So you have decided to start your own online store. Excellent choice. But do you know what type of e-commerce platform to pick? From open source (OS) to dedicated platforms to Software as a Service (SaaS), there is indeed a variety of options to choose from. What is the best solution in your case?
Let’s go through the mentioned options with their pros and cons.
Using Open Source software to run your online store won’t cost you much, provided you are a developer or at least you know how to install and manage the platform as it requires some advanced technical knowledge. Good news is there is no charge for license or any subscription fee. Nevertheless, if you are not an IT-skilled person, you will need to outsource managing all the updates and changes to your platform. This is where the hidden costs will appear. If you decide to go for this option, you should also bear in mind that additional charges, such as payments for server, hosting and certificates, will be applied. What is more, you need to be aware of the fact that some security concerns may appear, too. An OS does not come with a guarantee nor support. However, if you are a developer, this solution may prove to be the best for you.
A dedicated platform is a great choice when you are well aware of all the functions and features you would like to have. This is a tailored solution for all your needs, based on the technical specification. It would be recommended to entrepreneurs who have a highly developed or unconventional system of sales, storage and billing. The provider, usually a software house, will customize the platform for you, which is excellent, but may be pretty expensive, on the other hand. It may take a longer period of time for the software house to create such a tailored solution. Also bear in mind it might be difficult for you to state at this point in time how the user experience will look like and what exactly your customers will need. Moreover, you are engaging for longer with one single IT company. This may (or may not) have a negative impact on your business in the future. That is a risk you need to take into consideration. Basically, dedicated platforms are ideal for big corporations or organizations that really know how to serve best their customers.
Last but not least, SaaS is a solution for entrepreneurs who want to easily launch their online store and not to care about the hosting. SaaS providers price their applications using a subscription fee (monthly or annual). As a consequence, the initial setup cost for SaaS is usually lower than the equivalent enterprise software. By choosing this option you will pay for some usage parameters, such as the number of users using the platform or you may also be charged per transaction or event. SaaS solutions put at your disposal the tools which enable you to create your own online store with just one click, even if you are just a beginner. You can design your e-shop on your own by choosing from a number of features and elements available to you. In contrast to Open Source, you can change them whenever you want, which is extremely convenient, especially when you wish to change your offer. Plus, you will deal with one provider only. SaaS platforms are also the best tools if you want to create a strong brand and build a long-term relationship with your customers. They integrate many functions essential for good customer service. Another benefit is that our SaaS provider manages all updates and upgrades, so there are no patches for customers to download or install. Implementing solutions which are not standardized might be costly though and this is the main disadvantage of SaaS.
Shoplo is an example of SaaS providers. It is an innovative platform which has recently accomplished the integration with PayLane.
Patryk Pawlikowski, the CEO of Shoplo.com, points out: SaaS platforms are more and more popular, because they are the easiest way to start selling online. In addition, they enable entrepreneurs to sell their products in many places at the same time, since they are usually integrated with eBay, Facebook and offer mobile commerce, too. This multichannel sale is very important, because it results in the increase of the number of customers and consequently leads to more profits. SaaS is also a good solution if you are focused on marketing. In Shoplo we cooperate with many companies that specialize in email marketing, promotion or social media, so that our customers can get special deals on their services.”
If you do not wish to create any online store of your own, you can always use one of the marketplaces, such as eBay, Amazon or any other regional ones. These platforms are easy to use and have a wide audience. Yet, companies selling in such marketplaces have to deal with a really big competition. When a customer is looking for a specific product, the probability that he/she will find the one our company offers is really low. Most likely they will just go for the cheapest one. In addition, marketplaces usually charge commission plus listing fees and do not allow for implementing a sufficient customer service. But most of all, these platforms will not enable you to build a strong brand nor maintain relations with the customers. If the brand is not important for you though and quantity is what matters, marketplaces may be a good solution.
If you are building an online store on an e-commerce platform, the easiest way to integrate payments would be to use one of the following plugins: Magento, osCommerce, Zen Cart, OpenCart, PrestaShop or WordPress. Integration with a payment gateway will authorize and automate the payment transaction between you and your customers. This solution allows them to accept credit card and other forms of electronic payment. It is crucial your customers have a variety of options available for making online payments. One payment option missing may cost you losing a customer. Not only once.
Should you build your e-shop on a SaaS, the integration may look like in the Shoplo case. PayLane payments become active after entering the Merchat ID and hash salt values in the Shoplo administration panel.
Special thanks for co-writing this post to Patrycja Bronk – fan of new technologies. Patrycja loves writing about things that inspire her. Passionate about project management and coaching. Brings the best out of the people from her entourage. Crazy traveler.