Being able to buy and sell things online is undoubtedly one of the most useful features of the internet. Just like blogging platforms were built around the simple exchange of thoughts and ideas, companies like Ebay and Etsy built their online marketplaces around the simple exchange of goods.
Yet these simple ecommerce platforms often lack the control and flexibility that many businesses need, not to mention integration with their existing website. While there are plenty of ecommerce solutions available, many people find them too difficult to implement by themselves.
Meanwhile, services like Bigcommerce and Shopify package all the services needed to build an ecommerce service along with a website builder, a content management system, website hosting, and everything else needed for an ecommerce website. These unified services essentially hide many of the complex functions to the shop-owners, and provide what they need from one supplier for one monthly fee.
Mass-market web hosts have surely taken note, and are readying some innovative ecommerce solutions.
In February, 1&1’s parent company United Internet acquired a 25 percent stake in online store software provider ePages, and ePages became 1&1’s exclusive partner for online shop software in Europe and North America. This effectively boosted the number of ePages shops to more than 120,000, but, perhaps, more importantly opened ePages up to the North American market, when it had previously been known mostly in Europe.
Also in February, web host GoDaddy announced a partnership with open-source ecommerce platform Spree Commerce to provide the basis for GoDaddy’s ecommerce solution for small business customers known as “Online Store”.
Spree Commerce CEO Sean Schofield said in an interview that using the open-source Spree code provides the sort of flexibility needed to deal with the various needs of GoDaddy customers. “There’s quite a bit of flexibility in how [Spree] was designed, and architected to be easily adapted to a lot of different situations. So, it wasn’t terribly difficult for them to turn it to multi-tenant with thousands of stores per server,” Schofield says.
One of GoDaddy’s ecommerce product goals seemed to be dealing with the complexities of running an online store. After all, a physical store has things like invoices, purchase orders, credit card machines, accountants, marketers, and sales reps that all basically have to be recreated online.
This can be easier or harder based on the business, but it is undoubtedly scary. As Schofield says, “Ecommerce can scare off both hosting providers and developers.”
Some of the reasons why ecommerce remains a difficult area is that the stakes are quite high. “Whenever an ecommerce store is down, people are losing money,” Schofield says. When blogs and other websites are unavailable, the site owner might not notice, and site visitors might come back later when the site’s back up. In contrast, he says, serious ecommerce sites know how many orders they get each day and how much revenue they lose every hour their site is down.
Furthermore, site responsiveness also matters, given that slow page load times cause visitors to visit fewer pages, and are less likely to make purchases.
With Spree, GoDaddy can provide an ecommerce solution that’s more dependable and responsive. According to research from web host Ninefold, Spree has faster load times than competitor Magento. Additionally, Magento has 8.2 million lines of open-source code, while Spree has just 49,000, meaning that Spree is leaner and easier for Ruby developers to make additions or fix bugs.
Compared to proprietary solutions, the open-source nature of Spree also helps by offloading some of the burden of code updates to an active community. Spree’s API also allows web hosts to provide a wide range of features that would be impossible to get out of the box.
But beyond making Spree the basis of a Software as a Service ecommerce offering, Spree can be used with any hosting, unlike many SaaS-only solutions. This is especially helpful in the world of big ecommerce where performance is an issue. Being able to, for instance, performing DDoS testing by pummeling the site with traffic, adding resources in advance of a major sale, or A/B testing different checkout experiences are all difficult to do with a simple SaaS solution.
As stores grow on simple and easy SaaS platforms, the ones that grow will inevitably seek out more custom solutions.
Schofield says this is good for retailers and ecommerce business. He says, “The more storefronts the better…regardless of what platform they’re on.”