Off-the-shelf compared to bespoke ecommerce solutions

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

6 min read   -  17th November, 2023

Off-the-shelf compared to bespoke ecommerce solutions

When it comes to scaling your business, it can be hard to know what ecommerce solution to use - bespoke or off-the-shelf. With seemingly endless options being marketed to you, all promising to take your revenue to the next level - how do you choose?

Both bespoke ecommerce development and off-the-shelf ecommerce platforms are worth considering. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right fit for your specific requirements and aspirations for your business.

Let’s go through the pros and cons, so you have a strong foundation:

Bespoke ecommerce solutions: An introduction

These are custom and bespoke online shops and websites, built to function to your specific requirements. This option is ideal if you’re after something unique and need to solve a specific problem, or just want something a little bit different.

Off-the-shelf ecommerce solutions: An introduction

These are ready-made online shop templates and software that you can purchase and install at speed. Often less expensive than bespoke ecommerce, they have the benefit of being a faster option if you need results today.

Pros of bespoke ecommerce solutions

1. Solving complex issues

This is often the key reason for many people choosing the bespoke route. Yes, you’ll pay more than you would for a typical off-the-shelf option, but this can be a blessing when you’ve got a tricky issue to solve. Bespoke solutions can be transformative.

2. Flexibility and scalability

You won’t find a more flexible option than a bespoke ecommerce platform. These will scale with your business, providing you total control over the functionality and design of your solution. You also have the chance to turn certain elements of this platform on and off, adding and subtracting for its design and list of features as and when your business needs them.

3. Tailored to your requirements

If you want something small but perfectly formed, this is a great option. If you’re looking for a large build that caters to ever-evolving business requirements, you can simply add that to your list of requirements. This is where it pays to be picky.

4. Your brand identity is key

In the highly competitive world of ecommerce, you need to stand out from the crowd. One of the most effective ways to do this is through a strong brand identity. Go beyond logos, fonts and colour schemes, and create an ecommerce platform that reflects your brand's values, professionalism and experience. 

5. Tailored integrations

Linking every element of your existing ecommerce setup can be hugely time-consuming, frustrating and sometimes impossible without an expert. A custom platform can seamlessly integrate with every part of your system. Problem solved!

6. Full ownership

Say goodbye to the middleman. With a custom solution, you own it entirely, so you can take total ownership of your infrastructure. This ultimately gives you total flexibility moving forward and makes you more adaptable and far less reliant on any external service provider as you scale.

7. Bye-bye, licence fees!

If you’re a larger company, employing your own staff and development team to create something bespoke can save you thousands in the long run. Businesses of any size can save on monthly licence fees too.

Cons of bespoke ecommerce solutions

1. Dependent on your dev team

Businesses are ever-evolving, scaling with change and evolution in mind. With any bespoke platform build, you form a reliance on the team creating it. This is why choosing a team that you trust to complete the job on time is vital. Make your decision mindfully.

2. Documentation

There’s no point in creating a fantastic bespoke platform, only to find just one person knows how to use it. Anything bespoke will require detailed, accurate documentation covering exactly how to use it. 

3. Higher costs

This is often the biggest risk to consider with something bespoke. Depending on what you’re looking for, costs can rack up quickly. This is worth it if you’re after a highly specific build that can’t be replicated anywhere else, but take time to look into all available options before parting with a sizeable portion of your budget.

4. Bespoke takes a while…

You’re going to have to be patient. If you’re looking for a platform at speed, this probably isn’t the option for you. It’s worth the wait but builds can take several months if you’re looking to create a bespoke platform with complex requirements.

Pros of off-the-shelf ecommerce solutions

1. Speed and efficiency

In a hurry? A ready-built platform can solve your problems right away. Many off-the-shelf solutions are ready to go as soon as you install them. So if you’re looking to scale at speed, this is a fantastic option.

2. Stability

Many off-the-shelf options are highly established, so when you invest in one, you already have the backing of potentially thousands of businesses who can vouch for its efficiency. Knowing that you’re spending your budget on something that has already positively impacted similar companies to your own can make this decision a lot easier to make.

3. Cost-effective

As the general build costs are significantly lower, requiring a much smaller team to implement compared to anything bespoke, off-the-shelf platforms are a lot more affordable. If you have a lower price point and just want to cover all the basics without any headaches, this is the option for you.

4. Quick support

One of the most useful elements of any pre-built platform is the speedy support. You’ll often have a team on call, ready to help talk you through any issues right away. Support can also come in the form of documentation and forums. Remember, there are potentially thousands of businesses using the same software, so many common issues will already have solutions to hand.

5. Regular updates

To stay competitive, many off-the-shelf platforms will have semi-regular updates and security patches. This means you’ll be able to evolve your services as the platform develops over time. 

Cons of off-the-shelf ecommerce solutions

1. Dependency

There’s not a great deal of independence if you’re working with a pre-built platform, as everything belongs to the provider. Be mindful that if the provider discontinues a portion or even all of the service they provide, you’ll have to roll with the changes. Additionally, you may find that support lines get very busy if there’s a sudden outage.

2. Restrictions

Because you don’t have total control over every element of your platform, you’ll have to be prepared and flexible when restrictions come up. Price hikes, changes to the software features and other updates can create setbacks that can change your projected growth trajectory over time.

3. Inability to scale

You’re locked into the limitations of the platform. This is fine if you know exactly how far your business will go. But if you scale past what the platform can offer, you’ll be forced to start again on a new off-the-shelf option. This can cause delays, not to mention a bit of a headache transferring your entire business over to a new system!

4. Limited tailoring

One of the main drawbacks of any off-the-shelf option is how limited you are regarding customisation. You’ll have access to predefined systems and templates, taking some of the personalisation and flexibility out of your options.

5. Similarities to your competitors

There’s a chance that you’ll end up looking a little too similar to other businesses using the same platform. This is worth bearing in mind if you’re looking to craft a unique brand identity whilst you stand out from your competitors.

Hybrid ecommerce solutions 

Still struggling to see a solution that works for your requirements? Perhaps you need a hybrid solution. If bespoke is too pricey, but you know you want something that off-the-shelf options can’t offer, this could help.

This way, you retain the core features that already exist, that align with your needs and wants as a business. Simply add on the flexibility of fine-tuning and customising your platform to your liking through bespoke solutions to enhance everything the off-the-shelf platform provides.

In summary

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to something as important as your ecommerce platform. This is the foundation of your business, so take the time to carefully evaluate the pros and cons listed above. Rest assured that the best solution is out there. If you need any advice, we’re here to help, please get in touch.

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.

Get in touch Get in touch

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.