Challenges with SaaS eCommerce platforms

Challenges with SaaS eCommerce platforms

eCommerce is growing at a frightening pace.

This is due to changes in customer behavior, technological advances, and customers’ preferences for the convenience of shopping online.

Add all that to the previous lockdown period and just the convenience of using mobile, and you’ll agree with me that we’re yet to see the full potential of eCommerce.

True to this, global eCommerce sales will surge to 6.3 trillion dollars by 2023 – up 31% from 2021.

Despite this astronomical growth, SaaS eCommerce platforms, just like any other technological advancement, are fraught with challenges.

Some challenges are non-negotiable.

Others are solvable.

In this article, we’ll review those challenges.

Limited allowance for customization

The growth of eCommerce comes with a caveat: your customers want more or less, as the case may be.

They need:

  • Fewer steps before checkout
  • Simpler user interface
  • Greater involvement in product creation to match their preferences
  • Service after purchase

Also, some businesses may need unique workflows depending on their industry, to serve and retain their customers.

But most brands can’t meet up with these demands. Why? They have no control of the SaaS eCommerce platform that houses their e-stores. That’s the problem.

Just take a second. Think of the several available eCommerce platforms, starting with the popular ones.

What you’ll discover is that most SaaS platforms are built with templates and rigid functionality that cannot be customized. Companies can only make slight changes to the front- or back-end, within the limit of the pre-made themes. Here comes the solution by eCommerce platforms with the headless architecture

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 – back-end is separated from the front-end.

What makes headless eCommerce so cool is that developers don’t have to modify or rebuild existing code in the back-end to create new features for the front-end.

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.

The absence of customization makes it impossible for businesses to tailor their e-stores to meet the general and unique needs of their customers. So, what results is a poor user experience, that cascades to high bounce rates, abandoned carts, and lowered rate of customer retention.

Scalability

When an eCommerce store grows, it gives rise to more customers, numbers to crunch, and higher traffic. Even for small stores, this situation can arise during special offerings, flash sales, discounts, and so on.

When an eCommerce store cannot handle this growth, you get downtimes, frustrated customers, and lost revenue, the list is endless!

For instance, in 2018, Amazon customers couldn’t check out, because their e-store was overloaded with traffic. At the end of the day, Amazon lost $60,000,000 in revenue – that’s $1,000,000 per minute.

For an eCommerce store to scale successfully, there must be an allowance for customization, which allows store owners to hard-code capabilities into their store architecture to handle scaling. 

And that’s impossible, except it’s an open-source or source-available eCommerce platform. It’s only open-source or source-available eCommerce platforms that give you complete freedom to make the necessary modifications to your e-store, to handle growth.

Mobile compliance

In 2015, Google announced what we always knew: mobile had surpassed desktop devices, for search.

Currently, searches on the mobile stand at 64% – almost double the searches on desktop devices. And 81% of customers say that they begin their search for a product, on their mobile devices.

These stats prove one thing:

To be considered by customers when they decide to buy, your e-store must capture them from the beginning of their journey, which resembles something like this:

  • Customer hops on their mobile device
  • Makes a Google search
  • Finds your catalog
  • Shuffles through your catalog and see the product that they like

The next step is either to purchase from their PCs – which have larger screens – or go to traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Aside from playing an important role in search, some customers purchase on their mobile devices. It’s estimated that by the end of 2022, 6.9% of all retail purchases would be on mobile devices. 

The trend of mobile-first searches shows no signs of letting off. Our personal connection with our mobile devices and their rising popularity make it so.

Research shows that the average cellphone user handles their phone at least once in 10 minutes. When you sum it up, you get 3 hours and 10 minutes in a day.

Additionally, Google emphasizes the importance of mobile-optimized sites by ranking them higher than others who neglect mobile optimization.

This means that a store that uses keywords in all the right places, can’t rank higher if it’s not optimized for mobile. And a store that isn’t ranking on Google, loses potential revenue: no traffic, no leads, so no sales.

SaaS eCommerce platforms offer limited customization, due to their proprietary codebase. 

Hence, in some cases, the e-store looks perfect on the desktop.

But, on mobile? It looks defective and delivers a poor customer experience.

This results in high bounce rates. Moreover, no customer returns after having a bad experience in a brick-and-mortar store. Talk less of an eCommerce store where they come for convenience. So, any obstruction to it pushes them away from your store.

Two statistics prove that this is true: 

This further proves that the easiest way for any eCommerce store to beat the competition is to optimize for mobile.

Let’s look at the numbers.

A study shows that 15% of adults in the USA rely only on smartphones to surf the internet. What this means is that an e-store has the potential to get 15% more traffic than its competitors, by simply making its interface mobile-friendly.

The best way to ensure your e-store is truly mobile-optimized is to have full control of the code base of your website. That way, you can make modifications as you please, while putting mobile devices first.

Also, It’s only the person that wears the shoe that knows where it pinches.

So, using an eCommerce platform that you can control from your mobile device, makes you experience what your customers face when browsing through your e-store. This makes you discover loopholes early and makes optimizing their experience on mobile a priority.

Derailment of performance by add-ons

Plugins or add-ons are a faster and cheaper route to increase the functionality of an eCommerce store, unlike coding.

But they come with numerous baggage. Baggage causes you to lose revenue and spend a lot to fix.

One of such baggage is hacking.

eCommerce stores are fodder for hackers because of the precious customers’ financial and personal data they possess. And some plugins give them easy access.

For instance, 20,000 eCommerce stores got exposed to hackers after plugins created by Multidot were not updated.

That’s not all.

In 2021, a report showed that hackers were including e-skimmers into plugins that swipe credit card details of shoppers.

A single security breach, can destroy customer confidence and can cost you millions in legal issues.

The only way to eliminate the security risk of plugins completely is to go through each line of code. But, it’s hard – or even impossible.

Another problem with using plug-ins excessively is that they slow down the loading speed of the store. The result? Low sales, poor customer retention, and low ranking on search engine result pages (SERPS).

The best alternative to using plug-ins excessively is to use the right eCommerce store, having the features you need instead of relying solely on plugins to increase functionality.

Additionally, although there are dangers to using plugins, choosing the right one reduces the risk tremendously.

Sudden closures

For SaaS eCommerce platforms running on proprietary software, vendor lock-in is a major issue.

To make matters worse, you can’t transfer all customizations and integrations you’ve spent time and money on, to another platform. It’s devastating to see hours of clicking and dragging templates into place, and investment on integrations, suddenly go poof into oblivion.

To be fair, some store closures are justifiable. But, in most cases, innocent store owners with no previous record of fraud or rule-breaking actions, get shut down. No prior warning. No reason given.

This happens because store owners have no ownership of their platforms. They’re effectively renting a virtual location from the eCommerce platform, to house their e-store.

For this reason, 65% of e-store owners prefer to use open source eCommerce platforms. They get unrestricted access to the codebase, which gives them full ownership of their e-store. No more sudden lock-ins.

Recurring payments

Most SaaS eCommerce platforms run on a subscription basis, either monthly or yearly.

When these recurring payments are pooled together, it becomes evident that the huge amounts of money that subscription to SaaS eCommerce platforms gulps – money that you can invest in other important areas of your business.

The workaround for this would be to use eCommerce platforms with a one time fee. With a single one-time payment, you get complete ownership of the platform. And there are no extra payments for updates either.

Data security

Data security is a major concern for eCommerce stores.

Hackers see small eCommerce stores as good targets because most of them care less about security. That’s why hackers devote resources to compromise their security infrastructure. For instance, a recent study showed that 29% of traffic to small eCommerce stores are bots trying to test the security architecture and find loopholes.

Additionally, over 25,000 websites were targeted by 2.5 million digital skimming incidents in 2020 alone, to steal financial and personal data.

With each data breach, e-shop owners lose millions in revenue due to loss of customer trust and brand reputation, and litigations by affected customers.

One could say that users of SaaS eCommerce platforms can’t avoid this. Because they rely on the benevolence of the platform, to maintain their security. They literally don’t have their destiny in their own hands.

In the case of open-source or source-available eCommerce platforms, e-store owners can hire developers to go through their code base, to weed out potential entry points.

It gets even better.

A community of developers maintains the code, searches for bugs, and fixes glitches the moment they are discovered. It’s better than using proprietary platforms, in which you have to report problems to their developers, who then take forever to patch them up.

You’re a forum post away from a solution.

Optimization for search engines

33% of all organic traffic going to eCommerce stores come from search. And 95% of searchers, hardly go past the first SERP. These stats show that ranking on the first page of Google is vital to the success of any eCommerce store.

Your brand name and catalog must show up in Google searches. Else, you lose out on getting customers to your store.

SaaS eCommerce platforms support SEO to an extent. For instance, in some cases, you can’t modify the permalinks – URLs of your products and blog posts.

In the case of open-source or source-available eCommerce platforms, you have full access to optimize your store for search engines, as much as you wish. This includes editing meta keywords, descriptions, URLs of your products and blog posts, setting up redirects, and so on.

Additionally, you can customize your e-store to look the way you wish. This is better than using pre-made templates that offer no uniqueness.

Start selling online with Uvodo

After reviewing eCommerce solutions, I’ll now mention one that I can say overcomes most of the challenges that contemporary eCommerce platforms have.

It’s Uvodo.

Uvodo is a headless, self-hosted source-available eCommerce platform that gives you full control of your online business in every aspect.

SaaS eCommerce platforms have their benefits but they also come with the challenges mentioned above.

Now, it’s left to you to choose an eCommerce solution that aligns with your business objectives and generates maximum revenue.

While it’s true that no eCommerce platform is perfect, you should choose one that operates smoothly, allows you to meet your and your customers expectations and to achieve your short-term and long term goals.

Akachukwu Obialor
He’s an SEO content writer and copywriter, and content strategist for SaaS brands. He lives and breathes creating content that engages readers and drives conversions. You can find him on his socials: LinkedIn, Twitter, akachukwuobialor@gmail.com

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