The online shopping experience for buyers and sellers is being revolutionized by the multiple open source e-commerce solutions available, which not only make the front-end attractive and user-friendly, but also ease the back-end programming and database maintenance activities. Customers can easily browse through any website, select the product and enter their delivery and payment details for effortless shipping. At the same time, online shop-keepers need not create their cart right from scratch. They have access to a horde of open source e-commerce solutions which can be customized to suit their exact needs.
In this article, we discuss the five main open source e-commerce solutions available in the market and determine why Magento is the best open source e-commerce solution.
A. Open Source Commerce:
Open Source Commerce (osCommerce) is among the pioneers in open source e-commerce solutions and online store management programs. It is freely available under a General Public License. Installation and configuration are simple and easy through a web interface. The software requirements for an osCommerce web server include PHP and MySQL. osCommerce can be used to design and manage both front-end webpage displays and the administrative back-end.
The main characteristic feature of osCommerce is that the source code or “language” of the software is “open” or available to anybody who wishes to make changes and customize it for their own use. The other note-worthy features of osCommerce include an easy and SSL secure payments system, which is a major pre-requisite for any e-commerce software. Apart from that, it can incorporate unlimited products and categories with multiple shipping options and tax slab calculations. It can also support more than a single currency. Data back-up and restoration are easy and simple. osCommerce is user-friendly and can support add-on modules to improve functionality. It can be designed to provide appealing front-ends. However, its back-end is complex and requires significant programming knowledge for customization, because the software lacks a standard template.
OpenCart gets its name from among the most comprehensive shopping cart solutions, order management and payment gateways it offers. It has multiple templates and provides the store-owners with the option to switch between them. Moreover, OpenCart allows a single admin to manage multiple stores. The software is SEO-friendly and allows both the admin and users to provide product ratings and reviews. It can support unlimited products and categories in multiple languages and currencies with varied tax slabs. OpenCart is PCI-compliant and also has a feature which allows error-logging. The software is easy to download, install and administer. However, with its multiple templates and extensions, OpenCart is confusing for admin navigation.
The PrestaShop open source e-commerce web application allows store-owners to control the online store and manage its inventories, product categories, tax slabs, shipping methods and product shipping across the globe. PrestaShop allows unlimited products and categories with customizable URLs to make them SEO-friendly. It allows cross-selling. PrestaShop also offers a Google site map with analytics features, which are not present in the 2 earlier open source e-commerce solutions. The software is secured using SSL and is PCI-compliant. It has a user-friendly and flexible interface which is easy to install. PrestaShop can support multiple languages. However, it is not easily scalable and is hence limited to small and medium companies. Another drawback is that the software is not 100% open source since all its modules are not free – some need to be purchased.
ZenCart is among the most advanced store management systems which are available under the General Public License. It uses a PHP base, MySQL database and HTML layout. It can be installed using basic website designing and development tools. ZenCart open source e-commerce solution supports multiple products, categories, languages, shipping options, payment systems and tax slabs. A ZenCart system can be designed to honor gift certificates, special prices and quantity discounts. This can allow customization freedom to extend to the next level. However, online stores designed using the ZenCart software may lack appeal due to simplistic design. Even for this, the software requires a certain basic level of PHP expertise for designing, and is difficult to upgrade once it is set up.
The Magento open source e-commerce solution offers store-owners the convenience of flexibility and scalability with its ability to serve small businesses with a single product line to mega stores with multiple products and brands. Magento allows the admin to manage front-end design and layout, product catalog, content and functionality. Like most of its counter-parts, Magento also shares the ability to manage varied products, categories, secure payment systems, shipping, tax slabs, shipping and languages. What makes it stand out from the competition are its ability to efficiently manage the growing area of mobile commerce and maintenance of customer service accounts. This allows better analytics and reporting, and also makes the software more SEO-friendly. Magento also gives store-owners a variety of templates, extensions, modules, and widgets available. Its only drawback is that because of the multitude of options, Magento requires dedicated servers. Also, it is only the basic Magento Community version which is available for free – the more advanced versions such as Magento Enterprise come with an annual fee.
Despite this, for store-owners who are looking at starting small and gradually adding on product lines, categories and brands, Magento is the best open source e-commerce solution. It not only allows scalability, it also offers the online stores to go mobile with minimum effort. The advantages of Magento have led to a large number of service providers offering Magento development services and this competition keeps its development and management costs at affordable levels.