Starting an online business can be a daunting task. Once you determine the products or services to sell online you must then select the method to reach the customer and collect payment. As an online merchant your can choose to sell on one of the community based web portals like eBay or yahoo store. However, if you decide to operate your own domain, so you can build brand and company loyalty, you will require a website and shopping cart with an integrated payment gateway.
The open source community provides small business owners with a wealth of products to choose from. Today, open source shopping carts provide the same functionality and capability as commercial products. Although there are many open source products available I will list 5 quality shopping carts based upon functionality, features, development community support and platform theme availability. So here we go…. Drum roll please… Here is my Top 5:
- Zen Cart
- Magento Commerce
VirtueMart and Joomla is a content management system (CMS) with ecommerce capabilities. Installing Joomla and VirtueMart is a snap. In fact, you can download the Joomla/VirtueMart installer directly from the VirtueMart website. Some web hosting companies will install Joomla/VirtueMart for you.
Advantages: Easy to Install, Tons of Extensions, Seamless integration with Joomla
Disadvantages: Lacks high end shopping cart features
osCommerce is the “God father” of open source shopping carts. osCommerce provides the foundation source code for Zen Cart and CRE Loaded shopping carts. osCommerce is easy to install on Windows and Linux hosted servers. osCommerce can run in a shared hosted environment.
Advantages: Easy to Install, Significant number of extensions
Disadvantages: Users must spend a lot of time locating and installing the required extensions
Zen Cart is a bridge of the osCommerce source code. Zen Cart includes many of the osCommerce contribution add-ons, by default. Some of the default contributions include the built-in coupon code system, html editor, product attribute manager and template system.
Advantages: Easy to Install, Many osCommerce contributions already installed
Disadvantages: Not all osCommerce contributions will work without modifications
PrestaShop is a new entry into the open source shopping cart arena. PrestaShop provides solid features and has a growing number of extensions. PrestaShop is light weight, easy to modify and easy to learn.
Advantages: Easy to Install, Growing Development Community
Disadvantages: Limited Extensions, Most extensions are not free
Magento Commerce is the new kid on the block. Magento Commerce offers a free and commercial version. Magento has attracted a large following for users and developers. Magento is based upon the Zend Framework and has a very active community.
Advantages: Multi-Store Support, Active Development Community
Disadvantages: Could have performance problems in shared hosting environment
As a rule of thumb, merchants should consider the following factors when selecting an open source shopping cart:
- Cost (startup and recurring)
- Number of supported products (prefer unlimited products)
- Administration screen ability to edit products in order
- Spreadsheet database upload support
- SEO Tool for Meta Tags and URLs
- Web Hosting Requirements
- Payment Gateway Support
- Mobile Phone Option (more customers are ordering from their mobile device)
Source by Ricky Bracken