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Online store platform – which one to choose: SaaS or open source?

BusinessOnline store platform - which one to choose: SaaS or open source?

The growing popularity of online shopping among consumers is encouraging sellers to open their own online stores. At the beginning of their journey, they are usually faced with the dilemma of which software to use to start and run their e-commerce. They have both subscription platforms and open-source tools at their disposal. What’s the difference between them and which one is best to choose? Check out our guide!

Types of Online Store Platforms

To meet the growing expectations of consumers, merchants are reaching for better and better solutions. They allow you to personalize your services, adapting them perfectly to the requirements of specific target groups. Thus, each company needs slightly different software that will also fit its business strategy. There are basically three types of tools available to vendors:

  • Open source software – open source and free access. So it’s very flexible, but at the same time requires some programming skills. Thus, creating a store with this type of tool will be time-consuming and, contrary to appearances, expensive for most users. Additional fees will be required to create any additional integrations.
  • A SaaS platform is software that runs on a subscription model, is easy to use and comprehensive. Although the user must pay a regular fee to access the tool, all of the necessary features are already included in the package. He doesn’t need to spend money on IT services or external integrations because he can create, modify and run his own store on his own.
  • A specialized solution is a tool created to order for a specific company and its customers. Thus, it is the most advanced, but at the same time the most expensive option. The development of such software also takes a lot of time, which delays the seller’s entry to the market. This is why it will benefit most from large companies that are already well versed in their industry.

As you can see, every vendor can choose the software that perfectly suits their individual needs and stage of development. Start-up entrepreneurs will make the best use of the first two solutions, i.e. open source and SaaS tools. So, let’s take a closer look at both of them below.

Advantages and disadvantages of open source tools

Open source programs are the most popular on the market. That’s because using them is theoretically free, and the service doesn’t seem complicated. In reality, however, they do require a great deal of patience and confidence. They are based on open source code that can be freely modified. This means that everyone builds their online store based on a particular framework.

However, it is worth noting that open source programs usually do not include access to any additional features. As a result, if you want to enrich your website with more advanced e-commerce features, you will have to turn to paid solutions and developer assistance. By betting on this type of tool, you solve all the technical problems yourself and take care of adapting your store to changing trends.

So, the advantages of open source software are as follows:

  • Access to the tool and running the store is free.
  • The software gives you full control over the store’s functionality and development.

Although it may not be obvious at first glance, open source tools have a few other drawbacks:

  • Running a store requires specialized knowledge or support from an IT professional.
  • The software requires self-installation on the server.
  • The tool does not include hosting, which must be paid for additionally.
  • Finding additional integrations and compatible plug-ins is done independently.
  • The user cannot rely on the technical support of the provider, but only on the help of the community.

Advantages and disadvantages of SaaS platforms

Some people give up on SaaS software as soon as they find out that they have to pay for it. This is a rather shortsighted approach that doesn’t take into account the ultimate costs. If you add up all the costs associated with using an open source tool, it can turn out to be much more than a one-time subscription fee.

SaaS platforms are cloud-based solutions that are ready to use as soon as you sign up for an account. They cover much more than just a store skeleton. They guarantee access to numerous integrations and hands-on sales and SaaS marketing features that are hard to find in open source software.

What are the benefits of SaaS platforms worth looking at?

  • It’s easy to get up and running so anyone can do it.
  • The subscription price includes all the necessary sales functions and website hosting.
  • The tool is comprehensive and guarantees access to key integrations (for example, with wholesalers, additional sales channels, payment gateways or courier services).
  • The software is constantly being refined, and responsibility for technical issues remains with the vendor.
  • At each stage of the store’s development you can count on free support from specialists.

However, despite the above advantages, you should pay attention to the following limitations:

  • You must pay a subscription fee to use SaaS platforms.
  • The user does not have access to the source code, which limits the store’s design options.

However, the disadvantages of subscription software should not prevent you from using tools of this type. The lack of access to the source code is a limitation that should bother only the most demanding users. Everyone can share their comments and observations with software vendors, and they often take them into account when developing products.

Open source platform or SaaS – which to choose?

Knowing the most important advantages and disadvantages of open source and SaaS platforms will make it easier for you to choose the right solution. In the decision-making process, the most important thing will be the right fit of the software with the company’s needs.  So pay attention not only to the cost of the tool, but above all to its functional scope. Key questions:

Getting the store up and running

With open source software, you take care of everything yourself: from buying hosting to system updates. It’s also your responsibility to fix any glitches and problems. The SaaS platform, on the other hand, allows you to customize your store according to your needs, and you only need to take care of the domain purchase yourself. Your vendor is responsible for the efficient operation of the tool, its updates and integration with external systems.

Store Configuration

Open source software usually gives you access to one free template. If you’re looking for a different solution, you’ll need to buy a paid design or outsource it to a graphic designer. The SaaS platform has an intuitive wizard with hundreds of free templates. You can easily edit them, customizing the layout and appearance of individual modules to your liking.

External integrations.

This is an aspect that in many cases defines the advantage of SaaS platforms over open source software. Subscription tools have a number of out-of-the-box integrations that allow you to synchronize your store with external tools. If the solution you want is not available, you can always ask the vendor to provide it. Open source programs, on the other hand, require you to find and implement additional plugins and extensions yourself. There is also no guarantee that they will be compatible with your tool.

Technical Support

If you are using an open source tool, you will need computer science knowledge. You can’t count on technical support from the software manufacturer, only community support. You will feel much more confident using a SaaS platform that guarantees you access to a customer service department.  It’s open at least 5 days a week and includes phone, email and chat.


This is the element where open source tools get an edge. The final look and functionality of your store is up to you. With free access to the database, server and code, you can influence the vast majority of aspects of the site.  SaaS platforms, which are out-of-the-box solutions, function somewhat differently. The creators of the tool are responsible for all the programming work, so you can’t really influence its final form. On the other hand, such a model removes your responsibility for technical issues and guarantees a sense of security.

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