Taking your business online or leaping from an internet presence to an e-commerce presence is an exciting and exhilarating time for an entrepreneur. It can also be a little daunting and scary, full of unknowns and fear of potential glitches in the 'the matrix'. Fortunately, you don't have to be a tech geek to understand how it works. All you need is enough knowledge and understanding to ask yourself, your service providers and your digital agency or team the right questions.
E-commerce solutions can be categorised into two main types:
Choosing between a hosted or self-hosted eCommerce platform is the top of the decision-making hierarchy. (For thirteen other essential points to consider, check out this article.)
So, what is the difference between hosted and self-hosted?
Hosted E-commerce Solutions
- Hosted solutions are SaaS (Software as a Solution) based that you can subscribe to for a monthly fee. SaaS means that the solution sits in the cloud and is not run from your network or server. i.e. your platform is "hosted" by a third party such as Squarespace, Shopify, Webflow or Big Commence.
- The solution provider manages most aspects, such as hosting, security, maintenance, uptime, PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliance and more. This is a considerable advantage with hosted e-commerce solutions.
- Very little technical knowledge is required to set up and deploy.
- Hosted eCommerce services are marketed as DIY solutions. They can be set up by almost anyone, with some learning happening along the way.
- They usually come in a variety of packages such as a basic, intermediate and advanced with varying degrees on capability and cost. This means you can start with a basic/budget plan and upgrade as you need more services or as sales volume increases. That's what we all need to hear, right? Sales volume increases!
- With these solutions, the focus is to start and be up and running for business quickly, leaving you to focus on marketing, business growth and delivery, instead of setting up your online store.
- There is always a skilled technical support team behind hosted e-commerce solutions. They use their expertise to take care of all the technical stuff, such as code and optimisation. Yup, it's true, no coding knowledge is required to manage the front end. I heard that sigh of relief when you read that!
Self-Hosted E-commerce Solutions
- As the name suggests, this is a solution that you will host yourself. The solution has no limitations; a custom written e-commerce platform can be created and written in any programming language or framework.
- The most popular ones in Dubai are WooCommerce (by the makers of WordPress), Open Cart, Magento and Xcart. These are open-source that you can download and host on your server.
- Requires technical knowledge because you are responsible for all the server-related tasks such as security, scalability, PCI DSS compliance, backups, maintenance, code improvements, and staying on top of new market trends, technology advancements and capabilities.
- For this, you would need a technical team or agency to help you build and consistently maintain your store.
- There can be an initial cost of setting everything up, and development charges going forward. However, there are no monthly fees to use the system itself. You will need to pay for hosting though.
So what goes this mean for you, a business owner in the UAE? Well now that you know the main differences. Let's get down to a little more of the nuts and bolts of the shopping cart options.
Some critical differences between hosted and self-hosted eCommerce platforms to keep in mind
Key Points to Consider when Making an E-commerce Platform Choice
- Starting cost
Hosted is far cheaper to start compared to self-hosted.
- Required level flexibility and customisation
Self-hosted solutions provide the freedom to build any kind of functionality, whereas with hosted, you have to stick to standard features. How much customisation do you need, and is it catered for in a hosted solution?
- Required level of support
For self-hosted solutions, you will need a team/agency to develop and provide support. With hosted, maybe an agency will help you set up, but once done, you can probably manage the store without a team or agency. The hosted solution will take care of all the tech stuff.
- Current and future size off your business
For a well established company, it might seem more appropriate to have a self-hosted solution. However, in terms of scale, a hosted solution like Shopify can scale to a substantial business. Hosted can be easy to start and doesn't require much technical expertise which is great for small and medium enterprises and start-ups.
- Payment gateways
Which payment gateway needs to be integrated, and is it available with the hosted solution you would like to use. Is it supported in the country/countries you will primarily trade in? For more information on payment gateways, what they are and how they are supported in the UAE, read more here.
Some Rapid Fire Questions
What Do You Need from Your E-Commerce Solution?
At Blue Beetle, we have over 16 years of experience connecting businesses, brands and users alike. In our experience, following is a list of the most popular e-commerce solutions that work well in the UAE, with a comparison to help you choose the right one for your business.
Comparative Study of UAE Suitable E-commerce Solutions
Hosted eCommerce Solutions
Self-hosted eCommerce Solutions
- All the options below are free to download/use; you own the code once you download or custom write it.
- Quality themes are available for all the open-source e-commerce options.
- You can use any payment gateway you want.
- You can build any custom functionality you need.
We want to help you create the most cost, profit and operationally effective solution for your business. For advice and a helping hand on your e-commerce journey, reach out to us to discuss your needs. We'll get you into e-commerce, quickly, efficiently and painlessly!