The benefits of an open source ecommerce platform
Finding the right ecommerce platform for your business can be a difficult task. There are so many options to choose from, and more and more platforms continue to flood the market, making it even harder to choose.
There are proprietary platforms that can have a flood of restrictions. You can't access the code and are known for the saying, "what you see is what you get." Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't use a proprietary platform, as choosing the right platform for your business will always rely on your business goals and what you want to accomplish.
Open source platforms are becoming more and more popular and will only continue to grow. On the other hand, open source ecommerce platforms give you the ability and freedom to edit, create and build precisely what you need and want for your commerce solution. Think of it like this: if you like custom, you like open source.
So, what does open source mean?
You don't have to deal with vendor lock
Avoiding being locked into a specific vendor contract is why most businesses choose to work with an open source platform.
When you use proprietary solutions like Shopify or Magento, you fall into vendor lock. Vendor lock is where you have to pay a licensing fee to use the ecommerce platform.
You aren't locked down with a vendor and have complete control of your project with open source solutions.
When I think of open source ecommerce platforms, I think of custom. Who wants to build a website that looks exactly like all the other websites on the internet? I know I don't, and I'm sure most businesses don't either.
Think of it like this, when you use proprietary platforms like Shopify, you are given the option to choose a templated theme. Once you select that theme, there isn't much more you can do to customize your website. You will switch out the content and images, but after that, there isn't much customization you can do to the theme or template to make it look the way you want. Don't get me wrong, this is a massive benefit if you are looking to get an ecommerce store up and running right away, but if you ever want something custom, you likely won't be able to do it.
On the flip side, since open source platforms allow you to edit the code and modify it in any way possible, this creates endless opportunities to develop and build what comes to mind. Developers and business owners can create what they want without any restrictions, as long as they can build the code.
For example, if you want rich media banners showing up on different website areas to display your products, that won't be a problem. If you want to customize your products pages because you're not happy with the current layout, that won't be a problem. If you want specific products showing up on your content pages, no problem. I'm sure you get the point; you do not have to be tied down to one particular template. You can customize and create what you want and need for your specific business.
If you like to stand out and be unique, then open source is for you.
Integration ability brings me back to my point on "no restrictions." There are a lot of integrations that business owners need for their ecommerce platforms to run smoothly. Before you choose a platform you want to use, you better find out if it can integrate adequately with any third-party software you might need.
- Payment Gateways
- Shipping Vendors
- Accounting software
- Analytics and Tracking
- Shopping channels
- And anything custom
With most proprietary platforms, this can become a huge issue. Most proprietary platforms will have plugins or modules that can integrate with their ecommerce platforms. Still, these proprietary platforms will not pan out as soon as you need something specifically tailored to your business or something custom. In this case, you will need an open source solution where you can either create your custom integration or edit a current module/plugin that integrates with the third-party service based on what you want it to do.
Here are some examples I can give you from Acro Media.
Bar Codes Talk
Below are two very custom integrations we built for Bar Codes Talk. Both integrations below would not be possible without an open source platform. If you want to learn more about Bar Codes Talk and all the custom integrations we have done for them, you can view their case study here.
Hubspot — Automatically inputs all Bar Codes Talk customers into the Hubspot CRM and separates each customer into different sales tiers based on their purchase.
Nicelabel/NiceForm Module — Communicates with NiceForm (label printing software) and automatically puts the labels purchased in the printing queue.
Below are another two custom integrations we built for our client Value Calendars. Similar to the above example, none of this would be possible with a standard proprietary platform.
QuickBooks — With the Quickbooks integration, Value Calendars can now set up automatic reports that get pushed from their website right into their online Quickbooks account.
Custom 3-Step Calendar Builder — Value Calendars wanted a feature that many ecommerce stores do not have: the ability for customers to build their ideal product and give them the complete freedom to do so. The solution was the 3-step Calendar builder that customers could use to custom design their product.
Open source ecommerce platforms supported by community
The great thing with an open source platform is they are driven and supported by the community, specifically Drupal.
Drupal is open source, meaning that no one "owns" it, and anyone can use and modify it however they like. It's very developer-friendly and so has attracted a large developer following. The beauty of this is that there are very few limitations to what the software can do. If some functionality doesn't exist, the community can create it. This is why in the Drupal world, you may hear someone say, "there's a module for that." The amount of modules that extend the base functionality of Drupal is astounding.
As a large Drupal development company, Acro Media dedicates many developer hours to creating new modules and extending, reviewing and maintaining existing modules. At the time of this blog, we have 31 staff members contributing in some way to Drupal regularly, including 90 issues fixed in the last three months. That's a lot of time, and therefore money invested! Yes, a lot of the work we do starts because a client requires the functionality and is willing to invest in it, but we also do a lot because we believe in the open source culture of giving back. Once it's built, whether paid or unpaid, we release it to the community free of charge.
So, is open source suitable for you?
You probably hear this a lot, but at the end of the day, we are not saying Drupal (open source) is the end-all-be-all solution for your business. You need to figure out what your business goals are and what you really want to accomplish with your website and then decide from there.
Sometimes open source might not be the right solution for you, but if you're not sure, here are a few quick guidelines that will help you decide if open source is right for you and your ecommerce business.
Open source is right for you if
- You have a very customizable or unique product that you need to sell.
- You need custom integrations with third-party software.
- You want your website to have a unique look and feel that might require custom features (you hate looking like everybody else!!!).
If you like custom, you want open source!
If you're still trying to decide what ecommerce platform is right for you, reach out to our team, and we will be more than happy to help you out!