This is the era of eCommerce. More and more companies and stores are now going online, whether it be physical products that are shipped via postal service or just virtual entities like WordPress themes. Quite obviously, since eCommerce is a booming field, eCommerce tools too are in high demand.
In fact, such diversity exists when it comes to eCommerce solutions that users are often spoilt for choice. On one hand, you have hosted solutions such as the mighty Shopify that enable you to do everything with just the click of a button: be it adding items to your store, or setting up your shopping cart, or managing currency conversions and accepting payments, and so on. The obvious benefit of such solutions is the fact that you do not have to worry about nuances such as SSL certificates, web hosting, securing and hardening your website, coding the template, etc. All of that is managed by the platform itself.
However, such hosted solutions have a very visible drawback too: your customization options are severely limited. This is just like comparing WP.com with self-hosted WordPress: the former gives you peace of mind and ease of use, but there is not much you can do with it. If you truly wish to unlock the potential of WordPress, self-hosted is the way to go!
Personally, I stay away from hosted solutions. Not that I do not trust them or they are not worth trying, but just that I prefer keeping my content in such a manner than migration to or from a given platform is never an improbability. And when it comes to self-hosted eCommerce solutions, three major names come to one’s mind: OpenCart, Magento and of course, WooCommerce.
In this post, I will be comparing the pros and cons of these three eCommerce solutions.
Started in 2008, OpenCart is a pretty simple eCommerce tool that can manage the needs and requirements of basic and advanced stores alike. It is backed by its own set of themes and extensions. In terms of pricing, themes can be free or reach up to roughly $60-70 per unit. As can be seen, the cost of running an OpenCart store does not seem to be voluminous.
OpenCart has its own set of tools to help you get started. There is a very well prepared documentation, as well as screencasts to assist you just in case you ever get confused.
Based in Hong Kong, OpenCart is under active development and can be run on virtually any server configuration that supports databases plus PHP. The interface in itself is pretty straightforward, so you wouldn’t have to learn or master any rocket science in order to get started with OpenCart.
On the downside, OpenCart has a very rudimentary appeal to it in terms of performance. Without caching or an SEO plugin, your store will suffer big-time, because the native script is just too slow and does not even offer SEO-ready URLs.
- Very easy to use
- Free and cheap extensions or themes
- Responsive and nimble admin UI
- Nice documentation
- Caching and SEO functions require extensions
- Tough to customize and tweak
When it comes to eCommerce, Magento is no minnow. Much like OpenCart, Magento was also launched in 2008 itself, though it has by now grown to a stature higher than that of OpenCart.
Magento comes in two flavors: the Enterprise version is of course a premium offering, whereas the Community version is free for download. Magento was acquired by eBay, and since then, it has developed a very enormous sense of community around itself, with Magento Connect being the pivot point for extensions and themes.
Speaking of extensions and themes though, almost everything is on the costlier side as compared to OpenCart. Themes generally fall between $90 and $200, though extensions can go as high as $1000 for a single license!
Naturally, Magento is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is aimed for high-end eCommerce stores. In fact, I almost always found Magento to be an overkill for simple or medium-sized eCommerce stores (albeit many clients do shout “Magento” when they need an eCommerce store set up simply on account of its popularity). Magento should be considered only if you need the extra functionality and in-depth resources that it offers. Also, note that using Magento would also add to your secondary expenditure: a sub-par shared or semi-dedicated hosting will not suffice, and you would be better off with a dedicated server or a cloud plan of your own.
- Highly scalable and customizable
- Multilingual and multi-currency support
- Ideal for Enterprise usage
- Ridiculously costly extensions
- Too many features may make it seem bloated
- Costly to run in terms of hosting etc.
- Steep learning curve
The last offering on this list, WooCommerce, is not really a standalone CMS but is a solution that works within WordPress. As such, it can make use of the WordPress ecosystem with ease, and that means, you have at your disposal the wide array of WordPress themes and plugins available for use.
WooCommerce is relatively young as compared to OpenCart or Magento, with 2011 being the year of its birth. It has since grown to be widely successful and well-loved, especially by WordPress users, since it allows them to add eCommerce functionality to their websites or blogs without having to leave the comfort of their CMS.
To be very frank, any positive aspect of WordPress can be counted as a positive one for WooCommerce too. Running a WordPress site is no difficult task, so it means managing a WooCommerce store too is not difficult by any standards. Plus, you can make use of several WordPress themes and plugins, both free and premium.
WooCommerce is so popular that specialized companies have developed from it — companies that help users do more with WordPress and WooCommerce. Take Prospress, a startup that builds and deploys solutions for WooCommerce users, for example.
WooCommerce acts as the base plugin, with its own set of extensions that enhance its functionality. Such extensions can range from free to up to $100.
- Relies on WordPress
- Free to download
- Easy to use
- Base plugin might not suffice, so premium extensions are needed
- Useless if you are not a WordPress user
What do you think of these eCommerce solutions? Which one do you prefer? Have your say in the comments below!
Featured Image: melenita
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and is the author of “Sufism: A Brief History”. He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.