As more users turn to the computer and internet to shop, good eCommerce platforms become paramount. As more businesses adopt a digital shopfront for their products, the need for both user-friendly and customisable eCommerce platforms is more important than ever.
If you are planning to launch an eCommerce website or sell your products and services online, the first thing to do is figure out a good eCommerce platform to build your website on. With a plethora of popularized and open source options available, it becomes difficult to select the best possible platform for a website that suits your business.
This article will cover the most popular eCommerce platforms- Magento, Open Cart, Zen Cart and OsCommerce, compare their pros and cons and help you select the best available option, as per your needs. Let's dive in!
Magento, a platform built using the Zent Framework, offers a flexible, powerful and cost effective solution for designing eCommerce Websites. Magento is to eCommerce, as WordPress is to blogging and content management. The official website of Magento boasts some great clients such as Nike, Rovio, Oneida and several other popular brands. It icons all the brilliant features that are essential for any eCommerce website such as catalog management, the shopping cart, search and other administration functions. Although Magento is cost effective in terms of initial investment, the cost of maintenance in the long term is pretty high compared to other platforms. It offers huge potential for customization, but, it requires some technical knowledge. Understanding CSS, MySQL and PHP is needed to make effective use of the software.
OsCommerce, one of the oldest open source eCommerce platforms out there, has its own share of benefits and limitations. Being one of the oldest in the eCommerce domain, there are immense benefits through the vast community that it has produced over the past 12 years. Consisting of approximately 270000+ members, it is home to thousands of experts and developers that specialize in Oscommerce platform, thereby providing you excellent support in times of need. Moreover, it contains a repository of over 7000 add ons and several templates. OsCommerce may be a veteran due to its years of experience, but that makes it a bit dated as compared to newer alternatives that are more power-packed and scalable.
Open Cart is very powerful. It was launched in 2009 and is one of the newest platforms among other popular choices. In spite of being new, it has paved its way through the market and has emerged as a peak choice for eCommerce websites. The number one reason for this is its Order Management. You can sell unlimited number of products, have unlimited categories and implement various languages and conventions for the website. This offering of multiple choices is what makes it the go-to by developers today. Open Cart is especially beneficial when there is a need to manage multiple stores via one common admin interface. Due to all these features, it gives a high ranking in SERPs. As per its website, Open Cart offers around 20+ Payment Gateways and 8+ Shipping Methods- an impressive feature. However, with Open Cart, you must employ a web developer so that an effective use of the features is ascertained. As for the cons, the same that come with any new software are valid here. Since it's a relatively newer platform, it has a smaller user base and limited documentation.
Zen Cart is your go-to platform if your focus is more on customer management and marketing. The best thing about Zen Cart is the customer management features it offers such as coupon codes, promotional offers, gift certificates, email order confirmation and more. However, if you are not technologically sound, it's going to be a bit of a struggle using Zen Cart. The software itself is aimed towards the advanced user base. If you have no prior experience with this platform, you'll find that even the basic tasks such as installation, editing templates and more are tedious and complex. So, Zen Cart is a good option- if you are good at it. Even though the option is open source and offers excellent features, you must consider this option only if you have hired an expert developer or you know how to get around the software.
The Deciding Factors
No platform offers a one stop solution for all needs. Each has their share of pros and cons and there are several deciding factors you must consider before you opt for one.
How Technical Are You? Platforms such as Zen Cart and Magento are good options if you are good with the technicality involved, or if you can hire an expert. If that's not the case, it is better to go with other options such as Open Cart and OsCommerce.
Requirements – Do you expect a lot of add ons and templates for your website? Should they be customizable and easily editable? Magento offers infinite customization, but it requires sound technical knowledge to tweak in.
Community Base – Having a look at the Google Trends reports, will show you that OsCommerce followed by Magento were launched way before the other popular platforms. Over the years, they have produced a vast community of experts and web developers, thereby providing good support and guidance.
Features – Magento has unique SEO features; Zen Cart offers excellent customer management features; Open Cart offers a range of order management features, whereas OsCommerce boasts about its vast community and repositories of add ons and templates. Every platform has a pick! It's up to you to decide, based on your vested interests.
Study the Trends – A glance through the Google Trends report of eCommerce platforms can give a fair idea about their popularity. OsCommerce has witnessed a decline in popularity since 2011 and has not been able to make an effective comeback. Open Cart, in spite of being a new player in the game, has over powered several previously established giants in the eCommerce market. It has been rising steadily ever since its absorption and has a bright future. Magento comes from the authorized eBay Store and has enjoyed popularity ever since, due to the excellent features and customization it offers. The more popular the platform, the better it is. This is because more popular platforms have a larger customer base, larger developer base and large repository of themes, add ons and widgets.
A glance at all the factors above will easily demonstrate that there is no one-solution-fits-all when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce platform for your website. We have decided upon two candidates that offer most promising and versatile range of features and scalability. Our vote goes to Magento and Open Cart. We have classified two different scenarios, wherein they individually prove better over the other.
Scenario A: You own a large business that targets selling of a lot of products and has a huge customer base; you are willing to hire a web developer or expert to handle the technicalities associated with the platform; you are looking forward to large amount of customization and a vast community support. If most of this is true, then Magento is undecidedly the best choice.
Scenario B : You own a small business that targets selling of a few products and does not have a huge customer base; you are not willing to invest in hiring a web developer and do not understand much technical know-how by yourself; you prefer a light weight, easy to install and ready to go software than one that is heavy and power-packed. In such a scenario, Open Cart is your best bet.