Operating an ecommerce business demands a balance between providing the best experience for customers while working behind the scenes to make that happen. Behind the scenes is where you navigate the complexities of growing the business, being strategic, and finding the best tools to support your business. 

As an ecommerce business, there is a range of different types of software, technologies, and apps you need to help run your business to its full potential. Each piece of technology should help grow your business and be the best partner that ultimately meets and exceeds your needs.  

If you know what your business needs, the next question becomes, do you go with an all-in-one solution or find the best-of-breed technology that does one function but is the best of the best, and does it really well?

All-in-one vs. best-of-breed SaaS solutions

  • All-in-one solutions perform multiple functions, while the best-of-breed solutions perform one function really well, and are experts.
  • With the best-of-breed solutions, a pro are the teams behind the software that are 100% focused on optimizing every part of the user experience. 
  • A con to the best-of-breed solutions is too many apps in your tech stack - especially if you’re a small business.
  • A pro to all-in-one solutions is they can offer less administration to your team and one single workflow. 
  • A con to all-in-one solutions is that there are less developed solutions across the board.

What is an all-in-one solution?

All-in-one solutions can be an app, software, or a piece of technology that is designed to perform a variety of functions to fulfill multiple business needs. Think of it as a “jack-of-all-trades” or “one-stop-shop” solution that does multiple things. This can be related to any marketing, operational, financial needs, or any other areas. 

All-in-one solutions can be an app, software, or a piece of technology that is designed to perform a variety of functions to fulfill multiple business needs.

For ecommerce brands, using all-in-one software could allow you to control multiple functions such as email marketing, SMS, reviews and UGC, subscriptions, and loyalty within the same interface. Sounds great, right? All-in-one SaaS solutions definitely have their benefits, but they don’t come without cons. More on that later…  

What is a best-of-breed solution?  

Best-of-breed solutions are a single app, a single piece of software, or technology that is designed to perform one single task or function to fulfill your business needs in that area. Think of these solutions as being the “best-in-class” and leaders in what they do best. Best-of-breed solutions are exclusively focused on one single purpose and are able to deliver results to customers. 

Best-of-breed solutions are a single app, a single piece of software, or technology that is designed to perform one single task or function to fulfill your business needs in that area.

In ecommerce these can be apps and solutions that help with customer support, email marketing, loyalty programs, or any other areas. 

The pros of best-of-breed solutions

Ease of use 

With the best-of-breed solutions, the teams behind the software are 100% focused on optimizing every part of the user experience. This sole focus on one function allows users to confidently launch the app or technology quickly, maintain it effortlessly, and not worry about constant bug fixes. 

Within the ecommerce world, expectations are high. When it comes to providing a great customer shopping experience, you need to consider everything from when a customer lands on your website to when they checkout. The ability to swiftly implement a tool and trust that it functions as it should is a major advantage. 

With best-in-class SaaS, bugs, and issues are minimized or quickly fixed by the tech partner since that is the only priority. For example, if you have an app solely focused on customer loyalty programs, all of the team’s energy and time goes into developing the best experience possible. 

“There’s just no issues with it [Smile.io]. It’s just a very smooth program that runs as intended, and I don’t think that that’s common enough.” - Gillian Liu, Co-Founder of Kiyoko Beauty

Best-of-breed solutions are also quick to deploy new features, functions, and updates. A best-of-breed software is able to respond to trends in the markets, capitalize on opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition with updates for the ecommerce brands using the app or software.  

By using a tool optimized for ease of use, businesses can reduce time-to-market, establish an early presence, engage users sooner, and focus on their brand. All while confidently trusting that everything behind the scenes is functioning to its fullest potential.  

Expertise and data at your fingertips

Access to your data is essential to get a full picture. With how quickly things change with consumers, access to all of your data is important and serves as the backbone for making strategic decisions in an ecommerce business. With a best-of-breed solution, accessing meaningful data and analytics is easier because that tool will have deeper and smarter insights.

For example, if you use an app that only does loyalty, each analytic and insight report will provide a deeper understanding of whether your program is working or not. By harnessing your data, you can really dig into the ROI of your technology and see the full picture.

Of course, understanding your data is equally as important. When you work with best-in-class software, you get best-in-class expertise. The teams behind the technology are truly subject matter experts and can offer sophisticated insights and advice. 

For ecommerce brands, implementing a best-of-breed tool that has a robust set of analytics enables the identification of high-performing products and areas for improvement, helping businesses stay agile, competitive, and profitable. 

Flexibility to choose the best software

One of the biggest pros to implementing a singular best-of-breed solution is the flexibility (and ability) to choose the best apps and software solutions for your business. When you have a best-of-breed solution, you have the freedom to select tech tailored to specific requirements for your business. 

You also have the flexibility to develop deep integrations with other best-of-breed solutions, especially within ecommerce, where apps will have easier (and often) direct integration capabilities with other apps. For ecommerce brands, ecommerce apps are a vital part of your business. The freedom to confidently select the apps that suit your business needs is key to having a successful ecommerce business that thrives.

The cons of best-of-breed solutions

Scalability can be lacking 

When it comes to implementing a best-of-breed tool, you’re focused on one singular function that solves a very specific problem. When you first launch your ecommerce business, you may use smaller tools with a lower price point for efficiency. An issue may then arise if the technology is not able to scale with your business. This can be a con to implementing a best-of-breed solution if you outgrow your tool. 

Too many apps in your tech stack

When using best-in-class technology, you have multiple apps that each focus on one specific business function. As you can imagine, the number of apps you use will quickly grow. Too many apps can be seen as a negative, especially if you’re a small business with a limited budget. Or, if you simply want to reduce the number of tools you have to operate, having a best-of-breed tool may not be the best move for your business. 

The pros of all-in-one solutions

Cost-effective option

Too many tools can become costly. This is where an all-in-one tool can shine. For businesses looking to save money, an all-in-one tool can be more enticing. Even though an all-in-one tool won’t have the deep complexities of one function, all-in-one solutions can continue to move an ecommerce business forward. 

Less administration and one workflow 

One major advantage to having an all-in-one solution is that it can offer a streamlined approach to your operations. Whether it’s an all-in-one tool for your marketing department, finances, project management or any other areas, you can have one singular workflow. Less administration, so one team member can view everything from one place and have a single view. 

With an all-in-one tool, you consolidate multiple functions or tasks into a single, comprehensive app or software. It ultimately minimizes complexity, reduces the learning curve for team members in your ecommerce business, and enhances overall operational efficiency. 

The cons of all-in-one solutions

Limited integrations with external apps

One of the most common pitfalls of all-in-one solutions is the limited flexibility users have in adding external integrations. It becomes very difficult to combine all-in-one solutions with a few select best-in-breed apps. Since all-in-one solutions offer solutions for multiple areas of your business, you’ll be limited in the scope of external apps you can integrate with since they have a wider range of competing solutions. This forces users into using solutions that may not be best for their business needs. 

Less-developed solutions across the board

An all-in-one solution can do a lot of functions, but when you really break it down, it can be a “jack of all trades, master of none" tool. Where each piece of the functionality is less developed than one singular tool. When you consider that all-in-one solutions have to split their team’s time, resources, and effort into a wide range of solutions, it’s no surprise that the functionality of each is less sophisticated than best-in-breed solutions. If you’re dealing with a system that limits your capabilities, feels clunky, and breaks all the time, how much more convenient is it really?

Generalists are in charge of your ROI

When it comes to all-in-one tools, you are left with one tool that does multiple things. The teams behind these tools can be viewed as generalists who are in charge of the return on investment for that tool and its functionality. All-in-one solutions (and the people behind them) have the possibility of lacking depth or specialization in one area since the main focus is to do a lot with one tool. Additionally, the all-in-one approach can lead to a higher upfront cost, and businesses might end up paying for features they don’t necessarily need

How to choose which SaaS is right for you: all-in-one or best-of-breed? 

Consider best-of-breed ecommerce solutions if you're looking for:

  • Ease of use software that already comes optimized with the best functionality.
  • Access to expertise, meaningful data, and analytics. 
  • Don’t want a team of generalists in charge of your ROI

Consider all-in-one ecommerce solutions if you're looking for:

  • A cost-effective solution for a smaller ecommerce business. 
  • Less tech, less administration, and one workflow.
  • Tech that doesn’t need to be developed. 

Ultimately, the decision between an all-in-one solution and a best-of-breed solution depends on the specific requirements and priorities of a business. Whether it’s from a strategic or financial decision, both options are viable for ecommerce brands. 

For example, a business wanting to implement a retention strategy in the form of a loyalty program will do research on finding the best tool. We know that 35% of an ecommerce store’s revenue is generated by the top 5% of customers, so as a business owner, you’re going to need a tool that delivers results to increase your revenue and retention rate to those 5% (and more). Finding a tool that just does loyalty will help you craft a strategy and have access to deep integrations with the rest of your tech tools and deep reports to see if your strategy is working at all. 

Our stance is that an ecommerce business should search for tools that are focused on one function and are experts. Our recommendation is to approach tech solutions and apps in a focused way that allows the tools (and the team behind them) to deliver results to the business implementing them.

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