How Open Source Solutions Benefit eCommerce Sites

Apr 24, 2021

When it comes to setting up your online store correctly, you have to make the one of the most important decisions you’ll have to maje is what platform to launch your digital business with. In this article we will be looking at the most typical categories to choose from and giving you our take on what open source can do for your brand. 

Three types of platforms: 

In previous articles, we’ve discussed the specifics of frameworks like Solidus. This would be what we consider an  open-source framework, a software solution that gives you the basic functionalities you need to build an eCommerce site. These vary in features and technology, but most are buildable to create customizable experiences for consumers and a high degree of flexibility and scalability. The downside some may consider is the steep learning curve for implementation  and a larger upfront investment.    

A SaaS platform like Shopify or BigCommerce,  would be what we consider an out-of-the-box solution for your online store. These are software solutions that have built-in framework necessary to build and run your site, all you have to do is pay for a recurring licensing fee that usually comes at an annual or monthly subscription. The platform provides you with a storefront for consumers and a back end to customize the management of your site. They are quick and easy solutions to get you brand online, however, when looking for flexibility they are not as robust of a solution as you may need. Find more about that here

Then there are what we consider open-source platforms, where similar to SaaS they offer ready made packages for you to set up an eCommerce site. However, they are open-source, so they do have a degree of customization available. Nonetheless, they do require hosting on your own tech infrastructure and a learning curve for flexibility and customization from a development standpoint. 

Which one is for me?

The most noticeable difference between a SaaS platform and an open-source platform has to do with pricing, SaaS platforms require small recurring license fees while an open source is free. But that is not all that’s important. When it comes to making the right choice for your brand we encourage you to consider the following: 

A Custom Fit 

SaaS platforms are a great fit for those who need an eCommerce store with little to no custom work. If you have little experience in UI/UX but have the need to start selling your products, a SaaS solution will be very helpful. Although in many cases you will be stuck with the recurring licensing feed and default experiences of the theme that you choose to work with. This can make flexibility and scalability a pain in the future, so it’s something to consider in the long run. 

Building on an open-source framework has the advantage of flexibility available to you, meaning that you are able to customize your store as best fits your business model and customer experience. It will allow you to add features to create a unique buying experience for customers and roll-out features as you grow your site’s demand. These stand-out opportunities do come at the price of needing to build this yourself, which in terms of budget may require a seasoned development team or a powerhouse development partner. 

For us, the latter proves to be the better choice for many in the long run. The most successful brands in the industry are top of mind not just because of what they sell, but how they sell. Creating a shopping experience and brand interaction that is unique and memorable for consumers, proves to be the better choice for many in the long run when facing fierce competition. 

Own your Data

Data from your eCommerce site are valuable sets of  information about your consumer niche, your profitable and non-profitable visitors and ways to target and improve conversion performance. An open-source framework will always allow for you to have full control and access to all the data that is generated by your site. It will allow you to create your ways to interpret, deliver and report on sets of data as well as transfer it to a marketing and business intelligence tool that helps your team take full advantage of the information which you see fit to collect. 

With SaaS platforms, you will be able to access your data, however, because that ata is not hosted on your own infrastructure, that data will be interpreted, delivered and reported to you as the platform itself has designed it. With an out-of-the-box solution you are able to work with partner tools for marketing and business intelligence which can still be useful for your business, but there is no telling the potential of information you’ll be missing out on at any point. 

With the availability to gain valuable insights about consumer behaviour, beyond what you could in an on site store, you are able to make smarter decisions about your marketing, sales and costs to remain competitive. Owning your data is important, but how important and which one is important, will depend on the priority of your business. 

Sticking to your budget. 

As mentioned earlier SaaS platforms require you pay a fixed fee every month/year for their software, some may require a percentage of your store’s sales volume as well or instead of.  Our take on this investment is that you will be spending budget maintaining your storefront, instead of investing to grow it. Granted if you are a small business owner you will be paying for a framework that scales if  your store does.

As for open-source frameworks, the use is entirely free to use, but it comes at a cost of needing  to hire expert talent to set up your site correctly and maintain it. This will require long term (possibly large) investments, however, the flexibility and scalability you receive in return can be a significant success driver. Our take is that when your remove the cost of building your site from the software, you are able to focus your investment on solutions tailored to your brand. You can scale your business as your grow, with the flexibility necessary to do so. 

Time is money

When setting up a new store, it will always be faster to use a SaaS solution than to go with an open-source framework. However, when it comes to the speed of delivery you may want to consider the benefits of having a seasoned development team as your partner, readily available for any fixes or features your site needs work on. In uncertain times like these, a skilled engineering team at hand will not only be able to adapt to market demands quicker but also optimize, customize and maintain the shopping experience that will allow you to continue converting. 

Capitalizing on the right times and opportunities to keep your eCommerce site top of mind, means making smarter decisions for your business. If an out-of-the-box solution will become a hassle of implementing hacks that end up costing you more time and budget to maintain, it might be best to consider initial development with a different platform. 

There are many factors besides these to consider when choosing which eCommerce platform you need, but if you have a clear roadmap for your business and a vision for how you want it to grow, chances are you already know the right pick for your. 

If you need help making the right decision we encourage you to reach out to our experts for a free consultation of your site set-up.

- Resolve Digital is committed to helping our clients create an outstanding and unique customer experience and we are happy to meet with you and  listen to the specific challenges your company is facing in this current climate. 

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