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Choosing SaaS vs Open-Source for your B2B ecommerce software

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When you’re looking for an effective B2B ecommerce software as part of your plans for digital transformation the range of choices can be challenging.

One question you will face is whether a software as a service (SaaS) solution or an open source option will be better for your business.

Making your choice

Your long-term business goals, existing business systems, in-house expertise and your budget will all affect your decision.

For either approach there are a number of important considerations that can affect your business. They include:

  • time to market
  • maintenance and support
  • security and payment card industry (PCI) compliance
  • customization and flexibility
  • integration with existing business systems
  • total cost of ownership

What is a SaaS ecommerce platform?

For a SaaS solution you will pay for a license, normally on a subscription basis. You won’t buy the software outright or install it on your own servers. Instead, it will be hosted and maintained in the cloud by your provider and your users will access it via their web browsers.

For many businesses this is a good option because the provider builds, hosts and maintains the software. They will be responsible for security upgrades and improvements that can all be deployed in the cloud. However, you won’t have access to the source code. Some companies with specialized requirements might feel that this limits their ability to tailor their ecommerce platform to meet their requirements and to innovate.

Examples of SaaS solutions include Cloudfy, Shopify Plus and BigCommerce.

What is an open source ecommerce platform?

Open source ecommerce software allows you to download the source code without charge which you can then view, change, and use as you wish. Because of this widespread availability, it is developed by multiple users in a collaborative way. This means there’s a large community of people with expertise to create new applications. While the open source code is free to download, you will need to host, manage and maintain your application.

If you want specific functionality, you can build it yourself, work with a third party, or look around the community of users to see if a solution is already available. Businesses that are looking for customization and flexibility often find this an attractive option.

Examples of open source ecommerce software include Magento 2 Open Source from Adobe, WooCommerce, which is an ecommerce plug-in for WordPress, and OpenCart.

Time to market

SaaS platforms are hosted in the cloud with ‘out of the box’ ecommerce features, security and customizable themes, You don’t need specialist experience or expertise and you can create a functioning site and be ready to launch in a matter of weeks rather than months or years.

Once you have downloaded open source code and acquired any add-ons you need, which will vary in price, the next step will be to create your ecommerce site and set up hosting and security. If you have in-house expertise, the time to launch your site will be under your control. However, you will need to be very clear about your requirements and, if you’re working with a third party, the specification process can be time-consuming and could be costly.

Maintenance and support

Ongoing maintenance for your SaaS ecommerce platform is in the hands of your provider and will be covered in your subscription. Hosting, monitoring, technical compliance, upgrades and security patches will all be taken care of for you. Your provider will also be responsible for site performance and server issues. If something is causing a problem you will have someone to call.

Maintenance and support for your open source platform will be your responsibility, alongside any third parties you work with. This will include the performance and speed of your technical infrastructure and administration, hosting, software upgrades and updates. If you have multiple extensions and plug-ins for your site you will need to track down the cause of any problems and will ultimately be responsible for finding a solution.

Security and compliance

Cybercrime has increased dramatically so ecommerce sites must be constantly checked for vulnerabilities to safeguard your data and your users’ sensitive information, especially payment details.

SaaS software providers will look after security and PCI compliance for you. If you choose the open source route you will be responsible for maintaining standards and implementing the latest patches or fixes.

Customization and flexibility

Every ecommerce business wants to provide unique customer experiences so you will be looking for more than standard ecommerce features.

You will be able to tailor your site’s theme, product descriptions and checkout to suit your style and branding whichever option you choose. Beyond this, your requirements will govern which solution is best suited to your business.

A SaaS platform is easy and quick to implement because it comes with a lot of pre-built ecommerce functionality and, in most cases, will have an app marketplace for extensions and plug-ins such as marketing and customer retention programs for example.

However, if you need highly customized features, bespoke themes and control over performance you might feel the SaaS environment lacks flexibility. The alternative might be to turn to the large and experienced open source developer community and pre-built extensions to create a bespoke solution or to set-up your own in-house development team.

Integration

Delivering the high levels of personalization and overall user experience expected by digitally native customers will often rely on your ability to integrate your ERP systems with your ecommerce platform. Buying histories, favorites lists, stock availability and delivery details are just a few of the features your customers will expect.

Secure and seamless access to single sources of information in your enterprise (ERP) system alongside point of sale (POS) data, inventory management, product information management (PIM), and third-party logistics (3PL) systems will allow you to meet these expectations with confidence.

Even if this isn’t an immediate requirement for your business it will be a consideration in your choice of platform. The key to success is the availability of powerful application programming interfaces (APIs) and the expertise to use them effectively.

If you have a heavily customized open source site you might find it difficult and expensive to achieve the seamless integrations you need as your business grows.

Total cost of ownership

The equation for total cost of ownership isn’t simple and will need to be offset against the impact of control and customization for your overall business performance.

A SaaS ecommerce platform can be yours for a monthly subscription which could be affected by the complexity of your application, number of users, and the volume or value of sales. Depending on your choice, you might also work with your provider or a third-party agency to implement or manage all or part of your solution which will add to your overall costs. You might also want to use additional apps or extensions to deliver the right level of customer service, along with any required system integration.

SaaS ecommerce platform providers host and maintain many sites which means that the baseline cost of your site can be lower over time and it will be a known cost to your business.

While you can freely download the code for an open source ecommerce platform you will need to invest time, resources and money to create a functioning online store to meet your needs. Depending on your requirements, apps and extensions can also represent a significant cost along with any business system integrations you need. You will be responsible for making it all work together. You will also pay for hosting and, as your business grows, this cost is likely to increase to support extra traffic. You might need some bespoke development skills and you will also need resources , internally or externally, to maintain security, compliance standards, updates and patches.

Make an informed choice

Before making your final decision, you will want to review the best options available to you. We strongly recommend finding out more about Cloudfy as a SaaS solution with extensive B2B ecommerce functionality and a powerful API for all your integration needs.

Book a free Cloudfy demonstration today to find out more.

FEATURED CASE STUDY

Heineken needed to quickly deploy a B2B ecommerce solution to allow their wholesale customers to order online 24/7. From their P.V. Union Brewery in Slovenia, the new client ordering portal would serve nearby bars, restaurants, and distributors with their daily, weekly and monthly orders… Read More