What forms of ecommerce software exist?

Ecommerce software is available in various forms and price classes. It is usually divided into three system types:


  • Custom solutions
  • Open source software
  • SaaS platform


Custom Solutions


With a custom solution, an online store is specifically developed for you by a web design company, freelancers, or your own developers. You fully control the features and the appearance of the online store, at the front-end and the admin panel (where you manage your online store). Consequently, there are few limitations with custom solutions.


The disadvantage to custom solutions is the price tag: they are very expensive. Development can cost tens of thousands of euros and an hourly rate is charged for future developments and extensions. Usually clients that choose custom-made solutions are large online stores like Zalando and Amazon.

Open source software


Open source software uses a source code that is freely available to everyone. Some well-known open source platforms are Magento, osCommerce and Open Cart.


Theoretically, using open source software is free and this usually proves to be true in practice. However, the software needs to be installed and configured. Open source software is technically complex. If you are not a developer yourself or know someone who is, you will have to hire a company to set up the online store for you.


Depending on the system and your personal preferences, the price for setting up this type of system can range between a few thousand euros to more than 10,000 euros. In addition, you should be prepared to pay several hundred to several thousand euros per month in (maintenance) costs.

SaaS platform


You can also choose a SaaS platform. SaaS stands for “software as a service” and with this option, you rent software. The software remains the exclusive property of the company that develops it (the SaaS provider) and you can make use of it for a certain price, usually paid monthly.


The prices for this type of e-commerce software vary, depending on the provider. Monthly charges can range from nine euros to more than 100 euros. Providers usually offer various monthly plans and the rule of thumb is: the more a plan costs, the more features and fewer limitations it has.


The better SaaS platforms offer many options for a relatively low price. A SaaS platform is therefore a logical choice for most beginning online merchants.

Choosing the right software


Because custom solutions are only beneficial to a very small percentage of merchants, we have listed the pros and cons of open source and SaaS below.


Open source plan (to buy)

Advantages Disadvantages
Freedom to set up according to personal wishes Expensive in price
Adaptable source code Advanced technical knowledge and skills required for implementation and administration
Flexible options Time consuming
Many links with external software No personal support (or for an additional price)
Options to integrate the newest technology in your system Separate invoice for each adjustement
No fixed administration costs Not as secure (susceptible to attacks)


SaaS solution (to rent)

Advantages Disadvantages
Affordable (fixed monthly costs) Pre-existing structures, therefore less flexible in set up and design
User friendly Usually less originality in design and features
Comprehensive plans Dependence on provider (regarding updates, etc.)
Little technical knowledge required May lack links (APIs)
No extra costs for updates/continued development  
Personal support (usually free)  
More secure (seldom targeted for attacks)  
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