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SaaS Ecommerce: 5 Platforms to Power Your Ecommerce Site

saas ecommerce

Hiring a service provider is one way to achieve professional-quality results without investing a massive amount of time in a project. Instead of buying a broom, you can hire someone to clean your house. Instead of cutting your own hair, you can visit a barber.

Providing efficient, high-quality results is one of the main value propositions of software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce companies. SaaS providers license software on a subscription model—users pay for platform access in exchange for a variety of pre-built services, applications, and customer-support features—and the software company retains responsibility for security and maintenance, as well as ownership of the source code.

Partnering with a SaaS ecommerce provider can help you build and launch a powerful, eye-catching online store quickly by leveraging systems specifically designed to help business owners sell products online.

What is software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce?

Software-as-a-service ecommerce describes a model of distributing ecommerce software—any platform or application designed to help businesses sell products online—in which users access software over the internet instead of through a download. The SaaS company owns the software, often hosts it themselves (on the cloud), and typically licenses the use of its software out to other companies.

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. SaaS ecommerce is popular with business owners—78% of small businesses use a SaaS platform.

How does SaaS ecommerce work?

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 that is 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.

SaaS ecommerce vs. open-source ecommerce

The main alternative to SaaS ecommerce is open-source ecommerce. Unlike SaaS platforms, open-source ecommerce platforms allow users to download the software’s source code. Users are then responsible for using 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.

Cost

  • How they’re similar: Whether you use an open-source platform or a SaaS platform, setting up and running an online store costs money.
  • How they’re different: 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.
  • Display

    • How they’re similar: 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.
    • How they’re different: SaaS platforms are 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.

    Customization

    • How they’re similar: Both platform types allow customizations.
    • How they’re different: Open-source platforms 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.

    Security

    • How they’re similar: Both platform types can provide customers with secure shopping experiences and provide options for encrypting and securing customer data.
    • How they’re different: 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

    1. Shopify Plus
    2. BigCommerce
    3. Volusion
    4. Adobe Commerce
    5. Salesforce Commerce Cloud

    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.

    1. Shopify Plus

    Shopify Plus is an enterprise ecommerce SaaS provider that powers over 10,000 brands.

    Shopify Plus 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 over 6,600 apps and integrations that can provide additional features and connect the site to third-party platforms such as a payment processor or a billing management tool. It also maintains a library of Shopify Plus partners that provide services like subscription management, accessibility compliance, and integration support.

    Shopify Plus 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

    2. BigCommerce

    BigCommerce is a large SaaS provider with over 60,000 clients, many of which are 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.

    The following features are offered with all BigCommerce plans:

    • 24/7 customer support
    • Content management system
    • Payment gateway
    • Inventory management
    • 800+ apps and integrations
    • Digital payment acceptance
    • Social media integration
    • Reporting tools
    • Real-time shipping quotes
    • No transaction fees

    3. Volusion

    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.

    Volusion also hosts an in-house design agency, allowing business owners to contract directly with the company for professional web design services.

    Volusion’s Personal plan includes the following features:

    • Content management system
    • 24/7 customer support
    • Mobile-friendly themes
    • Return management
    • Payment gateway
    • Subscription management
    • International currencies
    • Inventory management
    • SEO tools
    • CRM tools
    • Unlimited product postings

    4. Adobe Commerce

    In 2018, the large, publicly traded 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.

    Additional platform features include:

    • Multi-brand solution
    • Custom price lists
    • Automated data backup
    • Content management system
    • Payment gateway
    • Customer loyalty tools
    • Performance monitoring tools
    • Inventory management
    • Customer experience management tools

    5. Salesforce Commerce Cloud

    Salesforce is one of the world’s largest technology companies. 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.

    All plans include the following features:

    • Content management system
    • CRM tools
    • Social media integration
    • Headless options
    • Fulfillment management
    • Order management
    • Payment processing
    • PCI compliance
    • Mobile-responsive website

    SaaS ecommerce FAQ

    What is SaaS ecommerce?

    Software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecommerce is the practice of selling products online through partnership with a SaaS service provider, which is a software company that provides access to software applications over the internet (instead of via download). SaaS ecommerce companies create and license software applications specifically designed to help businesses set up and manage ecommerce websites.

    What is the difference between SaaS and ecommerce?

    Ecommerce (or electronic commerce) is the practice of selling goods or services online. SaaS—which stands for software as a service—refers to a software distribution model in which users pay a subscription fee to access software over the internet. The software company retains ownership of the source code and responsibility for platform security and maintenance.

    SaaS ecommerce refers to the practice of using SaaS software to manage an online store.

    What does SaaS stand for?

    SaaS stands for software as a service.

    Is Shopify an example of a SaaS?

    Yes! Shopify is a SaaS provider. Shopify provides ecommerce software platforms designed to help online businesses of all sizes build and manage online stores.
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