Considering all factors that impact eCommerce sales, speed and transparency are always among the top things business owners should prioritize. Customers are now looking for a fast response and completion across inquiries, transactions, frank pricing, conditions, and all-around customer support without hidden details. In response to those growing demands, numerous companies that offer SaaS solutions get into the market to support the thriving eCommerce industry.
What is SaaS eCommerce?
More and more entrepreneurs are realizing the power of SaaS eCommerce in improving customer retention and increasing revenue. In fact, about 85% of small businesses had already invested in SaaS systems by the end of 2020. Hence, it’s crucial to capture these latest trends so that merchants can have tailored solutions, but first, let’s find out what exactly SaaS eCommerce is.
Over the past few years, we have talked a lot about eCommerce and its impressive growth. Similar to ‘e-mail’, eCommerce stands for electronic commerce. This term refers to any kind of economic transaction which occurs through the Internet with the focus on the sale of goods or services. In other words, eCommerce enables purchases of anything that we normally buy in brick-and-mortar stores by mimicking the shopping experience on a website.
SaaS, or Software as a Service is about software licensing options that allow access to data stored on clouds. It is a new distribution model in which users - here they are the store owners - pay, usually, a monthly subscription to use the software, particularly with a hosted solution to be accessed via web browsers on any device.
Then, talking about SaaS eCommerce means that we are mentioning eCommerce businesses who subscribe to a package offered by a SaaS provider. The greatest thing is that store owners do not have to worry about storage issues, server maintenance, backups, software glitches, and other technical issues. SaaS providers offer variable and highly customizable products to meet store owners’ needs through updated plugins, applications, and extensions.
Top Benefits of SaaS eCommerce
There are several key advantages that SaaS eCommerce platforms have which have them come out on top of traditional eCommerce ones. The combination of security, usability and cost-effectiveness have proven to be the winning formula for this model. Let’s break down what SaaS eCommerce has to offer.
- Latest software: eCommerce platforms release new features throughout the year to help their merchants grow their online business. If you have a SaaS e-commerce solution, you benefit from those innovations as soon as they are rolled out.
- Maintenance: As SaaS platforms provide remote access to a server run by a third-party company, there is no need to worry about fixing bugs, maintaining the server, or other technical maintenance issues. Hence, it is better to find a provider that takes care of the ‘housekeeping’ instead of signing up with a platform that does not have a seasoned IT team.
- Ready-to-go solution: Normally, building an eCommerce website could take months. However, the majority of SaaS companies bring users highly customizable products so merchants can build their dream store with just a few clicks. All you need is a computer with an internet connection so that you can log in through a portal to run your store. That’s why SaaS saves store managers tons of time and effort.
- Scalability: The idea leading to the birth of clouds was the demand for more storage space on the go. With a cloud server, e-merchants can buy more storage space and bandwidth expansion to deal with booming traffic, especially during holiday sales seasons. This higher capacity provides shoppers with a smoother onsite experience that potentially results in higher conversion rates.
- Security: eCommerce sites, unfortunately, are treasure troves of confidential data that attract would-be thieves. We all clearly understand that any security breaches will result in serious financial and reputation damage to an eCommerce business. To help store owners address potential cyberattacks, SaaS providers bear the responsibility of PCI compliance and data security. They will keep the system up to date and fix bugs that potentially compromise protection.
- Cost-saving: There are minimal costs when shopping for a SaaS platform, which increases as special features are added. However, the cost is generally lower compared to building an eCommerce platform from scratch, as it does not include development or maintenance costs. Web hosting prices start at around $2.49 per month and can climb up to $3,000 monthly. The price is dependent on various factors, for example, website traffic, and extra services like automated backups, or SSL certificates. SaaS eCommerce platforms, on the contrary, provide store owners with everything in the monthly subscription fee, starting as low as $29.
While considering all these benefits, why don’t we take a look at top SaaS eCommerce platforms on the market?
Top SaaS eCommerce Platforms
Did you know that there are over 370 eCommerce platforms available to you? To compete in their market, modern eCommerce solutions must deliver strong performance with built-in tools to effectively manage web stores as well as cover various business models.
Feature-rich platforms enable store owners to save on infrastructure installation and maintenance costs while setting up and launching an eCommerce solution fast. (Source: ScienceSoft)
Here are the top 5 SaaS eCommerce platforms for you to consider:
Established in 2004, Shopify is now the leading SaaS platform in the world today with over 1 million businesses across 175 countries. Apart from offering e-merchants a drag and drop interface eliminating the need for coding or design skills, it also brings store owners a variety of themes to suit their needs. Likewise, the onboarding process allows you to add products, revamp the look and feel of your store, connect a domain, and set up payment options with just a few clicks. Shopify starts with a $29 monthly subscription, but you can take advantage of a 14-day free trial without needing to input your credit card information.
Wix is a cloud-based web builder that allows you to create and manage your online shop through user-friendly drag and drop tools. Thanks to its large collection of paid and free templates, store owners can customize their sites while enhancing the mobile experience. Moreover, Wix lets you set real-time push notifications, handle the entire storefront, and track your business on the move. Plans for Wix are available at $17/ month with features including a free domain name, secure online payments, customer accounts, and 20 GB of storage.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce shopping cart plugin built for WordPress. Besides customization options, merchants can change the store look, tailor customer experience, and simplify their checkout process. This is an intuitive plugin that helps you configure the store page with payment details, delivery information, contact details, product content, automated taxes, and so on. WooCommerce is free to use, however, a domain name (about $12/year) and hosting service ($5 - $25/month) need to be purchased for full eCommerce capabilities.
Founded in 2009 by two Australians, BigCommerce is now among the top open SaaS solutions that numerous industries have been using to create their online stores. Not only can e-merchants build customized themes without coding knowledge, but BigCommerce also lets you boost merchandising, create coupons and discounts, enable digital wallets, and build SEO-friendly URLs. The paid plans are available at $29.95/ month, along with a free trial. The platform provides integrations with leading shipping and payment providers, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Stripe, Square, and Adyen.
It would be amiss to go without mentioning Magneto! It impresses e-merchants with the ability to customize the site layout and content, as well as the incorporation of product recommendations, customer segmentation, content staging, and site preview. Also, it is free to download due to its open-source design and scalable interface, which is great for growing your business with multiple stores. However, pricing is not public, rather it is based on annual Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) and Average Order Value (AOV).
It would take you a lot of time to try all these above-mentioned solutions, so we have already taken it upon ourselves to do a side-by-side comparison. Check out the following articles to decide which one suits you best.
Best eCommerce Platforms for SMB in 2021 (Part 1): Shopify vs WooCommerce
Best eCommerce Platforms for SMB (Part 2): Wix vs BigCommerce vs Magento
SaaS eCommerce in The Near Future
The overall SaaS market continues growing and expanding in all industries, including eCommerce. According to Statista, it is projected to reach approximately $145 trillion in 2022, an increase of 40.7% compared to 2020. As an online business owner, instead of skipping this trend, you should have a clear picture of how SaaS will help you leverage growth.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The giant Amazon has long realized the competitive edges of AI in improving product selection and customer experience. A recent publication by Retail Industry Leaders Association and McKinsey & Company has pointed out 7 imperatives for rethinking retail. Interestingly, AI appeared in every single one as a great supporter. Therefore, AI technology has matured and become a powerful tool to boost sales and optimize operations.
The first thing that we must mention is personalization. Advances in AI and machine learning have enabled deep personalization techniques to customize content by shoppers, through big data from their purchase histories and interactions, so merchants will know what consumers are looking for.. Hence, you should deliver a more personalized message and have one-on-one conversations with your customers by using valuable insights to plan and implement more targeted marketing campaigns to increase customer retention, AOV, and LTV.
In the context of future eCommerce trends, machine learning is worth consideration. It automates repetitive tasks like product recommendations, loyalty discounts, low-level support, and more. This means you can optimize the flow to have a more efficient sales process. Let’s take chatbots as an example.
The bar chart illustrates the share of consumers who engaged with businesses via chatbots in different industries, and it is clear that retail has remarkable adoption. (Source: Statista)
Although the amount of digital data is doubling every 2 years, only 0.5% of it is ever analyzed. There is so much data available for you to tailor to your situation. As machine learning tools improve, more firms this year will likely adopt specialized analytics tools to build their businesses, instead of trying random tactics and hoping something will work.
To stay competitive, the store owners can not hazard a guess about how consumers behave or make slow manual adjustments to processes. Everything will need to be instantly informed by the latest data from every channel, and processes will need to be automated as often as possible if you want to remain ahead of the competition. Data-driven eCommerce businesses regularly measure to:
- Improve shopper analysis.
- Improve customer service.
- Personalize customer experience.
- Provide more secure online payment processing.
- Better target advertising.
In the eCommerce industry, store owners should take actionable insights about their customers' shopping behaviors through important site search analytics and reports. This will help you make appropriate adjustments to decide the sales promotion for each item. (Source: Boost Commerce)
Vertical SaaS is a group of software solutions that serve the needs of a niche industry. In other words, vertical SaaS companies cater to the distinct needs of a single industry, such as retail, banking, healthcare, or hospitality. Thus, they are suitable for those who want to benefit from specialization. For example, the birth of our Boost Product Filter & Search app gives Shopify merchants a powerful search tool so that consumers can find their desired products within milliseconds.
The vertical SaaS market is gaining popularity in the coming year. For instance, Shopify subscription solutions revenue in the first quarter of 2021 was $320.7 million with growth accelerating to 71% year over year, primarily due to more merchants joining the platform. (Source: Single Grain)
In the online retail industry, consumers prefer to buy from sellers who provide a specialized assortment of products and services. That’s why eCommerce business owners had better focus on the specific needs of their niche industry to promote the personalized shopping experience. You may be asking yourself why vertical SaaS has an impact on your business, and here are the reasons. Vertical SaaS creates solutions for the niche’s industry pain points because:
- It covers niche markets that offer higher chances of lead conversion.
- Business owners enjoy a lower customer acquisition cost and limited marketing spend.
- They are compliant with industry-specific standards and requirements.
- Companies often have higher customer retention due to the level of niche expertise they offer.
Technology is fast-paced and continually shapes the eCommerce industry. We have seen many advancements such as AI, blockchain, or augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR). However, there is one thing that connects them all - APIs. Application Programming Interfaces (API) enable one application (such as your eCommerce platform) to expose services (such as catalog content, order management, pricing information, and customer data) to other applications. At a glance, APIs make it easier for eCommerce businesses to:
- Integrate and connect people, places, systems, data, and algorithms.
- Share data and information.
- Enable transactions.
- Leverage third-party algorithms.
- Authenticate people and things.
- Develop new products, services, and business models.
- Create new user experiences.
Thanks to the API connections, your online store will provide a smooth, and accurate flow of information related to things like inventory, customer, pricing, and order data. With an enjoyable shopping journey, it will be easier for merchants to increase revenues and have more loyal customers.
Most eCommerce platforms now offer APIs for their applications to connect with other systems. The following ways are suggestions for you to use eCommerce APIs to boost your site performance:
- Catalog API allows you to create, edit and manage the product catalog, which means that you can update thousands of items within minutes.
- Cart API assists you in leveraging your business by handling things like taking a credit card payment, calculating shipping or tax fees, and so on.
- Checkout API brings you control over building checkout experience, so you can fully customize it with more appealing UX to your customers.
- Shipping API enables store owners to automate the process from the sale through to the package delivery to consumers.
- Social proof API will showcase Twitter comments, product reviews, or Facebook likes which are reliable sources to shoppers. Make use of social proof APIs to stream social media feeds on your product pages.
- Marketing automation API helps you automatically add customers to your email list as well as segment them based on criteria like purchase history, location, and others.
The fifth trend is headless commerce - the evolution of selling online. With headless commerce, you can turn any digital screen or device into a sales channel.
Headless commerce architecture separates your back-end infrastructure from your front-end customer touchpoints, so you can build new selling opportunities anywhere - all managed from a central location. (Source: Shopify)
For eCommerce platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce, headless commerce makes it easier for them to serve up security, fraud management, PCI compliance, and inventory management that connect to key infrastructure points such as order management systems (OMS), or point of sale systems (POS).
For retail brands, aside from turning any screen into a virtual storefront, from webpages to smart mirrors, headless commerce also:
- Allows your development team to use the familiar language and frameworks to build your online store.
- Lets you instantly publish content updates to any of your storefronts by using the existing content management system.
- Supports merchants in selling on all digital mediums that customers are using while controlling everything from a single back-end.
For more details, check out our article ‘What is Headless Commerce? How Can Shopify Help Merchants Build Headless Commerce?’.
SaaS eCommerce is No Longer Exclusive to Big Guys
All kinds of businesses can now benefit from the SaaS application, even small and medium-sized ones. Overall, SaaS eCommerce offers online merchants the convenience of building feature-rich websites with excellent scalability. Also, it allows store owners to be realistic with their business goals while delivering the most enjoyable shopping experience to their customers.
We hope that this article gives a clearer understanding of the eCommerce industry in the coming years with some great ideas for your business. See you next time!