Which e-commerce platform or online store is suitable for my e-business?
Sales growth in quarantine
The Corona pandemic has brought German online retail sales growth of over 100 percent in some cases, and it is clear that the pandemic has permanently changed shopping behavior. The strong growth of online retail is motivating new companies to enter e-commerce and is also changing the conditions for established e-commerce companies. These are faced with intense competition and rising customer expectations.
Whether you're a newcomer or run an established e-commerce website: If you want to provide your customers with a great customer experience, choosing the right e-commerce platform is crucial.
The right E-Commerce-Platform
Your e-commerce platform is the technical foundation for all your e-commerce activities. But in most cases, online store software alone will not suffice. Increasingly, manufacturers of e-commerce solutions are limiting themselves to the development of core store functions. They expect their customers to adapt the store to their individual needs via plug-ins and add-ons. And often other systems such as PIM, e-mail marketing, CRM and content management systems are linked with the store software to form a platform.
A requirements analysis should therefore not only include the store itself, but also possible or already integrated peripheral systems. It is also not very helpful to compare the e-commerce functions specified by the manufacturers. In many cases, it is only during setup that it becomes clear whether the given functionalities meet the actual requirements.
Blackbit supports you with leading E-Commerce platforms
Gartner regularly analyzes the latest developments in various IT markets and publishes its market research findings in an annual report. Gartner's view of the Digital Commerce sector is focused on adaptable and new, technological approaches for efficient customer solutions.
In it, a digital commerce platform is defined as the core technology with the specific purpose of making customers, goods and services accessible through an interactive and customized shopping experience (see post on our blog). In its 2020 report, Gartner lists a total of fifteen digital commerce platforms.
Gartner Magic Quadrant 2021 for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms
We've selected three of the Gartner-recommended e-commerce platforms that we've been helping online retailers with for some time: BigCommerce, Shopify and Shopware. In making our selection, we attached importance to the fact that the solutions have a corresponding relevance in the German-speaking region incl. a large developer community and a cloud and future-proof software architecture. Our platforms Pimcore (CoreShop) and xt:Commerce, which have been used for e-commerce projects for many years, round off the offer.
How do I find the right e-commerce platform?
Regardless of the individual functionalities of the e-commerce solution, there are some basic features that should be considered when choosing your online store. We would like to provide you with some information that will help you choose the right e-commerce platform for you:
Best of breed or integrated platform?
Experience shows: The more additional extensions are installed in your online store, the more unstable the operation becomes and the more costly the maintenance of the e-commerce platform becomes. Companies are therefore well advised to choose an e-commerce solution that already covers the most important functions as standard. There is no such thing as the right e-commerce platform or the best e-commerce platform. There are only platforms that best meet a customer's specific requirements.
Basically, there are two approaches:
An integrated platform that combines as many e-commerce and marketing functions as possible under one roof eliminates the need for many interfaces and thus ensures consistent processes in administration and on the front end. This often pays off in the form of a better user experience for the visitor and greater efficiency for the user in administration. Such an integrated platform is often associated with higher investment costs and is therefore more suitable for large companies.
Alternatively, various software solutions that specialize in one aspect of e-commerce can be integrated with each other. These specialized systems are often superior to an integrated platform in terms of their partial functionality. However, practical experience shows that interfaces often restrict the usable range of functions, which means that the actual usable scope of services may fall short of that of an integrated platform. If these limitations are consciously accepted and integration is possible in the standard, the investment costs are often lower and this approach is therefore more suitable for small companies.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of SaaS and on premise e-commerce platforms?
The solutions we support differ not only in their e-commerce functions, but also in their operating and licensing models. For example, xt:Commerce, Pimcore and Shopware can be operated on premise - i.e. on a dedicated server. BigCommerce, Shopify and Shopware are Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that are operated by the provider itself and leased to the store operator. Shopware is available as a cloud version (another name for SaaS) and a SaaS version has been announced for Pimcore.
Manufacturer support vs. customizability
To compare the advantages and disadvantages of both operating models, you can imagine an iPhone with and without a jailbreak. The closed iPhone is regularly provided with updates by the manufacturer, who takes care of a safe and reliable use. However, customization is only possible within the limits set by Apple. An open iPhone can be customized almost without limits. However, the user is also responsible for safe and reliable use.
Basically, SaaS solutions run with a good performance. However, it is quite possible to outperform a SaaS giant like Shopify, even with xt:Commerce. This requires the appropriate know-how on the technical side, because maintenance, monitoring, and backups must then be handled by the agency and the customer themselves.
While the software license must be purchased for on-premise solutions and the installation of the software incurs higher initial costs, the upfront investment for SaaS software is significantly lower. Here, the customer rents software including hosting.
In terms of data protection, many companies feel safer with an on-premise solution because the customer data is on their own server. In reality, however, cloud companies have created technical and legal standards that are difficult to implement for individual companies that host their own servers.
Open source solution or licensed software for the online store?
Pimcore is published under an open source license, BigCommerce and Shopify can be described as SaaS e-commerce software, and xt:Commerce is classic license software. Since with a SaaS e-commerce solution the store operator usually also does not have access to the source code and cannot modify it, SaaS e-commerce is similar to license software.
But what is the difference between license software and free software?
- No license costs
- Further development
If the software (like Pimcore) is supported by a large developer community, rapid further development is possible.
- Source code is viewable and editable
Errors can be corrected by anyone. Agencies and customers often contribute to bug fixing and further development via so-called pull requests.
- Customizable software
The software can be modified and adapted to your own needs.
- Further development
With an inactive community, further developments come to a standstill.
- Often no guarantees and support
Without support from the manufacturer, store operators are dependent on help from the community.
- Open source code poses dangers
Security-related vulnerabilities are more likely to be discovered and abused.
License e-commerce software
- Warranties and support from software vendors
- Higher security
Vendor takes care of e-commerce software security and provides patches
- License costs
- Fewer innovations and individual solutions
Often less innovative and individual solutions and extensions are available than with open source systems
To combine the advantages of free software with those of licensed software and to eliminate possible disadvantages, many open source software vendors offer enterprise subscriptions that ensure regulated customer service and include missing warranties and additional functional enhancements.
What criteria must B2B store software meet?
- Different logins within one customer account to be managed by the customer himself
- More complex pricing (e.g. individual prices at item level, special conditions for selected customer groups, discounts for bulk purchases)
- Extended shopping cart functions (e.g. shopping suggestions based on previous orders, seasonal events and current campaigns)
If the e-commerce platform is to serve B2B and B2C customers alike, then assortments, pricing and special functions must be carefully delineated. In some cases, even the presentation of the items differs by offering B2B customers further information.
Benefit from Blackbit's e-commerce expertise
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when choosing the right store system or e-commerce platform. It is worth taking the time to thoroughly weigh up the decision from the customer's and the retailer's point of view. This is the only way to avoid bad investments in the introduction of software that, in retrospect, is not the best fit for your company and your customers.
As an experienced digital commerce agency, we are happy to help you define your requirements and advise you personally on choosing the right e-commerce solution. If you wish, we can of course also support you in setting up and customizing your e-commerce platform, as well as in developing and implementing online marketing strategies for sustainable e-commerce success. Arrange a non-binding initial consultation now.