Custom eCommerce Development vs Open-Source Platforms
11-minute read
Published 16, Jan 2020
Trying to decide which eCommerce platform to use to kick-start your existing website or newly established e-store? First, you’ll need to think through all the available options and make sense of different types of eCommerce solutions. They may vary depending on your business model (B2B, B2C, C2B, etc.), eCommerce website size (small, mid, or large) and your own specific goals. Then you can carefully weigh up all of the possible pros and cons of eCommerce development platforms. This way, you’ll be able to decide upon a cost-efficient solution that is perfect for your business. In the following article, we’ll walk you through some key features of modern top-ranked eCommerce platforms, digging deeper into their advantages and disadvantages. We’ll also explain why custom eCommerce solutions for building an e-store are still highly valued among enterprise and start-up decision-makers.

Integral Features of a Winning eCommerce Website

To make the purchasing process easy for your customers, you’ll need to include several compelling features in your mobile application or website. Here are a few of the most common features:
  • Simple, intuitive and effortless navigation menu, filters, and checkout forms: These are vital features for a user, helping to guide them through a range of multiple product items on your website. One misstep can prompt them to search for the navigation simplicity on the rival’s site.
  • Omni-channel experience: even more than navigation simplicity, consumers value the ability to switch between different devices. Surprisingly the latest survey reveals that users still prefer making purchases on their desktop computers (56%) rather than smartphones (37%). However, 53% of traffic comes from mobile devices compared to 32% from laptops. This mean that consumers often browse using their smartphones.
  • Comprehensive product descriptions: 98% of users abandon a purchase because of incorrect and incomplete product information on the web page or mobile app.
  • Online chats and quick response: More than 80% of consumers want brands to always be available and receive updates about their purchases.
  • Free shipping feature, tracking of shipment details, information about refund and returns: these are the top on-demand features that consumers expect merchants to support.
  • SEO optimization: Organic traffic is the key to increasing brand visibility. Organic searches make up 51% of total site traffic. At the same time, over 70% of people never go further than the first page of their search.

A cost-efficient approach: custom eCommerce solutions or open-source

If you run the type of online store that covers complex modular products, you’ll most likely need vast customization functionality. Template-based eCommerce website builders such as Shopify or BigCommerce fail to provide enough flexibility regarding changes in the core code. Hence, when you decide to expand your offering, an off-the-shelf commercial solution may no longer support the scaling of your business. Custom eCommerce web development allows you to create a unique platform with intuitive UI that is aligned with changing business needs. The downside is that you will initially have to purchase cost-intensive software, tools, and other resources, as well as hire teams of developers and testers. Open-source software is usually defined as source code freely available to anyone who intends to edit it and distribute their own version without any restrictions or licensing fees. However, open-source eCommerce platforms can also result in higher expenses. After receiving free access to an initial build, you’ll soon require a myriad of fee-based extensions or newly developed plugins. If you choose a resource-intensive open-source, you’ll eventually need to buy more powerful servers.

Custom eCommerce development vs Open-Source platforms vs Other solutions

Custom Development VS Open-source development
To understand how other existing eСommerce solutions function, as well as their trade-offs, take a look at the comparison table below:
With a custom-built eСommerce store, you go beyond the basic functionality of template-based or open-source eCommerce websites. Besides, when new functions or updates are released, you won’t have to deal with incompatible plugins or bug fixing. You also get scalability and customization opportunities to enable you to grow your business. Gartner predicts that technologies focused on identifying the specific individual needs of a customer will soon underpin any e-commerce platform. With an integrated smart personalization (e.g., AI recommenders), businesses will be able to maximize their profits by almost 15% in 2020. However, to enable such personalization, businesses should guarantee a high level of customization. For a buyer, customization is a way to narrow down an array of choices in the online store, reducing their level of stress and enabling certain products to stand out. Nike’s feature, ‘Nike By You’, allows buyers to design their trainers themselves by choosing materials, colors, and even printing their own message on the shoes.
‘Nike By You’ feature
Such prime eСommerce stores leverage a customizable eCommerce platform. Unlike hosted or SaaS-based e-commerce platforms (Shopify, Big Commerce, Salesforce Commerce, etc.), they do not allow for heavy customizations on the server side. As per Deloitte, 34% of consumers are not satisfied with the current level of customization that brands offer.
A quick, pre-built solution can win over a custom one when you have a physical product or service, which nobody else has or can easily replicate: a niche product (#1). This could be something like original artworks, handmade crafts or services where physical proximity is important. The situation will change if and when you start scaling, but that doesn't happen often and can be re-evaluated later if your business does start to boom. However, if you don't have a unique product it will be tough to offer #2 instead. You can be lean operationally, but you will never beat buying power and the discounts of the biggest sellers. This leaves you with the last, but most viable choice—to build your customer experience on your platform as your product and build up brand loyalty. This is not a one-time gig; this is a journey of constant improvement and innovation, of probing and failure, of using your own creativity or copying what others do. It is a game in an intangible field of emotions, needs and preferences. And you can't achieve it with your hands tied to a  one-size-fits-all commercially available product. Yes, it may seem expensive at first, but it's worth it in the long run if you know what you're doing and have a capable and scalable team to execute your ideas successfully. Denis Rogov, President, Zoolatech

5 Sought-after Open-Source eCommerce Development Platforms

Now let’s examine some trade-offs of an open-source eCommerce solution. Open-source has recently been drawing many entrepreneurs away from pre-made eСommerce platforms (e.g., Wix, BigCommerce, Shopify, 3dcart). As per the latest survey, 68% of organizations have already intensified the use of open-source to innovate (29%) and modernize their IT infrastructure. As our table shows, even the most popular open-source eCommerce platforms have their pros and cons:
Open-Sourse platforms benefits and shortcomings
Conclusion In eCommerce, the choice of a proper development platform depends on many factors. This may include your business goals, features that are integral for the website or online store, and industry-specific requirements. In this article, we’ve reviewed the various options available on the market: pre-made eCommerce solutions, cloud-based, on-premise, hosted, open-source, and custom eCommerce website development services. The key finding is that each option suits specific business needs. When choosing a development platform, you should carefully weigh up all the trade-offs. For example, if you opt for a custom eCommerce platform, your initial expenses may be high. However, a flexible, customizable and scalable eCommerce website to match your growing customer base could provide you with exciting long-term opportunities that outweigh those initial costs.
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