By Mike Schrader, SVP of Sales &
Marketing, Miva

I hear it at trade shows, conferences, and
networking events. I read it on LinkedIn. I hear it from my prospects. I hear
it from my partners (who hear it from their clients). Everyone seems to hate
their ecommerce platform these days.

The list of usual suspects (aka vendors) can
be broken out into two categories: SaaS platforms and open-source platforms.
The big names in the SaaS world include Shopify and BigCommerce, while Magento
leads the open source pack.

The big names surface in almost every angry conversation—not
surprising based on their marketing budgets and market reach. They’re bright,
shiny objects that seem safe at first glance, but buyer beware…all is not as
it seems.

Those working with open source ecommerce
platforms seem to be suffering from a technology-induced form of PTSD. Pummeled
by the relentless grind of implementing an open source store (or, as one agency
insider described it, “Another trip through the Inferno”) the open source user
is akin to a person walking quietly and carefully across thin ice. At any
moment, the other shoe can drop; a security breach, an enhancement request or a
forced upgrade. Maintaining these sites is not for the faint of heart or
organizations on a shoestring budget. A small army is required, whether it be
in-house or via an outside agency.

The loudest voices from the SaaS side claim to
be all things to all people, taking a chapter out of the “say anything to get a
deal” sales methodology. All too often the buyer learns (post sale) that the
rich functionality they were promised requires a few extra apps and extensions.
And, in a move of amazing bravado, these platforms are claiming to be the
ultimate integration hub for all things ecommerce. Ironic, seeing as
integration is far and away the least effective portion of their offering.
Think of a bowling ball with no finger holes and you’ve got the idea.

The most popular SaaS platform is going to
make us all wealthy entrepreneurs…that is if you only have four SKUs in your
catalog and an army of Influencers at your disposal. And what’s that behind the
curtain? Chargebacks? Additional fees? Penalties? But don’t worry, you’re not
alone, there are thousands of merchants in your same situation. You’ll know who
they are because their website looks just
like yours
. And, again, get ready to shell out a few bucks for the apps and
extensions you’ll need to run your online store, which will degrade your site
performance but allow your users to do their laundry while they wait for your
webpages to load.

The net of it? Open source provides you with
out-of-control operating costs and no agility, while SaaS platforms put you in
a box with very limited functionality and performance. It’s a hell of a way to
run an online business.

All this has led to a high-stakes game of musical
chairs with companies moving from one ecommerce platform to another…a
migration of unprecedented proportions. A few years on the Magento open source
platform, a year with a SaaS provider like Shopify or Big Commerce, and then
the onset of overwhelming anxiety and the realization that no eCommerce
platform can give them what they really need.

So what do
these companies need?

They need a platform that can differentiate
their offering online, drive higher revenue, and reduce operating costs. And
(perhaps most importantly) a platform that lets them be agile, to have an idea
on a Monday and have it live on their website by Thursday…all without having
to rely on outside agencies or web developers.

Now this is not just a rant to bemoan the
decline of the ecommerce platform industry. I do have a horse in the race. I’m
the SVP of Sales and Marketing at Miva, a San Diego-based ecommerce platform
provider. That bit above is exactly what we bring to the party. And, against
all odds, we have a large, loyal, and enthusiastically passionate group of
clients. More on that in just a moment.

I’m nearing the end of my third decade in the
technology space and I’ve either competed with or partnered with the usual
suspects mentioned above. And I understand why you’d go with open source…you
can build a custom platform based on your business requirements and it’s hard
to see the pitfalls of their offering until you’ve lived through them. I also
understand why you’d go with a popular SaaS platform like Shopify—it’s a solid
way to start a business but it’s hard
to see that it’s not possible to grow
a business on until you hit that
wall.

In your defense, it is hard to sort through
all the noise in the ecommerce space and it’s very hard to gain subject matter
expertise without having to learn it the hard way (bouncing between
insufficient platforms). A recently-signed client went that route and asked us
at the end of our first demo, “Where were you a year ago when we made the move
from Magento to Shopify?” Evaluating and selecting an ecommerce platform is an
exercise in risk aversion and the big guys always seem less risky. However, as
I mentioned above, the seemingly safe approach is rarely safe. My advice to
you; make the vendor show you what
they can do, not just tell you. Don’t believe what you see in a PowerPoint
deck.

That brings me back to what Miva can do for
you. I took this job because I was impressed with the Senior Leadership team
and company culture. Before taking the job I never looked at the platform, but figured
it had to be good because of the clients that have been around for five to ten
years and up. I quickly discovered two things; Miva offers the Holy Grail of
ecommerce platforms and has a large group of passionate clients who absolutely
love us. When we use them as references our prospects think we’re paying them
for their enthusiastic endorsements. We’re not.

“This is our third platform in as many years! Finally, a platform that does everything we need it to do and works perfectly without the suffocating cost of maintaining an open-source platform. Our Miva site has allowed us to scale with ease and focus on what is important to us; selling hinges and hardware and having an eCommerce site that is the best in its class!”

Bill Haynsworth, San Diego Hardware

This Holy Grail of ecommerce platforms is a
unique combination of a feature-rich platform (our User Guide is >1,000
pages) and a template layer that allows our clients to make customizations to
their platform without touching source code. As mentioned above, an idea on
Monday is in production on Thursday and no web developers are harmed (or used)
in the process. Add to that an industry-leading API layer and it’s clear that
Miva exists in a rarefied space. On one hand, you have the open source world
offering a custom solution with a hell of a lot of baggage and SaaS platforms
on the other side ready to lock you into a box of limited functionality and
performance.

Miva resides in the middle ground between open
systems and pure-play SaaS with a SaaS-based solution that offers superior
security and Customer Service. Our average response time is in the seconds, not
hours or days. And you actually get to talk to real people.

My career has been defined by working for
David and fighting Goliath (Davids typically have better products, culture, and
customer service) and the challenge always has been saving my prospects from
themselves, preventing them from learning things the hard way. But there’s more
than enough anecdotal information out there now about our friends in open
source and traditional SaaS. Spend some time Googling popular vendors in these
spaces…the stories are all out there and the chants of “I hate my website,”
are hitting a crescendo.

We’re here to offer up an alternative to the
usual suspects. If you’re looking for a platform that will allow you to
differentiate your offering online, increase revenue while reducing your
operating costs, and allow you to be agile in the process, then reach out and
we’ll show you what we can do for you. And I promise you won’t end up hating
us.

About The Author

Mike Schrader

As the SVP of Sales and Marketing, Mike brings over twenty-five years of experience to Miva. With a wealth of professional experience in everything from supply chain to post-purchase, Mike has been on the front lines of ecommerce and is dedicated to enabling the growth and success of online merchants. Mike is an avid runner and UCLA graduate who spends his weekends working in his backyard vineyard.