Are you considering creating an e-commerce site? Do you have a solution and want to redesign your site? Either way, you want to perform, achieve maximum savings, install new features… Note, before throwing yourself into the design world of your brand/site, you will be faced with a choice: do you want to create an e-commerce site with an Open Source e-commerce solution or use a SaaS (Software As A Service) solution?

For most of you, cost is a primary consideration. But if you are assuming that an Open Source e-commerce platform will be cheaper, make sure you include all the financial factors, not only for the launch year, but also for the following years, as your online business will grow. Since, as a 1st step, you are going to work on revenue to transform visitors into customers. Once you have an effective strategy, you will attract more visitors. Finally, you will retain your customers and try to increase productivity. At each of these stages you are going to activate different features. Think about anticipating your needs to choose an e-commerce solution that will meet those needs.

In this article we show you the points you should be aware of when you compare Open Source and SaaS solutions.

What is an Open Source e-commerce platform?

An Open Source e-commerce platform refers to technological solutions – such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal – whose source code is made available to users and developers. This code is used, developed and modified by them. The Open Source community is very collaborative, and the core code is generally published for free.

Developers in the community design plugins that allow you to add specific features to your website, to meet particular needs. Sometimes, plugins are free for an often feature-limited version. But most of the time they have a one-off, monthly or annual fee.

An Open Source e-commerce platform has attractive advantages. There are no recurring costs for the platform itself and the large community of developers means that it is usually not too difficult to find people and agencies to work on it. Open Source requires developments and the addition of features as the volume of transactions increases.

Advantages and disadvantages of Open Source solutions

Advantages of Open Source solutions

The Open Source solution promises unlimited development potential for your site for a reasonable start-up cost. This may be tempting for e-merchants who don’t want to be tied into traditional SaaS software. When everything is going well with an Open Source solution, it seems like the best choice.

Disadvantages of Open Source solutions

When things go wrong with Open Source, it can quickly compromise your project and eat into your budget. Plugins are frequently blamed, but not exclusively. Costs related to maintenance, version updates, and functional upgrades account for the vast majority of migrations from Open Source to SaaS.

As technology advances and the needs of your online store change, the Open Source solution will require extra external resources (unless you are a geek in the making!)

You will also need to juggle multiple contacts and interfaces, such as the Open Source solution, the agency that developed your e-commerce site and the hosting company. In this respect, don’t forget to appoint the person who will be in charge of managing the project, as ensuring an Open Source website runs smoothly is pretty much a full-time job.

Businesses that are satisfied with their Open Source site frequently invest in co-management or even outsourcing solutions. In particular, they call on specialist agencies for their site design and maintenance. To avoid crashes, they pay an extra charge to guarantee fast and reliable hosting. These businesses should inevitably have their own tailor-made solutions developed to avoid relying on plugins that could compromise the security and functioning of their sites.

What does a SaaS solution consist of for your e-Commerce site?

SaaS means “Software as a Service”. It is a solution, a software, which is hosted and maintained by a third-party supplier. This software is accessible via your web browser without the need to download any programme.

The principle of the SaaS solution is the guarantee of excellent stability: your e-commerce site is always available for your customers. You don’t need technical skills and you can concentrate on your job anytime, anywhere.  

Advantages and disadvantages of a SaaS solution

Advantages of a SaaS solution

Quick online launch

Setting up an e-commerce site using a SaaS solution takes less time to implement than an Open Source development, which allows your business to sell faster.

Secured data

A SaaS model provides the stability and security that Open Source platforms lack. Do some research on Google regarding security issues with Open Source solutions (WordPress first and foremost).

A feature-rich solution

Merchants are attracted by the ease of use and the reliability of SaaS software. It doesn’t need any development from the user, unless there is a very specific request, and has real functional richness. You benefit from constant innovations and an array of features which can be activated at each stage of your business growth.

No need for technical skills

The SaaS solution allows you to concentrate on growing your business. Ask yourself this simple question: do you prefer to prioritise your server maintenance, the management of software updates, and compliance of your e-Commerce solution with data security standards, or do you prefer to focus on the factors of your success, such as innovation in online sales, your marketing, operational efficiency and improving customer experience?

Disadvantages of the SaaS solution

You have very specific e-commerce specifications; developments will be expected. Do you have a team of developers? Reorganise your organisation!

How do you estimate the cost of creating your site with Open Source vs SaaS?

To work out a typical budget for your e-commerce site, start by calculating the initial construction of the site, then include estimates for hosting, third-party maintenance (updates, security, corrections). Be sure to plan for the cost of plugins to get the essential features which are missing in the core code.

Although Open Source seems to be a cost-effective alternative to a SaaS solution because it often requires a one-off purchase fee rather than a monthly cost, remember to consider the hidden costs, repair and maintenance costs, and lost revenue associated with a site that suffers service outages. All of this adds up quickly and risks penalising your turnover and tarnishing your brand image.

Our final piece of advice: make sure you know the full potential of each solution before making your final decision.

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