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Best Ecommerce Website For Start-Ups

By Angus  |  29 Dec 2014 10:00:00

Why, As a Start-Up, You Should Choose SaaS Over Installable Ecommerce Software

If you decide to incorporate ecommerce into your new business’s website, you will have to decide between using SaaS or Installable Ecommerce Software.


SaaS stands for “software as a service”.  This is a model whereby software is licensed on a subscription basis and is hosted centrally. In the context of ecommerce this is commonly referred to as a hosted ecommerce platform and includes providers such as Sellr.  Installable ecommerce software is downloaded to your PC before being integrated with your website.  This type of ecommerce solution is often referred to as self-hosted. 


In this article I will make the case of why SME’s should choose the former over the latter.  


The first factor to consider is price.  Whilst Installable Ecommerce Software such as Magento is often free to download, unless you have a website developer on your staff, you will need to find a specialist to build your website for you and take care of the integration between site and software.


Naturally, adding a middle man into the set up process increases costs significantly.  Expect to pay well into the thousands of pounds for a high quality customised website.  For comparison purposes, hosted ecommerce solutions can cost as little as £5 per month and rarely cost over £50 per month. 


Although this is something I have touched on in a previous article, I feel it is worth reiterating.  You may expect the appearance of a custom built website to be vastly superior to a template based version but this is a myth (understandably) perpetuated by the industry.


Many SaaS providers offer a custom designed template service for a fraction of the price most developers charge to build a site from scratch.  This coupled with high quality graphics will ensure that no visitor to the site would be able to tell the difference.


As you would expect, a key benefit of using a SaaS solution is the vastly quicker deployment time. Setting up your site requires little more than adding your products and content.  When you outsource the development of your website it is notoriously hard to predict the length of time it will take to complete the job however you should expect around 12 weeks.


A point I sometimes hear merchants make is that despite the added cost of paying a developer to build their website, they enjoy the peace of mind of having ownership over it.  Initially this is an understandable point of view; however once the website is up and running, you can be sure that the peace of mind you will get from not having to worry about the technical maintenance of your website will far outweigh this!


Firstly is the fundamental issue of support.  You may have paid thousands of pounds for a beautiful fully integrated ecommerce website; however most installable ecommerce software does not come with support as standard.  It is unlikely that you will be amused when you find yourself, despite paying all that money, trawling through support forums to diagnose any issues that arise.


As I mentioned earlier, installable ecommerce software is self-hosted.  This means that you will either require your own servers or to pay for a company to host it for you.  Setting up your own web server is expensive and a constant source of headaches, even if you have your own IT department.  For a start-up business I would strongly discourage this.


Paying for another company to host your website is often very cheap, however maintenance to servers will be conducted at a general level and if your website goes down you cannot expect a swift resolution.


When you use SaaS you are paying for expert support over the phone on demand and an ongoing commitment to maintaining your website and advising you in managing it.


Another issue with Installable Ecommerce Software is the point when the software underpinning your online business becomes out of date.  Once your software has been installed, you will either need to have the skills to update server based software yourself or you will have to pay a middle man again for any upgrade.  SaaS providers manage software updates and upgrades as they become available, so you can be assured that at any one time you will always have the most up to date solution.


To summarise, whilst some of the best websites out there use installable ecommerce software, when weighing up the opportunity costs, in terms of money, time and stress, opting for a fully hosted ecommerce solution becomes a no brainer.  Only if you insist on some highly niche functionality on your website that no pre-packaged software can recreate and have a developer on your start up team could I even begin to recommend going down the installable self-hosted route.  


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