In this post we gathered information about the most popular self-hosted e-commerce platforms. Magento, PrestaShop, Zen Cart, and other solutions are described in the article. We tried to show their major features, as well as positive and negative aspects.
Magento consists of two major solutions – Community Edition and Enterprise Edition. The first one is an open source, hosted version of the cart. It is free to download, but you have to invest into its setting up, payment processor, domain name, host, and additional security to make your e-commerce shop valid. The second one is a more robust solution, designed for large-scale retailers. Enterprise Edition starts at $15,500 a year.
Magento CE is not the easiest solution. It offers a lot of possibilities, but you need a team of Magento developers to get maximum from the platform. In its turn, Magento admin interface is also a complex system. It has dozens of options and suboptions, which can confuse a new user a lot. But this aspect makes Magento universally relevant. Adding products is another difficult process in Magento. You’ll need a lot of time to learn all the nuances.
Magento CE isn’t PCI compliant out of the box, so it’s vital to make your store compliant before you launch to ensure security. In its turn Enterprise Edition is fully PCI compliant. By using Magento, you will get the ability to maintain multiple stores, access different sales reporting tools, integrate Google Analytics, use sitemaps, URL rewrites, and meta tags. Several marketing tools are also available out of the box. In addition, there are very useful inventory features in Magento – product attributes, customizable tax rates, and best seller tracking. Enterprise offers even more, including the ability to set a minimum advertised price, issue store credits, and offer rewards for customers.
Magento is also famous for its extension market. There are hundreds of both paid and free add-ons. Magento also integrates with a bunch of payment gateways, including Authorize.net, PayPal, and 2Checkout. With Magento CE, you are not able to offer gift cards or store credits to you customers. Another drawback of Community Edition is a lack of support, which is available for Enterprise users only.
Magento CE is slow, expensive, offers no customer support, and requires coding. At the same time, it is feature rich, free, scalable, and extremely flexible!
We should also mention, that there will be a Magento 2 update soon. The new version of the platform is based on modern technology stack and provides lots of new opportunities. Unfortunately, the final release should be ready only in Q4 2015. Moreover, chances are it can be delayed. Magento 2 provides better performance, improved APIs and codebase, as well as many frontend changes. At the same time the new version of the platform is too young and lack some useful features of 1.x, such as robust extension market. Hit the below links to check our post about Magento 2.
PrestaShop offers feature rich and at the same time sleek admin and clean templates. It also requires a lot of coding, and its extensions are very expensive. At the same time PrestaShop is a completely open source platform, so you can download it for free. It doesn’t provide any hosting solutions, that’s why you will have to spend some extra money. The software also requires to possess an FTP client and a website registered domain name. In addition, get ready to hire a developer/designer, invest into a payment processor and merchant account, and buy add-ons with an upfront fee. You can also spend additional money for ongoing support.
Without visiting a getting started page, you will have a lot of difficulties with PrestaShop. It is also important to spend time for training your staff members to use the admin correctly, add customers and categories, upload products, set payment and shipping data.
PrestaShop provides a lot of documentation that covers the basics with separate guides for merchants, designers, and developers. You can also rely on forums, which are an additional place to look for extra help. The most important features of PrestaShop, which you can find among the list of 300+ titles, are one-page checkout, coupons, newsletters, tracking for sales and visitors, image zoom, unlimited currency support, and wish lists. SEO is another strong aspect of PrestaShop. The platform provides you with the ability to get almost everything from customized URLs, product tags, meta data, etc. It is also possible to create categories and subcategories for items.
Prestashop offers more than 1500 modules and templates, but all of them costs a lot. You even have to pay $20 for the downloadable user guide. The platform is integrated with 16 payment gateways. In addition, you can accept payments via check and COD. If it is not enough, there are 160+ payment providers available as extensions.
You can use forums to find additional information and report issues to a bug tracker. Additionally, there are phone support between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. EST, which is fee-based, and a contact form. PrestaShop is buggy, includes a lot of additional costs, and requires some technical knowledge. At the same time it is free and provides elegant themes, solid SEO, and mobile compatibility.
Zen Cart is a free, open source, PHP/MySQL based e-commerce solution, which also provides some paid services. Zen Cart is maintained by developers, designers, and business owners all over the world, and their goal is to provide a free e-commerce platform that can be installed, developed and controlled without an IT degree. Despite this goal, Zen requires PHP/MySQL programming skills for its maintenance. You can host your Zen Cart software on a company server. In this case you will have to choose a hosting plan and pay monthly fees according to it. There are also a lot of different one-click Zen Cart installs, which can save you from the pain of self-installation.
Both the front or the back end of Zen Cart are overwhelming. The first one looks outdated, and the second one is far from intuitive. The good news is that Zen Cart is highly customizable. You just need a mid-level knowledge of PHP coding to transform the front of your e-commerce store into something you like.
The requirements includes PHP 5.2.14+, or PHP 5.3.5+; Apache 2.x or higher; and MySQL 5 or newer. Everything must be PCI Compliant. Zen Cart has all the features to run a basic e-commerce store out of the box, but there are also hundreds of extensions, designed to empower your online business.
The major Zen Cart features include an infinite number of products and categories; an ability to put your products on sale, or sell downloadable products (PDFs or music); different product attributes; a wide variety of shipping options and carriers, country based customization. There are also basic reporting functions, and marketing tools, such as banners, newsletters, gift cards and coupons. The default Zen Cart skin is terrible, so you should be ready to hire a designer to make your store attractive for visitors. Zen Cart also provides about 200 free template packages with regular updates and forum support threads on its official site. In addition you can find a lot of paid templates.
Zen Cart works with Paypal, FirstData, and Authorize.net. Additionally, you can expand the list of payment gateways by installing dedicated extensions. And don’t forget, that Zen Cart also accepts cash, COD, and money orders. You can receive all the technical support from Zen Cart forum, Wiki, tutorials and FAQs, User Manual, Facebook page or YouTube channel of Zen Cart. There is also a paid support.
Zen Cart is difficult to master, it lacks SEO features and provides weak mobile device compatibility. In addition, there are issues with updates. At the same time, Zen Cart is free, stable, highly customizable and competitive with commercial e-commerce platforms.
WooCommerce is an open source and free to download WordPress plugin. As it runs best on WooTheme, so get ready to pay some extra money for the template. The platform also requires an integration with a payment processor. In addition, you can spend a few dozens of bucks for extensions. Considering all these aspects, WooCommerce still has a much lower operating costs than different cloud-based services.
WooCommerce is extremely easy to install, if you are familiar with WordPress CMS, as it works just like any other WP plugin. For users uninitiated in WordPress, the entire procedure should be clear, ’cause all the steps and actions have a close logical connection between each other. Similarly to WordPress posts, product pages of WooCommerce can be categorized, tagged, and given various attributes. The solution provides basic reporting tools, but you can expand existing possibilities by installing correct extensions.
WooCommerce provides a well-rounded set of tools and features to create an efficient e-commerce store. It has a solid SEO with SEO-friendly links and built-in metatags. WooCommerce also provides standard cart components: Inventory, Shipping, Coupons, and Payment Integrations. They are enough to make your store fully functional from the start. You can use one of five free skins or choose a WooTheme. There are also many both free and premium WooCommerce themes from independent developers.
WooCommerce supports a few standard payment options, for example, PayPal. In addition you can use one of 100+ extensions for different payment processors. If you have any questions about your WooCommerce store, you should use forums and online documentation as a customer support service. There are also FAQs from WooThemes – they provide some WooCommerce-specificanswers.
WooCommerce includes some additional costs, has a limited support, and is not the most flexible themes. At the same time, it is free, scalable, provides one-page checkout, attractive templates, and great extensions.
With OpenCart you will need a basic knowledge of coding to get your store launched. The solution is free, but you will have to pay for hosting, extensions, themes, and a credit card processor. OpenCart can be hosted on a server of your choice. It is strongly recommended to hire a developer to launch your store unless you are a coder. At the same time an overall maintenance of OpenCart e-commerce store is extremely easy.
The platform is merchant friendly and provides all the necessary features and tools. You get guest checkout; unlimited categories and products; metadata, keywords and site maps; several shipping providers and calculation tools out of the box. In addition, OpenCart provides a multi-store support, discount coupons, a high quality internationalization, product ratings and reviews.
The default frontend template of OpenCart is impressive, but you can choose one of 2000+ options. There is also a vide variety of add-ons. Google Analytics, Twitter, and Facebook integration is a default option, but for Amazon, eBay, and other services you need to install some special extensions. There are also robust shipping, accounting, and SEO add-ons.
OpenCart provides the integration with most major payment processors (PayPal and Authorize.net are included). In addition, you get more than 700 gateways via extensions. It is also possible to complete COD and money orders, as well as offer discounts from the admin of your OpenCart e-commerce store. For technical support, you should check OpenCart forum, a special user guide, and video tutorials. OpenCart also has official pages on Facebook and Twitter, so don’t hesitate to ask your questions there.
The platform requires technical knowledge and coding experience. It also lacks a few important features, but you can fix this problem with the right extensions. At the same time OpenCart is a free, open source, easy to use e-commerce solution with clean admin.
With CS-Cart you have to pay an up-front fee in order to use the downloadable software. The solution is feature-rich and flexible. You can even integrate the open source code software into a current website, as well as use it to create a stand-alone e-commerce shop.
There are 3 versions of CS-Cart. The first one is Ultimate Free. It provides 12 extensions, 3 product filters, no SKU limit, and no technical support. The second version is Ultimate, and it costs $385. CS-Cart Ultimate includes over than 50 extensions, unlimited product filters, unlimited SKUs, and 30 days and 40 credits technical support. The third one is Multi-Vendor. It costs $590 per year and suits best for virtual marketplaces with multiple different sellers. CS-Cart is surprisingly easy to use. You don’t even need to work with a code to apply light changes.
There are 500+ features in CS-Cart. In addition to out of the box features you can use different add-ons. There is an access to one-page checkout, and the solution also offers gift certificates and a registry. But CS-Cart lacks social media tools and some important SEO features.
Additionally to basic store template you can use third-party templates. In both situations you get smart, searchable, and clean admin. Another positive aspect of CS-Cart is the integration with more than 50 payment solutions. You can also accept payment via phone, checks, and purchase orders. CS-Cart provides a fee-based support plan, but there are other source of useful information: forum, documentation, reference guide and YouTube.
CS-Cart is slow, provides expensive support and no upselling. At the same time it is feature rich, easy to use, customizable, and has a free version.
osCommerce offers about 7,000 free integrations and an active online forum, but there is a huge problem with the security. The platform has been compromised by hackers several times during last few years. That’s why you should think about extra protection. osCommerce won’t cost you anything to download, so you can use your saved money for building the extra line of defense for your e-commerce store. You will also need some money for developers and designers to build your site; hosting to place your store; a merchant account to work with credit card orders; and add-ons to add all the necessary features to your e-commerce website.
osCommerce is easy to install and use. The platform provides a light admin, but it lacks some important features. To solve this problem you can both use add-ons and work with the code. The open-source program enables you to include almost any feature you can even imagine in your e-commerce store.
osCommerce lacks templates, but it provides adjustments for footers, headers, and columns. For some serious changes, you will need an experienced designer. At the same time osCommerce offers over 7,000 add-ons and supports various payment processors. Live chat is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (CET) for owners of community sponsorship package only. Another source of technical support is the osCommerce forum.
osCommerce is unsecure, has weak SEO, fee-based tech support, overcomplicated code, and outdated design. At the same time it is free, feature rich, provides easy installation and multi-language support.
Spree Commerce provides hosting, security, templates, and support. It is an exciting platform, designed to produce elegant and highly usable e-commerce stores. Spree is completely free to download, but you need to hire a Ruby on Rails specialist, and pay for security, hosting, and a merchant account. As a result, you get user friendly and elegant e-commerce store with no CMS functionality. It is possible to fix this problems by using add-ons. At the same time Spree provides a solid SEO with meta descriptions, integrated product permalinks, and keyword targeting.
There are about a dozen templates for Spree. The default Spree Blue theme can be changed to fit your corporate style. There are also a lot of third-party extensions, both free and paid. Spree provides a support for most major merchant accounts and payment gateways. Phone and ticket support is available for a fee.
Spree Commerce requires technical knowledge, provides paid support, and lacks robust management tools. At the same time it has a clean admin and an attractive design, a nice checkout and a strong user community.
Sellvana provides main e-commerce functionalities, like cart, basic product, and checkout, but at the same time it lacks a lot of useful tools and features. The platforms implements some great ideas regarding dynamic fields and field sets, product functionality and product variations, but they’re not ready yet. The solution is relatively new, but we can already state, that it has a great future. Check our full review here.
OroCommerce is an advanced ecommerce platform for B2B relations. Unlike other existing solutions, it offers a lot of B2B features out-of-the-box. Thus, you can easily avoid headaches related to ERP, CRM, PIM, or order management integration with the platform. This leads to improves customer experience and as a result increased sales. You may argue that Magento also offers robust B2B opportunities, but they are available only via expensive customization. Moreover, the integration doesn’t provide seamless experience, since the platform is B2C-oriented. Thus, OroCommerce has a competitive edge over other ecommerce platforms.