Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash
Everybody sells something online. If you’re in e-commerce, the number of ways to connect with your customers is growing. Social media, marketplaces, auctions, daily deals sites – it truly seems your brand should and can be everywhere. However, building an own e-commerce 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, e-commerce platforms, and custom e-commerce web development. Let’s figure out what approach and tools would be right for your business.
E-commerce web development options
When you are looking for e-commerce development solutions, numerous comparison guides may rather confuse you than help you sort things out. It seems like every software is named as being the best one. And, all of them promise to cover your needs. Not to mention, all of them are out-of-the-box ready 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 e-commerce websites once used to associate solely with cheap subscription solutions for mom-and-pop stores. Now, there are feature-packed hosted e-commerce platforms serving enterprises and charging thousands of dollars per month. But let’s look at the main four ways businesses choose to build an e-commerce website:
Paid hosted e-commerce website platforms, such as Shopify or BigCommerce. They sell standard off-the-shelf e-commerce stores, provide hosting and technical support.
Self-hosted open-source e-commerce 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 e-commerce modules.
Custom e-commerce 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 e-commerce platforms usage, you’ll see that every type of e-commerce 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 e-commerce plugin is a good choice
Almost three million businesses use WooCommerce to sell their products online. The popularity of this e-commerce 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 e-commerce functionality to your website.
Set up a blog on your e-commerce 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 e-commerce platforms offer the easiest start
Stats show that more and more retailers opt for Shopify. This hosted e-commerce 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 certain monthly fees and share some percentage of your revenue with the service 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 e-commerce platforms will give you freedom
By choosing self-hosted software, like Magento Open Source, you’ll rely on the tech heritage accumulated by a huge e-commerce 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 Magento Open Source 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 e-commerce 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 e-commerce 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 engagement never truly stops, right?
Custom e-commerce development helps you innovate
Despite the popularity and variety of out-of-the-box e-commerce software, some businesses choose to build custom web applications from scratch. Today’s custom e-commerce 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:
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 e-commerce 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 e-commerce developer?
At Proxify you’ll find excellent e-commerce web developers that can either build an online store from scratch or customize and optimize a standard WooCommerce or Magento installation for you. Reach out to us and meet the right tech expert for your engagements within just a few days.