April 8, 2014, 1:52 PM

Why Terry Bicycles pedaled away from an open-source e-commerce platform

The wholesaler and retailer, which maintains separate B2B and business-to-consumer sites that share inventory, found that a vendor’s packaged software requires less work.

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Maintaining two sites that share inventory is complicated, says Elisabeth Robert, CEO of Terry Bicycles.

She should know. She’s in charge of a wholesale and retail company that maintains separate business-to-business and business-to-consumer sites that share inventory. And she only has about 20 employees.

The sites’ complexities, as well as the retailer’s limited resources, were among the major reasons Terry Bicycles moved from an open-source e-commerce platform to packaged software from NetSuite Inc. a few years ago.

“An open-source platform required a lot of management of inventory to support both channels and transaction processing,” she says. “It required a lot of updating of the web sites.”

The company only had one programmer capable of making those updates. When he left for another job, Robert was stuck with a patchwork site—the result of numerous fixes that weren’t in line with standard best practices—that she couldn’t easily change.

“It was difficult to find someone with this programmer’s specific skill set,” she says. “I didn’t like being so dependent on one programmer. It became clear to me that we needed to have a clear end-to-end solution.”

She settled on NetSuite largely because the system could handle the retailer’s complexities—at an annual cost about half the $70,000 or so she would have paid a replacement for the programmer.

Giving up the flexibility of an open-source system did have its downsides. At first, Robert says, Terry Bicycles couldn’t run certain types of promotional campaigns—such as buy one, get one free—but NetSuite quickly worked with the merchant to develop those features. And it did so quicker than the retailer’s single programmer could have, she says. “With just one kid using open-source technology to build those tools, it would have taken months,” Robert says. Not everything is perfect—the checkout flow is still too clunky, she says—but she says there’s a comfort in working with an established company that provides comprehensive business software to more than 20,000 clients.

“Being small, with limited resources, it is much easier to put everything in one bucket and not have to worry about it,” she says. That includes ensuring the site is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. “That offers peace of mind and the knowledge that we’re abiding by best practices,” Robert says. “Before we switched systems we were never comfortable that we had everything right.”

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