Remember those days where you had to get out of the house to buy the stuff you needed – even when it was raining outside and waiting at the counter took forever? Well, it’s not just you. Those days really are over.
Virtually all brick and mortar stores now offer their products online. Consumers can shop from the comfort of their home – or on the go, using a smartphone or tablet. Websites like Amazon and Alibaba now dominate international retail.
The last few years have seen the trend develop further. Mobile phones are growing in importance to the point they look poised to take over e-commerce, period. In 2018, mobile sales made up over 40% of all e-commerce. By 2021, they will make up over 50% of all online sales – and in countries like China, the US, UK and Japan, that figure is likely to be higher.
One thing that surprises many retailers is that offering a mobile site isn’t enough to meet these trends head-on. Worldwide research shows that ecommerce stores with a mobile app get more revenue, more repeat purchases and much higher mobile conversions.
People find apps far more convenient and easy to use while shopping on the go. According to some marketers, not having an app can seriously harm an e-commerce business’s bottom line.
There are two ways for companies to develop an ecommerce app that meets consumers’ wants and needs. One is to use an ecommerce app platform based on SaaS-technology. The other is to make a bespoke app that’s tailored to fit your business and customers.
In this article, we’ll cover the benefits and shortcomings of both options. We’ll explain what e-commerce app platforms are, how they work, and what their pros and cons are compared to bespoke apps.
We’ll start by explaining…
The difference between bespoke apps and SAAS-technology
You’ve probably had years of experience with creating and optimizing your webstore. This is good, because website comparisons are the best way to explain the difference between bespoke apps and apps based on SaaS-technology.
When building an e-commerce website, you can hire an agency to build and develop your webstore from scratch. This lets you create whatever design you’d like and add any features and integrations that your business needs. Although this gives you a lot of freedom, it also comes with a hefty price tag and many hours of project management.
Another way to get things done is by using an ecommerce platform like Bigcommerce, Prestashop, Wix, Shopify, WordPress and so on. These platforms allow you to choose from many webstore templates, pick the right one, select the right integrations and launch quickly and easily.
With this second option, what you get is based on the best practices within ecommerce, which is a better choice for most SMBs if not most businesses, period.
Now let’s extend the comparison between custom-made websites and ones made with e-commerce platforms to apps:
- Bespoke apps are tailored to a specific brand’s requirements. They might reuse some code from other apps but are mostly built from scratch. The main advantage of a bespoke app is that it can be anything you need and want it to be. The main downside is that bespoke apps demand more time and money than the alternative: SaaS-powered apps.
- SaaS-powered apps are made using templates and existing code. You still get to make a lot of decisions, but they’re more “multiple choice” than “open-ended answer”. One great thing about an app like this is that it’s cheaper, faster, and easier to make than a from-scratch app. Another benefit is that the code you get has already been used and tested, meaning it’s more stable. Plus, some ecommerce app platforms allow you to make adjustments yourself, create push notifications and view your app analytics. Another benefit is that they are built based on the best practices within m-commerce. The drawback here is that you don’t have full flexibility over the ecommerce app you get.
Not having full freedom could be a burden for some specific type of apps. For example, if you’re making a video game, you want to be free to develop it the way you want. But how good (or bad) are SaaS e-commerce app platforms for online retailers?
Keep reading to find out.
Ecommerce app platform benefits
Time and resources. A bespoke app can cost tens of thousand of dollars to build and thousands per month more to maintain and update. A SaaS-made one created on an ecommerce app platform costs a few hundred dollars per month and two thousand to launch, maximum.
A major reason for the difference in price is development time. The average bespoke ecommerce app takes between 3 and 9 months to complete. An app made on an ecommerce app platform takes 4-6 weeks, because it’s made with existing code.
Moreover, with bespoke apps, there’s no need to test code for stability and revise it again and again. The whole process is template-based, meaning that 2 or 3 feedback rounds are enough to get everything right.
Features. SaaS builders like Guruvhyo include all the newest features available for iOS and Android. These features are built according to best practices and industry benchmarks – and available to all customers. This makes them cheaper (and more effective) than the new features in a bespoke app, made from scratch.
Control. Ecommerce app platforms put you in control of your app’s performance and analytics. This means creating and send push messages yourself, viewing app analytics and more.
Integrations. Plugins like Gurubhyo automatically integrate with your existing online store. This means that any changes you make to the backend of your webstore – like adding new products – will change automatically in your app, too. Plus, stock levels, payment gateways and delivery services are automatically connected.
Design. One area in which SaaS-made apps are strong is design. They’re based on best practices, follow recommended standards, and are easy to customize with brand graphics, colors, etc.
Now, the above advantages are important – but it’s important to be realistic about the limitations of an ‘off-the-shelf’ ecommerce app.
Ecommerce app platform drawbacks
Limited custom code. A SaaS-powered app allows for some custom code, but by and large, it’s made using templates. This isn’t a problem for most e-commerce brands – but if you want something radically different, you should consider a bespoke app.
Waiting for new features. If you have a large development team and your own bespoke app, you can roll out new features whenever your business needs them – although the development can take a while. With a Saas ecommerce app platform, you have to wait until new features are rolled out.
Specific design needs. Do you want to do something that’s outside commonly accepted best practices and standards? Then you’re unlikely to get the app you want with an e-commerce app platform.
For most retailers a mobile app built on an e-commerce app platform is a better fit. Only the big stores – like Amazon – with big budgets and very specific needs are better of building a bespoke app.