Shopify Plus Is Leading the eCommerce SaaS Revolution.

March 21st, 2016 |Humayun Rashid

We work with innovative brands in retail, fashion apparel, and consumer goods, and help build elegant shopping experiences. As a scalable and robust platform, Shopify Plus is highly customizable and created for growing brands. With enterprise level solutions, 24/7 white glove support, and a scalable technology infrastructure, Shopify Plus is a trusted solution by today’s top brands.

eCommerce SaaS

Too often we see clients bogged down with a lengthy list of tech specifications only to realize after implementation that half of the out-of-the-box features rarely get used. In our strategy workshops, we advise our clients to ignore feature comparisons.  Instead, we encouraged them to focus on how the on-demand service impacts the bottom line of the business. Brands need to ask themselves what is the ROI by implementing this new platform? All hosted platforms have their advantages and disadvantages that should be considered in the research phase.

The best way to determine if a SaaS (software as a service) platform is right for your brand is to assess the business goals of the company. Work with your marketing team and ask yourselves the following questions.

  1. What is your business trying to achieve?
  2. Why have you outgrown your current eCommerce platform?
  3. Are you planning a multi-market expansion strategy?
  4. Are you looking for a feature rich eCommerce platform that can scale with your business needs?
  5. How adept is your internal team with eCommerce technology infrastructure and maintenance?

SMB Growth

Working with brands within fashion apparel and consumer goods, we suggest that SaaS platforms are ideal for most SMB brands with annual revenues under $25MM and team sizes under 100. Businesses can expect a full-featured eCommerce platform thats accessible and modified from the front-end customer facing store to the internal CMS and operations. The SaaS infrastructure provides feature rich integrations via a well designed system for most SMB brands but may not be ideal for a global retailer with their own warehousing, distribution channels and fulfillment operations. Global brands like Nike and Apple have invested hundreds of millions in optimizing their own omni-channel sales platform and do not need a powerful SaaS platform to handle their online sales.

SaaS platforms like Shopify Plus provide enterprise brands the ability to enter a new market quickly, test out business assumptions, or launch many products via B2C or B2B sales channels. Brands can enjoy a leg up on the competition by using enterprise-grade eCommerce software and launch a store in a few short months. This can be incredibly advantageous for brands looking to scale a product quickly or testing out a market demand by launching with relative ease.

Technology & Infrastructure

Hosted platforms are becoming increasingly popular among retailers for a slew of advantages. According to Forrester Research, eCommerce SaaS spending will nearly double in the U.S. by 2019. Retailers are shifting from traditional legacy solutions to a nimble and scalable hosted platform. In fact, U.S. firms are expected to spend over $2 billion on eCommerce software by 2019 and on demand SaaS software spending will increase by 66%. Shopify Plus provides retailers with all their hosting needs, software updates, and technology maintenance -saving hundreds of thousands in the process. Brands behind the pack continue to deal with legacy software issues, maintaining their own servers, and hiring dedicated IT teams.  Proactive brands realize eCommerce is an integral component of their multi-channel sales strategy and having a flexible and adaptable platform will give them a business edge over their competition.

U.S firms are expected to spend over $2 billion on eCommerce software by 2019 and on demand SaaS software spending will increase by 66%.

Another business advantage for growing brands is the low cost to scale the business using Shopify’s technology. Brands care more about business growth and product sales, not managing their eCommerce technology stack. Global brands like Tesla Motors, Citizen and Budweiser, have shifted to SaaS eCommerce solutions and trusts the Shopify Plus platform. The technology stack for Plus can be scaled at anytime, regardless of traffic spikes a store receives after a PR plug or a promotional campaign. The advantage SaaS platforms have here is driving down overall technology investment requirements and labor costs, compared that to a more traditional setup requiring hefty hardware investments and expensive contract agreements with vendors.

Shopify Plus

  1. 99% guaranteed uptime — Stores being down can cost you hundreds of thousands in lost revenue. Plus makes sure that never happens.
  2. Enterprise-grade CDN — Your content is accessible and consumed across all customer viewpoints at break neck speeds. No more content loading issues.
  3. Unlimited bandwidth — No caps on hosting or traffic spikes. You shouldn’t have to pay for more traffic.
  4. Certified Level 1 PCI DSS compliant with annual assessments — Online security is a beast to handle on its own for most SMB brands, let the pros take care of it.
  5. Full access to Shopify API — Customize and create feature-rich enhancements for your store.

Scalability & Reliability

One common question we get asked often from clients is can hosted eCommerce platforms scale with my business? Plus is designed to scale according to the needs of your business and without any restrictions. You can process over 500k requests per minute on your store with zero downtime. Most enterprise grade SaaS platforms like Plus enjoy a 99.99% uptime record with annual maintenance and server upgrades handled internally. This level of reliability is beneficial for businesses seeking to maintain a consistent level of customer service without any interruption. The last thing any retailer wants is for their site to be down during a busy holiday shopping season because they can’t handle the traffic load. Recently, Target became an unfortunate target (pun intended) of embarrassing downtime during peak holiday season last year because they couldn’t keep up with their traffic. That’s millions in lost revenue. Brands can’t afford to lose millions in potential revenue because their web store is always down.

Brands can’t afford to lose millions in potential revenue because their web store is always down.

We recently partnered with a major consumer product brand that designs and manufactures children’s headphones. They were growing fast and needed a dedicated sales channel that would be able to handle high volume orders, integrate with their existing fulfillment partners and third party vendors, all within an flexible and easy to use platform. Building on the Plus platform was the right business decision as they successfully processed over 30k orders on Black Friday and Cyber Monday’s sale, without a single glitch.

DBNY-Shopify Plus

You can read more about the Lil Gadgets case study here.

APIs, Integrations & Ecosystem

Not all SaaS platforms are created equal. It’s imperative that brands understand the ecosystem designed around the platform of their choosing. The Plus platform is similar in design to Apple’s app ecosystem. You have access to a secure and managed environment in which third party developers continue to support the platform and build new features and enhancements. Similar to Apple’s App store, Shopify has their own app store that is relatively straightforward in terms of plug and play installation. Most applications provide enhanced features not readily available out of the box. Retailers can enjoy thousands of integrations like connecting with third party email marketing software, linking to their CRM software, integrating with their fulfillment centers and much more. Brands can take advantage of this modular approach for testing purposes and improving the business by installing and trying new features with relative ease.

Seamless integrations to an existing sales channel is also a major factor when brands choose an eCommerce platform. Brands have to consider if this new platform will play nice with their fulfillment & shipping partners, financials and accounting, ERP systems, 3PL, OMS, logistics and more. Plus provides full access to a robust API allowing for full connectivity to many popular platforms such as Sage, SAP, Netsuite, Lightspeed POS and more. Shopify’s well documented API provides brands’ internal team or agency partners to build connections of all types (both internal and external) for their store.

DBNY-Shopify Plus 2

Brands can work with their agency partners or internal dev team to build custom shopping experiences using Shopify’s API.

For example, a well documented API opens up opportunities to create a truly custom shopping experience that will only enhance the buyer journey and help increase sales. You can use it to build almost anything and connect it to most third party platforms. We used the Shopify Plus API to build a custom checkout experience for Lil Gadgets. One of the primary business goals for the client was to simplify the buying experience as much as possible and make it easy to shop from initial browsing to checkout. The API gave us full access to customize the checkout page allowing us to design a streamlined buying experience from initial visit to check out. We introduced important steps in the purchase process such as alerting the customer when items were updated in the shopping cart and creating a 3 step checkout process. This is only one example of the many integrations and enhancements that can be used via Shopify’s extensive API to customize your store.

Value & Cost

We predict as more SMB brands continue to invest in SaaS eCommerce platforms, the relative cost will dramatically decrease over time, contrast to the costs of upfront investments in homegrown platforms. Plus plans start at $2k per month and can increase based on a variety of specific needs such as bandwidth requirements, sales volumes, customizations and more. It’s important to understand that pricing is completely transparent from initial sign up and remains constant for the lifetime of your stores account. This is huge and almost guarantees a flat price no matter the growth requirements of your store. This level of transparency is refreshing to see from an eCommerce platform provider, unlike many whose business model consists of charging percentage fees of revenue earned or hidden fees for additional support and premium features. Plus is built on Shopify’s robust platform and comes out of the box with all the premium features.

There are numerous advantages to SaaS eCommerce platforms over traditional infrastructure and one that stands out the most is getting to market fast. Within the past decade we’ve witnessed the entire eCommerce ecosystem streamlined thanks to many improvements in manufacturing (AliBaba), shipping & fulfillment (Amazon) product marketing (Kickstarter), and now technology and maintenance of the eCommerce platform itself. Launching a product and introducing it to market faster can be lucrative for brands. Using a SaaS solution, you can get up and running relatively quickly with a true enterprise-level store in a few short months.

Legacy systems can cost hundreds of thousands of up front investment with long term vendor contracts and hiring an in house IT maintenance team, already blowing past the marketing spend for most SMB brands. The allure of SaaS is it’s speed, scalability and relative cost. Most of the heavy lifting on the technology end (infrastructure, networking and hosting, payments security) is provided and can be leased for a small cost without very little upfront investment, proving to be a powerful business model for brands focusing on product, marketing and growth.

Service & Support

Having a dedicated support staff handling both customer queries and technical needs is vital for the success of your online business and your customer lifetime value. If you can’t support your customers needs and maintain your store, they will shop elsewhere. Plus customers enjoy 24/7 Tier 2 level support via a dedicated account manager. A representative from Shopify is solely assigned to your store for the lifetime of it’s account. That’s huge. You can imagine how advantageous and cost beneficial this can may be for growing brands. This feature alone is well worth the price tag for brands who can’t afford to hire an in house eCommerce manager. Imagine having access to a helpful account manager that can answer most technical questions, your backend operations and more via a phone call or email. Plus account managers are part eCommerce experts and part project managers, providing expert level service and support for brands. We’ve had the pleasure of working with numerous account managers for our clients and have nothing but positive reviews. They are easily accessible, reliable, and extremely knowledgeable.

Takeaways

In conclusion, we are confident about the steady growth of SaaS eCommerce platforms and its continued adoption by SMB brands. Brands looking to scale and grow their businesses should seriously consider Shopify Plus as an on demand eCommerce platform for their online business. Working with the platform for multiple client projects we can confidentially say that it’s one of the best SaaS providers with a perfect balance of reliability, scalability, white-glove service and support.

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