As the world changes, so does the way people do business. After a cautious start, eCommerce has grown into a multi-billion dollar business model that has been embraced by every industry imaginable. The statistics also show that eCommerce is still gaining in popularity. Every entrepreneur should therefore delve into eCommerce because of the opportunities and benefits that online selling offers.
According to Statista, the number of online buyers worldwide will rise to 2.14 billion by the end of 2021. Automation is the best way to meet the increase in volume and demand. This ensures that you continue to offer an excellent customer experience across all channels and touchpoints. But how do you do that? Are you going for (legacy) customization that is on-premise (locally installed), a SaaS solution or a mix of the two? Let's start by looking at the different options.
For a long time, on-premise was characteristic of eCommerce. Everything ran in-house and within the company's IT infrastructure. The company was also entirely responsible for maintaining the technology and processes. Customization was the motto. But as companies lost more resources supporting legacy applications and systems, that customization became a weakness. On-premise platforms became less and less flexible.
Open source platforms are usually relatively cheap and user-friendly. You download the product, install it on your site and use it in no time. The only thing you need to arrange is good web hosting. Most open source providers give you the opportunity to make adjustments and add new items and modules to your platform in order to increase the range of functionalities. Because open source offers you the opportunity to apply a lot of customization, this is also a pitfall. You commit to a partner who can build a lot of customization, which means that your advantage of open source (grabbing code and transferring it to another partner) is lost because the new partner cannot support the customization.
The third option? Opting for a platform in the format of a SaaS (Software As A Service) service. In that case, you purchase a package that consists of the software, hosting, backups and (usually) technical support. You don't have to worry about the hosting and you don't have to install anything yourself, since SaaS platforms run on the servers of the supplier. All you need is a good internet connection and one or more computers.
A SaaS solution has many advantages over the other types of platforms. Time to take a closer look at those pluses.
Deploying a SaaS solution requires less planning and preparation than deploying an on-premise platform. You can immediately start designing and developing, which reduces the time to market.
SaaS platforms are often cheaper than other variants. There are few start-up costs because you don't have to build a new platform from scratch. A SaaS platform is already richly equipped with functionalities, so that you spend less time on add-ons. Moreover, you do not have to invest money and manpower in maintaining your platform.
Scalability is another big advantage of SaaS platforms. By using the cloud, you benefit from on-demand storage and flexible bandwidths.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a SaaS platform is that the provider hosts and maintains the software. So you don't have to look for a hosting provider yourself. In addition, the SaaS supplier is also responsible for matters such as uptime, speed, performance, bug fixes, software updates and more of these specialist matters. SaaS providers are also known for their helpful and fast support teams.
Security is the number one concern for merchants operating in eCommerce. Your online store must be able to securely handle sensitive customer information and payment details. A data breach or security incident can cost you a lot of money and is disastrous for your reputation. The good news: most leading SaaS platforms meet the high security requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for merchants and eCommerce platforms.
A big disadvantage of self-hosted platforms is that you don't have access to centralized support services if a problem occurs. You have to go through all the existing documentation yourself or do research on the developer communities. Do you opt for SaaS? Then you have 24/7 access to a support team that solves all your technical problems.
Does using a SaaS platform never lead to disadvantages? Sometimes.
SaaS platforms use built-in functionalities and pre-built templates. This ensures that you can use them quickly and easily, but at the same time it limits the possibilities for customization.
That is why SaaS providers are investing heavily in headless eCommerce (a separation of the front and back end) in terms of development. This gives the customer more freedom to develop more quickly, which removes any limitations.
The possible Vendor lock-in (Vendor lock-in is the principle whereby you as a customer cannot switch to another supplier for a certain product or service without having to incur high costs) also comes into play with SaaS, but is not unique to this type of platform. Even if you opt for open source, in most cases you still need a specialist who develops and manages (the codes) of your platform. Do you want to limit the disadvantages of vendor lock-in? Then you have to ask yourself an important question: which SaaS provider makes the greatest contribution to my self-interest?
With a SaaS construction you are not the owner of the platform. You pay a monthly fee for use and maintenance, but you cannot download and reuse the code. In addition, the SaaS supplier may go bankrupt or change its license terms.
For example, CloudSuite offers its customers the option of entering into an escrow agreement. This is an agreement between the software maker, its customer and an escrow agent. The agreement guarantees that in certain cases the customer has access to the latest source code of the software package for which the agreement has been concluded.
Fortunately, there is also a strategy that allows you to take advantage of the advantages of SaaS, but largely overcome the disadvantages: headless eCommerce, powered by a robust SaaS platform. In this way, you take full advantage of scalable and flexible SaaS services, while at the same time having the freedom to build solutions that enrich the customer experience as you see fit.
Adopt headless wisely. It requires a solid chunk of technical expertise. Organizations that implement their eCommerce platform headless usually have a fairly large and technically excellent development team at their disposal.
The ideal platform gives you the opportunity to quickly build and adapt new features, without the need for a large and drastic IT operation. In other words: choose a solution that fits seamlessly with your (future) business needs. In the world of eCommerce, there is never one size fits all.