Buying a SaaS WMS is not like buying sundries, like milk or eggs. Those are just commodities. They don’t require a subscription or upgrades; the customer comes back to buy again no matter what. The producers don’t rely on the sale price to quickly fund the next version or new idea.

As high-speed Internet evolved, developers recognized an opportunity to sell a WMS beyond just a one-time product to add value – and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) was born. But, with any generation change, there are good and bad delivery models. 

You have to dig in and ask, “Are we getting the service and value from our SaaS WMS partner?”

Differences between SaaS WMS and on-premise

First, let’s look at the key differences between SaaS WMS and on-premise.

On-premise WMS offers full control and customization but comes with high upfront costs and complex maintenance. It requires significant IT resources for installation, upgrades, and security, making it suitable for businesses with robust IT capabilities.

SaaS WMS, on the other hand, is cloud-based with lower initial costs and easy access from anywhere. This WMS software provides automatic updates, scalability, and flexibility, ideal for businesses seeking quick deployment and minimal IT burden. Perfect for dynamic environments, SaaS WMS ensures you stay current without heavy infrastructure investments.

Read more about the types and classes of WMS, plus other considerations for buying a WMS.

WMS SaaS explodes, with benefits

The concept of SaaS is that your partner would provide continuous value to your business—from access to innovation—and that service and value, not software, were the actual purchases. 

The benefits of SaaS are obvious for software companies:

  • Digital delivery removed much waste in retail – for example, physical media (floppy discs, manuals) along with over-production and poor shelf allocation or regional placement
  • Systems automatically capture improvement data
  • Patches can be delivered frequently for bugs and feature improvement
  • Major upgrades can be delivered for a fee with minimal purchase friction
  • Stronger controls around piracy become backed in reducing risk
  • Protect the vendor’s IP, as the code remains ‘invisible’ to the user 

The final change was to realize that if you were selling a service, it could be a subscription. 

Today, almost everything is built on a recurring revenue model – the service

Some ideas immediately made sense. Streaming content was a cheaper alternative to cable until it fractured into infinite, less complete services, all demanding the same fee. Others were immediately seen as exploitative. Who wants to pay monthly for heated seats in a car they bought?

A SaaS WMS that delivers customer value without exploitation can strike a middle ground. The key is knowing what that is—and what it isn’t—and then demanding that value from your WMS “as a Service” provider.

During critical times, such as peak season, it doesn’t take long to discover exactly how much consistent service and value matter. Related: WMS Buying: Timing, Need, and Fit Are Everything

Subscriptions are about value

What are some things you should be looking for from your WMS SaaS partner?

  • Frequent updates—Improvements shouldn’t take a year. Your fees fund both access and innovation. Fixes should be deployed quickly. Meaningful updates should be available predictably. Time-to-value should happen in months, not years.
  • Minimal physical hardware – The investment in server-grade hardware and the facilities to house it was significant. Not just to run the software, but additional concerns like disaster recovery, backups, and staff focused on its maintenance. Most subscription software demands an absolute minimum of computer hardware to access.
  • Scaling power and storage – Traditional software has a practical limit on the disk space and memory of a single desktop or server. As software progressed, it wasn’t uncommon to plan computer upgrades to handle it. The major cloud platforms serve on-demand CPU and memory. No more interruptions when horsepower is needed.
  • Focus the business – Then, all of the above demands headcount. Does a SaaS company want to hire more server admins? Or product owners and R&D staff? Redeploying this spend means accelerating what customers pay the brand for. 

These should be the bare minimum to consider any modern SaaS WMS solution, but there are equally important things to look out for. Just like anything, there’s a good and a bad way to go about it.

Related: WMS buying: your timing, need, and fit are everything

Look for traps in buying SaaS WMS

WMS SaaS subscriptions are great when they focus on and deliver customer value. They earn dollars every month, every year. Some models have assumed the common practice of not keeping that promise.  

Some things quickly identify a bad SaaS WMS:

  • Free to start, expensive to stay or quit – The old phrase “you get what you pay for” applies here. There are a ton of problems in this model. Some use timers and a month later you are locked out if you don’t upgrade. Some have random charges come up, more users, more time. All work on hooking you in and then increasing the cost over time. Often, it’s greatly in excess of simple, up-front models. 
  • Walled gardens – You should always question a service, paid or free, that won’t let you get your data back. Several free or low-price services use proprietary schemas, offer no database exports should you migrate, and don’t offer warehouse managing system integrations or APIs to easily share data with other services. This extends to hiding parts of data and parts of functionality. Often there is a critical revenue stream, and while integrations with other solutions can create a better customer outcome, those will be jealously guarded.
  • Low starting price, expensive long-term maintenance —Too many services bank on ramped adoption to make money. Your system and access fee might be small, but they bring you back to the negotiating table as you need more users and storage. There’s no free support and frequent pricey “enhancement requests.”
  • Half-baked or walled-off features – Some will sell off a minimum viable product (MVP). Get started today, don’t think about tomorrow. Businesses don’t often run well on an MVP, especially if it’s not part of a roadmap to future value as part of the purchase price. What happens when you need more? Or you find out that something so obvious is locked behind a higher tier? It’s not uncommon that a shiny, low-cost alternative isn’t the complete offering it purports to be. Consider the market tier where the provider operates. Are they a Tier 3 promoting Tier 1 services? Time to ask some questions. Related: Beware of the 45-day WMS platform implementation
  • Loss of focus – The subscription prospect is straightforward: you get what you pay for. Except when you don’t. Many SaaS WMS platforms will build new products to create revenue streams, but there’s a reason Wall Street often takes a negative view of this. It often slows or completely stops updates on the product you paid for because the provider sees less value in that… Less value in serving you.

Knowing what ‘bad’ looks like makes buying a good subscription software less risky. How can you avoid a SaaS WMS partner that is not ‘serving’ with a ‘service’ everywhere? 

Here’s what a good SaaS WMS look like

Deposco maintains a best-in-class WMS Saas subscription architected from Day 1 for customer value, day in and day out, as their needs evolve. No need to worry about value, available technical resources, or risk:

  • Regular, scheduled updates – We focus on 6 releases a year with meaningful feature enhancements based on customer input. Clear communication of the value and when to expect it, in order to protect your needs, particularly ahead of peak season.
  • Clear pricing model – We focus on delivering products and services, not checking your headcount every few months. Your data is yours. It can be exported, imported, and traded with your other applications. You know exactly what you’re going to pay for and when. 
  • Value-add new products over unrelated ventures – Every product leverages a single codebase and schema, and is developed and maintained in-house. There is no need to ask, “Is my experience getting better?” because the old product keeps upgrading, and the new product makes your value multiplicative with no “will it work right?” hesitancy.
  • Innovation and flexibility—In the fast-changing DTC e-commerce world, it is critical to map a vision for the next 3+ years to ensure the service can address today’s issues AND continue to grow and adapt to forthcoming challenges and opportunities. 

Make sure you evaluate your SaaS WMS partner based on more than their car brochure. Because you are no longer purchasing; you are leasing. You have to consider their maintenance plan and post-purchase long-term support model.

Get the service you're promised

Discover Deposco, the SaaS WMS architected for rapid, consistent, and flexible growth.

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