IN SEARCH OF THE BEST OPEN SOURCE ECOMMERCE PLATFORM

best-open-source-ecommerce-platform
by

The competition between eCommerce platforms is fierce for obvious reasons. The market is gigantic and growing with pace. The technology is leaping forward constantly, which gives opportunities for open source underdogs to challenge the less agile giants of the trade. We took a look at a few of the best open source eCommerce platforms in 2015 to figure out what makes them prosper.

Currently there are loads and loads of options to choose from when planning to open a new online store. A fact that makes the open source ecommerce market even more interesting, is that none of the biggest players in the game actually dominate the market alone. The pecking order in market shares varies a lot between different geographical areas. On top of this, the open source ecommerce market is shifting continuously, with new additions and the closing of once open source projects.

Within the world’s top 1 million websites, the open source market leader is Magento Community Edition with a market share of around 25% of the ecommerce sites (Alexa Top 1M survey, results available here). The second most popular open source ecommerce solution is WooCommerce with around 20% of the market. These two are undoubtedly a few steps ahead of the rest, but contenders like PrestaShop, Open Cart and Spree Commerce are going strong in their own geographical areas and specific target groups.

We wanted to share our views of the pros and cons of some of the popular current ecommerce platforms to see how our new open source platform Shuup compares with their features. The main properties we chose to assess are value for money, ease of use, availability of features and addons, scalability for different sized businesses and the openness of the system.

Pros and Cons

We wanted to share our views of the pros and cons of some of the popular current ecommerce platforms to see how our new open source platform Shuup compares with their features. The main properties we chose to assess are value for money, ease of use, availability of features and addons, scalability for different sized businesses and the openness of the system.

  • Spree Commerce

Spree Commerce is an open source ecommerce platform based on the Ruby on Rails programming language. It is completely free to download and use for commercial and personal purposes. Well, free to use in principle. Spree is a self-hosted platform, which means that unlike many of its competitors you need to pay for hosting. Naturally, you also pay for service integrations like credit card sales and security.

 

Setting up an online store with Spree Commerce is not quite as straightforward as with some of the competitors’ platform that offer a turnkey type of solution. Spree requires quite a bit of programming knowledge with Ruby on Rails. Unless you can handle the said programming language, you will need a proficient developer. Anyhow, this might be worth your while as Ruby on Rails is regarded as a fast and appealing language among developers and is capable of producing light and elegant sites.

Spree Commerce has gathered a large community of developers around the world to further enhance the open source system and to bring in new features. This means that issues are being worked on and new innovative solutions are constantly being created by Spree Commerce users. The bigger the open source community grows, the more features are added and the better the whole platform becomes.

Spree Commerce is powerful enough to be used for fairly large online stores and its architecture makes the site customizable, allowing you to create a unique customer experience. Spree Commerce has received a lot of positive feedback for a lean and functional admin site and the chosen programming language. Spree is probably not the platform to choose for an entry-level store, but if you have the resources to hire skilled developers and the desire to create a beautiful web store, you might find it to be of excellent value.

Spree Commerce Pros

  • Free Core
  • Ruby on Rails
  • Large Active Community

Spree Commerce Cons

  • Need Developers/Skills
  • Added Costs
  • Better for Large Scale
  • OpenCart

Another popular open source platform is OpenCart, which has a huge amount of stores using it. Like Spree Commerce, OpenCart has a wide community of developers working on improvements and additional features to enhance the platform. Like Magento, OpenCart runs on PHP code and to get the best out of the system you either need knowledge of the programming language or developers to make the store work the way you want it to.

 

However, OpenCart is one of the easier platforms to use out-the-box in the open source category. It is easy to set up and has received praise for easiness of use in the admin board and in the other basic built-in features. The open source ecommerce platform is self-hosted, which some prefer, and others don’t. In fact, a lot of the user experiences overall seem to be divided between those who love OpenCart and those who hate it.

The positive feedback, besides ease of use, comes mainly from the amount of extensions available and its’ good customer service. About the code, there are a lot of contradicting comments and it seems to please only a part of the users. A lot of the negative feedback is focused on extensions that are poorly made with compatibility problems and that offer no value for money. The case with OpenCart is that it is popular with small and medium sized companies who don’t want to spend big on ecommerce software. If these companies don’t have the developers to fix occasional bugs and modify the code in their favor, they would probably be better off paying a bit more for a comprehensive open source system that requires less programming knowledge.

OpenCart Pros

  • Large Active Community
  • Easy to Setup and Use
  • Lots of Extensions/Integrations
  • Good Customer Service

OpenCart Cons

  • Need Developers/Skills
  • Poorly Made/Incompatible Extensions
  • PHP

  • Magento

Magento Community Edition is a dominant force in open source ecommerce platforms and it is most popular within mid size to large businesses. Magento’s arguably biggest strength is its’ ability to handle a huge amount of products and traffic. Another one of Magento’s greatest assets is its’ vast amount of software integration possibilities.

Magento is available in two editions, the Enterprise Edition (EE) and the Community Edition (CE). EE is designed especially for large businesses and has tons of features including integration possibilities with other ecommerce and marketing solutions and support, training and consulting services. The downside of this is that this doesn’t come for free – not even remotely. EE license prices start from $18 000 per year, going all the way up to $250 000 or more.

 

The license for Magento CE is an open source ecommerce platform and is free to use. You can build your online store using the open source code. Extensions can be bought through Connect, which is Magento’s marketplace for extensions. For Magento CE you’ll have to provide your own hosting which is available from around $5, up to hundreds of dollars monthly.

When it comes to ease of use with Magento, you do need a lot of expertize or development skills to be able to create a functional online store. EE is made for big businesses and requires a skilled team of back-end and front-end developers and other specialists to make use of all of its’ many features. CE. its open source version, also requires developers with some professional proficiency.

Magento is based on a PHP architecture, which is a well-known programming language, so finding capable developers for building a store shouldn’t be a problem. Despite the advantages of PHP, some developers do consider it to be outdated and unnecessarily complex compared to some other more sophisticated programming languages. Executing large scale modifications to an existing store might turn out to be extremely complex and require a lot of working hours.

Magento Pros

  • Lots of Developers with Magento Knowhow
  • Scalable
  • Lots of Extensions/Integrations

Magento Cons

    • Expensive (For Large Shops)
    • Need Developers/Skills
    • PHP

  • WooCommerce

WooCommerce is for sure another big player in the game. What makes it different from the other open source ecommerce solutions on the list, is that it’s actually a WordPress plugin rather than an independent system. WordPress in one of the most popular content management systems, which means that there are a LOT of websites based on it. If you’re one of the many WordPress users, it’s easy to start using of WooCommerce. And if you’re not, well, its a great way to get a website up and running.

The setup of WooCommerce is relatively easy and it is basically ready to use right out the box. Former use of WordPress will give you a head start on beating the learning curve.

 

With WooCommerce you are basically locked into using WooCommerce’s templates. They are fairly simple to use and will get your store running without significant effort. You have plenty of features to add to your store from a variety of free and paid plugins. The down side to this great usability is that you will not be able to create a truly unique store with WooCommerce in the same way as you could with many of its open source competitors.

WooCommerce (and WordPress) is completely free to download. Considering that it’s also easy to use (especially with prior WordPress experience) and additional features are relatively inexpensive, it’s quite easy to see why it has become such a popular way of setting up an online store among new and small online retailers.

However, if your yearly online sales exceed half a million dollars or you’re looking to offer your customers a unique experience on your site, you might want to look elsewhere for better value. WordPress ecommerce plugins in general have also received some critique about poor documentation and customer service. These are a few points to consider before going for WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Pros

  • Plugin
  • Easy to Start
  • Cheap

WooCommerce Cons

  • Not Scalable
  • Locked to Provided Features
  • Lack of Documentation
  • Poor Customer Service

  • PrestaShop

PrestaShop is another one of the hugely popular open source ecommerce platforms. Its greatest assets are its large and active community of people contributing to the system and, mostly thanks to the community, one of the biggest selections of extensions around. The active community is also the place to find a quick solution for any technical challenges.

PrestaShop is available as both a cloud service and a free open source software download, to which you need to set up your own hosting. For more modifications possibilities through access to the code you will want to use the self-hosted version.

 

With the cloud version you will be able to set up a functioning store in a matter of minutes, if you are satisfied with using one of the free templates. Naturally, a huge amount of more prestigious templates are available in return for money. But the cloud version only gets you so far. You are limited to the provided features and templates. For setting up a store with the open source downloadable version, you need some PHP development skills. Using the downloaded version gives you many more options compared to the cloud version, but requires more expertise and time. However, this is the version you need for having proper control over your store.

Even though PrestaShop doesn’t charge you for the download, monthly use or transactions, you need to prepare to spend on the content on your site. Integrations and addons are quite pricey. In addition to this you may have to pay for developer fees, extra support services and processing fees. Not to forget about paying for your hosting server, PrestaShop is known to run a bit sluggishly so you will want to have at least a fast server.

Because of the relatively high price of use and deployment in the store, PrestaShop is probably not the best open source ecommerce platform for small retailers. However, for medium and large retailers PrestaShop offers a lot of features, good usability and a solid base for growing your business.

PrestaShop Pros

  • Free Core
  • Large Active Community
  • Lots of Extensions/Integrations
  • Cloud and Self Hosted Versions

PrestaShop Cons

  • Need Developers/Skills for Self-Hosted
  • Expensive Extensions/Integrations
  • Slow
  • PHP

  • Shuup

Shuup is a free-to-download open source ecommerce platform designed especially to meet the needs of mid size and large businesses in B2B and B2C online sales. A cloud-based version of Shuup is also available for a monthly subscription.

Shuup was created by the developers of Shoop Commerce’s parent company, who has been using the platform exclusively for creating online stores for their clients. The platform was developed while creating solutions for customers and grew alongside these client projects. The Shuup developers found it much more powerful than the formerly used proprietary systems. This lead to the releasing of the platform as open source for anyone to download, to use and to further develop.

 

Unlike any of the current open source platforms Shuup is made with the Python programming language on the Django web framework. This is one of the fastest growing programming frameworks and is being used by such online giants as Pinterest, Instagram and Mozilla. Django is fast to develop on and it allows for big modifications without forking the core of the code. Using Shuup, our team has taken huge steps forward in productivity compared to when using some well-known platforms before. This obviously saves time and money for the ecommerce practitioner.

The Shuup open framework allows for total customizability and lets you create beautiful and unique experiences for your customers. Thanks to the advanced code the platform is fast and easy to use and modify. Knowledge of the Python programming language is required for building a self hosted store, but compared to PHP for example, you will need a lot less development hours. Shuup works well with any size of business and scales to your needs as your business grows.

Shuup can be freely modified and new features can be created and sold as addons in the Shuup Marketplace or the=rough open APIs. The Marketplace was just recently launched and the Shuup team is working with our partners to fill it with useful and exciting new features. Any addon developer is naturally welcome to contribute and share or sell their creations. The growing community is open for anyone interested in Shuup to discuss further development possibilities and to find solutions for their ecommerce businesses.

Shuup Pros

  • Python/Django
  • Fast Development
  • Powerful
  • Scalability

Shuup Cons

  • Need Developers/Skills for self-hosted version
  • Lack of themes

Conclusion

Based on this review of a few of the many options out there, I guess it’s fair to say that there’s no universal one-size-fits-all solution when choosing the open source ecommerce platform for your business. The decision comes down to many different factors such as the size your business, the amount of sold items, the amount of resources you want to put into the development of your store, and the uniqueness of your business requirements.

Open source ecommerce platform we assessed here has its’ own benefits and downsides. I guess this goes for any software investment a company makes, but the best investments are the ones you have to make only once. So make sure you identify your needs and do proper research on your options. If your business is new and growing, make sure your ecommerce platform is ready to grow and scale along with your business.


Comments

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this
    superb blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google
    account. I look forward to new updates and will share this
    website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. Yeah we do not have donate button on website..soon we will add. This time if you really wanted to donate then please let me know, will share paypal link. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *