Building an E-Commerce Site with Sitecore, Part 1 Custom Development

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 @ 01:25

By: Brent McLean, Lead Consultant

Ok, so you’ve been tasked to rebuild your site and you’ve chosen Sitecore as your CMS. Your site also needs to have a strong e-commerce capability as well. Should you build a custom solution? Use a third party e-commerce solution? Go with something that is built in Sitecore? Look at powerful, but separate site tool? There are many options and the best choice may be dictated previous corporate decisions or by forces beyond your control.

We have implemented many different types of solutions at Paragon for different clients and there are pros and cons to each. In this series of posts I’ll share some of the options and when we have found them to be a good or bad solution in the hopes that they will help you as you are making the same kinds of decisions for your own site.

The first option is to develop your own custom e-commerce solution in Sitecore. If you have Sitecore developers available this might be your first inclination. Building a custom solution has a lot of advantages.

You have total control over every aspect of the shopping experience and can tweak it anyway that you like. You won’t find some hidden problem or gotcha in implementing your company’s business rules within the confines of a third party tool. A basic product repository, shopping cart, and checkout system is straightforward to develop and there are many vendors who provide APIs to make the processing of credit cards easy to do. Since such a solution is built on Sitecore it is much easier to use utilize other abilities, like the strong suite of marketing tools that are part of DMS.

If your company has special needs that aren’t part of the standard feature set of third party e-commerce tools, this may be your only option. So, if you have a scenario where you need to limit users to only purchase spare parts for products they’ve purchased or to let a visitor customize all of the components of a product they are purchasing, you probably are going to need to build a custom solution anyway. Do check, however, third party solutions before you assume they can’t handle your situation. E-Commerce solutions have gotten pretty sophisticated and may handle situations that you might assume require custom programming.

While there are many advantages to a custom solution, there are also some major disadvantages. Third party solutions can seem pricey, but custom development costs can easily outstrip them if you aren’t careful. A custom solution can also take a lot of calendar time to complete and a lot of that time may be spent recreating functionality that already exists in other tools. A third party tool may also provide you with a lot of extra capabilities that you wouldn’t consider developing otherwise.

You also need to ensure what is developed conforms to PCI security standards. Credit card companies require that merchants adhere to these standards and so your development must follow these standards. Your hosting, whether internal or third party, will also need to conform to these extensive standards

Pros:

  • Total Control of every aspect of the e-commerce experience
  • Ability to integrate with all of your internal systems (CRM, ERP, etc.)
  • No additional, ongoing software licensing costs
  • Completely integrated with Sitecore
  • Ability to utilize DMS and other Sitecore capabilities

Cons:

  • Potentially larger upfront costs
  • Longer development time
  • Need significant development time from IT staff or Sitecore partner
  • Must be developed to conform to PCI compliance requirements

Best For:

  • E-Commerce needs that are complex or highly customized
  • Complicated or unique integration needs
  • Companies with a staff of experienced Sitecore developers or a strong Sitecore partner