4 eCommerce Technology Approaches to Choose From

March 23, 2020

Technology is often overrated. Don't get me wrong, but in reality, most platforms offer the same features when it comes to eCommerce. It seems, in that case, it doesn't matter which technology to choose, right?

Well, there are four ways to go about eCommerce technology:

  1. Setup a pre-configured cloud-based solution
  2. Setup on-premise or self-hosted open-source solution
  3. Setup an enterprise-grade e-commerce platform
  4. Build your own

Let's take a look at each option in more detail.

Pre-Configured Cloud-Based Solution

If I had to name one, then it would be Shopify. The good news is that even though it is a cloud-hosted platform, it allows you to customize the user experience quite freely, and you can create your own plugins and logic if required. 

It's inexpensive to start, at least from a subscription standpoint, and you can scale the platform if needed. Keep in mind that eCommerce websites are usually high traffic sites and the hosting requirements to ensure seamless browsing and transacting require a lot of server and processing power. That's why it's better to be prepared to scale your hosting plan in the event you are planning to create a lot of traffic on your site. Why wouldn't you?!

However, don't be fooled. While it may only take 5 minutes to set up a Shopify account, you still have to configure, populate, operate, market, and merchandise your store.

On-Premise Open Source

This category is more complicated to evaluate, and where you would usually find your Magento, WooCommerce, or nopCommerce fans. Again, in my opinion, it's not about which platform, but how much you are willing to invest in maintaining an open-source and self-hosted platform over time. 

Self-hosted systems require ongoing patching, updates, and maintenance, and immediately, the cost involved will exceed the price you'd be paying for a one-for-all cloud solution, such as Shopify.

eCommerce website owners may experience costlier hosting costs when scaling their high traffic transactional sites on open source systems. This is mainly due to the technical architecture of most open source applications and the fact that scaling a multi-tier architected eCommerce site, can involve a more resource-intensive hosting setup.

If you think you won't have that much traffic on your website, then think again if you need any of these more complicated systems in the first place.

Enterprise-Grade eCommerce Solutions

These to my mind come together with a lifelong consultancy subscription and, from a technology perspective, could be outdated quickly. They may bring the advantage to come bundled with a lot of the "back-end" stuff you will require, such as warehouse management, ERP, inventory, etc. 

Remember, eCommerce is a fast-changing industry, and to my mind, your technology choice should enable you to make changes quickly and efficiently.

You don't want to wait for three months to optimize some of your pages for search engines just because your enterprise eCommerce system requires a month-long release cycle. (True story)

Build Your Own

I think there are a couple of valid reasons when you should build your own system.

First, if you are operating in a niche and you see the opportunity to offer your platform to other companies in the same niche at a later stage. 

Second, your requirements are very particular, for example, you have a specific checkout or ordering process, or your business case is not as typical within eCommerce sites, for example, a food delivery business, selling eBooks, or selling online courses.

Third, you want to invest in your own IP and be able to create a competitive advantage based on having functionalities that your competitors do not have.

As always, making a decision when there are too many choices can be difficult, but by thoroughly understanding your initial requirements and planning your eCommerce operations before you buy the technology itself, you can potentially save you a lot of money.

Read the rest of the articles from this eCommerce Business Setup Series:

4 Things That Make eCommerce Better than Traditional Retail

Keys to an Organized eCommerce Product Architecture and Inventory System  

Crafting a Smooth Operational Plan for Your eCommerce Store

How to Maximize the Potential of eCommerce Analytics & Tracking

How to Align Touch points to Maximize Conversion of Your eCommerce Site

3 Proven Techniques to Increase eCommerce Conversion Using Psychology

Top Merchandising Strategies of the Biggest eCommerce Sites

Leveraging Retargeting & Automation to Increase eCommerce Conversions

Written by
Alexander Rauser
Alexander Rauser


Alexander Rauser is the author of Boardroom Guide to Digital Accountability and Digital Strategy: A Guide to Digital Business Transformation, and creator of the DSX Program, a digital strategy and transformation program for Enterprises.

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