Open Commerce is more than just a buzzword. Ben Marks, who is a staunch advocate of this approach, knows this too. In this blog post, the ecommerce expert explains what he has come to appreciate about Open Commerce during his career and why the approach is so valuable for online commerce platforms and their users.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are ecommerce experiences. Much like city planning, crafting efficient, meaningful customer journeys involve a chain of decisions across numerous disciplines and an ecosystem of vendors. Early choices have an outsize effect on the experience you deliver to your customers.
Ultimately the capacity to shape and grow these experiences over time comes back to one of the earliest choices: your ecommerce platform. When it comes to choosing a platform to help you create and convert opportunities while minimizing opportunity cost, open commerce platforms like Shopware provide clear advantages over closed platforms. Furthermore, for businesses operating in the B2B sector, the flexibility and adaptability of open commerce platforms are crucial, making them an ideal choice for b2b ecommerce software, where customization and integration capabilities are often paramount.
Closed vs. open platforms
Closed platforms offer a “black box” core in which integrations and limited customization are possible through rigid configuration and predefined extension points. Black box commerce platforms are numerous and varied in their approach: Shopify, commercetools, and Salesforce Commerce Cloud are examples serving different markets and requirements. This approach isn’t inherently bad, but it is limiting.
Open platforms like Shopware are based on open source code and its inherently collaborative culture which allows merchants to build the exact experience their customers and teams need – without limitation. Everything – literally everything – is open for customization, extension, and integration. This is significant to merchants who must differentiate themselves from their competitors, deliver insightful & authentic experiences for their customers, and innovate their way to be future-proof.
Open exchange at the Shopware Community Day
Open commerce advantages
Shopware and other open commerce ecosystems are among the largest in the business – and there is tremendous strength in numbers. The number of participants and the open exchange of code, ideas, and feedback allows open platforms to rapidly prioritize, develop, and deliver core features which meet today’s customer expectation – and to set new expectations for tomorrow in a virtuous cycle of innovation.
Speed of innovation
Closed platforms may allow for speedy local customization, but new core features are only gradually released according to the demands of the bulk of their merchants. Open platforms allow merchants and their teams to engage the endless variety of requirements in this business head-on. Open source and the free exchange of ideas allows for rapid prototyping of cutting-edge features, driving the next generation of unique customer experiences. This real-world laboratory allows open commerce vendors like Shopware to remain at the forefront of “what comes next” – while ensuring robustness of the core.
Security and quality in the open
Closed platforms claim security through obscurity: the application is safe in part because the core code is not available. Open source takes a completely difference stance: because the core is built in the open, there are countless eyes on it, and both issues and exploits are much more likely to be identified and resolved. The ongoing success of bug bounty programs is a testament to this approach. Merchants should feel assured by the robust security and quality of open source code and by the freedom it grants should they ever choose to move providers or even to switch platforms if need be.
Regardless of the choice to use a closed or open platform, sometimes change is necessary. Change can be small, such as swapping payment providers. Or it could be that a merchant has outgrown their agency or wants to move away from an internal team. Open commerce ecosystems can be a safe bet in this case, especially when developer education is freely available, and the stack is easy to learn – as is the case with Shopware. And in the rare occasion when a merchant outgrows a platform, the data remains under the merchant’s control, facilitating migration.
Total cost of ownership
TCO is perhaps the most misunderstood and abused metric across the commerce landscape – it’s magical how every platform manages to have the best/lowest TCO, right? Open commerce platforms might seem the risky choice here, especially when they are self-managed rather than hosted by the platform vendor.
However, the purported TCO advantages of black box systems are offset by two categories of cost: the literal cost of licensing, transaction, and extension fees, and the insidious opportunity cost of not being able to deliver or to drive exactly what your customers need due to the limitation of closed platforms.
Learn more about Open Commerce in the free webinar featuring Forrester
About the author
The former Magento Lead Evangelist is a leader when it comes to open source commerce ecosystems and strategies. Ben’s journey in the world of open source commerce continues with Shopware, which began when he taught himself PHP in 2003.