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Blog

26/05/2021

Custom or off the shelf e-commerce platform – how to choose?

Blog

The story behind

The factors of e-commerce software

Wrapping up

As we’re living in the digital era, technology has become a big part of our lives. It has transformed the shopping experience as we knew it. Now, it’s about creating the demand and not just fulfilling it. As a result, e-commerce platforms are supposed to be beautifully designed, intuitive, user-friendly, and anticipate their customers’ needs.

Hence, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs wanting to satisfy all these demands don’t know whether to use an off the shelf e-commerce platform or build a customized one. The truth is – there’s no ultimate answer. So how to choose right?

The story behind

The inspiration for this article is based on the true stories of my quite long and multi-threaded relationships with would-be clients. For some reason, the clients decided that they wouldn’t use the solution we proposed.

The solution was optimal – there was a balance between the budget, technology and achieving business goals (not to mention the fact that we worked on it for quite a long time together with the development team and project manager). However, no arguments appealed to the clients. Curious how the story ended? The services are still down, still under construction, while with the first idea, they would have had full digital products by now.

At the beginning of the journey, many of them wonder which e-commerce solution is better for their business. Off the shelf or custom software? Together, we consider the pros and cons of every option and try to choose the one that will bring the most value. 

Sometimes, after comprehensive analysis, we decide to use a ready-made platform, just like here. But when we see that this platform will be a foundation for the whole business and it will grow with the company, we turn to bespoke solutions – as in today’s case. 

But enough talking, let’s compare these two options from the business side. 

The factors of e-commerce software

When starting your e-commerce business or shifting to an online website, you should plan things long-term and consider its growth, security, costs, and many more. For example, will the website handle the build-up traffic? Is it scalable? Will it stand out from the crowd with its design and features? 

Here, I’ll analyze how custom software development compares to commercial software in terms of e-commerce platforms.

Performance & scalability

  • Custom software
    Bespoke applications made with technologies suggested by a software house are faster than the ready-to-use ones. Why? These are the latest frameworks that were tested many times under heavy traffic, and we, as the team, know that they’ll handle it.

    We know their capabilities – they’re easy to maintain and scalable. Plus, our team can integrate your custom-made app with whatever you need. We can implement additional features like custom sales reports and analysis or marketing functions, and many more, depending on your business requirements.
  • Off the shelf software
    Commercial solution’s development potential may be limited. It may not handle huge traffic and has limitations in sales reports, analyses, and marketing functions. Although there are platforms that have many valuable features, you’d have to pay more for them. Each additional functionality translates to additional costs. As simple as that. This factor should be taken into consideration, especially when scaling business is in your plans. 

Uniqueness

  • Custom software
    It’s your application tailored to your business and users’ needs. That means everything concerning the digital product is a result of thorough research, usability tests and teamwork. Plus, since you get to pick all the details, the e-commerce platform is unified with your whole brand. In other words, you have a custom website design.
  • Off the shelf software
    Here, you have some limitation concerning the customization. There are sets of templates, themes and plugins that you can use and make the most of it. However, there’s a chance that many other websites will use the same ones, which is a huge step back when it comes to brand uniqueness.

Security

  • Custom software
    With custom-made software, your data will be properly, securely, and correctly stored. Moreover, the data is thus reliable and detailed so it can be used in generating sales reports – it may contribute to the business’s future growth.

Moreover, when we create our apps, we secure them to today’s highest standards, and every app has to go under security audit. Plus, when we build an app, we’re in complete control of its code.

With a custom-made codebase, you’re not dependent on anything, so there’s no need to worry about updates, security, privacy policy changes, and so on. Instead, your team of experts will take care of it. 

  • Off the shelf software
    The advantage of these kinds of services is that they’re open-source platforms, which means the code base is public, and thousands of people made their part in developing it. Thanks to that, commercial software offers many plugins and extensions which speed up the development process. However, one significant disadvantage is their vulnerability to data breach and cyber-attacks.

Responsiveness

  • Custom software
    Thanks to dedicated work on the product, it provides the users with a smooth experience. Moreover, the platform is intuitive and highly responsive – it works on various devices like mobiles or tablets.
  • Off the shelf software
    It offers a mobile-friendly experience, but it may not handle huge traffic because there’s a shared server involved. As a result, the website may slow down or may crash on specific devices.

Support

  • Custom software
    Software development isn’t just about crafting the digital product but also about what comes after that – scaling, bug-fixing, maintenance. In other words, the experts in the domain that know the product inside-out will assist you with whatever you need.

Check out How to grow your business with custom software to know more about it.

  • Off the shelf software
    Sure, mass-produced e-commerce platforms offer support and experts’ help, but it mostly boils down to the majority’s problems. When an individual issue occurs, it may be hard to find a solution.

Cost-effectiveness

  • Custom software
    Here, there’s no doubt that the price will be higher than in commercial software. However, as I mentioned before, you pay for software along with security, brand integrity, experts, support, and many more. So all the costs will pay off in the end.
  • Off the shelf software
    Yes, the commercial software is cheaper. It’s an excellent option for organizations with a tight budget that still want to be on the market. Plus, estimation on the ready-made e-commerce platform comes cheaper, faster, and time accurate. It’s based on already made solutions that are often open-source (everyone can have the source code of your product) or very cheap to buy, like $50 per template (again, everyone has access to it).

These e-commerce solutions can be made custom as well, but still, they need to follow a particular structure and are limited to what a given product is.

Wrapping up

Of course, there are some awesome off the shelf e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, that will help you start and grow your business. So if you feel like a bespoke solution is too much of an investment for you, pick one of the available options. For some, that’s enough. 

However, if it’s a vital part or a base of your idea, custom would be the most reasonable option. Using a bespoke e-commerce solution means that you can create your online store precisely according to your specifications, tailoring it to your unique business requirements and objectives. With a custom service, you know you’re getting what you need when you need it.

But, again, the final decision is yours.

If you want to ask about something or discuss the topic, DM me on my LinkedIn profile. I’ll be happy to talk to you. 

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