If you are planning to get started on eCommerce solution for your business, it can be really confusing to make up your mind about which route to go when you need something that fits your budget, meets your business requirements and is also scalable when you need to expand. Here is a guide that covers possible options and also mentions advantages of each type of system and problem area for each different type of solution. This guide does not compare each solution with others but mentions pros and cons of “types of platforms” over the other possible options.
Open Source Solutions for eCommerce
As per an estimate, more than 70% of websites as on date are running on Open Source or Community editions of different solutions including WooCommerce, Open Cart and Magento Community Edition and many more. As you can notice, most of these are built using PHP which to a lot of developers sounds like a language that has tons of limitations and is not optimized for performance and scalability. Anyway, the topic is about costs and comparison of available options and Open Source is FREE which makes it sound like the most cost effective option to get started. No doubt, it is free if you know how to download, set this up on your server, setup the database and make the required edits when you see error while installing the software.
In an ideal world, you are into business and not a programmer so you will be hiring a programmer who will be working on an hourly rate of $15-$100 per hour depending on skills, experience and local wages in different parts of the world. If you feel that you can find skilled programmer for under $15 per hour, all the very best to you and my suggestion will be to have as many projects completed by these programmers as soon as possible. Assuming that the programmer will work on this for 15 days for 8 hours a day setting up the design and plugins you need, you will be spending 120 hours on this solution which translates to $3000 for the initial setup. This does not include the costs for publishing the products in case you have a large database.
Advantage as you can notice is clearly visible that you can get started with your online store for under $5000. Now image that the source code that is powering your website is available to EVERYONE. Yes, since this is based on Open Source, the source code is Open for everyone. Does that worry you? If not – check out the screenshot below taken just now.
Since open source is supported by a large community – most of the questions you might have will possibly have tons of answers available in public domain. If you are a programmer, this can be your best choice when you want to get started and explore an eCommerce business. Open Source has always been and will always remain a programmer’s first choice as this can make a programmer feel in control of everything that is powering the website and the control to make any edits as required.
You need to be careful while making the edits to make sure you do not break the core functionality and your enhancements are not affected when you install a new theme or the next security update/patch or upgrade your application to next available version.
Costs and Timelines
An average ticket size for an Open Source Website Only solution can be anywhere between $1000 to $2500 to get started and this can be done within 10 days to 20 days from developers side and additional time and costs to be allocated for publishing inventory which means editing and resizing the images, collecting and publishing all the product information neatly on the website as explained by the application or your developers.
Commercial Solutions from Mid Size eCommerce Companies
Commercial Solutions from mid-sized companies which are available with a one-time license fee are the second option that you can consider, unlike Open Source that is free, this option usually has a price tag of anywhere between $500 to $10,000 depending on the feature set available and package inclusions/exclusions. Most of these solutions will include installation, configuration and some amount of training from the development company. These add-ons alone usually cover the license fee costs when compared to Open Source solutions if you are not a programmer. The higher side of the indicated budget is applicable when you buy mobile apps, annual support or some advanced level of integration with third party services for shipping, taxes or payment gateway integration.
While Open Source support is usually dependent mostly on Community Support, Commercial Solutions for eCommerce are supported by the developers. Depending on your SLA with the developers, this support may be anywhere between a few hours to 1 or 2 business days but you know whom to contact when you need help and something is not working on your website. You do not need to read 300 articles, check with your aunt and call your school friend in the middle of the night to get back online again.
These solutions typically are monolithic solutions where all the modules are built as a part of one application which covers:
- Catalog / Inventory Management
- Search and Indexing
- Order Cycle
- Returns and Refunds
- Email Notifications
- SMS/WhatsApp Notifications
You may run into issues when you start getting some good traffic and start to hit profits unless you have a good SLA with developers or someone in DevOps on your side to identify and resolve the issues and apply the upgrades on server as necessary.
Costs and Timelines
An average ticket size for a Commercial Website Only solution can be anywhere between $1000 to $2500 depending on the package you selected unless you ask for a major customization in features or need a custom layout implemented on available features. There will be additional costs for Mobile Apps integration and more if the mobile apps also need customization in terms of design or features. The additional features or customization will be anywhere between $25 to $100 per hour depending on multiple factors.
Industry Best eCommerce Solutions
This is where you can consider Adobe Commerce or SalesForce Commerce Cloud if your have budgets upwards of $200K to get started. Maybe a little more when you need your preferences implemented and Mobile Apps with custom UI and UX implemented to create an impact and for customer delight. There might be an additional fee for strict SLAs and a lead time of 6 months to 1 year to rollout your website and mobile apps depending on the bells and whistles you choose to have on your website.
As this option means you will be starting at $200K, there is no higher side on these solutions which is also practical as these companies have really skilled people to support your business and the application architecture is planned to scale up as required. The solution might also attract an annual maintenance cost which will exceed the costs of the solutions stated above but then you can sleep well and your website will not be down at 2am because you started a sale and there were 100K live visitors on your Website and App at the same time when the midnight sale started.
Custom Built Solution
If you want a complete eCommerce Solution with all the features as mentioned above, and you want this all custom built for you, you sure have some good amount of time and investment or some really simple and documented requirement.
Do you think about buying a company like Microsoft when you want to have one more feature on Windows that Microsoft does not find useful and does not want to build? No you don’t.
Here are some of the reasons you shall consider Custom eCommerce Software Solution
- Your business case has online transactions but its not covered by any of the above
- Your requirements are really simple like 6 products, add to cart and an email notification once the order is paid. OK, maybe an admin area to add another product and check order history.
- You have lots of money and patience
- You have a CTO and a team that has delivered the previous project and you want to keep them busy while you get the next project
- You just raised Series A funding – (waves – We Do offer Custom eCommerce Solutions – Lets Connect)