When your e-commerce system needs to be replaced or you are considering a new e-commerce activity, one of the decisions you will be facing is what technology to build your activities on. When possible, EMAKERS is using standard technology.
Why choose standard technology?When you decide to build a webshop, the next question is how to build it.
Your first choice will be whether to develop it yourself or choose for standard technology. If you choose to develop the webshop yourself, you can fully customise it to your wishes. Your web shop’s operations can be fully aligned with your (existing) workflows and you are possibly able to distinguish your digital offer from the competition. However, in order to do so you will have to bring a – big - bag of money. Building a full-featured e-commerce system from scratch, even when you will be using numerous existing components, will cost much more than using an existing system. It will eat budget that you can, for example, also invest in attracting new customers. After your system is built, the money flow continues for (urgent) maintenance, for example to fix security vulnerabilities or execute renewals.
When you opt for standard technology, you can assume that it will never fully match your company’s workflows. Standard out of the box technology will probably meet 80% of your needs. Through commercial add-ons, you can boost this up to 90 or 95% of your needs. For the remaining functionality, you can make your own development or decide that the additional effort is not worth the investment.
If you choose standard technology, you have two options. You can choose for the "local" installation of an e-commerce system or sign up for a so-called hosted solution.
The main benefit of a hosted solution (also known as a cloud or SaaS service), compared to a local installation, is the convenience that technical maintenance is - by default – executed by your provider. The service is endlessly scalable and you can start almost immediately without investment.
A local installation, on the other hand, gives you more freedom and flexibility in your own development, is easier to integrate with other online services and is usually cheaper in the long run.
If you choose a local installation, you can choose between an open source e-commerce system or a commercial package. If you choose an open source system, you know that you will do well regarding continuity. The largest open source e-commerce systems are maintained by hundreds of programmers who contribute to the development of the system. Such platforms usually also play a leading role in the technological development for e-commerce systems. Last, but not least: in an open source system, the source code of the software is public and the basic package is available free of charge.
When you choose a commercial package (or: closed source), you are often making a strategic choice for a particular partner or functionality. Switching from one to another platform will be more difficult and you will depend more on the technological developments planned by your supplier. An obvious benefit of a commercial package is that the code is managed centrally, making it stable, fast and less vulnerable to hackers. An obvious disadvantage is the high license cost and less technological innovation than open source.
Most open source solutions also have a commercial variant. An attractive variant combining the best of both worlds.
Where to start?There are hundreds of e-commerce platforms and at least 10 to 20 good systems. It is impossible to state that a single platform is the best platform. ‘The best platform’ depends on your own list of business and the technological know-how in your organisation.
|Local open source installation||WooCommerce, Magento, Shopware, PrestaShop, OpenCart|
|Local installation of a commercial package||ATG Commerce, Demandware, Volusion, Intershop, IBM Websphere|
|Hosted- or SaaS-solution||Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace|
Obvious business requirements that you can expect to be supported by each e-commerce system as a default function include:
- support for multiple languages;
- the ability to pair the system with other systems using an API.
- the possibility to place pre-orders through the system;
- the set up of specific B2B customer profiles with different purchasing rights.
For the development of an e-commerce platform, a lean and mean approach is recommended in which you develop a (working) prototype and test it fast with your target audience. Nevertheless, we always recommend that you document your needs in a structured way, for example, through a traditional MoSCoW analysis in which you categorise your list of desired functions. Each function should include a clear business owner and the degree of importance (must have, should have, could have and would have). Your business requirements then can be translated into functional and technical requirements by your e-commerce partners. Such documents describe what the system can do and how it is done.
The list of business and / or functional requirements then can be checked with the technology you have in mind.
Are you already using ERP, CRM or other software?If you are already using an ERP or CRM system within your company (and are not planning to replace these), you should of course search for platforms compatible with your systems – and remove systems that are not compatible from your shortlist.
If you combine your e-commerce platform with your ERP-system (or WMS), for example, you are able to view your real-time stock, import product information directly, and automate order handling.
If you combine your e-commerce platform with your CRM-system, it will be easier to maintain a clear picture of your customer in all sales- and communication channels, resulting in a better customer service. Obviously, this will also benefit the quality of your customer data.
Generally speaking, a widely available e-commerce platform often has more default integrations with other systems than a system used by ‘only’ a few hundred companies. After all, developers first build something that could be widely used. Do you need an e-commerce platform that is able to communicate with other systems? Then you probably choose a platform like WooCommerce, Magento or Shopify. On the other hand, platforms like OpenCart, Weebly, nopCommerce or osCommerce are less likely to be the best fit for your requirements.
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