Open source eCommerce software—like other business software—can make or break you.
It brings up a lot of questions right out of the gate, such as: Is it a good choice for my small business? Is it powerful enough to meet my needs? Which solution is right for me?
While I can’t answer the last question for you,I have collected a list of options and basic information about each to help you decide.
If you know anything about eCommerce software, you’ve likely heard of Magento. It’s one of the biggest names in eCommerce software, in general, not just open source.
Screenshot of Magento’s dashboard
Magento gives it open source users all the basic tools they need, saving some of the more powerful, optional tools for paid versions.
- You can make landing pages and content for your products, manage your shipping and fulfillment in almost any manner you see fit, and generate a host of useful reports (including sales tax, stock, and on-site search terms).
- Magento works on a core system with add-ons; its extensions marketplace is full of options to add sales tax integrations, custom stock systems, and live customer chat integrations, to name a few. Prices range from free to more than $5,000 per extension.
- Users can buy pre-made themes to dress their sites up. There are a few free theme options, or you can pay up to around $500 for a responsive Argento theme—which isn’t all that much compared to how much a web developer charges per hour.
Magento Open Source is flexible, capable, and, – in the hands of the right person/team, can create a beautiful, functional website for all manner of retailers.
All this power comes with a caveat: Magento is intended for experienced coders.
While Magento Open Source is free, you will need to purchase a payment processor, domain name, and security certificate in order to get your store online and keep it safe.
For businesses with less technological experience / resources, Magento offers a paid, non-open source solution—Magento Commerce Starter—with pricing starting at $2,000 per month.
Screenshot of OpenCart’s admin dashboard.
OpenCart comes as a basic package that you can extend to fit your business needs.
- OpenCart doesn’t require a whole lot for installation; if you have a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack on a server, you’re off to the races. This setup is typical for most web servers, so you’re likely already set. You can always check with your service provider if you’re not sure.
- Customers can visit OpenCart’s marketplace to find add-ons that extend its functionality, including free basic integrations (such as Square payments or Facebook plugins). The marketplace also offers more powerful tools (SEO insights or Excel tie-ins for product management), costing up to $2,000 for something like a Microsoft Dynamics integration.
OpenCart is noted for having a sleek administrative dashboard and a general out-of-the-box ease of use. Larger or more complex stores may need to expand the core functionality, but smaller stores should be fine with the basic system.
OpenCart also offers a cloud version with a starting price point around $35 per month for businesses without in-house tech support.
The basics of osCommerce.
osCommerce is one of the oldest names in eCommerce software, which means a lot of add-ons have been developed for it. There are more than 7,000 free integrations for the software, and a huge active community working on and providing support for it.
Its age also means that there are a lot of “heritage” pieces hanging on to today’s product, which is a nice way of saying “it looks a little dated.” Merchant Maverick—a great resource for online retailers—has been unimpressed with the ease of development, saying “[A] big chunk of professionals creating stores with osCommerce have experienced several hair-pulling hiccups along the way.”
That said, osCommerce does have a lot to offer.
- osCommerce integrates with all types of third parties through its Apps Marketplace. You can integrate with Sage Pay and Facebook, and present your site in multiple languages.
- osCommerce isn’t an overly complex program, making it a solid contender for early entrants into eCommerce software.
- If you have trouble making it do exactly what you want it to do, you can turn to the OsCommerce community’s years of growth and experience working with the software. While support from the company comes at a fee, the user community is an excellent resource for finding aid among other retailers and developers.
osCommerce has partnered with a hosting company, allowing you to use a hosted version of the platform without needing any bonus technical knowledge. Pricing for the hosted version starts at $8 per month.
Screenshot of PrestaShop’s dashboard
PrestaShop follows the standard core-with-extensions eCommerce solutions formula. Its core is built on PHP (a common web development language), which makes it an easy fit for most websites.
The company is split between Europe and the U.S., giving it a platform that supports sales and legal requirements in both areas.
- PrestaShop offers over 1,500 templates, 500 of which are premium.Add-ons allowing integration with Stripe, Google Merchant Center, and Amazon Marketplace—among other offerings—can make your life a lot easier and tighten your operational ties.
- PrestaShop supports international stores and multiple stores within one back end. If you’ve got separate U.S. and Canadian storefronts, you can take care of both in one place.
- PrestaShop also has reporting capabilities, such as unique Intelligent Merchant KPI feature and forecast ability.
Spree Commerce is unique because it’s built with Ruby—not PHP. If you’re familiar with Ruby and the Rails environment and looking to shift away from PHP, this is software to consider. If you’re not familiar with Ruby, though, you’re facing a steep learning curve.
Screenshot of Spree Commerce’s shipping page.
If the development side isn’t a concern, there’s a lot to like about Spree.
- Spree is a lightweight system, due in large part to its coding. Users say that it runs quickly and doesn’t take up a lot of online resources. If your host charges you for activity, Spree can really help in that area.
- Unlike a lot of other options, Spree doesn’t work on the core-extension model. There are a handful of well-developed extensions for Spree, but nothing like the huge set offered for other software options. This means that there are fewer moving parts to concern yourself with, but also limits your options for easy expansion. It’s also worth noting that all of Spree’s extensions are free.
- Spree’s core functionality allows you to manage orders, products, payments, and shipping right out of the box. The software is in almost constant development and expands functionality all the time.
WooCommerce orders summary.
WooCommerce is not actually a full open source eCommerce solution on its own but rather an open source WordPress shopping cart plugin.
WordPress—easily confused with, but different from, WordPress.com—is the most popular, content management solutions out there. WooCommerce is an open source plugin that businesses using WordPress can use to turn their sites into a store. If you don’t already have a site, you can still use WooCommerce just download WordPress (also free) first.
- If you’re used to working with WordPress already, adding WooCommerce is a breeze. It’s fully functional out of the gate and requires minimal customization. If you’re not as experienced with WordPress, the good news is that help is only a quick Google away. There are a lot of resources out there on how to tackle WordPress’s learning curve.
- One of WooCommerce’s most popular features is its one-page checkout process, which allows users to easily pay for the items you’re selling.
Moving to a new eCommerce platform
One of the most time-consuming parts of choosing a new platform is moving all the digital nonsense you’ve accumulated—by which I mean valuable product and client data—from your old system to the new.
PrestaShop turned me onto Cart2Cart, a tool that allows you to transfer all of your data from one platform to another.
Let’s say you’re moving 500 products, 10,000 orders, and 5,000 customers from Shopify to Magento. Cart2Cart can take care of the heavy lifting for $200 and get it done in about two hours.
What’s your favorite open source eCommerce solution?
What other open source eCommerce software should we add to our list? Have you had success with any in the past that we left out? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for eCommerce software? Check out Capterra's list of the best eCommerce software solutions.