eCommerce – SaaS or use a Framework?

So I’m just going to say it. I would never use a SaaS to run my eCommerce website. I’m talking specifically like Shopify or Volusion or similar. “But why?” You ask… “They seem so simple, and fast to get up and running…” Well, yeah. I guess they’re good for some. But here’s some reasons why I wouldn’t use them, I am a web developer by trade so consider that. If you have zero programming ability then we’re coming at it from different angles.


What you might think is good starting out, you may quickly find that you simply can’t do what you want to do because you don’t have control or access to the real code. If you’re perfectly happy working within someone else’s system and you can use whatever integration services they provide, then it might work for you. Simple can mean elegant, it can also mean stupid.


There are many costs in running an eCommerce site, no matter which way you do it. When you’re paying for a service, you’re going to be paying whether you have traffic, sales or not. Yes, if you host your own you’ll still have to pay for your hosting package, but until your site has garnered quite a bit of traffic you can do that for pretty cheap. Whereas for other service based platforms your starting at least for $30 a month, which is pretty cheap… So we’ll call that a wash. Hosting your own will cost a bit up front, you’re talking at very least $10 a month in hosting (probably more), CC Gateway services for accepting payments (variable cost depending on who you choose.) SSL (as low as $10). Plus, if you’re not a programmer, someone to set it all up and skin it for you (thinking wordpress/wooCommerce). But once your setup is done, you can keep your monthly operating costs to just the hosting package.


Nobody wants a site that looks like everyone else’s. Especially if you’re trying to create a brand. Yes, many service provide templates you can choose and offer template design services, often times that can limit the potential of your site if you’re stuck between 3 page layouts, or you want different types of product templates. Or you have to pay more for additional services. Need integration with your ERP or fulfillment software? Unless there’s a plugin, you may be out of luck.


Do you have access to all tags you need to optimize your site for search and for usability? Can you move or compress your javascript? Can you breakup and minimize your .CSS? Do you have access to the title, and meta tags? Are you able to canonicalize URLS? You need to be able to do all of these to be able to optimize your site. Make sure whatever service you’re considering is able to accommodate for search engine optimization.


When you own a business, I think it’s important to own your files, your data, your IP. What happens if one of these hosted services gets breached? Do you think your customers will care if it was your site or the providers? Not if they trusted you with it. Not only that, but who actually “owns” the data? I’d take a close look through the TOS’s to be sure before signing up. Also, you’ve taken years to build a site, a brand, products, whatever, who’s to say it couldn’t easily be “suspended” or otherwise closed by the provider of the service?


Starting a new online venture is going to cost some money no matter which way you do it. I just thought I’d offer my persective as a web developer. I can totally understand why some would choose a Saas. That being said, please do some research on alternatives and also be aware of what you’re signing up for and what costs you’ll be facing no matter which way you decide. Make sure the service you’re looking at can be optimized for search. Make sure it can do things like generate sitemaps, product feeds for merchants, microdata etc. Also, the landscape and technology changes quickly make sure that they’re going to be around and cutting-edge for the foreseeable future.

If you’re interested in hearing about options to host your own eCommerce site, let me know with an email, or in the comments below. There are quite a few out there that are very capable and inexpensive to start with.

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