One of the largest issues every company faces when it decides to enter digital commerce is the proper choice of the ecommerce platform. It is not a simple thing to make such a decision, and the wrong choices always lead to unwanted results. Those unwanted results may range in gravity, but in most cases a bad choice leads to the complete failure of online trading operations. Obviously, this is something every company looks to avoid.
So, is there a proper way to approach the ecommerce platform selection in order to avoid such mistakes? The answer is simple – yes there is! If you want to make a solid move into the ecommerce realm you need to consider a myriad of parameters, and in order to become capable of doing so – you need to start the research from the very basics. During the entire selection process, there is one very important thing that you simply must keep in mind at all times – you need to have a mind-set that determines which e commerce platform is the best solution for YOU! People often make a mistake and go with the BEST ecommerce platform that is available on the market, and that is not a mistake that has light consequences.
Choices you will need to make include several major segments:
- Opting for SaaS or on-premises platform
- Opting for open source or proprietary platform
- Deployment speed
- Deployment costs
- Levels of presence
SaaS versus on-premises
The difference between these options is pretty obvious. SaaS options are pretty much instant solutions when it comes to hardware and connectivity resources required. Simply, as with all software as a service models, all you need in order to operate is a PC or a laptop and an internet connection. With minimal hardware requirements, you have the option to invest the money saved in that manner to other things. The downside of this approach is that you can do nothing if the system crash occurs, as only the vendor can sort those issues. Still, most of these platforms have incredible uptime records that go as high as 99.99%, so this should not be considered as a real issue.
On-premises platforms on the other hand allow higher level of control as you are able to manipulate every single part of the equipment as you see fit. Another advantage is that the self-hosted on-premises option is less prone to hacking. Simply put – it is a less appealing target to the malicious people than the big systems containing hundreds or thousands of storefronts. The downside is that you are responsible for your own system security. It can be remedied to some extent by putting everything on some of the big hosting networks, but then you are slowly slipping towards the SaaS solution.
The latest trends in the field show that the entire industry is slowly swinging towards the SaaS. Even the largest standalone ecommerce platform providers started launching their own SaaS versions (Magento announced such transition and Hybris already has kind of SaaS option as well).
Useful tip: Match the choice to your internal resources. If your company lacks the staff to operate on premises, it is far better to go either with the SaaS or to hire a 3rd party to cover this issue (digital agencies usually have all the required expertize for this type of operations). Studioworx has substantial experience in this field, especially when it comes to Magento eCommerce platform.
Open source versus proprietary
This issue represents one of the most commonly led debates in the IT world, so the realm of eCommerce platforms is not immune to it either. It is also one of the issues with the deepest impact on decision making.
Proprietary options have very low flexibility and that is the biggest problem. Some of those platforms are pretty evolved and offer abundance of customization options, while the others attack the market through low prices. If you opt for any kind of proprietary platform, you will have to accept the fact that the features they have is all that you will get. They do improve their platforms continuously, and new features are added, but you will have no influence on the process whatsoever. It means that the new developments might be carried out in segments that are not of interest in any context.
Open source platforms on the other hand have an open code, and adding new features is possible, although not too easy. The downside of those solutions is that they are problem prone if not handled by the professionals. The best and most commonly used platform in this segment is Magento, and Studioworx has a substantial experience when it comes to Magento eCommerce development. It means that we would be able to develop additional functions in this case, as well as with any other open source platform. The positives best reflect in the fact that it is definitely possible to do whatever you might require, and you have a full control over the future developments of your storefronts.
Useful tip: Try to project your online operations expansion. By laying down the future development goals to your business, you will be able to filter the options from those that will be a good fit over time, and those that will need further development, and make the decision accordingly.
Deployment speed depends on the requirements in relation to what your digital commerce platform of choice has to offer.
Simply put – the simplest SaaS eCommerce solutions that have a lot of plug-and-play options such as Shopify or Big Commerce have rather short time to market ratio. It comes as a result of minimum back end development requirements and the only real challenge is the front end web development. With these solutions, the estimated time needed to build eCommerce website is counted in weeks.
With open source and more complex digital commerce platforms the estimated time to deploy is counted in months. It comes as a result of the need for deeper back end development. Many of the major solutions such as Hybris, Sales Force Cloud Commerce, or Magento have certain connectors for 3rd party services which allow integration of certain service providers, but the entire job has to be done in a manual or semi-manual way. Magento web design is the most commonly mentioned variant, and it is as such for a very good reason. Namely, Magento design and development is one of the most popular ways worldwide to approach the world of digital commerce. It is also one of the most common sources of frustrations to the businesses due to the huge presence of digital agencies that haven’t mastered it properly.
Useful tip: If you are opting for a quicker time to market, make sure to pick the platform that will be able to provide all the features you might need in the foreseeable future. If you are opting for open source solution with the longer time to market and increased control over future developments – make sure the digital agency you will hire has the necessary expertize in web development on the platform of your choice.
Deployment cost is definitely one of the most important factors when making a decision on eCommerce solutions. The global market is offering more than enough options to fit your budget and your goals.
It is wrong to assume that the open source platforms do not require any kind of fees. Magento is the best example for that. Although Magento Community Edition is free of charge, if you ever wish to upgrade it to the Magento Enterprise Edition, you will face some huge numbers, as the yearly license revolves around $18,000! Still, this is something that is required only if you expand so much that the standard variant does not do the trick. By that time, any company can easily afford the improved option. The good thing with open source options is that the costs will be determined by web development costs and the costs for hardware and connectivity resources. There are usually no recurring fees involved, apart from those imposed by the 3rd party service providers you use (payment processors, ratings and reviews providers, personalization tools, and similar).
With the SaaS options the things look a bit different. In most cases there are no back end development costs, at least not to the same extent as it is the case with open source platforms. There are also no connectivity and hardware costs as they provide both. On the other hand, there are costs that involve not only front end web development, but recurring fees from the very vendor. In some cases it is a standard monthly fee, but in most cases it is additionally amplified by the revenue share model or pay per visit model. The up side of this approach is that you pay just the share of the revenue you actually made through the sales generated using that very platform. The down side is that many of those come with some hidden costs, and advanced SaaS digital commerce platforms have pretty high standard fee (monthly, annual, or paid only once).
Useful tip: Try to scale the expenses and project them on the certain time span. The best approach to this is to talk with the experts. Studioworx is able to give some reliable recommendations based on the pure experience, so do not hesitate to enquire if you have any questions.
Levels of presence
Finally, it is important to consider the levels of presence you intend to make in the digital commerce world. In classic operations focused on a single market and only via online trades, it is possible to do everything even with weaker solutions. Still, as the complexity of your operations increases, there will be increase in the need for advanced features. Even in multichannel eCommerce operations when you decide to sell on different markets and geographies, and using different currencies and logistic options, the need for a more powerful platform will be obvious.
If by any chance you evolve to the full omni-channel digital commerce that combines physical stores, online presence, and external marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay – you will need a platform that can answer these challenges. It is of the utmost importance to avoid mistakes of this kind, or you might end up using multiple platforms at the same time, or even having to re-platform completely.
Useful tip: Talk to your digital agency about these issues and try to put your projected growth in sync with the platform you opt for. It does not have to be something that will follow you through decades, but planning for at least a year or two in advance will save you a lot of trouble and a lot of money.
Now that we have passed through all the elements that you simply HAVE to consider, making a decision should be easier. Still, there is nothing that can substitute sheer experience and talking to digital agencies such as ours is more than recommended. All eCommerce vendors will advocate for their solution, and there is no doubt that each of them thinks that they are the best in their segment, but the web developers usually had the chance to make an unbiased judgement through the previous projects. This experience definitely makes all the difference as they have been through all the issues that might come along the road.
A good talk about the goals, projected growth, and the options you would like to pursue will give a lot of answers and allow you to see the vendors from yet another perspective. Since we had over 800 cases where we were involved of both eBay, web development and web design (Magento web development and Magento web design were both a focal point of our work in many of these cases), we know exactly how the approach the issue and we are able to give you a whole new perspective on the entire ecommerce operation you wish to engage!