Does Amazon AWS Offer E-Commerce as a Service?

Ben Force

Tech advocate and writer @ fabric.

March 22, 2022
Summary
  • AWS e-commerce enables you to build your own e-commerce solution from the ground up with its cloud offering but no longer provides e-commerce as a service. If you have a large development team and time to develop your site, this is a viable option.

  • There are other providers, like Microsoft, that offer e-commerce as a service, but they don’t specialize in e-commerce as Amazon does.

  • If you decide to build your own solution, it can be very complicated. You’ll need a way to manage all of the products on your site, a way to track orders, and you’ll have to handle payments (and all of the security/privacy issues that come along with that).

  • If you don’t want to build your own e-commerce site but still want a platform that specializes in e-commerce, check out a third-party e-commerce platform like fabric, which has pre-built AWS e-commerce services.

If you've worked in web development in the past few years, you've inevitably heard about "as-a-service" offerings. If you haven't heard the term, you've probably seen the cryptic, four-letter abbreviations such as PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS. The as-a-service model has enabled startups to create powerful solutions on the web by reducing development time, management and support time, and initial costs.

If you're creating an online business, the as-a-service offering you care about is e-commerce. Like other as-a-service categories, e-commerce as a service allows you to rely on a third party to handle most of the development while you focus on what makes your business unique. It's a great way to get your product online quickly and inexpensively.

In this article, you'll learn about Amazon's history in the e-commerce-as-a-service space and how you can leverage AWS e-commerce to host your own e-commerce solution. You'll also learn about offerings from other companies and a few things to consider before choosing an e-commerce-as-a-service solution.

Why Use E-Commerce as a Service?

As-a-service products power the modern internet. They're what makes up the cloud; infrastructure, software, and platform as a service, just to name a few. They accelerate business development by offloading the upfront work and technical details allowing you to focus on other business elements.

E-commerce as a service is no different. It allows you to get your product online quickly by using pre-built resources managed elsewhere and provides enough features to get your business started right away. Then, you can easily add more to your store as the need arises.

As you gain experience, your service allows you to add extensions from other services or enables you to create your own custom extensions.

Ideally, the platform will be built by e-commerce experts. Knowing this, you can have confidence that your store is built correctly. Experts can help you avoid errors like payments not processing or dropped orders since your service provider will be responsible for those transactions.

If you choose e-commerce as a service, it allows you to easily enable and disable features and opens up experimentation. You can try a new store feature, and if it doesn't work for you, it can simply be removed. If you were creating your own site, it would take development time to create the feature and later remove it, which requires more of a financial commitment.

Amazon Offering E-Commerce as a Service

Amazon attempted to enter the e-commerce space with Amazon Webstore, but it no longer offers an e-commerce service.

Let's look at what Amazon did offer through its webstore and some of its current offerings that hold relevance for e-commerce applications.

Amazon WebStore

Amazon's original offering was the Amazon Webstore. The webstore started in 2010, and fizzled out by 2016. Amazon hasn't made another attempt since then.

The idea behind the store was simple; to bring Amazon's experience as a retailer to smaller businesses. The concept made sense, but charging too much and failing to keep the platform up-to-date meant it was doomed to fail.

Amazon Web Services

While Amazon doesn't currently offer an e-commerce service, it does have AWS. AWS e-commerce provides a top-of-the-line public cloud that enables developers to create their own e-commerce platforms. AWS provides robust, generic services, but you'll have to do additional work (or pay for a pre-built solution) to use it.

For example, Amazon Webstore offered pre-designed web pages that you could tweak. Now you would have to hire someone to build your backend services if you wanted that type of functionality. AWS has over fifty offerings to create a highly customized storefront with minimal effort.

Hosting an application

You can host your application's backend on any of AWS's hosting platforms. Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) can be used to deploy your application to virtual machines. As your store starts to grow, and you feel the need to scale it according to the user load, you can use Elastic Load Balancer to handle load-balancing, and Auto Scaling to create and destroy EC2 instances as needed.

Scalability

If you want a highly available store that needs to scale to a large number of users, you can use the Elastic Kubernetes Service for a fully managed service, or Elastic Container Service, which is a fully managed container solution leveraging AWS Fargate.

You can also use Lambda to create serverless functions for your shop. This can be event-driven code that runs for a short time, for example, updating the order details when the shipping partner provides a status update. Using Lambdas is an effective strategy and some existing ecommerce-as-a-service platforms, like fabric, already use this approach.

These "serverless" services (like Lambda) are one of the main advantages of using AWS. They automatically scale to handle just about any load, and you pay for what you use.

If you want to create a headless e-commerce store, you can use API Gateway to create and maintain your backend APIs.

For databases, you have Amazon's Relational Database Service (RDS). RDS supports many popular relational databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Oracle Database Server. It also supports AWS Aurora, which is a high-performance MySQL and PostgreSQL-compatible relational database. If you want NoSQL databases, you can use DynamoDB or DocumentDB.

You can use AWS's S3 service to host images, videos, or other assets for your webshop. To send status updates when a customer places an order, you can use the Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), or you could use Amazon's Simple Notification Service (SNS) to send text messages to your customers, or trigger your Lambda functions when an event occurs.

Other options

E-commerce-as-a-service offers the software and services you need to operate and scale online and an e-commerce platform is an application where both the consumer and the seller can come to discover, shop, and purchase.

When you're looking for an e-commerce platform, there are a few important things to look for so you can avoid building them yourself.

Product information management

A product information management (PIM) service allows you to manage all of your product details in one place. If you're familiar with content management systems (CMS), you can think of this as a product-specific CMS. It lets you create new products, edit existing ones, and hide or delete old products.

Order management system

If you want to accept and deliver orders, you'll need an order management system (OMS). The most difficult part of this system to implement is the collection of payments. This becomes especially difficult when you think about the legal requirements around security and privacy that can be different in every country where you want to sell your product.

Once you can collect orders using an OMS, you'll want to create a website so that your customers can find your products and place orders. Using a website builder, like fabric XM, is the easiest way to do this if you aren't a web developer.

If you already use Microsoft services like Office 365, they offer their own e-commerce solution as part of Microsoft Dynamics. It includes all of the previously mentioned tools, including a website builder. The only downside to using the Microsoft solution is that, unlike Amazon, they don't specialize in e-commerce.

Build your own solution

As mentioned before, you do have the option to build your own solution. AWS is a great option, but you can also use most public cloud offerings. If you like Google, they provide Firebase, which helps you get started quickly. They even have a plug-in to simplify Stripe integration.

Despite simplifying the process, if you aren't a developer with e-commerce knowledge, there's still a lot of things to learn, and it's a lot of work building your e-commerce platform from scratch.

If you don't already have a strong development department or e-commerce experience, there are existing e-commerce platforms by companies that specialize in the space. fabric is a provider of ready-to-go e-commerce applications like PIM and OMS as well as APIs. Because they specialize in e-commerce, you'll get to take advantage of their expertise and focus on other aspects of your business.

Ben Force author Tech advocate and writer @ fabric.

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