If you’ve spent any amount of time online researching eCommerce platforms, you know there’s a lot of information out there. And you’ve most likely noticed that along with that information are plenty of misconceptions, especially ones about hosted eCommerce platforms. Making sense of everything can be a little overwhelming and separating fact from fiction is not for the faint of heart. Here are 8 great facts to consider about hosted platforms:
1. Someone else does the heavy lifting
One of the biggest advantages of using a hosted eCommerce platform is the financial one. That’s because a hosted platform spares you the substantial expense of setting up the vital infrastructure you’d need for self-hosting. All of that hardware and software costs money to install, but with self-hosting there’s also the significant cost of paying someone in your organization to maintain that infrastructure once it’s up and running.
With a hosted eCommerce platform, your service provider is the one who shoulders those financial burdens, manages your online store, and takes care of all other associated expenses and tasks, including system updates and security patches. You’re free to do what you do best – focus on your business.
2. Enhanced security
A hosted eCommerce platform provides peace of mind, because it comes with a guaranteed level of security. The developers, coders, engineers, and other IT professionals who provide your service specialize in eCommerce. Maintaining the platform’s server and environment is what they do all day, every day. It’s highly unlikely that you already have people in your organization who possess those kinds of skills and are able to maintain a full-time focus on eCommerce security.
As you evaluate potential service providers and hosted platforms, be sure to understand what’s most important to you from a security perspective. For example, do you have customers from around the world who need a way to pay for their purchases securely and with a variety of currencies? In that case, you’ll want an eCommerce platform that satisfies all protocols for PCI compliance. Perhaps you have a large organization that actually has several different websites and online stores that operate under one corporate umbrella. With that kind of scenario, you’ll want to make sure that your eCommerce platform offers multi-site support and permission group capabilities. Whatever your specific needs and concerns are, a hosted platform can address them.
3. Customizable features
In the early days of hosted eCommerce platforms, the “software as a service” (SaaS) model was often knocked for its lack of flexibility. Happily, that is changing. There are hosted platforms out there that can be customized to fit your company’s unique requirements. Finding those platforms is easy if you ask the right questions and do a little homework.
First, conduct a full review of the platform and determine exactly which features and functions need to be customized for you. Ask your service provider how much these “extras” will cost and how they will affect the implementation timeline, so you can plan accordingly on your end. And before you enter into any kind of contract or agreement, ask if your customizations will be upgrade-safe; you’ll want to ensure they carry over into any new releases of the platform in the future. The benefit of customization with a hosted platform, of course, is that the service provider’s technical experts do all the coding and developing for you.
This is another area where hosted eCommerce platforms are especially advantageous. They simply do a better job of growing with you as your company and its eCommerce needs evolve and change. Take traffic spikes, for example. A hosted platform typically absorbs those spikes more easily than a self-hosted solution does. That’s because your service provider can perform a quick upgrade that will enable your platform to accommodate extra or wildly fluctuating traffic efficiently without you or site visitors missing a beat. With a self-hosted platform, you’d have to scramble to do all of that work yourself, and that could involve the headache of adding and configuring additional servers – and the even bigger and costlier issues of downtime and lost business.
As you evaluate hosted platform options, it’s a good idea to have your traffic profile handy. Sharing your profile with prospective vendors gives them valuable insight and helps them deliver the best possible solution for you. Remember to take into account your goals for projected growth as well. You want your platform to keep up – not play catch-up.
5. Timely deployment
If time is a factor (and when is it ever not?), you can’t beat the speed-to-market convenience of a hosted eCommerce platform. You’ll be up and running quickly, which means your online store will be available to prospects and customers as soon as possible. Contrast that with the costly delays and potential downtime that might be involved if you decide to pursue the self-hosted route.
6. Sophisticated architecture
When you choose a hosted eCommerce platform, the infrastructure that comes with it is available to all clients of your service provider. In other words, many companies are benefiting from the technological investment that your service provider has already made. Some of those clients may have the exact same needs that you do, while others may require services and offerings that don’t apply to you.
But here’s the thing: Sometime down the road, you might want those extra eCommerce capabilities. When that happens, it’s a simple matter of working with your service provider to enable the new functions you need. It’ll be done quickly because the robust architecture is already there. And remember: Every time your service provider announces a new release or adds brand-new functionality, you and other clients benefit without having to pick up the tab. Do you really want to reinvent the wheel and do everything on your own with a self-hosted option?
7. Faster initial setup
We already mentioned that rapid deployment is a great advantage of a hosted eCommerce platform. But the initial setup of a hosted platform is fast too. Let’s say you’ve already chosen a service provider and you know your implementation will involve a certain level of customization. You don’t have to wait around for the entire implementation to be complete in order to start enjoying the advantages of a hosted platform. That’s because in many cases, your service provider can get certain basic operations up and running right away. For instance, the product database or existing data structure can be quickly populated with current and historical data.
8. Top-notch support
With a hosted eCommerce platform, you’ll enjoy the kind of knowledgeable and dedicated support that you probably don’t currently have in-house. You’ll have access to highly experienced and skilled IT professionals without having to hire, train, retain, and pay them. Similarly, your online store’s security (and your customers’ sensitive financial information) will be in the capable hands of a dedicated team of specialists who will handle everything for you. And finally, whenever you have any questions, you’ll be able to tap into the knowledge base of a customer service or support team whose sole mission is to keep your online business running smoothly.
Slatwall Commerce is an open-source, enterprise level eCommerce platform developed by ten24 Digital Solutions. We specialize in B2B eCommerce implementations with complex requirements. Learn more about working with the Slatwall team.