The eCommerce industry has been constantly developing and improving over the last few decades, and these changes are further facilitated with the events during the year 2020. With the emerged consequences of this global pandemic, consequent modifications to consumer shopping habits have been revealed.
All these changes have welcomed many newcomers to online selling and have likewise changed the overall game for different established businesses. With the increasing customer expectations, various successful businesses require the best technology to establish their online presence.
Choosing an eCommerce platform for your online business is never that easy. As there are several eCommerce platforms available in the market now, it can be complicated to get started when trying to find the perfect platform for all your business requirements. Keeping in mind different overwhelming platforms to pick from, merchants need to compare functionality, architecture, flexibility, price, and more. Some traders might possess coding and development skills that they can leverage, while others require an out-of-the-box platform with the minimum set-up.
There are various methods to compare platforms, you will notice that the options are endless. To help you narrow down your preferences, this article concentrates on two different software architectures i.e., Open Source and Software as a Service (SaaS). These two successful platforms put eCommerce software in two separate camps and communicate how you interact and finance your platform.
The Difference Between Open-Source and SaaS platform
What is a SaaS Platform?
A SaaS (or Software-as-a-Service) platform is maintained and supported by a third-party provider who licenses it to different businesses on a subscription basis. SaaS platforms aren’t purchased or downloaded by the user but are rather hosted by the SaaS provider. With a SaaS platform, you receive all the essential features for your online store from the start, and you do not have to bother about maintenance and hosting. This supports businesses to get a quick start and start selling their products immediately. These kinds of platforms do not grant access to their source code and usually rely on the platform provider to support your business with the essential features and tools.
SaaS platforms are a great option for eCommerce store owners that don’t want to invest time, energy, and resources for maintenance. For using these SaaS platforms, you have to pay regular subscription charges and, additional charges in some cases like the transaction fees. Examples of SaaS platforms include BigCommerce, Shopify, and partially Magento.
What is an Open-Source Platform?
An open-source eCommerce platform, on the opposite side, gives full access to its source code, empowering users to modify, customize, and adapt it to the different business requirements. This brings an excellent deal of adaptability, which is exceptionally significant for growing businesses that need tailored solutions to meet their particular requirements. Moreover, they enable users to develop completely custom tools such as inventory management, Product Information Management (PIM) without the requirement to rely on ready-made ones.
Nevertheless, to get complete advantage of an open-source platform, you would have to get assistance from skilled developers with expertise in eCommerce development. Some of the most popular open-source platforms are WooCommerce, Magento, (a WordPress plugin), nopCommerce, and Open-Cart.
Comparing the Open Source and SaaS Platforms from the Business point of view:
1) Customization and Scalability
SaaS platforms include all the essential features to instantly set up an online store and rely on their provider to create and implement additional features and tools. But, controlled access to the source code makes both scalability and customization a bit difficult. When looking for a particular feature, you have to pick the one that best fits your requirements. Sometimes, the tool that you are looking for may not exists or not be available.
On the other hand, Open-source platforms exceed scalability and customization. There is no need to depend on the platform owner – your technical team can easily create the feature that will be tailored as per your specific requirements whenever you demand. Also, you can easily adjust several aspects of your store such as the checkout process, and make it more appealing.
While choosing which eCommerce platform to prefer, it is essential to identify your goals and the future of your business. Businesses with no goals for significant customization or scaling can receive all they want from a SaaS platform. Growing businesses, however, should look for open-source platforms, for providing a significant boost to their growth.
2) Integration and Flexibility
Various eCommerce merchants run multiple systems to manage their business. Besides your eCommerce platform, you might also have a POS, ERP, PIM, or inventory management system. As we know that these eCommerce platforms are not that robust for handling complex order processing, product information management, cross-channel experiences, and supply chain management.
Whether you need it later or now, you must analyze how well each platform integrates into different software. Both open-source and SaaS platforms own the available APIs to connect with additional systems, however, there is some variation in the APIs capabilities of these platforms.
The only point to note here is that those open-source “Frankenstein” sites are difficult to integrate due to their customization. Integration plans for sites like those can be unpredictable and lengthier. It might require more prep work from the retailer or integration partner to transfer data among systems.
3) Maintenance, Security, and Support
Today eCommerce is regarded as the second most attacked industry in the world when we talk about cyberattacks. Hence, the protection of the personal data of your customers is of utmost importance for every online merchant. Both these platforms are more than capable to make your online store secure. The only distinction they have is that with open-source, users have to task their technical team to make their store protected and updated with the latest patches, while in the case of SaaS solutions, security, and maintenance are taken care of by the provider.
In the case of SaaS platform, it allows merchants to take full control over their store, enabling them to optimize it in a variety of ways: from improving page load speed to developing their infrastructure. This is something that is not possible with closed platforms.
Open-source platforms, on the other hand, do not have a dedicated support team. If an issue occurs – your technical team would have to solve it by themselves. Fortunately, most open-source platforms have great communities of developers, who can offer guidance and support when required.
4) Set-up time and Cost
Several closed eCommerce platforms operate on the subscription model – where the user has to pay a recurrent subscription fee to keep using the solution. Furthermore, there are added charges that you should know, like transaction fees. For example, Shopify charges a transaction fee from every completed purchase in your store, depending on your plan.
But, these kinds of platforms are very easy to use and do not need any further assistance from developers to make them work. Hence, you do not have to worry that your project will take any extra development costs.
On the other hand, an open-source eCommerce platform such as Magento is free. There are paid versions with extra benefits like the Magento CloudCommerce but everything that you need for the development of an eCommerce store is available in the free version.
An open-source market appears to be a bit of a mixed pack when it comes to other additional charges like transaction fees: like WooCommerce and nopCommerce have them while Magento does not. Hence, you need to do some research to understand the complete picture before picking any of these platforms.
Though there are no subscription fees that you have to keep in mind, in both cases.
Conclusion: Which eCommerce Platform to Pick?
The most suitable eCommerce solution will be the one that provides your business the foundation it requires to develop into a huge player in the online retail market. The purpose of investing in an eCommerce platform should be to scale and grow online revenue.
Without any hype, picking the eCommerce platform that suits your business requirements can be the distinction between success and failure. Probably, the information provided above must have provided some clarity on the two types of solutions and would have helped you in determining what type is best suited for your business. Note down your business requirements and choose appropriately the type of platform you want to get your business thriving and successful.