How to choose right Enterprise Ecommerce Platform?
Your business is growing well and you have decided to migrate it to a professional platform. It’s a crucial decision. It's hard to choose upfront one that will fit your business needs, easily adopts to your workflow and will upscale. Without these key requirements, you risk having an expensive toy that keeps spending your time and money with no ROI.
So what are the challenges for business on choosing an ecommerce platform that you will never read on its homepages?
SaaS or Software to Own?
The main question is Software as a Service or a Licensed Software. Almost every post about platforms you will compare and focus your attention on widely known aspects - security, SEO optimization, marketing features, pricing, customer support, interface friendliness, templates available etc. Of course, it’s important and every solution provider is focusing on it. But what really is make a difference?
1. Do you really control your business?
If you are using a SaaS solutions, be realistic: you actually don't. You are very much dependent on your service provider:
Need a competitive advantage for your business? No way, everyone gets it out of the box.
Someone acquired your SaaS provider and policies or support quality drops? Pricing changes? Accept it or spend on migration again to the new SaaS for setup and developments.
- Want a customization? Maybe. But then, probably, overpriced.
- Manage development roadmap? Sure, you can vote for a feature but will it help to get it done?
Of course in a real life, you can't avoid using saas platforms. They are popular, well adopted by the market and known. But be sure of not to put your core business on SaaS.
Licensed software/platforms. Key points here:
- How do you manage the platform, is there staff available on the market?
- License costs, re-occurring or a one-time fee?
- What is the learning curve to start manipulating with the platform?
- The support team is easily available or not, so you have to call & wait over and over…
- Performance. How well it perform on your scale? Double or quadruple?
2. Deploying to your business
Make sure that the software fits your business procedures. It should create a simpler and more organized environment for your business to operate. Try avoiding cases when business procedures are changed to match the software unless there is a real procedural improvement for the business.
3. Integration with your software ecosystem
How well the platform integrates with your systems like ERP, CRM, Bookkeeping, Content providers, Payment gateways, etc. And how to integrate your partner's systems? Your suppliers, your enterprise customer ERP, carriers?
A software needs an infrastructure to run on. But never run your web application in your office unless your office is a professional data center. Nowadays there are a number of options to use. SaaS software will already come along with hosting. Optionally, some vendors offer you an option to host their solution yourself. For a relatively small environment, you can use solutions like Amazon EC2. They are easy to setup but they are not cheap, a monthly bill can easily become 10k USD per month. Rent a dedicated server? Or setup your own rack? These two are rather similar in getting the customized setup the way you want. For larger scales, you will need your own rack. But then get prepared for a significant investment in a hardware. A dedicated server can work well for you unless you're getting outgrown out of it. It's relatively cheap, but it will require certain contractual commitment from your side to the hosting party.
5. Analytics, Custom reporting, and Dashboards
Think about which reporting you need, charts & comparisons, and market analytics. The software should not only support your buyers with buying function but also provide your marketeers with the right tools to manage the traffic right.
6. Inventory and e-procurement
Inventory, ordering, and e-procurement requires a method to track and integrate your inventory with suppliers, manufacturers price list updates, real-time price and availability check, order punch-out, order status feedback, Track & Trace, RMA etc. Every business has its own suppliers and developed own inventory management procedures.
7. Shipping, Logistics and Reverse Logistics
Customer satisfaction greatly depends on how good the shipping is, and how well they are informed of these. It's good practice to inform your customers of the shipment and send him track & trace link. And as a part of your service towards your customers, you may need to to have a workflow for RMA requests.
8. How the big names are doing?
The majority of ecommerce leaders are using custom made platforms. And most advanced are providing API allowing third parties to work with their software: think of Amazon, Ebay, Bol.com etc.
A flexibility of your platform grants the flexibility to your business. A modification in a SaaS webshop/website may be challenging. SaaS is good when you want to pilot your business case. For mature business case, you will need an owned by you platform, capable of delivering a competitive advantage to your business with a better time-to-market then your competitors could. Data integrations should be omni-channeled and omnidirectional, If you are not unable to manage changes to your platform yourself it will weaken your business and your marketing. Make sure you own what you use or have a lifetime license for using and modifying it.
Open source platforms are good as they are, without massive changes. Many free features and add-ons for allow price. But for the enterprise, it’s more productive apply for a custom solution or uses acquire a Lifetime license of a proprietary platform. Which can be significantly cheaper and the project will be less risky than developing a custom solution.
How we see it @ BINTIME
We want to bring a freedom and transparency to enterprise ecommerce world.
Since 2005 my company (BINTIME) has faced many challenges that we solved for our customers. We have developed the ecommerce platform Gepard to match the high-end enterprise requirements for the costs of a mid-end solution. It is able to hold and operate millions of products, it has a modular system, so you are flexible to pick what you need and deploy it in your business processes.