Welcome back to Trellis’ four-part video series on crafting the ultimate web store experience that best supports your business objectives. Our first installment in this series saw Trellis CEO Isaiah Bollinger diving into the absolute importance of treating your website objectives as software initiatives as you gameplan your eCommerce project. Isaiah is back this week tackling one of the more important facets of getting your project going: selecting your eCommerce platform partner. To start your search, Isaiah boils your eComm partner choice down to one important question: “What is your vision for the next five or 10 years?”

Two Paths: SaaS or OpenSource

As you plot out who your prospective eComm partner is going to be, there are two very specific roads a business can travel down.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a hosted “out-of-the-box” solution retailers can use to build and manage their web store. A SaaS solution lends itself well to those who are looking for a web-based service where a lot of the technical components of running a web store are more easily managed. SaaS generally relies on front-end design options and provides users with an array of templated themes.

Some noteworthy vendors who provide online retailers with SaaS solutions are Shopify and BigCommerce. While using a SaaS eComm partner can be a less expensive option vs. running a more-involved solution that requires developers and engineers, an issue is that SaaS can limit a company’s ability to craft their own unique eCommerce experience. Using a SaaS eCommerce platform has proven to be a helpful solution for companies who are cash and resource-strapped. If you are a company who is going the SaaS route and you’re struggling with who your chosen partner should be, always feel free to reach out to the Trellis team for any insight into which solution to align with.

The other option is choosing to run your own open source solution for your web store. In this instance, you may be thinking “bigger, bolder and broader” with your eComm project. The open source platform option gives companies customized capabilities that don’t exist with a SaaS solution. Companies like Magento and WooCommerce lead the way with providing open source solutions to eComm retailers who have internal developers at their disposal or an agency partner who knows the ins and outs of a complex open-source build (like Trellis, for instance!).

This platform decision opens back up Isaiah’s initial point of planning your long-term vision of what you want to accomplish as a business. “You want to evaluate what is your vision for the next five to ten years.” says Isaiah. “Is it maybe testing the waters and getting a lean infrastructure in place and being really efficient with your website in terms of the cost and the maintenance? If that’s the case, maybe you want to go with software as a service.”

For those looking to scale their eCommerce initiatives and have more control (and potentially more scale and success) with their project, Isaiah speaks to the absolute value of running your own open source solution. “However if you’re like “hey, we have this big vision and we want to build this really incredible technology that our competitors can’t do or will struggle to execute on”, then maybe you want to go with an open source technology because you can have the control to build something really, really unique and not worry about the limitations of the software as a service.”

CRAFTING THE ULTIMATE REQUIREMENTS LIST

The grand hope is, you’ve started to narrow down which solution best-fits your overall organizational needs. Conversations have gone well with an array of potential providers and you’re feeling educated and well-versed on what solution lends itself to getting the ball rolling in a successful direction. Just like getting ready to undertake a home improvement project, you’ll need to sit down and craft a very detailed requirements list that touches upon every facet of your  project build.

Isaiah’s advice is to break your eComm punch list into two phases: Phase 1, is the here and now. What are the specifics of what you need to get your vision off the ground, launched and running? Phase 2 is identifying and listing out your future requirements for the longer-term vision. Your choice of an eComm partner has to solve for both of these phases and allow for you to build your future identity as an online retailer. As an example, if you go with a SaaS solution in Phase 1 but a year from now, your business goals and requirements have shifted vastly, it’s an expensive and time-consuming undertaking to switch platforms or go the open source route. Lock in your vision. Plan for the future and iron out the sum of all present and future parts.

“You don’t want to build something that works now but then down the road, you’re going to have to change right after you’ve just built it.” warns Isaiah.

DISSECT YOUR BUDGET AND IDENTIFY ALL COSTS

The decision you make on who will support you in your eComm project, like anything else in the world of business, requires you to dig in and do your homework. Interviewing or researching only a handful of solution partners can limit your ability to find the eComm solution that best works for you. Go deep, research and talk to everyone you can think of and utilize your network of people who may have traveled down a similar path before.

“Get a lot of quotes and maybe talk to some industry experts and get a sense for the cost ranges it takes to build a site on that platform and also the maintenance costs of running your website on that platform over the course of a year or multiple years to get a better sense of “does my budget really fit with the platform?”” Isaiah suggests.

The process isn’t just identifying the cost of the solution itself. Something to consider are the entry costs to onboarding a solution and the cost of building your site on the platform you’ve already paid for. Maintenance costs, licensing costs and additional fees all factor heavily into forecasting an overall budget. This makes your requirements list that much more important as you delve into choosing not only a partner, but the costs to building out an overall solution.

 

We hope you’re finding value in this video series and Trellis is here to help with all of your eComm project questions. With over 100 successful eComm client builds for SaaS and open source solutions, we have a library of knowledge that we’re always looking to dispense. Stay tuned for our next installment in Trellis’ Video Series on building out a world-class eComm project for your business. We are recognized as a top Massachusetts Digital Marketing Agency on DesignRush.

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