Custom development tradeoffs
Custom backend solutions are much more powerful in the long run and take much more up front work. Out of the box solutions work for many situations, particularly when technology is not meant as the differentiator. With digital products, that's often not the case.
Naturally, there are tradeoffs to any development solution. Going with Shopify makes it quick and easy to get going, while enabling a multitude of options. There are still limits to the platform, and as ecommerce becomes more commonplace, the biggest differentiators will look for options not easily accessible to any shop owner. This point was written about in a recent NotBoring newsletter and is an important illustration of why businesses will continue to push for custom solutions.
Here’s the hard thing about easy things: if everyone can do something, there’s no advantage to doing it, but you still have to do it anyway just to keep up.
By making Direct-to-Consumer (“DTC”) easier, software like Shopify increases entropy and lowers the probability that any specific company will generate sustained profits.
An alternative is to build a custom solution tying together the best of various tools and frameworks. This prevents the product from becoming over reliant on any one technology platform to do everything well, and makes the final development solutions much more difficult to copy. This concept fits well in the trend towards headless commerce and is one we're continuing to explore.