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eCommerce Infrastructure (Part 1) – Understanding your options for eCommerce infrastructure solutions

July 29th 2021
Henry Allen | W2Solution
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Key Takeaways

·       When considering building an eCommerce website it’s important to create a website that is commensurate to the scale and complexities of your business.

·       It’s important to choose a platform that works with your growth strategies to avoid having to re-platform too soon.

Introduction  

Ecommerce in the eyes of the end customer is simple, you go to your favourite website or marketplace, browse, place an order, and within 1 – 4 days you receive your item. Unfortunately for the seller, the apparent simplicity of eCommerce comes as a product of finely tuned infrastructure on both the Seller and Platform Provider levels.

This piece looks at eCommerce infrastructure, more specifically the main structures for eCommerce website construction.

Our goal is to help you make more informed decisions when deciding what website solution best fits your business. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

What type of eCommerce site construction suites your company?

Application Service Provider (ASP)

ASPs in eCommerce are companies that deliver and manage eCommerce applications from a remote data centre to individuals or businesses. ASPs commonly provide templated website layouts that have eCommerce functionality built-in, such as a shopping cart, checkout and payment options.

ASPs are usually a low-cost option for businesses as most of the usual costly construction requirements are reduced due to the provider being able to reduce costs as a result of economies of scale. Costs such as procuring a new server or designing and developing the website are offered for a very low price and sometimes free by ASPs.

The strategy of ASPs to spread costs is both positive and negative. Sellers benefit from having a low-cost option but will experience growing pains quicker than other solutions. The result of being on a shared server is that when you see success and begin to gain more website traffic it is common for the site to run relatively slowly. Our blog on Website performance highlights the importance of site speed and the impact downtime can have on revenue.    

Additionally, the ease of setup and savings made by using provided website templates has its downsides. Templates lack originality and flexibility which prevents you from differentiating from competitors and tailoring the customer experience your site provides.

Lastly, if you do not have the technical capabilities to conduct website maintenance ASPs become an appealing option for smaller businesses. It is common for website maintenance to be included within the monthly fee’s ASPs charge. Be aware that each provider offers differing levels of maintenance and support. If your website crashes and the issue doesn’t fall under the scope of the provider, you may find yourself having to hire a developer to resolve the issue, therefore, incurring a cost.  

 

Open Source

Open-source eCommerce software is software that has been made available for anyone to use for free. The holder of the code grants users the rights to use, edit and distribute the source code to anyone. The ability to edit the source code appeals to businesses as it allows them to customise their platform how they see fit.

On the other hand, there are requirements for open-source that may not be initially obvious that you should be aware of. It is necessary to prepare a server to host the eCommerce platform. Whether you decide to handle customisation and maintenance in-house or through a third party will likely depend on your access to development resources.

Security is one area of concern for open source solutions for specific businesses. The level of attention you need to give to security will depend on your business model and other systems you use.

It may be becoming apparent that open source can be a great option if you have the technical resources to be confident that the platform created is robust and will work exactly as you desire. However, if you do not have in-house capabilities you may find open source to be troublesome and as you scale become increasingly costly.

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Package Cloud eCommerce

Package cloud systems are platforms that are usually hosted on a server that is provided as part of the service. The back-end of packaged cloud systems is accessible via online login. The functionality and capabilities possible from each back-end system will depend on the platform provider but usually, they are more comprehensive when compared to ASPs. Some platforms offer all-in-one eCommerce services that allow you to manage all areas of your eCommerce business from a single location. Other providers offer a more streamlined service dependent on your requirements.

Due to most commonly being an enterprise service suitable to mid-large businesses the extent of the “package” provided will likely depend on your requirements. For example, if you already have a beautiful front-end the provider will likely be able to work with your existing infrastructure and connect your front-end, allowing for additional eCommerce capabilities without disrupting your existing front-end.

The cost of package cloud systems ranges depending on the scope of the project but are usually not the cheapest option, hence the suitability for mid-large size companies. Package systems appeal to eCommerce businesses as they allow for as much customisation as desired, advanced functionality and their ability to scale alongside your business.

 

From Scratch

Building an eCommerce platform from scratch allows you to incorporate any design and functionality you may require. This is a result of having no limitations other than the creativity and ability of the team involved in creating the platform.

The majority of companies will struggle to justify the high cost of developing a platform from scratch which make package cloud systems a logical choice. Those that choose to build from scratch tend to be large corporations that do not wish to be dependent on 3rd party providers and allow their tech teams to take on the responsibility.

In addition to the limitless customisation opportunities, there is the opportunity (arguably a necessity) to implement methods for continuous improvement such as a PDCA cycle. Done correctly this allows the business to be strategic and shape the product and service offering to fit their target audience and remain contemporary. This works well for industries or niches which platform providers do not serve as requirements may be outside of scope for most providers.  

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