It feels like a perfect time to discuss free eCom and learn about open source. Open source eCommerce software can be happy, free, and confusing at the same time.
After all, it brings up a lot of questions like: What does open-source mean? Is open-source really free? Is it a good choice for my small store? Is it powerful enough to create a store for my very large chain? Which solution is right for me?
Well, we’re happy to say, we can answer most of those questions for you. We can’t answer the last one for you – only you can decide which solution is right for you. We can only provide you with a list of options and information about each to help you decide, though.
Before we get to the list of options, let’s quickly go over the other questions.
- What does open-source mean? Well, basically, open source software is software whose source code has been made available for anyone to modify or update.
- Is open source really free? It depends on your proficiency with coding and the level of difficulty for implementing the particular solution you chose. If you are a fantastic coder, chances are, the only thing that you’ll need is time. (But then, time is money, is it not?) If you’ve not got a clue about computers, you will most likely need to pay someone to set your website up for you and possibly maintain it for you. If that’s the case, you will need to make sure to run estimates to see if the cost of a developer is cheaper over time than the cost of a hosted eCommerce solution.
- Is it a good choice for my small store? This answer goes right along with the above. Essentially: setting up an open source store is likely to take up a lot of time and/or money, depending on what and who you know. In general, we would say, unless you or your best friend is a tech wiz, overall you should probably avoid open source. We’ve found one or two options that you might be able to set up without knowing bucket loads about code, but even those can be difficult. Basically: When something like Shopify starts at $14/mo, wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how to code a basic website just may not be worth it.
- Is it powerful enough to create a store for my very large chain? The answer to that is unequivocally yes. Especially certain solutions. If you have a creative tech team, you can do just about anything with open source. In fact, most of the time, you can do more with open source than you can with a hosted solution.
Now that your questions are answered, let’s talk about the solutions themselves. Please remember that these are in no particular order. Some solutions will work far better for certain retailers than others.
Chances are, if you know anything about eCommerce software you’ve heard of Magento. Magento is one of the biggest names in eCommerce, in general, not just open source.
Magento is incredibly flexible and capable – in the hands of the right person/team, it can create a beautiful website for even the largest of retailers. However, all that power comes with a price: Magento is very much intended for expert coders.
You will need to purchase a payment processor, domain name, and security. Magento does not come with built-in security.
osCommerce is one of the oldest names in eCommerce software, and as such, a lot has been developed for it. osCommerce has over 7,000 free integrations, and huge active community working on it and giving support for it. Overall, reviewers say that this system is rather outdated to work with, so it takes more finesse. However, much like Magento, if you can figure out how to work with this solution, the world is open to you. There is not much this solution can’t build. You should keep in mind, though, that while osCommerce does have security features, but they’re very weak, so unless you can bolster them, you should probably invest in security software on the side.
3. Open Cart
Open Cart is a rather new solution available – it’s only been around since 2007. For open source, that can sometime spell trouble. After all, as a community developed project, it takes time for the solution to become more complex. But it can also be a good thing – there isn’t as much code to weigh the software down, and it’s still quite simple. In the case of Open Cart, users seem to be split down the middle in which experience they have with open cart. Some people really love it and some people really hate it. If you check this reviews page out, you’ll notice that nearly all of the reviews are either five stars or one. There are only a few that are in between.
Overall, Open Cart is noted for having a sleek administrative dashboard and its general out-of-the-box ease of use. To make a fancy store, you will have to devote some time to the coding, but small stores could potentially use this solution because it does function surprisingly well out of the box.
WooCommerce is a unique solution on this list, because it’s not actually a full open source eCommerce solution on its own. WooCommerce is actually an open source WordPress shopping cart plugin.
So why’s it on here? Well, WordPress is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, content management solutions. There are a LOT of websites built on WordPress. WooCommerce is the open source plugin that those sites can use to turn their site into a store. Of course, if you don’t already have a site, you can still use WooCommerce – you just have to download WordPress first.
What do you need to know about WooCommerce? A few things:
- If you’re used to working with WordPress already, WooCommerce is a breeze to use. It’s fully functional right out of the box and requires little customization. Of course, for those who aren’t used to working with WordPress, there is a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there on how to beat WordPress’s learning curve.
- You basically have to use WooCommerce’s templates to get a template to work, so that makes things less flexible.
- In fact, the flexibility over all of WooCommerce is rather limited. It will certainly never be able to create a deeply unique store in the same way Magento can, but that’s the price you pay for ease-of-set-up.
- One very popular feature of WooCommerce is their one-page checkout process. It’s totally unique to Woo, and I’m a fan.
SimpleCart is, as its name suggests, probably the easiest solution to use on this list. Their motto is, “All You Need to Know is HTML,” and according to reviews, that is true. As a result, this might be the best solution on this list for small stores.
A few key features:
- SimpleCart has a very small footprint, so it runs fast. Which, as we all know, is important in the eCom world where every second spent loading loses 7% of your customers.
- Because you will be using HTML to set up your store, SimpleCart is language agnostic.
- It also supports a wide array of currencies. Basically – if you’re not doing business in the US, the language and currency flexibility might make this an ideal solution for you.
- Last thing, SimpleCart has poor security so invest in some security software!
PrestaShop is a rather unique open source solution in that there is actually a for-profit company based around it. How does that work? Basically, PrestaShop’s code is available for free download, same as any other solution. However, PrestaShop has an entire shop of add-on integrations and modules, some of which are free, and some of which are a one-time fee. It’s interesting to note that many of the paid modules are created and sold by community members. In addition, PrestaShop offers its services as a developer. That way, you don’t need to go hunt down a developer who knows how to work with PrestaShop – you can just pay them to set up the shop for you. Over the lifetime of your store, as well, you can continually go back to them, not just community support, for training and help.
What else do you need to know about PrestaShop?
- They have over 1,500 templates, 500 of which are premium. That’s pretty stellar for an open source solution.
- PrestaShop has incredible reporting capabilities, even among the hosted eCommerce big boys. It has a very unique Intelligent Merchant KPI feature and the ability to forecast, among other things.
So that’s six fantastic open source eCommerce software solutions available to you. What other solutions do you think deserve to be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!