E-commerce which Solution and how ?
The question to ask from the outset is NOT which is the best known platform or software that allows you to create an E-commerce ? But rather which strategy to adopt from the beginning for a medium-long term web platform, how to start, target audience, the logistics you need behind the ordering process and which payement gateway are quite flexible and secure in the country where you operate.
Start local, grow national, grow European or international depending on your business plan and invest more in tenders only when you start making real profits.
The big deal:
- Use and pay for a known, proprietary intermediary E-commerce platform.
- Create your independent platform without any intermediary, using your own Open-Source platform.
If you go through an proprietary intermediary platform:
- Your E-commerce will belong to an external company (and not always in EU).
For example Shopify or Squarespace (not under Swiss legislation)
- Your E-commerce will propose their options and functionalities.
- Your are trapped by their template and, especially, their payement methods.
- On each sale, many companies take a commission of up to 2%.
- Every E-commerce will have the same “clothing“.
- Not scalable, depending on the company evolution.
- Not be able to choose or change your provider so easily (rebuild everything).
- You will be locked into their hosting service provider. Migration will be difficult.
Notice: For local merchants, Shopify payments can’t do the payment processing for stores based in Switzerland since they haven’t expanded it in yet.
Bear in mind that these big companies supplying centralised E-commerce services may get bought out, change their policy, etc.
At first glance, e-commerce centralised platforms seem to be cheap (free domain name, etc.), allow you to quickly design “attractive” websites without any technical knowledge, but they will not allow you to control your data.
If your E-commerce will have a growing success, your Hosting provider need to be scalable in ressources.
If you choose a centralised external platform you emphasize the visibility of the company that offers you the service, not your own company. For Swiss-based companies (SMEs), we strongly recommend too choose external service providers registered under Swiss legislation and that meet Swiss standards.
If you develop a custom solution for your online shop:
- Open source E-commerce frameworks are “free” (with some premium features).
- You often have more creative control over the design and functionalities of the store.
- Open source solutions often contain more unique features because they are constantly being developed.
- You can choose your hosting provider, plugins and themes that would fit in your store.
- Open-Source systems are built by a community. They are incredibly user-friendly for developers and the support is excellent.
- Source code ownership and customisable open-source libraries.
Open-Source solutions have other complexities:
- Open source E-commerce platforms generally require more development or coding and design knowledge.
- Your developer must be experienced and able to advise you on the best hosting solutions.
- Any interactive (dynamic) website requires maintenance, security and speed optimisation that should not be neglected.
- A preliminary study of your business processes is necessary;
- Create user-friendly website integrating a sober graphic design which corresponds to your visual identity.
ARTELABS DIGITAL helps you to design your custom platform by staying close to the customer, as a partner, providing assistance, advice for the success of his online web project.
The strength of E-commerce centralised solutions in SaaS is that you can get started quickly and “cheaply”. Indeed, you do not have to go through a web agency, the platform is already ready to use. You just have to create an account, choose the formula that suits you best, choose a template and you can start creating your products. All the complicated steps involved in creating an online store site that you own are thus avoided (hosting, server configuration, technical settings of the site, integration of payment solutions, updates etc…).
The hitch of these solutions are the payments and the multi-language options. Most SaaS solutions are abroad (France or United States) and few are adapted to the specificities of our country.
In Open Source solutions, the possibilities are much wider. There are no dependencies and you are completely free to modify and adapt your site to suit you. The addition of modules, plugins and extensions is unlimited, which allows you to find (paying) solutions to your needs. However, this independence has a cost, that of technical knowledge and expertise. Having access to the source code, it is essential to be at ease in the field of web development, to have a developer in your team or to use a web agency.
Proprietary SaaS vs Open-Source
SaaS proprietary platforms:
Software As A Service is a software licensing and delivery model in which third-party providers host key functionalities website ready to use with many attractives templates for an ongoing fee. Customers pay a fee for as long as they use the platform.
SaaS platform providers are securing, maintaining, and hosting the platform on their own service and responsibility. This means that users are limited in their ability to edit or change the software’s code.
Is the easiest choice because the user can do everything online (no coding required). On the other hand, the company that provides this solution sponsors its own brand and offers its own payment methods which are not always suitable for Swiss or EU SMEs.
If you start an e-commerce business this choice of “simplicity” makes SaaS solutions very interesting to many: it’s simple, visual and quick done, No coding, no web designers, no security to take into account.
Before choosing a turnkey solution, ARTELABS DIGITAL suggests that you carefully read the conditions and the contracts (disclaimers). Be aware that if you are under US or non-EU legislation, your rights will not apply to the Swiss GDPR regulation.
The main advantage of an open-source e-Commerce platforms is that online retailers have full access to the software’s source code. If there’s functionality that you’re missing, your agency can build it specifically for your needs. There are also large development communities built around the platform that you can leverage. Open-source software is known for its customisability, flexibility and be scalable.
Open-source platforms are powerful and customizable but also very complex, and certified developers best handle changes. Open-source software is often developed collaboratively through worldwide communities (like WordPress for example).
You can certainly accomplish much more with an open source platform; however, it is more important to choose a competent and experienced partner to work with.
Before starting an e-commerce business
What you need to know and prepare
Creating your own website
Popular E-Commerce "Open-Source" CMS
Magento Commerce is NOT anymore totally an “Open-Source CMS”, it has been bought by Adobe. The software meet the small business, mid-sized business. Despite all, Magento is still a strong choice for e-commerce stores that are committed to the idea of a “free platform”, you can still download your own release () and deploy it on your own server:
With the Git clone the developer should be:
- Highly technical,
- Understand Composer and Git commands, and
- Be able to upgrade the Magento system software and extensions using those commands.
With the archive (zip/tar) download the developer should know:
- Use Composer to manage Magento
- Reuse third-party libraries without bundling them with source code
- Reduce extension conflicts and compatibility issues
- Magento is a strong solution with the most feature set and robustness for B2B and B2C merchants.
- The system is complex to customise and many options are premium.
- The product require several technical ressources and many features cannot be easily modified and difficult to handle.
- Robust and feature rich
- Strong SEO
- 1-Click selling
- Lots of users and community
- Scalable and highly customizable
- Flexible to choose where you want to host the software
- Pricey themes.
- Easily Slowed Down
- Requires Development Skills
- Virtually no support.
- Requires ample space and memory to perform well
PrestaShop is an efficient and innovative E-commerce solution with many features a business need to create an online store and grow its business. It has highly evolved since 2020 and includes everything you need to sell products online.
This a good solution to build and scale your business with an e-commerce solution 100% owned by you.
PrestaShops offer addons (modules) solutions such as PostFinance Payement gateway (premium):
- Lots of apps/integrations available
- Strong SEO
- Options for both self-hosted and hosted
- Open source very flexible
- Large and ready-to-help community
- “Slower” than the other builders
- Add-ons can add up
- Limited third-party marketing integrations
- Developer skill needed to tweak
- No multichannel functionalities on the hosted version
OpenCart Open-Source CMS has a huge range of features included out-of-the-box, many additional extensions available to download and a powerful Administrator Dashboard which allow to have a Multi-Store in one admin interface.
It’s Simple to start. Easy to run.
On the other hand, payment and shipping methods are more US oriented (except PayPal which is a standard). OpenCart Marketplace is Ebay, Amazon, FaceBook and Microsoft and the headquarter is based in Hong Kong.
- It is light weight and thus faster than other, free to use.
- It has simple user interface and thus comparatively easy to learn and manage
- Unlike other , it has more number of inbuilt shipping and payment methods
- It has more number of free modules and themes.
- Provides a wide range of themes and plugins
- Development cost is comparatively cheaper than others
- Consume less server resources and it’s easy to maintain
- Not suitable for large scale businesses
- Does not provide large number of fancy features like Magento or WooCommerce.
- Easy to learn but low quality and “vulnerable” modules are available to download
- Despite being highly customizable, it is not always easy to use without technical knowledge
- Payment Gateways not suitable for Switzerland and EU.