Templated vs bespoke e-commerce platform

Templated vs bespoke e-commerce platform

E-commerce platforms are the digital storefronts that power your online business. They provide the foundation for displaying your products, managing inventory, processing payments, and ultimately, delivering a seamless shopping experience for your customers. Choosing the best e-commerce platform for your business is critical, as it will directly impact your store's functionality, scalability, and overall success. This decision hinges on whether you go with a templated platform or a bespoke platform.

In this blog, we'll unpack these two types of e-commerce platforms. We'll shed light on their strengths and weaknesses, empowering you to make a well-informed decision that perfectly aligns with your business vision and budget – whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner.

If you don't have time to read the whole blog post you can skip to the e-commerce-platform comparison table.

Annie Sloan Custom ecommerce site

Client Annie Sloan's custom e-commerce website

Bespoke e-commerce platforms

A bespoke e-commerce platform is a custom-built online store designed from the ground up to meet the specific needs and functionalities of your business. Unlike templated platforms that offer pre-designed layouts and features, a bespoke platform allows for complete control over every aspect of your online store, from design and user experience to complex functionalities and integrations.

Key characteristics:

  • Customisation: Bespoke platforms are built to your vision. They allow you to design your online store from scratch, ensuring it perfectly reflects your brand's personality. This includes crafting a unique layout that stands out from the crowd, incorporating features tailored to your specific needs, and establishing seamless connections with your existing business systems for a cohesive workflow.
  • Scalability: Bespoke platforms can be built to scale alongside your business. They can handle increasing traffic, complex product catalogues, and advanced features like personalised recommendations or custom product configurations.
  • Security: With bespoke development, you have greater control over security measures. You can implement features and protocols specific to your industry and data security needs.
  • Integration: Bespoke platforms excel at integrating seamlessly with existing business systems like inventory management software, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, or marketing automation platforms. This streamlines operations and provides a unified customer experience.

Advantages of bespoke e-commerce websites:

  • Unique brand identity: Create a website that perfectly reflects your brand and provides a superior customer experience.
  • Scalability: Accommodate growth and complex functionalities as your business expands.
  • Advanced features: Implement unique features and functionalities that are not available on templated platforms.
  • Integration: Seamlessly integrate with existing business systems for smoother operations.
  • Security: Greater control over security measures to protect sensitive data.

The drawbacks:

  • High cost: Bespoke development requires a significant investment in upfront costs and ongoing maintenance.
  • Development time: Building a bespoke platform takes time and resources. It's not ideal if you need a quick launch.
  • Technical expertise: You might need an in-house development team or hire external developers, which adds to the cost.

Best-fit scenarios:

  • Standing out from the crowd: Does your brand have a unique identity that deserves a one-of-a-kind online experience? Bespoke platforms offer complete creative control, allowing you to design a store that perfectly reflects your brand and creates a powerful customer experience.
  • Complex products, advanced features: Bespoke development allows you to build a platform that seamlessly accommodates your complex product catalogues and integrates the advanced features you need to operate efficiently.
  • Streamlining operations:  Do you have existing business systems like inventory management or CRM software? Bespoke platforms excel at deep integration with these systems, creating a seamless workflow that eliminates data silos and streamlines your operations.
Harley Davidson's custom e-commerce website

Client Harley Davidson's custom website

The verdict on bespoke e-commerce platforms

Bespoke platforms offer unparalleled flexibility and control. You can craft a truly unique online store that perfectly reflects your brand identity and aligns seamlessly with your business goals. This level of customisation comes with the advantage of building a platform that can grow and adapt alongside your business. However, it's important to remember that bespoke development requires a significant investment in upfront costs and ongoing maintenance.

Client G2 Surveys's templated e-commerce website

Client G2 Surveys's templated e-commerce website

Out-of-the-box e-commerce platforms

Setting up your online store with an off-the-shelf platform is much like decorating a pre-furnished apartment. You don't need to build the walls from scratch; you just pick the layout and add your personal touches. That's the beauty of out-of-the-box e-commerce platforms, also known as templated platforms.

These pre-built software solutions are hosted by the provider and allow you to launch your online store quickly and efficiently, perfect for businesses that crave a speedy entry into the e-commerce world.

These platforms typically come equipped with user-friendly interfaces, often featuring drag-and-drop functionality. This means you can customise your storefront's design and add features even without extensive coding knowledge.

Key characteristics:

  • Pre-built functionality: Out-of-the-box platforms come equipped with essential features for running an online store, including product listings, shopping carts, payment gateways, and basic marketing tools. This eliminates the need for custom development, allowing for a faster launch.
  • Budget-friendly: Compared to bespoke development, templated platforms offer significant cost savings. They typically operate on subscription plans or pay-as-you-go models, making them a perfect fit for startups and businesses with limited budgets.
  • Effortless setup and management: Ease of use is a major perk of these platforms. Many boast intuitive interfaces with drag-and-drop features, allowing you to customise your storefront's layout and add functionalities without needing to write a single line of code. This makes them ideal for users with little to no coding experience.
  • Room to grow (with limitations): While not infinitely scalable like bespoke platforms, some templated solutions offer upgrade plans. These plans can accommodate moderate growth in traffic and product offerings, allowing your online store to expand alongside your business. However, it's important to be aware that significant growth might eventually necessitate migrating to a bespoke platform for maximum flexibility.

Advantages of template e-commerce websites:

  • Speedy set-up: These platforms boast a pre-built framework, allowing you to launch your online store significantly faster compared to bespoke development. This translates to quicker time-to-market and the ability to start selling sooner.
  • Cost-effective: Subscription fees or pay-as-you-go models make out-of-the-box platforms a budget-conscious option for businesses of all sizes. This is particularly attractive for startups or businesses with limited initial investment capital.
  • User-friendly: Out-of-the-box platforms prioritise ease of use. Their intuitive interfaces often come equipped with drag-and-drop functionality, empowering you to customise your storefront's layout and add features without needing to be a coding expert.
  • Reduced maintenance: Platform providers handle the ongoing maintenance and updates for your online store. This frees you from technical complexities and ensures you have access to the latest features and security patches, allowing you to focus your energy on running and growing your business.
  • Diverse platform landscape: The e-commerce landscape offers a rich selection of out-of-the-box platforms. This variety allows you to choose a platform that caters specifically to your industry and business needs, ensuring a solution that perfectly aligns with your unique goals.

The drawbacks:

  • Limited customisation: You're restricted to the platform's pre-designed themes and functionalities. Creating a truly unique brand experience might be challenging.
  • Scalability limitations: As your business grows significantly, the platform's capabilities may become restrictive. You might eventually need to migrate to a bespoke solution.
  • Vendor dependence: You rely on the platform provider for updates and functionalities. This limits your control and can cause disruptions if the provider makes changes you don't agree with.

Best-fit scenarios:

  • Budget-minded businesses: Templated platforms offer a cost-effective way to enter the e-commerce world. Subscription fees or pay-as-you-go models eliminate the need for a large upfront investment, making them ideal for bootstrapped businesses.
  • Simple product catalogues:  If your business sells a standard range of products and doesn't require highly specialised features, a templated platform can handle your online sales effectively. These platforms provide all the essential functionalities you need to showcase products, process payments, and fulfil orders.
  • Testing the e-commerce waters:  Unsure if an online store is right for your business in the long term?  Templated platforms offer a low-risk way to experiment.  The quick setup allows you to launch your store fast and test the market before committing to a more expensive bespoke solution.
Choosing an e-commerce platform

How to choose an e-commerce platform 

Use this as a guide to help you better understand which platform type best suits your needs. 

1. Self-assessment

  • Business size and stage: Are you a startup, a small business, or a well-established brand? Each stage has different needs. Startups might prioritise affordability and speed, whereas established brands might focus on scalability and customisation.
  • Product-catalogue complexity: Do you sell a simple range of products or a vast and diverse catalogue with unique features? Complex catalogues might require a platform that accommodates specific product data management needs.
  • Technical expertise: Does your team have in-house developers or are you comfortable relying on a platform's support? Bespoke platforms often require more technical expertise for maintenance.
  • Budget: Consider your initial investment and ongoing costs. Templated platforms offer predictable subscription fees, while bespoke platforms involve significant upfront development costs.
  • Growth: Do you project your business growing over the next few years? Choose a platform that can scale alongside your needs.

2. Prioritise: What matters most?

  • Speed to market: If a quick launch is crucial, out-of-the-box (templated) platforms offer a faster turnaround time.
  • Customisation: For a unique brand experience and specialised features, a bespoke platform allows for complete design and functionality control.
  • Scalability: If you anticipate significant growth, a platform that can adapt to increasing traffic and product offerings is essential.
  • Security: Depending on your industry and the type of data you handle, security features and control become a top priority.
  • Ongoing maintenance: Consider your team's technical capabilities. Templated platforms handle maintenance, while bespoke solutions might require in-house expertise or external support.
e-commerce specialists, h2o creative

Making the decision

Don't rush your e-commerce platform selection. Carefully consider your needs and match them with the platform's capabilities. If you're unsure, consult with e-commerce specialists like h2o creative. We can provide guidance based on your specific business situation to help you make the right decision for your needs, and only your needs. 

Let’s get started. Get in touch today.