B2B Ecommerce: Pros and Cons of SaaS Platforms


Software-as-a-service ecommerce platforms are gaining market share. They have clear advantages, but they also have limitations, particularly for B2B businesses. SaaS platforms — hosted carts — charge a monthly fee to use the software, which can be in the cloud. […]

Software-as-a-service ecommerce platforms are gaining market share. They have clear advantages, but they also have limitations, particularly for B2B businesses. SaaS platforms — hosted carts — charge a monthly fee to use the software, which can be in the cloud. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of options, such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion.

Here are my pros and cons of SaaS platforms for B2B businesses.

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Experts of SaaS Platforms

Quick implementation time. Merchants can find a website up and running on those platforms with minimal effort. The platforms often provide pre-built designs and themes which are mobile responsive. Based upon your requirements, and your comfort with ecommerce, you may not require a developer in any respect.

Less Costly. Many SaaS platforms charge as little as $100 a month, or even less. Add-ons can raise this monthly fee. While those costs can rise over time, overall there’s a very low cost of entry. Many other ecommerce solutions, such as email service providers and live chat vendors, can integrate with SaaS platforms, which lowers development costs.

Hosting is also included. In the conventional licensed ecommerce version, you purchase the software license and discover servers to host the website on. However, with SaaS carts, the hosting is provided as part of your monthly fee. You do not need to manage that connection or mess with getting it setup.

Security is handled by the supplier. Every business that takes credit card orders have to be PCI compliant. A SaaS platform will look after the software and hosting facets of PCI compliance. That does not mean that merchants on SaaS platforms don’t have any work to do when it comes to PCI compliance. They still need to make certain that their business processes and organizational safety fulfill PCI compliance criteria. However, SaaS platforms simplify and decrease PCI compliance.

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New features included automatically. As new features are published on the SaaS platform, merchants can easily use them. You do not need to hire a programmer to improve your code and examine it before pushing it live. The features are simply accessible for you, saving money and time.

Readily accessible developer community. Because SaaS carts frequently have many merchant clients, it’s easy to find developers working with the software. Many SaaS carts offer web portals to quickly locate a developer. These portals occasionally include ratings of the programmers from different merchants.

Disadvantages of SaaS Platforms

Lack of support for custom business rules. Most companies that sell to other companies have specialized procedures which don’t match the simple shopping cart version.

Examples of custom business rules that typically lack support from SaaS carts are:

  • Products which do not ship to certain countries;
  • Complex pricing;
  • Clients can charge shipping to their UPS or FedEx account.

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Missing common B2B features. An ecommerce platform for B2B companies typically addresses the whole customer experience, not only online orders. Most SaaS platforms lack technical B2B tools, like:

  • Locate a sales representative or a trader;
  • Quick-order performance;
  • Ability for clients to log in, review, and pay for orders which were placed offline;
  • Multiple users logging in from client’s company and, occasionally, viewing each other’s orders;
  • Ability for sales reps to log in and place orders for their clients.

Data design. B2B merchants often underestimate data layout, which may cause problems in the future. When working with SaaS carts, merchants are restricted from the custom data tables and fields they could create. This can restrict their ability to implement key features, for example:

  • Product attributes and reductive navigation;
  • Configurable products;
  • prices based on custom business rules.
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Add-ons impact usability and performance. Third-party add-ons into SaaS shops can hurt usability. The layout might not be consistent in the user interface. Utilizing a number of add-ons can slow a SaaS website.

Cannot customize checkout. Merchants on SaaS platforms typically can’t customize the checkout process, among other aspects of the shopping experience. In business, strategic expansion frequently involves focusing on your own uniqueness. SaaS carts can restrict your ability to be unique.

Content management. SaaS carts are usually constructed for shopping and not much else. A few of the carts provide a blog functionality. Beyond this, SaaS carts do not typically provide content management features which are important for B2B companies, like managing a library of PDFs and tools, managing a movie library, and enabling customers to log in and see different content based on their previous purchases.

You do not own it. SaaS merchants must pay a monthly fee, or their website is gone. They can’t download the code and use it everywhere. A SaaS platform may go out of business and change its licensing requirements or characteristics in ways a merchant does not like. Companies with a need to get their code and mitigate risk might decide to appear elsewhere.

Another Course of SaaS Carts

There’s a higher grade of SaaS platforms –such as Shopify Plus, Mozu, and Demandware — which have a different value proposition. They aren’t cheap — the costs range from $24,000 to $750,000 annually — and are generally paired with time and cost intensive implementation projects. These platforms solve a few of the challenges that exist for their lower-priced SaaS counterparts. But the whole cost of ownership is on par with or higher than accredited solutions, in my experience.

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For the same price (or less), merchants can use licensed software which has deeper content management features. Pairing a certified cart using a controlled cloud hosting solution offers similar advantages of a higher-tier SaaS cart.

Which to Select?

SaaS platforms may work for B2B merchants with comparatively simple sales models. Butif merchants have lots of SKUs and extensive product documentation, or a more intricate sales process or pricing arrangement, SaaS platforms aren’t usually appropriate.

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