I’ve researched lots of questions that people have asked Google about eCommerce platforms and software solutions and answered each of them.
If you’re just starting your online business, looking for an eCommerce platform, don’t know which type of solution to choose, and have lots of questions on your mind, this guide will help you ease your mind.
Let’s get it started! 🎶
Let’s get it started! 🎶
What are the types of platforms you can choose when starting out with eCommerce?
eCommerce platforms can be different by being open-source, SaaS, hosted or self-hosted, and headless or monolithic (traditional).
Starting from the first type of solution..
What does open-source software mean?
Open-source software is a type of software where the source code is available to the public. Meaning, anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance the code.
Source code is the backbone of any software and is written in a programming language. It’s what makes up the instructions for how a program or application should perform tasks.
Open-source type of software is released with its source code under a license that grants users the rights of use, study, and development.
What are the examples of open-source eCommerce platforms?
Open-source eCommerce platform means that anyone with developer resources can customize the platform to their business needs.
Most profound examples of open-source eCommerce platforms are WooCommerce, Magento, PrestaShop, Shopware.
There are also source-available software, in which the licenses associated with the offerings range from allowing code to be viewed for reference to allowing code to be modified and redistributed for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. The example for source-available software is Uvodo.
Read more about what’s Uvodo and who is it for?
Should you choose an open-source eCommerce platform?
The main advantage of an open-source eCommerce solution is that you have full access to source code that’s granted under a license. In case the platform you’re using has a missing feature, or you want to change some functions, you can build or modify that specific feature.
Open-source eCommerce platforms can be costly if you lack technical expertise. However, if you have resources and a developer team at your disposal, open-source is the best solution to create an online store that meets your business needs.
Almost all the eCommerce solutions offer tech support whenever you need, or you can hire someone or an agency to handle the technical stuff. So, lacking technical skills should not be a reason and a worry to reject all the advantages of open-source solutions.
- Limitless customization and development
- Requires additional resources and technical knowledge
What is the SaaS eCommerce platform? What does SaaS stand for?
SaaS stands for software-as-a-service. It is a model for delivering software over the Internet as a service. So, you do not have to buy, install, or maintain anything on your device, the only thing you need is to be connected to the Internet.
The main benefit of SaaS eCommerce solutions is that it frees the users from dealing with technical stuff. The users can access the software from anywhere and anytime over the Internet. And, users do not have to worry about infrastructure or maintenance issues since every aspect of your website or online store is handled by the software-as-a-service delivery model.
The SaaS model is a software licensing model in which you are renting the use of a particular application or service over a period of time, typically monthly. Subscription plans of these SaaS offer different subscription plans at different prices that include different features and service.
What are the examples of SaaS eCommerce platforms?
SaaS eCommerce platforms are usually used by small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have enough time or resources to do this on their own.
The most popular examples for SaaS model based eCommerce platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, etc.
Note: Magento positions itself as PaaS (platform-as-a-service) rather than SaaS since there are some administrative stuff and requirements that businesses themselves should manage.
Should you choose a SaaS eCommerce platform?
One of the main advantages of SaaS eCommerce solutions is that once you subscribe to their plan, you can start using the platform or software right away. And, you don’t have to worry about the technical stuff; you build your online store on the SaaS platform’s hosting service and they handle the technical side.
Other than that, if you’re small or medium sized-business, and don’t need pro solutions (advanced customer experience, personalized solutions, additional features, etc.), SaaS – hosted eCommerce solutions are the best fit for a good start.
However, the drawback of SaaS eCommerce is that it has limited customization. Though SaaS platforms offer personalization and some configuration within the application, you cannot modify the Saas applications by building customizations that require changing the core product. Also, even though SaaS eCommerce solutions can seem budget-friendly, in the long run it costs more due to recurring fees.
- Takes less time to go live online
- Centralized support system
- Includes storefront and admin dashboard to manage everything
- Requires less technical knowledge
- Wide range of apps/plugins
- Your data shared with the hosted platform
- Limited customization
- Costs more (recurring fees) than self-hosted platforms
Read more about challenges with SaaS eCommerce platforms.
What is a hosted eCommerce platform?
A hosted, sometimes called fully hosted eCommerce platform is a type of SaaS that hosts online stores. From hosting and shopping baskets down to comprehensive tech support, every aspect of your company is handled for you by this software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model.
What are the examples of hosted eCommerce platforms?
Most known examples for hosted eCommerce platforms can be Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion, etc.
Should you choose a hosted eCommerce solution?
Hosted eCommerce platforms are popular, and they may be the first choice for entrepreneurs because they offer almost everything you need to start and run an eCommerce business right away.
- Faster initial setup
- No hosting or server worries
- Dedicated support specialists
- Data shared with the hosted platform
- Customization limitations
- Default themes and designs
- A lot of indirect costs
Hosted eCommerce solutions are commonly SaaS. If you want to launch your store right away, find the features of the hosted platform enough to meet your requirements, and don’t need further customization and development, then a hosted eCommerce solution is right for you. But if you’re comfortable with technical stuff, want to do further development and customization, then a self-hosted solution will be better.
What is a self-hosted eCommerce platform?
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms are software that you can install on your own server that you have control over. This type of platform is best for businesses that want to have full control over their data and store it in the cloud.
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms are the best option if you want to keep complete control over your store. This means that you’re completely responsible for the build, the hosting and the storage of all data too.
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms require more technical knowledge than hosted platforms, but they offer greater flexibility and control. It gives you the ability to customize every aspect of your store, from the way products are displayed to how they are sold.
You can change the design, add new features and plugins, and make it as flexible as you want to fit any business type since the self-hosted eCommerce platforms give you full control and customization over your store.
Self-hosted eCommerce is a business solution that uses its own server to host and run an online store while hosted eCommerce means someone else’s company, i.e., SaaS models, hosts the site for you while owning your data.
What are the examples of self-hosted eCommerce platforms?
Uvodo, WooCommerce, OpenCart, Magento, PrestaShop are the most known examples of self-hosted eCommerce solutions.
Should you choose a self-hosted eCommerce solution?
To begin with the self-hosted eCommerce platforms, you need to have a hosting provider, choose an eCommerce platform, and go through installation and setup processes. Self-hosted eCommerce solutions mean self-reliance – you are on your own. Since there’s no centralized support system, you’ll need to handle troubleshooting by yourself.
So, if you’re tech-savvy, self hosted solutions are great since you’ll own your data, domain and its contents, and everything else. And, self-hosted solutions give you freedom, meaning that since you’re not tied to a centralized service provider, you can migrate your store if you find better or other promising solutions and deals.
- Unlimited scalability
- Absolute control over everything
- Endless customization
- Periodic server maintenance
- No centralized support system
Read more about the comparison of hosted vs self-hosted eCommerce solutions.
What is a headless approach/architecture?
In a nutshell, a headless approach is a website design approach in which the layout and visual design of a website is independent of its content. In other words, it is an application architecture where the server side code and database – backend is separated from the frontend.
What does headless eCommerce mean?
Headless eCommerce is a term that has been coined to define a new way of managing online stores.
If you’re not familiar with the terms, front-end is the visual presentation layer of your eCommerce store, where a website displays products and users interact with it. And, the back-end that handles all of the data and transactions, is an operational systems layer where your server side code, database, apps, and other business content is stored.
Headless architecture allows developers to create new features without having to change the front-end display. It also allows developers to create new features without having to modify or rebuild existing code, which is similar to a headless content management system.
What is a headless eCommerce store?
A Headless eCommerce store is created by headless CMS.
So, the “head” or frontend of the platform is a store, in most cases it’s a template or theme, where customers engage, and the backend is where the business manages the orders, products, customers and delivers content without a frontend delivery layer.
What does headless CMS mean?
A headless CMS is a software system that provides content management services for a website, without the need of a built-in front-end. It’s basically just an API that can be integrated into any device or platform for a seamless display.
Headless architecture is a similar concept to a headless CMS, as it is a multichannel solution for effectively publishing dynamic content across a variety of platforms and devices. Content stored in a headless architecture is raw and unformatted, and its final presentation isn’t limited by a front-end system.
Is Headless CMS the same as Headless eCommerce?
In short, yes. Headless CMS is the same as headless eCommerce because both are content management systems that do not use a graphical user interface.
Headless CMS is similar to Headless eCommerce in the sense that it does not have a front-end user interface, but the difference is that Headless CMS has a wider range of features. A headless CMS can be used to power eCommerce sites, blogs, and other digital channels.
Is headless commerce the future?
The answer is definitely yes.
With more and more shopping experiences happening across different channels and devices, from computers to mobiles to smart devices, eCommerce businesses face the challenge of offering seamless user experiences throughout the shopping process.
Headless architecture is gaining traction for it is a way to improve customer experience and to make sure that your company can better meet your customer needs. Digital retail storefronts are increasingly using headless eCommerce to deliver a far more personalized customer experience. Headless CMS allows people to speed up their content, create personalized and seamless user experiences, and to become more flexible, more adaptable, stable, and secure.
What are the features of headless eCommerce that distinguish it from traditional eCommerce?
Customization. While users have complete control over the customization of frontend with the headless commerce CMS, with traditional commerce, users have limited customization within the pre-defined presentation layer.
User experience. Headless CMS provides users with a unique presentation of the content for a specific brand experience, while it’s not possible with traditional CMS which includes pre-made themes.
Flexibility. With traditional CMS, any change in the front end requires changes in the backend while headless CMS allows you to create new frontend touchpoints without changing anything in the backend.
Security. Minor threats can affect the whole system of monolithic – traditional CMS platforms because of their coupled frontend and backend architecture.
Technology. Headless CMS lets you integrate and use the technologies you feel comfortable with which is not possible with the traditional one.
What are examples of Headless eCommerce platforms?
Uvodo, Adobe Commerce (Magento), and BigCommerce are the most popular examples of headless eCommerce platforms.
Should you choose a headless eCommerce solution?
Preferably, yes. Headless architecture creates a greater space for creativity and flexibility. Plus, it enables your online store to provide seamless customer experience throughout the shopping process. Headless eCommerce speeds up your content, and lets you create personalized and better user experiences.
- Greater flexibility, enhanced customization, and better security;
- Better customer experience and personalization;
- Higher site speed and lower page load time;
- Long-term cost savings;
- Improved SEO.
- May require additional resources and technical support;
- Learning curves.
By now, you should have the basic knowledge about the types of eCommerce platforms, and what’s special for each of them. Ask the following questions to as a final decision to which platform you will go with:
- How fast do you want your online store up and running?
- Do you feel comfortable doing technical tasks like coding and design?
- Are you comfortable with sharing your data with third parties?
- Or, do you have enough resources for handling the technical side of your eCommerce project?
- How much traffic and content do you expect your website to have in one year? One month?
- What features do you need to run your eCommerce site?
- What’s your budget?