Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash
Everybody sells online. If you’re in eCommerce, the number of ways to connect with your customers is growing. Social media, marketplaces, auctions, daily deals sites – it seems your brand should be everywhere. However, building an own eCommerce website is what everybody starts with. Your branded online store becomes your first online outlet and then gradually transforms into a hub integrated with all other sales channels.
What’s the best way to launch an online store today? It’s easy to get puzzled when choosing between website builders, eCommerce platforms, and custom eCommerce web development. Let’s figure out what approach and tools would be right for your business.
eCommerce web development options
When you are looking for eCommerce development solutions, numerous comparison guides may rather confuse you than help you sort things out. It seems like every software is named the best. All of them promise to cover your needs. All are out-of-the-box and at the same time super customizable solutions.
Moreover, with the growing number of features, versions, and editions the lines between different types of software get blurred. For example, hosted eCommerce websites once used to associate solely with cheap subscription solutions for mom-and-pop stores. Now, there are feature-packed hosted eCommerce platforms serving enterprises and charging thousands of dollars per month. But let’s look at the main four ways businesses choose to build an eCommerce website:
- Website builders or CMS with eCommerce plugins, such as WordPress + WooCommerce. They allow creating multi-purpose websites with blogging and shopping functionality.
- Paid hosted eCommerce website platforms, such as Shopify or BigCommerce. They sell standard off-the-shelf eCommerce stores, provide hosting and technical support.
- Self-hosted open-source eCommerce platforms, such as Magento Open Source or PrestaShop. They provide free-of-charge software for you to download and build an online shop on top of it using the widest variety of pre-build eCommerce modules.
- Custom eCommerce web development, headless commerce apps built by software developers from scratch using general-purpose web application development frameworks.
If you check the BuiltWith statistics on eCommerce platforms usage, you’ll see that every type of eCommerce solution owns a significant share of the market. Some are chosen by smaller businesses, while others became a go-to option for enterprises. Let’s zoom into each option and consider its advantages, disadvantages, and common use cases.
A website with an eCommerce plugin works just fine
Almost three million businesses use WooCommerce to sell their products online. The popularity of this eCommerce plugin comes as no surprise because WordPress remains the most used CMS in the world. Considering the recent improvement of WooCommerce, it now can fully satisfy the needs of many businesses. You can consider this option if you’d like to:
- Sell relatively few products that fit into a standard business product model and won’t require adding advanced eCommerce functionality to your website.
- Set up a blog on your eCommerce website, rely on it as a substantial part of your marketing strategy, and have an easy-to-use CMS to manage it.
- Keep your hosting, infrastructure, and development costs low by engaging developers only part-time and paying lower hourly rates.
When choosing this option, you’ll need to hire a WordPress developer to add the retail part to your website. They’ll install and configure the WooCommerce plugin, set up all the must-have integrations for inventory, messaging, checkout, and shipping. Afterward, you may need to engage a developer from time to time to do technical maintenance, performance optimization, and make changes in design.
Hosted eCommerce platforms offer the easiest start
Stats show that more and more retailers opt for Shopify. This hosted eCommerce website builder attracts those in need of a quick, easy, and proven solution with all of the technical burden shouldered by the provider. Shopify or similar platforms would be a good option if you need to:
- Launch a standard online store with functionality and design relying completely on the platform provider’s approach to creating online shopping experiences.
- Offload technical support of your shop to the solution provider and don’t bother yourself with hiring developers or dealing with hosting services.
- Have predictable and stable operating expenditures that depend on the sales volumes or number of items in your inventory.
When you go with a hosted solution, you won’t need to hire developers. On the one hand, having all updates, security, and performance covered by the platform can save you money and effort. On the other hand, you’ll be paying monthly fees and share some percentage of your revenue with the provider. It may also be quite difficult to switch to another platform if you see that your business needs a change because your data will be stored by the provider.
Self-hosted eCommerce platforms give freedom
By choosing self-hosted software, like Magento Open Source, you’ll rely on the tech heritage accumulated by a huge eCommerce developer community. You’ll take advantage of ready-to-use solutions but get full control over the functionality, design, architecture, and data for your website. Here are some reasons for you to choose this type of software to power your online store:
- Manage large inventories with over a few hundred products, sell through multiple storefronts from a single inventory base, and leverage integrations with other sales channels.
- Create complex or grouped products with custom attributes, leverage cross-sells and up-sell, run discounts and offer gifts, distinguish between different customer groups, and be very flexible in doing any other advanced adjustments.
- Add custom features and unique modules that reflect the specifics of your business instead of adjusting operations to the standard eCommerce functionality.
Creating an online store based on self-hosted open-source software implies hiring a Magento developer for long-term cooperation. At first, your developer will set up a basic version of your eCommerce website. Then, you may need to remove redundant functionality, add custom features and integrations, optimize performance and infrastructure resource utilization. At later stages, you may need the developer’s help to handle updates and introduce changes, as the work on a custom project never really stops.
Custom eCommerce development helps you innovate
Despite the popularity and variety of out-of-the-box eCommerce software, some businesses choose to build custom web applications from scratch. Today’s custom eCommerce programming is not about writing static HTML websites anymore. It’s about building headless commerce apps, progressive web apps, or single-page apps using the latest technologies. You can consider this option if you want to:
- Leverage modern web development frameworks, such as Vue, React, or Angular, which allow building web apps with UI and UX that can wow your customers.
- Have fast and modern programming languages on the backend of your app instead of legacy PHP that is used by most CMS and eCommerce platforms.
- Have full control of your store’s functionality, get all features built exactly how you need them, and win from custom integrations.
Although engaging programmers for custom eCommerce development may be the most expensive option, it’s good for building unique stores. Developers often say that it’s sometimes easier to build an app from scratch than heavily customize a standard solution. It’s especially true if your sales cycle and product configurations don’t fit into a standard flow and settings of an ordinary online store.
Looking for a good eCommerce developer?
At Proxify you’ll find eCommerce web developers that can either build an online store from scratch or customize and optimize a standard WooCommerce or Magento installation for you. Send us your talent request now and meet the right specialist for your project within the next two weeks.