The main reason software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce companies exist is to provide high quality, efficient results.
With SaaS, users pay for access to a platform in exchange for services, apps, and customer service, and the software company keeps the source code, security, and maintenance.
You can build an eye-catching, powerful online store quickly by using ecommerce SaaS solutions. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right platform.
What is SaaS ecommerce?
A software-as-a-service ecommerce model lets businesses sell products online by distributing their software over the internet rather than downloading it. Typically, SaaS companies own their own software, host it themselves, and license others to use it.
How does SaaS ecommerce work?
SaaS ecommerce software providers typically charge a monthly fee for platform use, the amount for which often depends on how many employees a company has using the platform or how many features are needed.
At its most basic, SaaS ecommerce providers own a piece of software that they typically license to users for a fixed subscription or membership rate. Many providers offer different membership tiers to meet the needs of businesses of different sizes and at different stages of growth.
They may offer a basic plan suitable for small businesses with fairly straightforward needs, a mid-tier plan that offers increased customization options and more support, and an enterprise plan designed to power large businesses.
Benefits of SaaS ecommerce
Lower upfront costs
In traditional ecommerce, you’ll have to pay a lot upfront for software, hosting, and hardware. SaaS solutions, like Shopify, charge a monthly or annual fee. This is much more affordable for small businesses and startups. With a SaaS platform, for instance, a small boutique can launch an online store with minimal upfront costs instead of investing thousands in a custom website.
Easy to use
SaaS ecommerce platforms offer drag-and-drop interfaces so you can design your online store without technical know-how. For instance, platforms like Shopify let you pick from a bunch of templates and customize them. Because it’s so easy to use, you can go live with your online store much faster than if you had to develop it yourself.
Your business can grow easily with SaaS solutions. These platforms can automatically handle increased demand, like during holiday sales, without any manual work. During peak times, your site stays operational and efficient, so you don’t have to worry about resource allocation beforehand.
When you use an ecommerce SaaS platform, the service provider handles all the updates. For example, if a new payment gateway becomes popular, Shopify can integrate it right into its platform. With automatic updates, your ecommerce site stays up to date with the latest security standards and features, so you can keep your customers happy and comply with data protection rules.
Managing your online store from anywhere is one of the key benefits of SaaS ecommerce platforms. This is great for people who travel a lot or work remotely. For example, whether you’re sitting at a co-working office in New York, or at an Airbnb in Bangkok, you can track orders, manage inventory, and see sales performance, anytime and anywhere.
Integrated payment and security features
Businesses have a lot of worries about security, especially in regard to customer data and payments. SaaS platforms typically come with built-in security features such as SSL certificates, secure payment gateways, and PCI DSS compliance. A tool like Shop Pay, for example, comes with your Shopify store, which makes it easy for customers to make a purchase by providing a secure and smooth payment process.
SaaS vs. open-source ecommerce
The main alternative to SaaS ecommerce is open-source ecommerce. Unlike SaaS platforms, open-source ecommerce platforms let users download the software’s source code. Users are then responsible for utilizing the code to build and maintain an online store.
These two ecommerce solution models provide different customization options and cost structures and require different degrees of technical knowledge for use.
Whether you use an open-source platform or a SaaS platform, setting up and running an online store costs money.
SaaS service providers charge a subscription fee to use their software. Open-source software is typically free to download and use. Adding apps and integrations to an open-source platform, however, often costs money, and web hosting and web development costs are also not included.
Both platform types allow users to customize displays, and many providers let business owners choose between a variety of pre-built themes, which is essentially a public-facing web design template.
SaaS ecommerce software is often designed so that users with minimal technical knowledge can customize displays, although options may be limited by theme parameters. Open-source platform display is fully customizable for users with knowledge of the platform’s scripting, or programming, language.
Both platform types allow customizations.
Open-source ecommerce solutions are highly customizable. Because they grant full access to software’s source code, a web developer can manipulate the code as needed to customize the site. SaaS platforms, however, are designed to allow users without web development experience to manage customizations through built-in options, extensions, and integrations.
Both platform types can provide customers with secure shopping experiences and provide options for encrypting and securing customer data.
Under a SaaS model, the service provider takes responsibility for monitoring and ensuring site security. SaaS platforms also frequently include PCI compliance, which verifies that the platform meets security standards for handling credit card information. Open-source platforms require the users to monitor site security and provide updates as needed.
5 common SaaS ecommerce platforms
There are many service providers on the SaaS market. These five platforms are popular with small businesses for their flexibility and range of features provided.
Shopify is an ecommerce SaaS provider that powers more than four million online stores.
Shopify offers a content management system, 24/7 customer support, headless functionality (or the ability to decouple the front and back ends of the site and run a faster site), and more than 6,600 apps and integrations in the Shopify App Store that can provide additional features and connect the site to third-party platforms such as a payment processor or a billing management tool.
Shopify also maintains a library of Shopify Partners that provide services like subscription management, accessibility compliance, and integration support.
As the best ecommerce SaaS platform, Shopify provides the following built-in features:
- 24/7 customer support
- Inventory management
- Fulfillment assistance
- Content management system
- Payment gateway
- PCI compliance
- Fraud and risk analysis
- Social media integration
- Workflow automation
- B2B functionality
- Omnichannel point-of-sale features
- International domains
- Marketing tools
It’s easy to get started with Shopify’s free trial. Choose from more than 100 themes to build your store, with no learning curve. Get three months of Shopify for just $1 per month.
BigCommerce is a large SaaS provider that supports small and medium-sized businesses.
BigCommerce offers four plan options: Standard, Plus, Pro, and Enterprise. All provide a content management system, 24/7 customer support, and headless functionality. Higher-tier plans also include multiple storefronts, unlimited API calls, and custom price lists.
Volusion is a full-service SaaS ecommerce provider that targets small and medium-sized business clients and offers four paid plans: Personal, Professional, Business, and Prime.
All plans include a content management system, multiple themes, and customer management tools, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Higher-tier plans also offer third-party shipping rate calculation, third-party payment gateway integration, and premium support.
4. Adobe Commerce
In 2018, software company Adobe acquired Magento and launched Adobe Commerce, a full-service SaaS ecommerce platform based on Magento’s open-source software.
Adobe Commerce offers features designed for both small businesses and enterprise brands, including integrated B2B (business to business) features, a content management system, and headless ecommerce functionality.
5. Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Salesforce is a big technology company based out of San Francisco. The company maintains multiple SaaS software products with a major focus on sales and customer management tools.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the company’s ecommerce SaaS solution. The platform includes a content management system, customer relationship management system, and headless functionality. Plan options include Salesforce B2B Commerce, Salesforce B2C Commerce, and a unified solution.