A proverb states, “One cannot build a large building on a weak foundation.” This is not only true but applies to virtually everything – including e-commerce.
Whether you are starting a new e-commerce business, considering switching to a new platform, or moving your physical business online, you need the right foundation to be successful. To establish the right basics, you must use the best e-commerce platform for building and managing your online shop.
To find this option, you need to understand how e-commerce platforms work, what they offer, and compare the pros and cons of the most popular providers.
In this article, we will explain exactly that and help you figure out which platform is best for your business to promote your growth, facilitate your business routine, and scale with ease.
What is an E-Commerce Platform? An e-commerce platform is a software application that enables a business to sell products and services online. For example, you can sell items, create real virtual shops, and simplify payment for your customers with it. Product reviews
Of course, the right foundation for your business doesn’t necessarily have to be the simplest. Nowadays, e-commerce platforms offer a range of features and products that help you track, ship, market, and sell your products as effectively as possible.
Overview of Types of E-Commerce Platforms All e-commerce platforms support you in operating an online shop for selling products and services, but not all platforms work the same way – there are fundamental differences.
The three most common types of e-commerce platforms are:
– Software as a Service (SaaS)
– Open source
– Headless commerce
The type of platform you choose will likely depend on how much technical expertise you bring to building and operating your online shop. We’ll discuss the options further below.
SaaS E-Commerce Platforms SaaS e-commerce platforms typically offer the simplest and most cost-effective way to build an online shop. For a subscription fee (and sometimes a sign-up fee), you get access to a ready-to-use solution to create a shop and start selling.
SaaS platforms are cloud-based and typically paid on a monthly, annual, or on-demand basis.
The biggest advantages of using a SaaS e-commerce platform are:
– Simple payment methods: The use of these platforms is managed on a subscription basis, with the fee based on the size of your business. This can be a cost-effective way to start and expand your business.
– Easy to maintain: Another reason why SaaS platforms are so convenient is that the platforms typically take care of the maintenance associated with running an online shop, including security, web hosting, and software updates.
– Easy to scale: The best SaaS e-commerce platforms allow you to quickly try out or add new predefined features that improve workflows or increase revenue. They also allow you to scale your business effortlessly.
– Integrations: SaaS platforms typically offer user-friendly integrations with other technical tools your business may need, such as inventory management systems or payment service providers (PSPs) like Mollie.
Since SaaS solutions enable quick and easy shop setup without requiring too much technical expertise, they are often used by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
A SaaS e-commerce platform has many advantages – but it is not suitable for every business. One of the main disadvantages of these platforms can be their inflexibility. Unlike other platforms, which we will discuss below, it can be difficult to tailor SaaS platforms precisely to your needs, especially if you are dealing with complex business processes or want to make special individual changes to your website.
With a SaaS platform, you are more likely to be tied to a particular provider. If you have built your business with a particular platform for a long time, you may rely on its features and benefits, or you may lack the resources to switch to another provider.
Open Source E-Commerce Platforms With an open-source e-commerce platform, you have full access to the source code, allowing you to tailor your website precisely to your needs. Typically, you own the code or pay a license fee for its use. This can be a perfect way to create an online shop that offers everything you (and your customers) need.
The biggest advantages of using an open-source e-commerce platform are:
– Flexibility: While open-source platforms are not always easy to create and maintain, they offer almost unlimited possibilities for designing your online shop. If you have the right resources, using such a platform can be the perfect way to create a custom shop that offers exceptional customer experiences and helps you sell as much as possible.
– Integrations: As your website grows, you will need integrations with other technical tools to improve and refine your work, whether it’s with a PSP, customer relationship management software, or other platforms. Since you have the code, you can typically integrate any technology you need into an open-source platform.
– SEO: Search engines like websites that offer unique, valuable content. Since you can create a custom shop with open-source platforms, you also stand out from other providers who may use similar templates or themes for their websites. This can help you appear at the top of the ranking pages for your product or service – and that helps you sustainably increase your sales.
The downside of an open-source e-commerce platform is that you will likely need a lot of technical expertise to create and maintain your e-commerce site. Unlike SaaS e-commerce platforms, you are responsible for operating and maintaining your shop and must take care of security, web hosting, and updates. This means that you can incur high costs without proper planning.
Headless E-Commerce Platforms With a headless e-commerce platform, the frontend of your e-commerce shop, i.e., the customer-oriented part of your website, is separated from the backend systems that control your business’s commercial and operational functions.
Traditionally, the frontend of an online shop is directly connected to the backend, so any change you make to one system would immediately affect the other. With headless platforms, the frontend is typically designed via a custom website or a content management system (CMS). The backend consists of many systems responsible for various trading functions, such as shipping, pricing, and security.
These separate functions communicate with each other via application programming interfaces (APIs), which send out API calls to trigger various actions, such as making a payment or sending an automated email to a customer after a purchase.
The biggest advantages of a headless e-commerce platform are:
– Flexibility: Headless e-commerce platforms offer a fantastic degree of flexibility in creating and operating your online shop. By decoupling the frontend of your website, you can develop it exactly according to your specifications. This means you have more options to edit every part of your workflows to create a unique design, improve customer guidance, and even adjust your team’s management functions.
– Faster and more cost-effective development: Since each part of a headless e-commerce platform is separate, developers can adjust individual components of the infrastructure without having to make changes to others, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
– Speed: With headless, you can create a website quickly and keep pace with market trends and consumer expectations. At the same time, using APIs also means your website becomes faster, which increases the conversion rate, improves your search engine ranking, and enables you to provide customer experiences that truly delight.
– Integrations: Due to their functioning, adding new features through integrations with other platforms should be easy. This means you have more flexibility to deploy new technologies to improve or refine your business processes.