Ready-made CMS or Laravel: Choosing the Right Tech Stack for an E-commerce Store

There are several advantages of creating online stores, marketplaces, price comparison websites and other types of web applications which belong to the e-commerce domain with the Laravel framework. These include scalability, clean-structured code and performance optimization to name a few. However, sometimes businesses decide to put up an online store using a ready-made CMS like WordPress, Drupal or Laravel-based October and PyroCMS  to simplify content management and shorten a project’s schedule – and end up spending huge money on website customization and maintenance. What are those cases? When is it better to ditch a ready-made CMS and use the Laravel PHP framework instead?

When to Use Ready-made E-commerce Content Management Systems & When they Fall Short

The modern shopping cart software market is dominated by WordPress – notably, the WooCommerce plugin which is used by 28% of e-commerce companies that utilize a ready-made content management system. Second is Shopify (9.7%), a turn-key shopping cart solution for small businesses with a user-friendly admin interface and over 1 thousand extensions. Magento, an e-commerce CMS for medium-sized online stores (up to 50 thousand items in catalog), comes third with almost 8%. Other popular shopping cart software solutions include MonsterCommerce, Wix Stores, Open Cart and PrestaShop. E-commerce Platform Market Share

Why do so many e-commerce businesses opt for a ready-made CMS?

  • Effortless content management. Whether you run a small online store or a complex price comparison website with an AI-powered product recommendation engine, using an off-the-shelf CMS would certainly help you manage your website content – that is, add products, media and blog posts, edit SEO data, etc. – with no assistance from a PHP developer.
  • Availability of plugins & design themes. There are thousands of free and paid plug-and-play extensions available for popular CMS solutions including WP (50+ thousand), Drupal (30+ thousand) and Magento (3+ thousand) which save you the trouble of building e-commerce plugins such as UX-friendly contact forms and invoice generation modules from scratch.
  • Tailored approach to e-commerce problem solving. Whether we talk about WooCommerce, which is just a WordPress plugin, or Magento, a full-fledged content management system which allows businesses to automate a great share of tasks including online store and promo campaign analytics, email marketing and inventory management and operate several online shops from one admin dashboard, these are niche solutions designed to address specific e-commerce business needs such as the integration with payment gateways, order tracking and loyalty program management right out of the box or through 3rd-party extensions.

Limitations of Traditional Shopping Cart Software Solutions

  • Monolithic architecture. Ready-made e-commerce CMS solutions produce page-centric monolith web apps, which means you cannot update website components independently or scale it once your customer base and catalog grow. In case you’re eyeing the enterprise e-commerce segment (50+ thousand products on your catalog), however, you need an extendible and easily manageable custom solution – most likely, a web app with the service-oriented architecture. Even if you choose a Laravel CMS package like PyroCMS, October CMS and Lavalite which use parts of the PHP framework (Eloquent, components, etc.), you can’t simply scale an online store using standard Laravel tools;
  • Restrictions imposed by CMS core & plugins. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and other popular content management systems were initially designed to address specific needs like blogging, social networking, online brand management, etc. Extra functionality including shopping cart, delivery management and product recommendations is most often available through 3rd-party and custom extensions. In the end, you get hundreds of plugins made by different vendors that should be customized and scaled up as a whole (which is not always possible).
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  • Performance issues. All ready-made content management systems introduce bloat to web pages, which affects pages’ load time and overall web application performance once your traffic and amount of content have reached a certain limit. In order to improve a CMS-based website performance, developers separate its back-end and front-end code and scale various components such as app server and databases independently. The thing is, CMS vendors often provide restricted access to front-end API, thus limiting customization and optimization options. The issue can be partially solved by decoupling a CMS; however, it requires extra development efforts and won’t override plugin restrictions.
  • Security. According to Positive Technologies’ recent report, 100% of web applications contain at least one security vulnerability which result from lapses in quality assurance (QA), shorter development cycles and the use of open-source software components, including 3rd-party CMS add-ons which are no longer patched by their vendors. In fact, up to 80% of vulnerabilities detected in CMS websites stem from ready-made extensions, and the more plugins you use, the greater the risk. WP WhiteSecurity, for instance, has recently analyzed Alexa Top 1M websites powered by WordPress and discovered that 70% of all WP installations are vulnerable to hacker attacks. Do you really want to have a time bomb ticking under the hood of your online store?

Advantages of Using the Laravel Framework for E-commerce

E-commerce solutions built with the Laravel framework fully correspond to the so-called “enterprise commerce” requirements which include:
  • Scalability for future e-commerce business growth. Thanks to Laravel’s modularity and MVC architecture, the framework allows developers to plan e-commerce solution architecture early on and gradually add features to the platform as your business grows. Also, there are lightweight Laravel-based micro-frameworks like Lumen which enable businesses to create web apps with a microservices architecture and manage its components independently.
  • Infinite customization options. Besides the separation of business logic from the presentation code and independent front-end customization, the framework offers a set of built-in features and online shop packages like Aimeos and AvoRed, so you can either make use of the available components (product search, filters, check-out, etc.) or ask your development team to create custom ones. Thus, the complexity of Laravel projects may vary from simple stores to e-commerce solutions with higher security and user engagement standards.
  • Smooth performance. The framework uses a variety of tools including Redis and Eloquent ORM which allow developers to perform caching in-code, index databases and reduce memory usage. Also, Laravel versions starting from 5.5 now support PHP 7, the language’s latest version which uses asynchronous programming, enables developers to “borrow” features from any PHP framework and can boost website performance by up to 70%.
  • Secure integration with 3rd-party systems. The framework offers clean APIs supporting the integration with multiple payment solutions including Stripe, PayPal and Blockchain Wallet API, as well as back-office systems, mailing services and analytics tools.
  • Focus on security. With built-in protection against common web app security vulnerabilities and authorization/authentication tools, Laravel is a go-to framework for sophisticated e-commerce solutions which support multiple user roles and online payments and make use of customer purchase history data to personalize shopping experience.
So, what type of an e-commerce website development solution should you choose in the end?
It all depends on your project requirements and type of a website you want to create. As long as a ready-made CMS or e-commerce plugin like WooCommerce or Drupal Commerce fully covers your needs, go for it. Want to set up a large-scale online store with 30 thousand product pages and don’t mind considerable website maintenance costs? You may as well choose Magento. In case your e-commerce project goes beyond the standard shopping cart functionality, you should address a Laravel development company.
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