Enterprise eCommerce has been taking the industry by storm for quite a few years now and is anticipated to keep increasing by leaps and bounds in the future. According to Gartner, the digital commerce platform market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 15% from 2015-2020, and enterprise solutions are a big part of the projected growth.
Given this enormous potential, several platforms have been tapping into the e-commerce market for quite a while now. There are plenty of options for choosing a platform while setting up an enterprise e-commerce store. There are dedicated e-commerce platforms like Magento, or Shopify, CMS-based solutions like WooCommerce for WordPress, and then there are independent frameworks like Laravel, using which you can build a complete enterprise e-commerce website.
While each of these options has its independent merits and drawbacks, we shall focus primarily on the third choice; the advantages and disadvantages of Laravel for enterprise e-commerce.
Before diving into the heart of the subject though, let us create a list of basic requirements for enterprise e-commerce for ready reference.
Requirements of Enterprise eCommerce
Scalability is the first requirement for any platform to be considered viable for an enterprise e-commerce solution. The e-commerce market has its own trends like any other, but the one trend that remains consistent is its upward trajectory. By definition, enterprise e-commerce comprises of thousands of SKU’s, product variations, variable costs, ROI’s, CTR’s and other metrics, which you need to be able to manage with ease.
Furthermore, there are bound to be peaks and valleys in your traffic, which is why a robust website that can handle fluctuations well is a must. You wouldn’t want your website to crash in the middle of a big season sale, would you? Flipkart’s Big Billion Day Sale fiasco in 2014 is an excellent example of what happens when an enterprise e-commerce website is not scalable.
The long and short of it is, keeping your solution non-scalable is not an option.
Integrated payment solutions
If scalable websites add stability to your enterprise venture, secure payment solutions add loyalty. People can be wary of entering account information into a sketchy-looking website and rightly so. However, your solution needs to overcome this mentality and ensure that all the payment methods are sound and completely secure.
Integrated payment solutions are a great option for enterprise e-commerce websites as they offer end-to-end services for online transactions. In addition, they also provide improved accuracy, speed of transaction, and inbuilt tax calculations per the region/country.
Robust User Interface
Enterprise e-commerce websites have tens of dozens of people interacting with the website at any given point of time. To this end, the solution needs to have a strong and engaging user interface, to keep the users interested until the purchase is done.
The primary reasons for cart abandonment include the lack of clear calls to action for the users and the need to complete long-winded processes while shopping. As a result, it is evident that having a robust user interface which takes the customer successfully through the entire buyer’s journey up to the conversion stage is important.
Dynamic Search Options
Finding a specific object from the various options you offer can often be problematic for your customers unless they have an extremely clear idea of what they want. This doesn’t happen in most cases as people are simply browsing until something they like catches their eye.
Dynamic search is when a browser enters the first few letters of the product they are looking for and the website auto-populates results based on related keywords or past searches. This helps the user quickly find what they need thereby reducing the time between the consideration and decision-making stages.
Customization availability for future integrations
This is an integral part of an enterprise e-commerce solution. As the website grows, you will need to add numerous features based on your vision and the direction you want the store to take. This can necessitate a lot of customization, as everyone has their individual thought process.
The enterprise solution needs to be versatile and must offer enough scope for extensive customization right from the start to avoid limiting the store in the future.
Specific Marketing Requirements
There are many marketing strategies you shall be putting to use, as you build your enterprise e-commerce website. This includes bundling products, discounts, coupons, newsletters, dynamic pricing strategies, limited-time offers, and many more. The platform you choose needs to be adept at handling these functionalities, especially as your strategies grow and mature with the market.
Ready-to-go solutions often face this very problem when it comes to expansion and development. Despite being open source platforms and offering substantial customization options, they are ultimately bound by the core framework and structure of the platform and hence cannot completely rise to the demands of an enterprise solution.
That covers the requirements of an enterprise e-commerce solution. Let us now have a look at how can Laravel be useful for building your very own enterprise e-commerce website.
The Advantages of Laravel for Enterprise eCommerce
Laravel is a PHP framework, where you can build various applications right from scratch. We will not go into the details of what makes Laravel a great platform for application development right now, but suffice to say that ‘robust’ and ‘flexible’ are understatements!
Coming back to our main point; there are a number of advantages Laravel offers for enterprise e-commerce Some of these include:
Laravel is highly scalable and can be configured to handle a ton of users at any given point of time. The best part about it is, the framework allows you to develop the entire website from the outset, giving you an opportunity to define the scope of your e-store right from the beginning.
Extensive customization is Laravel’s middle name. The framework makes working with PHP a piece of cake, facilitating rapid application development for a plethora of environments.
Stability and Flexibility
Laravel is a lot more stable than the other e-commerce solutions, as you only include the elements you need in the website. All code in Laravel is clean and well-written, which saves you from the headache of having two people on hand at all times to work on the glitches the website might throw up.
Each feature can be custom-designed as no plugins or extensions are used to create features, but each functionality is created as necessary.
Lesser Cost (Relatively)
Development cost is generally touted as one of the biggest drawbacks of framework application development, but that is not completely true. If we compare the total cost of buying a ready enterprise e-commerce solution, the necessary plugins, and the customization cost with the total cost of a Laravel application, the latter is much more pocket-friendly, with the added advantage of custom features.
Out-of-the-box systems offering e-commerce solutions are subject to frequent breaks and instability. E-store owners who have built their websites on popular platforms live in constant fear that the next system update will wreck their customization. With Laravel, you have no such worries as your website is an independent entity.
Once an application is built with Laravel, it can function independently, without requiring constant maintenance or updates. And should you need to make any changes, having clean code packages makes the process a lot easier.
Laravel is built with PHP, which is one of the most popular scripting languages among developers. There is a great community of developers out there, which can direct you successfully in case of problems on your enterprise.
Free code and packages
Practically all of the code packages available for Laravel are available for free on the website and can be used for rapid application development by web-developers. In addition, a lot of the themes, user roles, etc. are also available for ready use.
This gives us an overview of the many advantages of Laravel as an enterprise e-commerce solution.
That’s not to say everything is hunky-dory though. Laravel does have some drawbacks, which can seem major or minor, depending on your understanding of coding and code practices. Let us have a look at what these are.
Laravel is not for the code-ignorant. If the intricacies of development and scripting are a complete mystery to you, Laravel can be intimidating. Of course, you can always take the help of professional Laravel developers to design your custom solution, but you will have to do this every single time you require a customization or there is a problem with your website.
From the developers’ perspective, coding and debugging Laravel websites can be tedious. Though Laravel is an open source platform like WordPress and Magento, there isn’t a lot of bad code in Laravel yet, fortunately, at least not to the extent seen in the former platforms. Nevertheless, debugging a website can become tedious for developers, as they have to delve deep into the code before starting to work on it.
Creating a Laravel solution is time-consuming since you are essentially building the entire solution from the ground up. There are no out-of-the-box plugins here that can add the functionality at the click of a button. This is made more difficult by the fact that Laravel does not have a lot of alternatives, which can be used to migrate your website to. However, this is compensated by the fact that Laravel solutions last longer and need lesser maintenance as well, so that is one problem resolved.
Laravel is an excellent option for building an enterprise e-commerce solution if you are looking to play by your own rules and do not want the constraints of a typical e-commerce solution. The structure is free and the framework is much faster than conventional solutions. Laravel has grown extensively over the past four years and is on par with frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Jango today.
However, it is important to have at least a working knowledge of PHP if you intend to use Laravel. You need not be an expert, but a basic know-how of the system can help you manage the e-commerce enterprise better.
Laravel has several e-commerce packages, like Aimeos, which are developing rapidly to provide working solutions for enterprise e-commerce. They also offer extensive SEO and multilingual support, which is necessary for large-scale e-commerce solutions.
In the end, it does matter. If flexibility and a lightweight system that is scalable is what you are looking for, Laravel is the way to go. On the other hand, if you are looking for an out-of-the-box solution which can support your enterprise e-commerce venture, Magento can be a better option.
Which platform do you prefer and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!