Posted 6 months ago by Karim Marucchi, CEO
For years the debate has been ongoing: Open Source vs Software as a Service (Saas), which is better for eCommerce? Each platform has its advantages. And depending on whether a business needs rapid out-of-the-box functionality or a greater ability to customize the platform, enterprises have long been forced to choose a side. Only recently has the idea of a third possibility begun to take hold among the decision makers: Why not try to enjoy the advantages of both approaches?
The benefits of Open Source software have been well understood for more than a decade. It’s almost infinitely customizable, not beholden to a single tech provider, and it gives you total control over your data. WordPress is a great example, with over 60,000 plugins that are easy to adopt – or adapt – to meet your needs. However, there are limitations in Open Source scalability that aren’t well suited to the small to mid-size enterprise (SME) poised to break through in the market.
SaaS, meanwhile, is ideal for rapid deployment, immediately scalable, and it generally has a low cost of entry. You get immediate plug-and-play functionality. But the real casualty of SaaS deployments is the lack of rapid innovation. The enterprise is limited to the features that are made available by the platform providers. And when you and your competitors gain access to the same features at the same time, it’s difficult to find a competitive edge, and customization comes at a steep cost.
Reframing the Issue
The real problem facing SMEs today isn’t being stuck with one technology approach or the other, it’s a fundamental lack of understanding. Too often marketing and IT are jostling for power, with one or the other taking precedence and selecting the technology that delivers the customer experience before they even understand that they have a common goal. But technology is already so ingrained in marketing that they are inextricable. It’s important to step back and approach decisions from the perspective of the customer and how they will experience their journey with your company. Let that understanding of the customer then guide your approach to integrated technology decisions.
The ideal, then, is to enjoy the sheer creativity and innovative potential that comes with Open Source software, while retaining the robust scalability and complex functionality of a SaaS platform. The key is the ongoing evolution of APIs allowing different systems to be integrated seamlessly to provide a complete customer experience in which they can view your content, make purchases, interact with customer service, and enjoy complete consistency across devices. Businesses that master this blending are the ones poised to dominate in the years to come.
The Future of eCommerce
We used to talk about content management as separate from the other aspects of the customer experience. But a customer doesn’t want to go from a blog to your eCommerce site and get whiplash from a completely different feel and messaging, all because you’re using different systems that don’t play well together.
We’re deep into the age of DXP – the digital experience platform. This offers a complete 365-degree view of your customer in which content management systems, eCommerce, online and offline content are all seamlessly blended. In this world, the SaaS platform is doing the heavy lifting with scalability and handling the complex tasks, and APIs merge with your Open Source software in a way that lets you innovate without limits.
One of my favorite examples of this customer-centric approach is from a well known grocery brand in Texas. They began with a complete focus on understanding the customer and then examined how they could make the experience match those needs. They ended up developing an innovative, completely customized experience that puts the information customers need right at their fingertips, guiding them through a natural conversion/retention process.
In summary, you can have it all as you embrace DXP, by making sure your focus is on the customer. Then you’re free to select the SaaS technology that can power the experience and take advantage of APIs that seamlessly integrate Open Source software. By refusing to allow yourself to be locked into a single approach, you can keep the flexibility of a small business to rapidly innovate for a customer experience that sets you apart from the competition. Rather than experience the challenge of deciding Open Source vs Saas, you get the best of both worlds.