Guest blog by Ryan Shields, CEO of Indaba Group
Trying to decide between a licensed ecommerce solution or a SaaS solution is a big decision. It’s not one that should be made quickly or independently. There’s no one right solution for every business--your unique business objectives, organizational structure, digital strategy, budget and numerous other considerations must be weighed to find the right fit for your brand. To help guide you along this path, start by asking yourself these four questions.
1. What total cost of ownership (TCO) can your business afford?
When building a new ecommerce website, you don’t just pay for the upfront development work. There are ongoing costs to using the platform, server capacity, site maintenance, site optimization and enhancement, integration, testing, design and more. SaaS solutions can be nearly 50% less than proprietary or licensed solutions, and may be a better option if you’d prefer to outsource design, development and maintenance for a monthly subscription fee.
2. What other technologies need to be integrated?
Every online retailer works with numerous technologies to help manage and optimize various aspects of their business, including ERPs, CRMs, order management systems, shipping and fulfillment platforms, email and digital marketing platforms, sales tax tools, optimization software and the list goes on. In fact, Internet Retailer reported that most retailers work with as many as 15 different backend technologies to power their sites.
To keep things running smoothly, and reduce confusion, missed opportunities and stress across the organization, you need a platform that integrates all of your technologies as seamlessly as possible. Both licensed and SaaS solutions can be customized to integrate various other tools and technologies, but the level of development work required to implement on your site may vary. Be sure you have a complete list of all technologies that need to be integrated on your site when vetting ecommerce platforms.
3. What volume of traffic do you predict in 3 years? 5 years? During peak shopping seasons?
Increased traffic is always a good thing, right? Not if your site can’t handle it.
A site that loads slow or crashes due to increased traffic can have both immediate and long term negative effects. At the time of crash, users will simply go somewhere else. But this experience can also leave a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth and they may never return to your site again for future purchases.
Therefore, whichever solution you choose, you need to know that it can handle varying traffic volumes caused by normal business growth over time or unexpected spikes. And you need to know that their method for handling traffic surges is cost-efficient for your business. Some licensed solutions will have you pay for benchwarmer servers--those sitting idly by in case they’re needed for an unexpected spike. Many Saas solutions take onus for providing highly available, secure and robust server infrastructure at no additional cost to the retailer.
4. How soon do you need to launch?
Unexpected issues and hidden factors of implementation always occur with each new ecommerce platform. You can be the most organized and prepared business and still encounter these snags. The thing here to consider is what type of support is provided by the folks that own the platform and the folks developing your site?
You should always pad your launch time to accommodate these unexpected issues regardless of whether you choose a licensed or SaaS solution; however, I’ve found that SaaS vendors are often more committed and invested in helping you implement their solution efficiently and effectively. SaaS solutions may not shorten launch time, but they can make the process less stressful.
I urge you to do your due diligence when choosing the right ecommerce platform for your brand. Start by asking yourself these four questions, and be sure to continue inquiring about features and functionality until you’ve narrowed down your options.
About the Author
Ryan Shields is CEO of Indaba Group, our strategic partner and officemates! Indaba is an award-winning digital agency focused on ecommerce and enterprise solutions. They collaborate with brand and industry partners to innovate digital experiences that drive sales and grow their business.