eCommerce – self-hosted vs hosted platform
Whether it’s an addition to your bricks and mortar store or a new venture that’s entirely online, creating your eCommerce store is an exciting adventure! It’s important to get it right from the beginning though, and there are a number of elements to consider. The right eCommerce platform should be empowering, not encumbering. It should give you the tools you need to run your business with all technical requirements taken care of.
There are a number of requirements that must be satisfied for any online shopping venture to be successful. These are:
eCommerce requires payments to be made online. This makes the security of your site of paramount importance.
Speed and Performance
In the online environment your competitors are only a click away. It is essential that you give your customers a professional online experience, which usually means user-friendly and FAST! For every extra tenth of a second that a customer waits for your page to load is a second that they might very well leave and go to your competition. In fact, most studies show that people will only wait up to 4 seconds for a site to load before leaving – and this gets even tighter for eCommerce sites.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
There’s not much point in having an online store if no-one can find you online. A good web designer will make sure that your website is designed with SEO principles in mind, however the ongoing management of this is achieved in different ways in the eCommerce environment.
Each solution – building your own online store vs. utilising a hosted platform – deals with these requirement in very different ways. So, what do you do? Build your own eCommerce store and host it yourself or go with a fully hosted solution? There are pros and cons to both, which I’ll explain here…
Self-hosted Online Store
There are many platforms available, such as WordPress and Joomla, that enable you to build and maintain your own online store. In themselves, these are very robust content management systems that become an online store through the application and configuration of eCommerce components and associated payment gateways.
The main benefit of building your own store is flexibility. There are no restrictions on customisation whatsoever. You can literally create your store to look the way you want it to with unlimited functionality – depending on your budget, of course!
However you’re also 100% responsible for the hosting and subsequent security of your site. And your customers will want to make sure that their personal data is safe with you – especially if you are processing credit card payments directly. This means ensuring your host is safe and secure with Secure Socket Layers (SSL) in place. You will also need to actively maintain your content management system, ensuring it is regularly upgraded and kept secure.
As previously discussed, a big part of a successful online store is allowing your customers to make their purchases quickly and easily. This makes your site load time of paramount importance – and you’re totally responsible for ensuring your servers are optimised and your site built with a focus on speed should you opt for a self-hosted online store.
SEO is best managed through the configuration of SEO-specific components and plugins with a self-hosted solution. This is an extra layer to be aware of when engaging a web designer to build your online store.
Hosted eCommerce Platform
Hosted eCommerce solutions include providers such as Shopify and BigCommerce. Each provider charges a monthly fee to host your online store. All the technical details of hosted platforms; including security, speed, scaling/performance, and payment processing, are taken care of by the provider. This leaves you free to focus on running your business, safe in the knowledge that your provider is working constantly behind the scenes to ensure your store is secure and that the server your site is operating on is functioning at optimum performance levels.
Most hosted eCommerce providers create 100% crawlable, clean code and also have SEO elements built in to their software making it very simple for store owners to manage their own meta data; including title tags and meta descriptions. This won’t guarantee you a #1 page ranking for your chosen keyword/s, but it will certainly help improve your online presence. The point is that it’s there already – you don’t need to build it in to your site separately.
The cons of using a hosted platform is that you are limited to their functionality and specific code, which may mean that your site is not transferable. If you have specific needs around site design, animation, functionality or payment then a fully hosted eCommerce solution may not meet your requirements.
What does it all mean?
If you don’t want to worry about hackers, caching, server management, compliance, speed and performance then building your online store on a hosted platform is probably the best option for you.
If you want a highly customised site with each element configured for your unique needs, then you’ll probably want to engage the services of a web designer who is an eCommerce expert and work with them closely to create your own unique online store.
If creating an online store is a project on your horizon, please don’t hesitate to give Webhance Digital a call. We’ll discuss your needs and recommend a solution that is best suited to achieve your unique goals. We’re also a Shopify Partner, which has lots of benefits if you’re looking to get online with Shopify.