What is Software as a Service?

What is Software as a Service?

b2b.store CEO Rob Mannion explains what one of the biggest emerging trends in e-commerce means and how wholesalers can profit

When e-commerce first arrived on the wholesale scene, it was very much the domain of the big wholesalers. Not only did you have to invest in an e-commerce platform but then you also needed to invest in separate mobile apps for different operating systems, each of which needed to be updated as upgrades to operating systems were released.

Developing new functionality required a similar investment for each new feature and versions typically needed to be tailored to integrate with different ERP and back-office systems, depending on the legacy IT choices of the wholesaler.

Unsurprisingly, these platforms were costly to develop and required significant investment to upgrade and introduce new features. Advances in technology made it quicker and easier to create e-commerce platforms that operate effectively across multiple platforms, significantly improving accessibility.

Today, platforms that integrate across mobile, tablet and desktop platforms can be created in the click of a mouse, but the commercial models offered by many providers fail to reflect the new, more efficient and flexible landscape.

For example, it’s not unusual for, say, a foodservice wholesaler to be charged in excess of £30,000 up front for a new e-commerce platform, along with a monthly support fee of several thousand pounds – and then have to pay for a development roadmap too if they want to tailor their platform to the specific needs of their customers.

This is where Software as a Service (SaaS) comes in.

Operating as a monthly subscription, the model allows wholesalers to quickly and cost effectively evaluate a platform, then subscribe should they wish to continue using it.

The best SaaS platforms continuously listen to customer feedback to inform their own product roadmaps, with the costs of ongoing innovation and platform development being priced into the subscription.

This is a game changer for the sector, allowing wholesalers to automatically benefit from new functionality as it is released and ensuring they stay at the cutting edge of developments without facing wave after wave of development costs.

Crucially, by choosing a SaaS-based e-commerce provider, wholesalers can reduce costs to just tens or hundreds of pounds per month, depending on the size of their business – a significant saving over traditional pricing models.

In the past 12 months alone, b2b.store has delivered nearly 120 software updates to its customers, all of which are automatically delivered to subscribers without the need to factor in additional budgets. Similarly, ongoing costs – such as security, patches and hosting – have traditionally been the responsibility of the wholesaler to manage and update, now these can also be taken care of by the SaaS provider.

Yes, the term SaaS is relatively new but, in reality, it’s only a short step on from traditional cloud-based solutions. It can be unnerving trying something innovative, especially when things ‘have always been done this way’ but ask yourself how many SaaS products you already subscribe to – probably without even thinking about it: SurveyMonkey? Mailchimp? Office365? All easily signed up to and cancelled if you decide you don’t like the service. Nothing to be scared of here.

As digital takes an ever-growing share of the wholesale market, it’s never been more important to stay abreast of the latest developments and access the latest functionality to improve service-levels for your customers. Considering a SaaS commercial model provides the flexibility you need to achieve this. Is your provider fit for the times?