5 Open Source E-COMMERCE Platforms

by March 31, 2016 1 comment

Gone are the days when one would have to drive down to a store to buy a product. Gone also are the times when one would have to pick up and browse through a printed catalog, call up a phone number to enquire and order a product. Today is an age of smartphones, tablets and phablets. Today is the age of e-commerce and shopping cart software. With growing number of e-commerce platforms available in the market, it can be very difficult to figure out which platform best meets your needs. In this article, we compare 5 popular e-commerce platforms

Key features of an e-commerce platform
Payment Acceptance: To sell anything online, you need to be able to accept payments from customers. And to accept payments, your store needs to integrate a payment gateway that securely moves funds from customers’ bank accounts on your own. You should ensure that your chosen payment gateway is supported, either in the core platform or via an extension or add-on. If it is not, you can hire a developer to built an add-on for you, but this can be very costly and may not even be successful.
Security:  The security of your store and the customer data it collects is incredibly important, and the platform you choose will have a huge impact on this factor. Complying with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) requires your organization to take all the necessary measures to protect your customers sensitive data while they shop online. These requirements include standards for your infrastructure and server setup to ensure your customers’ private data stays safe. SSL Certificates are a necessary and reliable way to gain your online shoppers’ trust. Thus, select the platform that is PCI compliant and is integrated with SSL certificate.
Ease of Use: If you are a start-up and trying to set-up first online store for your business then there is really nothing as important as ease of use. Even if the specific platform offers the most amazing features, it does not really matter if you don’t understand how to use them. Most of the platforms offer some sort of a setup wizard that will guide you through the creation of your first store.
However when you’re trying to separate the best eCommerce platforms from the rest, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. How much involvement you want to the process? How comfortable are you getting into the code? Is hiring an experienced developer to customize an open source online shopping platform as per the needs of your business, a better choice than going with a hosted solution?

Now let’s take a look at 5 popular e-commerce platforms:
1. Shopify
If you have an online shop, your shop has to look good and Shopify offers you over 100 beautiful and professional templates (themes), so your online shop can look great and you sell more. It offers a 14-day free trial and you can list up to 2,500 products by paying $59 per month. However, premium templates will cost extra, usually between $90 and $180, depending on your requirement. During sign-up Shopify asks you if you want to plan on moving products from another platform. The system then provides a link for importing products from your previous store.

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Shopify handles more than 70 different payment gateways and offers full social media integration plus email marketing. The system is backed by a content delivery network (CDN) that provides an extra boost when your site gets down during busy hours.
The user interface is simple and has various tools including accounting, customer service, inventory management, marketing, reporting, shipping, social media, fulfillment, etc and can help automate a lot of your business processes. This is really one of the biggest strengths about Shopify as to not only it provides you a way to build an online store and handle payments, but also offer you helpful tools for running a successful business. Shopify fulfills most of the e-commerce requirements beautifully and should be the first preference for most of the small to mid e-commerce stores.
Pros:
•    Amazing design templates and themes
•    Support and Security
Cons:
•    Customization
•    Expensive to host an increasingly larger store
2. Magento
Magento is one of the best open source e-commerce platforms and is owned 100% by eBay, but is free to use. Over 120,000 websites worldwide utilize Magento as their e-commerce solution. Magento is targeted for users who really want to make a large business out of e-commerce and have well-laid plans for it. It allows to segment customers beautifully and apply different discounts to each segment as you like. Magento will also allow you to carry out private sales for your valued customers. Modifying the appearance of the website is easy. Even changing the functionality of the website isn’t that hard with the right expertise to aid you. All you have to do is pay for web hosting.

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The biggest upside to Magento is customization. Like all open source PHP code, Magento is designed so you can modify and add anything you want. With the right technical help, nothing in Magento is impossible to customize. A robust and feature rich ecosystem of templates and plug-ins is available, so you can quickly add features and modify the appearance of your website as per the needs of your business.
The downside to any open source solution and thus with Magento is that if things get choked, you are going to need some assistance. There are many developers available who can help you. Likewise, most hosting companies do offer some level of technical support for Magento. But, it is important that you plan ahead and make sure that you are not taking on more than you can handle.
Pros:
•    Unlimited number of products and categories supported
•    Opportunity to run multiple stores from one admin panel
•    Simple one-page and guest checkout are available
Cons:
•    Being open source, you need to hire a technical lead to launch your store
•    Updates can be glitchy at times
•    Templates can be difficult to integrate
3. BigCommerce
Like Shopify, BigCommerce is a hosted solution and utilizes a CDN to ensure your shop can handle big rushes easily. It includes integration with eBay and with Google Shopping. Leveraging the concept of mobility, it also offers mobile commerce solutions with mobile point-of-sale (POS) transactions. You can set up your store on Facebook and sell there, and the store is fully integrated and synchronized with Bigcommerce thus so you get exponentially more exposure to potential customers.

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It also has an App store and include more advanced tools for accounting, shipping, promotion / marketing, order management, live chat, email marketing, analytics, etc. These Apps are definitely handy when you are ready to scale your business to the next level. These tools help you promote your products more effectively, automate your daily tasks even further, and just gives a lot more ammunition without taking up any more of your time.
BigCommerce offers a 15-day free trial — one whole day more than Shopify! Plans are a bit pricey, starting at $24.95 per month to host just 100 products. It also offers a $149.95 per month plan to host unlimited products.
Pros:
•    Synchronization with social media networks
•    App Store
Cons:
•    Customization
•    Themes or templates not as beautiful as Shopify
4. osCommerce
Like Magento, osCommerce is popular and widely used an open source e-commerce platform. It happens to be the oldest player in the e-commerce industry since its inception in 2000. Because osCommerce has been available for so many years, there are a number of web developers available who can assist you with osCommerce. Being open source, there are no limits to the number of products that can be uploaded using the platform.

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Here’s a big plus for osCommerce the software is totally free to use. As opposed to cloud-hosted carts that require a monthly payment or licensed carts that can be accessed for an upfront fee, osCommerce won’t cost you anything to download.
Unless you’re a programmer or coding geek you will need to hire a professional developer and designer to build your site. Also, be ready to churn out extra bucks to pay for site security, hosting, a merchant account to process credit card orders, and some of the thousands of add-ons you’ll need to polish off your store.
Pros:
•    Multilingual
•    Easy-to-use modules facilitate easy customization of websites.
Cons:
•    Being an old technology, no further updates are available for osCommerce.
•    If you are not technically sound editing the code can be difficult
5. OpenCart
Open Cart is another PHP-based option available to build an e-commerce store. It is great for start-ups and provides a powerful eCommerce shopping cart, tools with a minimal investment. Open Cart can handle a number of currencies and postage systems as well. It offers a wide array of report options and has powerful search engine optimization (SEO), allowing your site to be easily indexed by Google and Bing so visitors can find you in the big search engines.

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Pros:
•    Easy to manage admin panel for start-up users
•    Large number of plug-ins
Cons:
•    At times, you can experience glitches while updating
Conclusion
If you need a lot of customization and unique features it is better to run your store on an open source platform like Magento. On the other hand, if customization means nothing to you and you’re comfortable with the higher operating costs involved, a hosted platform may be better for your business like Shopify.
Also rather than guessing, or making a selection based on name alone, it is important to consider what your long-term needs are going to be. Make sure the platform integrates with your chosen or intended payment gateway. To avoid compromising your e-commerce transactions, you must stay cautious in your security measures. Without powerful mechanisms in place to secure customer’s financial information, customers are easily scared away and often go to competitors for their shopping needs.

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  1. nasser man
    #1 nasser man 23 April, 2016, 06:04

    currently i designing a new store using opencart, as a newbie its backend is really easy to understand and adding or products is really easy, and as a web designer, designing new template for frontend is simple,

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