Groove kicked off 2015 by announcing our partnership with Bigcommerce Enterprise, and prior to this announcement we had spent several months talking about the fundamental shift our agency was going through in bringing multiple solutions to the table for our clients and prospects.

As part of this strategic move, we talked about the evaluation process our team should use to determine whether someone was a better fit for our new software as a service (SaaS) offering or for our longtime software partner, Magento.

The reality is we see both solutions as valuable, and for that reason it was critical for us to hone in on what made a company the right fit for one versus the other.

That’s why we developed a checklist to help organizations think through their eCommerce technology needs — so we could advise on the solution we thought was best.

1. B2B vs. B2C

For B2B organizations, or those out there looking to provide B2B and B2C within one environment, we still tip our cap to our friends at Magento. The reasoning for this is as complex as the requirements that many B2B strategies require. From countless customer rules to product pricing structures and order process requirements, we still see software as the more favorable choice for most. (Notice the use of the word “most.”)

Open-source software provides the opportunity for companies to “bend and break” the system as they see fit to meet their needs, while SaaS provides restrictions to ensure you maintain a secure environment and also become part of a platform that continues to improve at the hands of the provider and not just your wallet and self-generated ideas.

Figuring out which solution is right for you first begins with understanding your specific business model and what your goals are.

It’s important to establish that early on to create a strong foundation to which you can leverage your eCommerce solution for your business as it grows.

2. What type of products are you selling?

Sometimes the “type” of catalog affects whether a SaaS solution would or would not work better for your business. The reality is we found many of our clients who had very simple product catalogs — whether it be food, fashion/apparel, etc. — were often overcomplicating things with software.

Looking at your product “types” and seeing what sort of attributes and content you have with products allows us to determine whether your business can take full advantage of SaaS. This is also a huge misconception around Bigcommerce Enterprise, as it is actually capable of handling complex product types if needed.

Ultimately, you want your constructed product catalogs to be able to align themselves within the definitions set in your eCommerce application. The last thing you need to do is invest in an eCommerce solution that doesn’t natively support your catalog type and only makes it more difficult later on.

3. What sort of features/functionalities are you looking for?

It’s always been funny to me when organizations try to select a platform knowing most of their needs are custom, but cite “features and functionalities” as the reason for selecting a particular platform. For us, we want to know how much of what you need to do is available either “out of the box” or with an app or extension, or if you really do need custom development.

For this aspect, it really comes down to the needs around the functionality that powers your specific eCommerce business. Software can sometimes allow us to “break” it easier to provide functionality over SaaS. However, for those who have been down that road, they know that isn’t always a good thing. Our findings show that many retailers often perceive functionality to be unique when, in reality, it isn’t as unique as they think.

As a result, it’s important for us to break down the functionality needs to see if there really is a GAP in any one solution and where third party apps/extensions can fill the void.

Evaluate either technology — not only to establish if the preliminary functionality advertised as “out of the box” actually fully addresses the need, but also to see if customization or third parties are needed to address the actual required functionality for your business.

4. What are the resources within your organization?

This can be a tough question to discuss with people, but getting to know the “ins and outs” of their company can put us in an exponentially better position to advise on SaaS versus software as well as the overall “personality” of your company.

Those companies with robust internal IT resources or that are committed to a dedicated partner are much more equipped in handling more complex software than those that align more as sales and marketing organizations.

Think of it like a boat/fancy car: the more complex and/or custom the machine is, the more maintenance there is with it.

5. Budget doesn’t dictate the solution

Contrary to popular belief, SaaS doesn’t always mean cheaper.

While most SaaS marketers like to thump their chests that their solutions are less expensive, I want to make sure we’re clear that this isn’t always the case. Particularly if customizations or new integration work is involved, this can be a significant investment to ensure this doesn’t compromise all of the benefits of using a SaaS solution in the first place.

What we do like about SaaS is how the merchant is able to reallocate dollars from maintenance/break-fix software initiatives into enhancements and new revenue-generating efforts.

Some of the largest retailers we’ve engaged with this year have selected SaaS, and a lot of that had to do with where they could reinvest dollars for their growth strategy. One merchant was able to reinvest over $60k from their support budget into marketing dollars, thus allowing them to experiment with new customer acquisition campaigns.

Final takeaways

The main role of eCommerce technology today should be to enable growth. The real challenge our team works to understand is defining the marketing strategy needs to execute on growth. The features, integrations and opportunities that can drive new visitors and customers allow us to evaluate the solutions and see which one is the best fit.

Ultimately, there is no one right solution for every business, and what we suggest for your unique business is based on what is needed for your growth.

No one has ever revolutionized their entire business just by redesigning their website. However, the ability to execute a well-defined strategy post-launch depends on the decision made around the technology that sits at the core of your online business. Figuring out what solution is right for your business early on allows for your business to be set up for success later down the line.

Regardless of which eCommerce solution you decide to choose from for your business, the work doesn’t stop there.

If you need help identifying and evaluating which eCommerce solution aligns best with your growth goals, contact us today! Our eCommerce experts are more than welcome to help guide you.

Mack McGee
Executive VP & Principal

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