back from them.
Overall, I love SendGrid, and despite its minor flaws, it's always worked well for me. I give this one a 9.5/10.
You were expecting this one, weren't you? I'll admit, I used to rail against Shopify, and I still have my qualms, but I've come to see just how powerful it can be. It's probably the least technical tool on this list, so that immediately opens up all sorts of possibilities to non-developers. That's quite important to a lot of web development agencies as their developers then don't have to be bogged down with minor updates and can focus on future development, depending on how much you've customized the templates they give you. There's a massive community (as one would expect the largest ecommerce solution to garner), and they've created all sorts of plugins and templates to make the developer's job even easier.
There is a caveat in that last pro, though. The plugin system can put the stability of your website in the hands of others, and we've seen that go well — and occasionally very, very badly — for Wordpress. Using plugins like this can open you up to vulnerabilities exposed by the plugin authors (who can be sometimes slow to fix them), so make sure to only use plugins created by companies you trust. Shopify also tends to be more of a platform than an add-on tool, so while you get the convenience of using prebuilt templates, it's much harder to customize and add non-ecommerce content. Many ecommerce companies run blogs or other informational pages, which aren't so easy to implement (it's definitely possible though!). Lastly, there's the fees. On top of the fee to use Shopify (which can be anywhere from $9 - $2000 depending on your needs), you'll likely be paying a fee on every transaction (plus your payment processor's fee).
I've grown to enjoy Shopify recently, but for many it's an acquired taste. Given just how powerful it can be, I'll give it a 7/10.
There you have it! That's my favorite 8 tools for turning a profit from your Jamstack site. It might've been historically difficult to combine ecommerce and the simplicity of the Jamstack, but thanks to tools like these 8, I'm hopeful that we'll be seeing more amazing ecommerce Jamstack experiences on the web in the future.