E-Commerce Software Comparison: SAP vs. Salesforce

How does SAP Commerce Cloud measure up against Salesforce? Our expert review compares both platforms using our Composable Agility Score rating system.


SAP Commerce Cloud and Salesforce are both major players in the commerce industry — but how do they differ from one another? Having reviewed both companies using our proprietary Composable Agility Score (CA Score) rating system, we explain below how SAP Commerce Cloud compares to Salesforce, and which use cases each solution serves best. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between each.

SAP vs Salesforce: a brief overview

SAP was founded in Germany in 1972 — long before the e-commerce landscape looked anything like it does today. Initially, they offered enterprise software that integrated all business processes and processed data in real-time. Over the years SAP acquired dozens of companies, including Business Objects, Sybase, Ariba, SuccessFactors, Fieldglass, Concur, and hybris. The acquisition of Ariba in 2012 and hybris in 2013 moved the company towards e-commerce, culminating in the release of SAP Commerce Cloud.

Salesforce was founded in San Francisco in 1999 as a CRM software and the industry’s first SaaS product. In 2016, it acquired Demandware and introduced Salesforce Commerce Cloud, its e-commerce platform.

Both companies are software giants with offices located around the world. SAP employs over 105,000 people and boasts 440,000 customers in over 180 countries. They have offices in over 130 countries and are now registered as a European SE. The company achieved €27.84b in revenue in the 2021 fiscal year.

Salesforce is still based in San Francisco and has 77,000 employees globally. In the 2022 fiscal year, it achieved $26.49 billion in revenue while serving approximately 150,000 customers. The company operates in 88 cities, with 110 offices around the world.

SAP vs. Salesforce: How are they different?

SAP’s overall CA Score was 5.5, while Salesforce earned a slightly higher 6.1.

SAP’s highest-rated category was for Headless, where it earned a respectable 7.3 points, while its lowest category was Cloud Nativity at 4.3. Salesforce, on the other hand, scored highest for APIs at 7.3, while its lowest score was 3.9 for Modularity.

Let’s take a more detailed look at how SAP Commerce Cloud measures up against Salesforce in five key areas.

The largest difference in scores between SAP Commerce vs. Salesforce is Cloud Nativity

The cloud nativity score tells us if the software is designed to take full advantage of cloud architecture. Potential advantages of cloud nativity include elasticity and seamless updates for customers.

Salesforce scored significantly higher in cloud nativity, with a score of 7. SAP Commerce Cloud, on the other hand, scored 4.3. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. SAP is cloud-based, running primarily on Microsoft Azure and (occasionally) AWS, whereas Salesforce is cloud-native and runs on AWS. SAP is hosted in the cloud, but Salesforce is designed for the cloud.
  2. Updates to Salesforce are seamless, but the same cannot be said for SAP. Salesforce is a multitenant solution that offers seamless updates several times a year, automatically, and with only minutes of downtime. Because of this setup, Salesforce customers are always using the most current version of the software. However, it also means that customers don’t have the option of staying with an older version, even if they want to, which may be a drawback for some.
  3. SAP Commerce Cloud releases new versions on a quarterly basis, but still offer users the option of staying with an older version. However, after a five-year period, maintenance for older versions is discontinued. Only Commerce Cloud’s “context-driven services” are versionless. This means that, if you choose to stay with an older version, you risk losing support in the future when the version reaches its end-of-life.
  4. Both SAP and Salesforce are based on monolithic architecture, which means they might have less elasticity than software built on microservices. As the architecture does not take full advantage of the flexibility offered by the cloud, both providers lose points on their cloud nativity score.

API First: a significant difference between SAP and Salesforce

The API First score tells us if this software is built around APIs, which allows it to communicate with other applications. An API-first architecture means that virtually all data can be accessed by other applications, offering businesses the chance to customize their software stack with best-of-breed integrations.

Due to differences in the way the software is designed and built, Salesforce scored 7.3 in this category, while SAP scored 5.3.

Unlike SAP Commerce, Salesforce takes a truly API-first approach. APIs are designed first, then the user experience is built on top of them. SAP, on the other hand, traditionally built their software first and added APIs after - although newly added features do follow an API-first approach.

Thanks to the more recently added API endpoints, SAP offers good coverage for most business functions. However, the APIs for back-office functions are very limited, which means that back-office workflows can’t be easily customized. Salesforce’s API-first approach, on the other hand, lets third-party software vendors access practically all data — even data that Salesforce doesn’t use directly.

One downside of Salesforce in this criteria is that it does not give customers pre-configured API connections for 3rd party apps. Additionally, Salesforce does not offer an API management layer to help developers work more efficiently with the APIs, something that is available via SAP.

Overall, Salesforce’s API-first approach sets it apart, especially for companies who want to customize the back end of their platform. SAP does not offer many APIs for back-office functions, so this will limit the ability to customize it.

Moderate differences in the Headless score for SAP Commerce Cloud vs Salesforce

The Headless score tells us how decoupled the front end and back end are for each platform. With headless architecture, customer data, product data, and more can be accessed and displayed by any type of customer-facing UI, including mobile, voice commerce, and whatever the future may bring.

Although Salesforce is the more modern software in terms of APIs and cloud nativity, it secured a score of 6.5 for this criteria, whilst SAP scores higher at 7.3.

SAP’s front end is completely decoupled from the back end and allows for omnichannel commerce. Its strongest headless offering is Spartacus, an open-source JavaScript progressive web app that was released in 2019.

Salesforce doesn’t do too badly in terms of flexible front ends, as it does offer an out-of-the-box Progressive Web Application (PWA) platform. Nonetheless, the front end and back end are not decoupled and it does not offer omnichannel commerce.

Salesforce and SAP both have some unique front-end options. Salesforce Customers can use a page designer to customize the front end, and it also includes a powerful AI-based personalization feature. SAP, too, offers additional out-of-the-box front ends for different verticals, but not all of them are headless.

SAP lost a few points because its back end and business logic are not decoupled. That means that companies with complex use cases may not have the back end flexibility that they need. In general, though, it is well-suited for any business that needs an omnichannel or multichannel front end.

While Salesforce is not suitable for businesses who need truly omnichannel commerce, it does offer some great customization options. With responsive front ends, an out-of-the-box PWA front end, and the unique AI customization feature, it is a solid option for companies who plan to stick with standard e-commerce channels for the foreseeable future.

How SAP and Salesforce stack up in terms of Modularity

The Modularity score tells us how easily the software can be customized by adding and removing individual software functions. Older software is generally monolithic, which is the opposite of modular. Once again, SAP nudged out Salesforce in this category, with SAP scoring 4.6 and Salesforce scoring 3.9.

SAP Commerce Cloud and Salesforce are both built on a monolithic architecture. In an attempt to modernize, both platforms have begun to add microservices. SAP has done this slightly more successfully with “Context-Driven Services” that provide a customized user experience.  These are built externally, but are used by the entire SAP system. Salesforce’s microservice additions are not as powerful and are lacking extensibility options and code customizations.

Salesforce and SAP Commerce Cloud score similarly for Composability

The Composability score tells us how easily the software lets you build scalable and customized software solutions. SAP and Salesforce earned virtually the same score in this category, with 5.9 and 5.8 points, respectively.

Neither SAP nor Salesforce is fully composable as new features cannot be deployed independently of the core application. However, SAP Commerce Cloud offers powerful integrations, and high-code customizations are possible. Salesforce allows third-party solutions to be integrated using Software Development Kits (SDKs), and the large Salesforce ecosystem offers additional customization options. So, while both options do allow some level of customization, they could both be stronger in this regard.

SAP vs Salesforce: who is the winner?

In terms of overall Composable Agility, Salesforce is generally the stronger option. However, SAP has a significantly higher headless score, which helps balance things between the two. All in all, our analysis shows that businesses needing headless commerce (for omnichannel or multichannel) would be better-served by SAP. Businesses who want to customize the back-end functionality with APIs, or who want seamless, automatic updates, would do better with Salesforce. It’s all a matter of deciding what is most important to your particular business model and way of working.

Evaluation methodology.

Working together with scientists and industry leaders from the respective cloud areas, our evaluations are based on an industry peer review standard that meets the highest standards of objectivity. All the insights are combined in a single figure, which means they can be applied more easily and effectively from both a technical and a business perspective.

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