Quick SummaryEvery eCommerce entity has to decide the (platform of) technologies on which it would run its core business. Once the technological requirements are established, businesses have two options – build their own eCommerce platform (On-Premises) or hire platform services (SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS). For the second option, there are service providers who offer the required technological solutions to eCommerce businesses via cloud-based delivery mode. Each platform type has its own merits and demerits which lead to the factor of suitability. This blog presents a simplified explanation of how to choose a suitable eCommerce platform.

When talking about eCommerce platforms, entrepreneurs must also think from the perspective of their customers. This involves considering the prevalent platforms in the industry, the standard website features offered by similar businesses, the detailing of the search filters, the ease and intuitiveness of checking out, and many such factors. The presence, absence, and effectiveness of these elements depend on the eCommerce platform in use. Needless to say, these elements have a strong bearing on customer experience and their shopping journeys. But how do these considerations relate to eCommerce platforms? This is what we seek to address via this blog. Here, we cover four expert grounds in the selection of an eCommerce platform. Different businesses can see through the lenses of these grounds to suit their unique business requirements.

# 1 Types of ECommerce Platforms

The first and foremost consideration in choosing an eCommerce platform is to assess which type of platform will best suit the business requirements. There are three main categories of eCommerce platforms – SaaS, PaaS, and On-Premises platforms.

SaaS ECommerce

Software-as-a-Service or SaaS eCommerce is the method of online selling by using the technological platform offered by a SaaS service provider. A SaaS software company builds and operates the eCommerce software applications required for online selling. As a service provider, it offers the use of these applications over the cloud/internet to its eCommerce business clients. SaaS is most suitable for new businesses. It offers a jump-start to them instead of having them to spend resources on building an eCommerce platform. Some prominent SaaS service provider brands are BigCommerce, Shopify, HubSpot, Salesforce, and ZenDesk.

PaaS ECommerce

Platform-as-a-Service or PaaS eCommerce is a platform for eCommerce clients or their software development teams allowing them to develop and maintain their own business software applications. The features include application development, testing, storage and hosting, integration, analytics, etc. The logic behind PaaS is to provide developers with the requisite resources to create applications. This comes with periodical subscription charges or any other form as decided by PaaS service providers. Businesses, on the other hand, benefit by not having to invest resources into building these development software applications and quickly move to create their own business applications. PaaS is ideal for growing enterprises that require business software applications which are more what standard solutions like SaaS have to offer. Some prominent PaaS service provider brands are AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Adobe Magento Commerce, and Apache Stratos.

On-Premises ECommerce

The On-Premises eCommerce is the do-it-all-by-yourself kind of eCommerce platform solution. Businesses are on their own to develop and maintain their eCommerce business applications and infrastructure. From software to hardware, everything is done and managed in-house. It offers the benefits of control and ownership. But it also calls for heavy-duty investment both for building and maintaining. On-Premises type is common with big brands and businesses that require tailor-made software solutions.

IaaS ECommerce

Infrastructure-as-a-Service IaaS eCommerce is a type of eCommerce platform solution virtual infrastructural services like virtual machines, networking and remote storage solutions are provided to eCommerce clients. Businesses purchase or hire resources as and when they require saving them the resources to invest in many hardware systems.

The difference between SaaS and IaaS is that while SaaS is a ‘software-instead-of-software’ solution, IaaS is a ‘virtual, cloud-based hardware-instead-of-hardware’ solution.

IaaS is a good strategy for businesses that seek to establish or move towards a more autonomous infrastructural system but are not yet ready to go for a full-scale On-Premises platform. A few popular IaaS service providers are AWS EC2, Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, and Digital Ocean.

# 2 Flexibility, Adaptability, Scalability

From time to time, incorporating changes into eCommerce websites is necessary for a myriad of reasons. The need for this change could stem from growth in business volume, expansion, diversification, technological advancements, competition, new UX requirements, realignment of CX strategies, and a host of other factors. For example, technological developments like metaverse and AR/VR are gaining serious consideration in eCommerce markets around the world. Now, say, if a new player wants to incorporate these technologies in the next six months to one year, it needs to select its eCommerce platform accordingly. Businesses should also bear in mind that one platform may not provide everything. Thus, it is imperative for businesses to check the elements of flexibility, adaptability, and scalability offered by different platforms and service providers instead of looking for the best eCommerce platforms.

# 3 Integrations

Integrations in eCommerce platforms allow businesses to meet their inter-functional and decision-making requirements. Integration provides an avenue for better management. It makes it possible for people from different departments and processes to work in a synchronised manner. For instance, the software data inputs made in fulfilment hubs must stand synchronised with the front-end account/order management used by customers to reflect the most updated order status. Many integration requirements are more or less standard for almost all eCommerce brands. But there could also be variations depending on the specifications and requirements of each business. So, it is important to figure out the integration features and capabilities of the considered platform.

# 4 Costing

Different types of eCommerce platforms come in different price or cost brackets. Most entry-level packages with basic features fall within a relatively comfortable range. In general, SaaS packages are relatively economical in comparison to PaaS-based solutions. IaaS could be a more expensive option than SaaS and PaaS. Even though the services may be cloud-based, IaaS service providers have to invest heavily in building the infrastructure. And physical IT assets cost more than software. The cost of setting up an on-premises platform could be the most expensive option. OP is usually chosen by big companies with extensive and highly curated eCommerce requirements. The option of building an OP platform on a small scale is rare.

The most important aspect in choosing an eCommerce platform is the knowledge and insights of the four types of eCommerce platforms. SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS are cloud-based and the solutions under each are offered by service providers who specialise in them. While SaaS is ideal for startups, PaaS is a better option for growing businesses. IaaS is a discrete choice to remotely fulfil infrastructural requirements. On-Premises platform is best suited for large companies. Each type has distinct merits and demerits. The need is to focus on fulfilling the business requirements instead of going by the standard of most popular eCommerce platforms.

About the Author

Nikhil Agarwal is the COO and co-founder of Your Retail Coach. With command over BPM and SOP solutions, Nikhil has over 10 years of experience in leading SOP development and implementation projects for clients. Nikhil has done his MBA in International Business & Finance from the United Kingdom.