Open source shopping carts have become a rising phenomenon; they have attracted attention from many web developers who largely favor them over other ecommerce software; they are ridiculously cheaper and are vital to companies who conduct business online. Having the perfect shopping cart makes more of a difference than most users think; it helps business owners fit their specific needs and has more adaptability to cope with changing technical environments. Open source shopping carts have gained so much attraction due to the perceived $0 cost of investment. They also provide access to cheap web developers and have advanced features available at affordable prices through developers who specialize in that cart.

 

Benefits and Challenges of Open Source Shopping Carts

5 Reasons to Go Open Source:

1)                 Cost-saver: there are no monthly or licensing costs to an open source shopping cart.

2)                 No restrictions: the source code is easily customizable to fit your needs.

3)                 More features: the source code is available to web developers who have probably already designed a version of the shopping cart that satisfies your goals.

4)                 Experienced developer Pool: as mentioned previously, open source shopping carts are available to web developers to edit and enhance; this allows you to hire someone who is experienced at a relatively cheaper price.

5)                 Freedom: access to the code allows you to fix the issues yourself instead of relying on someone else.

 

Potential Challenges with Open Source Software

1)                 Maintenance: The source code being available to the open market may result in poor maintenance; the code base may be poorly kept, it is best to be well experienced before experimenting with the software.

2)                 High-end costs: Enterprise customers, to keep up with their high quality of service, may need to hire a highly skilled web developer who is able to integrate the software to their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

3)                 Reliability: In the open source community, nobody is duty-bound to assist you with your issues, making it difficult to hire someone who is trustworthy.

 

The 3 Shopping Carts in Detail

OsCommerce: Launched in 2000, OsCommerce is one of the oldest open source shopping carts out there. Unfortunately, in this case, oldest is not better. The OSCommerce doesn’t come with many features out of the box, and it hasn’t been updated to keep up with the times. An alternative to OSCommerce would be CRE Loaded, which has been built upon OSCOmmerce, and has a paid version as well.

 

Magento: One of the best open source shopping carts around, they also have an enterprise platform, which may interest retailers who have more advanced requirements, e.g. an ERP system to integrate with. In fact, Magento is a good alternative to high end platforms like the Demandwares of the world. Magento is the opposite of OS Commerce, there are tons of features out of the gate, with many developers building in useful and advanced functionality, so you don’t have to custom code it. Magento recently got purchased by Ebay, so we suspect they will get quite a bit of support for years to come. One nice thing is that you can easily export a feed from Magento to Google Shopping.  However, one major disadvantage comes in Magentos heavy use of multiple databases, which slows down load times. Using multiple plugins, or trying to serve tens of thousands of products dramatically slows down the load times even further, which decreases conversion rates. You therefore must have dedicated hosting and more powerful servers in order to run a Magento store. This can wipe out some of the savings of “going open source”. Additionally, Magento is very focused on the developer. You will need to pay higher dollar for quality developers who know the database architecture inside out.

 

WooCommerce: Built on WordPress, WooCommerce is one of the fastest open source shopping carts around. The databases, like WordPress’s databases are light, extensible and flexible. Many web-developers have moved to WooCommerce simply due to its flexibility. The major benefit being that you can comfortably handle millions of SKU’s, without worrying about bringing down the server. However, Woocommerce is a very new player in the market. There aren’t as many free or low cost designs/plugins. If you are trying to customize it to your needs, you will most likely have to pay a developer to custom code everything. That being said, there’s a huge community of wordpress enthusiasts, and it’s quite a bit faster to code than Magento, so your development cost can be quite a bit lower.

 

Factors to Consider

Costs for Hosting

1)                 The first question you need to ask yourself is: how many products will you be running? Large product lists require high-quality hosting.

2)                 We always recommend running a dedicated server; it is the only way to ensure reliability and uptime.

3)                 SSL Certificates are a must, they are fairly cheap to obtain, and will probably come free if you are running a dedicated server.

 

Costs for designs & development: this is fairly easy to understand; budgeting your costs will aid you in financial planning and make the entire process much quicker.


Features
: What features will you need in order for your business to operate in a smooth fashion? Do you require additional features? There are several additional features that you may need, such as:

1)                 Marketplace integration; features that integrate your website to marketplaces like Amazon Marketplace, Ebay etc.

2)                 Multilanguage, currency and shipping to serve a global audience.

3)                 Advanced product configurations to allow multiple sizes and colors of products

4)                 A responsive mobile design to allow users access to your website via mobile devices.

5)                 A mobile app to significantly improve user experience.

 

To help you further, we’ve rated the open source shopping carts (out of 10), according to factors we mentioned earlier:

Cost to Host

Base Features

Advanced Features

Plugin Marketplace

Free Designs Available

Cheap Designs

Developer Skill Level

Magento

4

10

9

10

8

10

Advanced

OsCommerce

8

3

3

6

6

3

Intermediate

WooCommerce

8

8

5

4

5

7

Intermediate

 

Conclusion

Looking at the table above, it is easy to suggest that choosing the best software for your company may not be a quick decision. The shopping carts each have their benefits and drawbacks.

 

OsCommerce has history behind it, which offers tons of experience. However, we don’t recommend it to anyone due to its lack of advanced features and flexibility. You may want to look at CRE Loaded instead. We honestly don’t have enough experience to discuss it.

 

WooCommerce is great due to its flexibility, and great database architecture coming from WordPress. WooCommerce is highly recommended if you’re a small ecommerce website with not too many feature requirements. You may also want to explore Woocommerce if you are a high end company that doesn’t mind custom coding solutions, just wants a platform that is fast and flexible.

 

Magento simply has the best plugin marketplace available on the Internet today. High-end costs are a drawback to this software. The cost to host alone will run you at least $150/month; therefore you may want to even compare Magento to some of the hosted shopping cart solutions – e.g. bigcommerce. Not only will the hosting costs be expensive, you will probably need a more expensive developer. Magento simply cannot be implemented without an advanced developer who has years of knowledge in the business. But these additional costs can be compensated for with some of the great features Magento has to offer. The base features will easily satisfy all your business needs, and if not, there’s almost always a plugin that can help.

 

One cost-saving feature Magento can provide you is a broad variety of affordable designs. Magento is good for ecommerce owners who want a lot of fancy bells and whistles, don’t mind spending more money on hosting, and like lots of things to work well out of the box.  Alternatively, it’s a good option for the enterprise ecommerce merchant, who is willing to invest in all of the required integrations.