With its open source software and proven technology, Drupal is the first choice for many business owners when it comes to deciding a framework for their digital commerce business. After all, it’s a great CMS and ecommerce can be added to it through custom-built development (although custom might not be best, more on that later).
So, how about your business? Are you using Drupal and have an integrated or custom ecommerce component? Or, maybe you’re still deciding on which way to go to add ecommerce functionality? If so, let’s talk about the features that you probably wish to have in your website:
- Are you looking for limitless product presentation and customization options?
- Do you have plans to set up multichannel marketing and automation for your website?
- Are you planning to integrate third party systems or run custom social media campaigns?
- Do you need the flexibility to scale your website with endless options?
If you replied “yes” to any of the above questions, I would say custom-built ecommerce probably isn’t your best option. Nor do I think you need a pre-packaged SaaS solution, either. Before I suggest what you might want to do, let’s first look specifically at why custom ecommerce can present its own difficult challenges you definitely want to avoid.
5 challenges of a custom ecommerce system
Depending upon the complexity of requirements, it can take anywhere from months to years to set up a proper ecommerce site, no joke. Let’s say you’ve decided on building custom ecommerce functionality into your Drupal site. You’ve hired a developer, or maybe an agency or an internal team, to build it and have been able to get the ecommerce functionality that your business needed to get started. Great!
Now, after a year or so, you start thinking of scaling it by adding more features and functionality. This is where you may start running into challenges. Let me outline some of the more critical challenges you may face.
1. Handcuffed to an internal development team or outside agency
This can be a touchy subject but is probably the biggest liability for a company using custom development, so let’s start here. Ideally you’d still want to use that original development team who has all the knowledge of how your ecommerce component was made. But what if you can’t get the same developers or what if you have a falling-out with the agency who built it? Imagine how difficult it might be to onboard new developers when you yourself don’t know the code. Without a predefined standard or framework, how your ecommerce was built is anyone's guess. Significant cost will be added just to get any new developers up-to-speed.
2. Slow to implement new features and/or functionality
If you’re constantly feeling like you are reacting to the market rather than being a proactive innovator, this can be a direct cause of custom development. Simply put, everything you add to your website needs to be built and nothing is ready-made that you can just plug in. There is no time saving options that you can take advantage of to speed things up.
3. Inability to integrate with desired third party platforms
Integrations are one of the biggest benefits of an open source platform so it can be a real problem if you’re not able to integrate quickly and effectively.
Consider the cost that you have to bear when you are introducing something as simple as a new payment system or a new tax rule. Something that should be easy might take far too much time than it’s worth because you don’t have access to an underlying framework that was made specifically to make building these integrations faster.
Or maybe a robust new marketing tool comes in to the market and if you want to take advantage of it by integrating it with your ecommerce site. Let peace be upon you… this larger integration could be a monumental task. Every integration you require means more custom development, more cost, and lengthy timelines to completion.
4. Sacrificing the front-end customer experience
Custom development is built by developers first and so the actual look and presentation is often sacrificed for functionality. This isn’t meant to be a knock on developers, but the simple truth of the matter is that building code and building layout and design are two entirely different specialties. It’s very rare that you find someone with both skill sets. Without good UX and design, your customers will not get the front-end experience they expect which could impact your business performance.
If the makeup of your team includes designers and frontend developers, great! This would alleviate presentation issues, but these extra specialists will add additional expense to your custom build.
5. Unable to take advantage of the community
If all you have is custom functionality, you could be spending a lot of time and money developing features and/or integrations that potentially already would have existed if you had gone a different route. If you think about it, one of the great things about Drupal in general is all of the community-made modules that you have access to for extending your site’s functionality. While you’ll still be able to use them with your Drupal site, the custom ecommerce side of things doesn’t have that benefit. Everything you need must be built and probably only your team of developers can do it.
If not custom development, then what?
So what do you choose when custom development is a hassle and I’ve already mentioned that I’m not pushing you towards a SaaS solution. Well, my suggestion is that you should consider using the Drupal-native ecommerce module, Drupal Commerce. I mean, why marry off your Drupal site with someone else when we have fully compatible Drupal Commerce with us. It has been a proven ecommerce framework since 2011 (view usage stats) and lets you build a secure, scalable, SEO and mobile friendly ecommerce site in whatever way your business needs! It’s framework has been made for extending. It’s documented and has a large community centered around it (which Acro Media is a part of). Maybe you’ve heard negative rumblings about it in the past, and if so, I think you should look again.
Here’s how I justify my view, or rather, how Drupal Commerce can help you fulfill your ecommerce requirements.
Top 7 reasons why you should use Drupal Commerce
Below are the top 7 reasons why you should be selecting Drupal Commerce over any custom or off-the-shelf hosted solutions out there.
1. Commerce and content will easily get along
When we use Drupal Commerce with Drupal, it will let you manage your content strategy right within your ecommerce platform. You can easily manage complex relationship between products and other contents in the site. The CMS part will let you create custom landing pages to attract the attention of users while flexibility in the ecommerce part will make it easier for a site owner to manage new products and its workflow.
2. Requires less development effort
When you need a content site as well as an ecommerce site, With out-of-the-box modules and pre-configured distributions, a Drupal Commerce store can be easily setup without much hassle. Plus, when custom development is required, Drupal’s strict code standards ensure that any competent Drupal developer can easily jump-in and understand what’s going on. You’re not stuck with just a single developer or agency to manage your project. You have the freedom to shop around.
3. Highly customizable and scalable
Unlike most SaaS systems, Drupal and Drupal Commerce can be customized according to the business’s needs. Even though Drupal and Drupal Commerce are architected to be extended limitlessly, all the extensions follow a general standard. This makes sure that when the next person with knowledge in Drupal Commerce comes along, either from a development or administrator standpoint, this person can handle the software easily. New features or integrations can be performed faster which takes the system scalable to the next level.
From a performance perspective, Drupal and Drupal Commerce are more than capable of scaling to meet the needs of small business all the way to enterprise. Need proof, we’ve tested their performance and you can see the results here.
4. Integration with external systems
This is the core strength of Drupal. Drupal modules have been built so that they can interact with one another easily. If you need to connect your ecommerce to payment gateways, marketplaces, CRMs, analytics tools, SEO tools, shipping providers, the list goes on, they can be done as quickly as within a few hours (integration depending, of course). Drupal takes an API first approach which is what you want for integrations now and in the future.
5. Free and open source
Unlike proprietary ecommerce systems, Drupal Commerce is open source and there is no licensing cost or usage limits. Unlike other open source solutions, there are no paid modules within the Drupal community. You have access to it all and can extend and customize it in whatever you like. By saving money on the software, you can instead invest that money in your Drupal based platform and your own business needs.
6. Community support
Drupal has an immensely large community with thousands of active users helping to build and maintain the core software and its extensions. The features you require for your site could be already created by someone else and available on Drupal.org, waiting for you to take advantage of. Various IRC channels, blogs, forums, agencies, etc. will help you in case you are blocked or need advice on almost anything related to Drupal.
7. Solid future version support
With the release of Drupal 8, we are quite clear on how migrations to the next version will happen. If your site is already using Drupal 8, then you don’t have to worry about Drupal 8 being unsupported by community because you will easily be able to migrate your site to Drupal 9 (and future versions) when the time comes.
It doesn’t mean that your Drupal 7 site will be isolated either. The stable Migrate module in Drupal 8 will make a migration of your Drupal 7 site to Drupal 8 easier than ever before, saving time and money when adopting the newer version.
To help show you what a Drupal Commerce ecommerce solution looks like, check out our fully functional Drupal Commerce demo site, Urban Hipster.
Here you can click around and “buy” products just like you would using any real ecommerce site. You will see content pages, a best-practice product catalog, a variety of product types, and more. This feature rich demo was made to give you an idea of what your Drupal Commerce site could do, but of course this is just one example. The possibilities are endless.
Plan your move to Drupal Commerce
Leave custom development and integrated ecommerce frameworks behind by starting your move to Drupal Commerce today. Acro Media is an ecommerce consulting and development company that specializes in open source and Drupal Commerce. Take a look at our Drupal Commerce solutions today and let us know if you have any questions. We’d love to help you understand if Drupal Commerce is a good fit for your business.