With the business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce industry over double the size of its business to consumer (B2C) counterpart, and buyers' needs changing faster than ever, 2016 is a vital "do or die" stage for B2B companies looking to get ahead with e-commerce.
Almost half of B2B professionals are looking to change or upgrade their e-commerce platform technology within the next 18 months, according to market research firm Forrester. Companies must strategically choose a platform that will not only meet their business' needs, but also keeps them miles ahead of their competition.
Companies need to stop being idle and start determining what type of platform is best for their business and customers. There are three main types of platforms to consider: on-premise, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Not sure what they mean? Here's a quick look at each to help you weigh the benefits and choose the right one for your organization:
When companies invest in an on-premise solution, they are committing to the entire system. This is considered purchasing a software as a product, as it is required to download or install the software onto the customer's own server
Choose an on-premise solution when you want to have complete control of the whole process. Rather than a vendor, your company will be in charge of the servers, upgrades, integrations, and ongoing maintenance. But beware: while this may allow you to build a highly customized e-commerce experience, it also requires significant time and monetary investments to get your solution up and running. Costs can stack up between the software license, annual maintenance fees, servers, storage, internet connectivity and more.
A software-as-a-service solution bundles the infrastructure, code base and user interface into a single deliverable via a web browser. Because SaaS solutions are cloud-based, businesses are able to configure functionality without having to deal with the underlying code or infrastructure, as they would have to in an on-premise solution. Your e-commerce vendor or provider is in charge of upgrades, maintenance and security rather than your company itself, freeing up IT resources.
Choose a SaaS solution if you're looking for a very vertically specific solution that is fast to implement and easy to run without technical resources on staff. Because customization is limited on SaaS applications, make sure your company is willing to modify processes and systems in order to adapt to the solution.
Platform-as-a-Service within the e-commerce space is relatively new, but exceptionally powerful. Simply put, PaaS removes the shiny wrapper of the user interface on SaaS to bring you just the good stuff: the platform. You're able to reach into that platform, so to speak, to access just the software functionality that is important to you, leaving off anything that doesn't make sense for your business. The vendor controls the data model and infrastructure through the cloud.
The user interface, however, is left up entirely to the developer. This leads to highly customized solutions, faster and cheaper than ever before. PaaS solutions give companies the most agile solution - integrations are simpler because of the API-first nature, endless scalability is a reality because they are not dependent on upgrades like software-as-services, and flexibility and customization is unlimited because they are not restricted by the user interface. Choose a PaaS solution if you're interested in creating exactly what you need without the expensive in-house IT resources needed to maintain it.
The type of platform you choose will impact your implementation time, customization and scalability abilities, and your company's level of investment and manpower required. And for the electronics industry where customers' preferences are changing daily, a quick implementation is vital for success. Make sure you choose the platform that will scale with you and allow you to respond to your customers' changing demands.
Have you determined what platform is best for your company? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.