If you haven’t had to update your current e-commerce site for a few years or you’re a new business looking to add e-commerce to your website perhaps you aren’t familiar with the world of e-commerce but you start seeing the likes of ‘fully hosted’ e-commerce sites and ‘self-hosted’ e-commerce website terms. Perhaps you’ve started looking at Shopify, BigCommerce, Volusion and all the big companies that come up in the top ten results for ‘ecommerce website’ and all of it is leaving you overwhelmed and a bit confused. Don’t feel bad, most small business owners are in your shoes. You are busy running your business, you shouldn’t have to be a website expert to make this decision. So below we’ll highlight the difference between the platforms, their pros and cons and who they are suited for.
Back in the early 2000’s e-commerce made its debut with a platform called osCommerce which then became the base code for X-Cart and a few other platforms and so e-commerce grew. osCommerce was open source, another word for free, and others would add some code and sell their platform for a one time fee and a smaller charge to get updates as the code was improved and some were free but would charge for certain functions (like Woocomerce does now).
As this new industry evolved security and stability were the 2 forefront issues. Many platforms were easy to compromise and steal credit card information, and because most code was contributed over a community type environment, they were prone to crashing. Credit Card companies began to demand minimum security levels, now called PCI compliancy and companies started to code entire shopping cart platforms (Shopify and Pinnacle Cart to name a few) that were bought as a whole software solution instead of piecing them together with base code and add ons. But then the likes of Volusion came out with the idea of providing their shopping cart for a monthly fee and they would host it and maintain it and update it. The rest of the e-commerce companies slowly jumped on board as business owners began to accept this and the Fully Hosted e-commerce solution was born.
A fully hosted e-commerce site, as described in the history lesson above has become the most popular option on the market today. Some examples are BigCommerce, Shopify, Pinnacle Cart, UltraCart and Volusion. Essentially as a business owner, you are leasing the use of their software and paying a monthly fee to do so. For this fee, they will offer you support for the software and they will maintain and update the code to keep it current with PCI standards and security rules. All of this means they must host the code on their servers to maintain this control over the software which is where the name fully hosted or hosted solutions comes in. You will likely need a design company who can customize a template to look the way you want it to and set up your store unless you have the time to learn and do this yourself.
Very simply it means you host the website. Because most e-commerce providers won’t give you their software it means there aren’t a lot of options left for software you can host yourself. Some examples are WordPress/Woocommerce, Pinnacle Cart, Prestacart, Magento and OpenCart. As a business owner, it means you must have a hosting company and a design company who can install, design and set up your software for you.
After reading all the pros and cons it’s probably easier for you as a small business owner to figure out what is your best option. It will likely come down to cost and convenience. If you don’t mind the monthly cost and want support then a hosted solution is for you. If you want features that aren’t typically standard in an e-commerce site or worry about committing to a platform you can’t easily move away from and not sure what you really need then a hosted solution might be the better option. Most small businesses start with self-hosted and eventually grow to a hosted solution unless they need features not typically available or need a very robust informational section of their site.
All in all, you also need a design company who can help you customize your template, setup, import all your products and run through proper testing regardless of which platform you pick. We can be that company!
Why work with us as your e-commerce developer?
We are an official BigCommerce and Pinnacle Cart Partner and we have built hundreds of e-commerce stores in a variety of platforms so no matter whether you want a hosted or self-hosted solution we can bring your store to life. We bring our 15 years of online marketing experience to your design and our conversion marketing strategies and SEO skills to make sure your design isn’t just pretty but also sells.