If you are planning on launching an eCommerce website, then you need to know about the various type of eCommerce platforms that can help you achieve that. Although there are several types of eCommerce platforms that you can launch your store with, in this article, we will limit our research and comparison to three of the most popular ones which are OpenCart vs Magento vs Shopify.
The success of your eCommerce store begins with launching it with the right eCommerce platform, this is where you’ve got a big decision to make.
But you don’t have to worry about all that, because we are going to help you make the right decision with this detailed comparison. At the end of the post, you should have a clear idea of which platform will work best for your eCommerce Store.
These three eCommerce platforms discussed below offer a different range of features and options for designing an eCommerce store, and their price points also vary. We’re going to cover details about the following areas:
- Store/ Website Design
- Ease of use,
- Customer support, and
What is OpenCart?
This is a free open-source eCommerce platform that is developed on PHP/MySQL code. This is similar to Magento and WooCommerce. OpenCart is best known for its simplicity and user-friendliness. This platform has an easy-to-use administration dashboard that allows users to manage products, promotions, orders, and reports without requiring any technical expertise.
As stated earlier, this is an open-source eCommerce software that is freely available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It was first developed in Perl in 1998, however, in 2005, a UK-based developer Daniel Kerr took over the domain for his own eCommerce software, which was written in PHP. In 2006, OpenCart v0.3 was released on sourceforge.net.
Since then, Daniel Kerr has continued to run OpenCart with a small team keeping it going. The platform has a community of developers and agencies who are consistently creating themes and extensions and selling them in the OpenCart Marketplace.
Features of OpenCart
OpenCart is designed with flexibility in mind and also as a modular system. This means you can use extensions and themes to add more functionality to your site. While the core software provides you with basic features to get you started within minutes, you still have the ability to choose from the vast extensions and themes provided by developers thereby adding more functionality with any one of the 13,000+ add-ons from the OpenCart Marketplace.
OpenCart Key Features Include:
- This is open-source software, which makes it free,
- You need to install it on a web server, so you need a Webhosting plan.
- The admin dashboard provides a full overview of important stats, including customers, people online, orders, sales, sales analytics, and lots more when you add more widgets
- The ability to manage multiple stores from one dashboard
- The ability to set advanced user privileges and separate access for groups and users with the user management tool.
- Provides you with product management tools, including product variables, options, and attributes
- You can add an unlimited number of products and categories
- Add product reviews and ratings with widgets
- Enables you to set up an affiliate system which allows you to promote specific products and get paid for it
- It has an automated backup and restore
- Can support more than 40 languages and currencies
- You can integrate about 36 payment methods
- Easy integrations with shipping methods around the world
- Analytics and reporting
- Marketing tools
With the OpenCart Extensions, you can easily extend the functionality of your store, making it more robust. The platform provides you with more than 13,000 extensions which are available for free and paid in the OpenCart Marketplace. No matter what you want to achieve, there is always an extension for just about anything, from payment options and shipping methods to reviews, product feeds, and reports.
Here are hundreds of approved OpenCart developers who are ready to help customize your OpenCart store and make it look more professional.
Ease of Use
The platform has made installation and usage very simple; this is so you can get things done easily and get your site up and running with ease. Installation can be done in the following process:
- If you’re using web hosting that provides cPanel access, simply go to Softaculous to automatically install OpenCart with a click-through process. Or
- Download OpenCart Software.
Upload the OpenCart files to your web server.
Run the automatic installer.
Once you have successfully installed OpenCart, the dashboard is easy to understand because it provides you with quick overviews including an overview of your online shop’s important metrics. At the left, you’ll see all the main features of OpenCart listed.
With OpenCart, you can easily view your store’s products by going to Catalogue > Products. At first, your store will be auto-populated with demo products to get you started. To add your own product simply click the blue “+” button in the top-right and you will be able to add new products.
OpenCart Products page
Adding a new product to the OpenCart product page is simple, fill in all the necessary fields. Click through the tabs to enter information and upload all the necessary images, once you’re done, click the blue “Save” icon in the top-right and that’s all.
In general, it’s a very simple and straightforward process to get your store up and running with OpenCart. The amazing part is that the installer files provide you with a demo site that you can update with your own products and content and delete the demo once you are done. You should understand that customizing OpenCart themes are not very easy especially if you are not a developer, I suggest you leave that part for the developers.
Store Designs and Themes
With OpenCart, you get a basic theme that’s usually auto-populated with demo products to look like a real online store selling products. But you can always explore the various options available to change the look and feel of your site with a different theme.
OpenCart Marketplace has over 540 themes that are designed for various types of stores, ranging from fashion and toys to automobiles and furniture. Also, you get over 600 themes available for purchase in ThemeForest.
Read Also: WordPress Vs Joomla Vs Drupal Vs Wix: A No-Nonsense and In-depth Comparison
OpenCart provides their customer with support via support tickets every day from 9.30 am-5 pm (GMT+8).
You can also get lots of documentation on just about anything you want to do on OpenCart plus you get community and forums where you can get resources based on what you are looking for.
Their team also provides dedicated technical support, as part of monthly and one-time fix packages. And you can get dedicated migration support which is available for $69.
That’s not all, OpenCart theme and plugin developers also provide supports for their customers as long as you are on their monthly or one-time plan.
Although OpenCart is free to download and install on your Webhosting just like other self-hosted eCommerce platforms (e.g. WooCommerce and Magento) however, you’ll need to pay for a domain, hosting, extensions, and depending on the hosting company you choose, this can cost you up to $100 or more but this will be for a whole year, and themes can cost as high as $59, but you can go for the free ones if you are on a budget as a starter. They will still work fine till you are able to upgrade.
Note that hiring an OpenCart developer to work with may cost you way more.
OpenCart in Conclusion:
OpenCart is an amazing option for those who are a bit technical and have little knowledge of PHP coding. It’s easier and very clean to get started with. But you may still need to get your hands on some how-to materials to get all things done if you are working alone. The core features of OpenCart provide all you need to run an online store and become successful.
Another well know eCommerce platform is Shopify.
What is Shopify?
This is one of the leading hosted-cart eCommerce platforms with over 4 million active sites hosted. Shopify is a Canadian-based company that started out as an online store for snowboarding equipment but gradually grew into a platform for hosting eCommerce stores.
The Shopify platform has been optimized for all kinds of businesses ranging from small to large scale. Because the platform is a SaaS (Software-as-a-service) eCommerce solution, it makes it very easy to use. The platform provides users with powerful tools and plugins to create a fully functioning eCommerce store without too much struggle, you also get extensive SEO and marketing features.
Features of Shopify
Shopify claims to provide solutions and features that will help your eCommerce business succeed, beginning from installation features to point of sale features; from SEO features to marketing features that are needed to run, and grow your business.
Read Also: Five Must-Have Shopify Plugins for Your eCommerce Store
Some of the features you will get from Shopify includes:
- Ease of installation and user-friendly interface for managing your store
- Mobile ready eCommerce business + mobile app for store/inventory management
- Store management features, including refunds, dropshipping, email templates, and fulfillment canters
- Unlimited products and Inventory management
- Self-hosting platform, plus free SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth
- 100 payment gateways
- SEO features, Marketing tools, social media integration, Google Adwords credits, product reviews, and gift cards
- Analytics and Google Analytics integration
- 24/7 customer support
- Abandoned checkout recovery
Store Designs and Themes
The platform provides hundreds of professional free and premium themes that you can easily use to design and customize your store to match your brand.
One good thing about Shopify is that most of the eCommerce templates found in the Theme Store were created by renowned designers including Pixel Union and Clean Themes.
The Shopify App Store
The Shopify app store offers over 3000 collections of free and premium plugins that extend the functionality of your online store. These plugins can easily be used to optimize and customize your store to improve the success of your store. If you are looking to add more specialized features to your store, then you can do that from the App Store. Shopify’s POS system also provides all the software and hardware you need to sell products online, in-person, or both.
There are lots of Shopify professional developers that are ready to work with you in other to give your store a professional look. So, if you are looking for a completely custom design for your online store, you can always make use of the professionals because they have experience in designing beautiful, and lovely functional sites with Shopify.
Ease of Use
With Shopify, creating a new account only takes a few minutes. Once you have created your account and logged into your account, you’ll be given a clean and friendly dashboard that’s very easy to navigate.
On the dashboard, there is a menu listing the various parts of your store, including where you’ll manage customer orders, where you’ll manage your store’s products, where you’ll manage customer profiles, and other features.
You also have a wizard in the main area of the dashboard that guides you through the three things you can do immediately so as to get your online shop up and running. They include: add products, customizing your theme, and adding a domain.
Shopify provides you with a clean and easy-to-use dashboard. With the dashboard, adding a product to your store is pretty easy. Simply go to Products > Click on Add Product (here, you can enter information about your product, including a title and description, images, pricing, and inventory and shipping rates information). You can also add SEO information; this will help control how your item appears in search which is nice for organic traffic.
Shopify Analytic Information.
The platform provides detailed analytics info that helps you track the following:
- Total sales
- Online store sessions
- Returning customer rate
- Online store conversion rate
- Average order value
- Total orders
Because Shopify is hosted and controlled by the Shopify company, they provide 24/7 support via email, live chat, and phone to their customers.
Also, the Help Center provides a knowledge base where you can search for commonly asked questions, user guides, and tutorials.
There are discussion forums and communities you can join as well to get more supports and answers to your questions.
One thing with Shopify is that it is a subscription-based eCommerce platform that charges you monthly fees. So, unless you have good money to get started for sustainability you may not be able to sustain the subscription except you start selling within the first month of subscribing.
There are three subscription plans with varying levels of eCommerce functionality in Shopify:
Basic Shopify: Best for new eCommerce businesses with occasional in-person sales cost $29/month
Shopify: Best for growing businesses selling online or in-store cost $79/month
Advanced Shopify: Best for scaling businesses that require advanced reporting and cost $299/month
You should also note that Shopify charges between 0.5%-2.0% per transaction if you are using an external gateway such as PayPal instead of Shopify Payments. (Aside from that, PayPal also charges its own transaction fees…)
In all, Shopify is an easy-to-use, flexible, and powerful eCommerce platform that provides you everything that is needed to run an eCommerce store, whether you’re a beginner or already running a large eCommerce website.
Magento is owned by Adobe and is one of the best open-source eCommerce platforms. With Magento, you get complete control over every aspect of your online store, you also get high scalability with a lot of advanced features. Plus, if you have good technical skills, you’ll be able to freely customize your store as you wish.
The Magento platform provides two key eCommerce solutions along with other products, which are the Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. Magento Commerce has a managed and automated hosting version called Magento Commerce Cloud. This is an all-in-one solution built exclusively for high-sales enterprise-level merchants or medium-sized enterprises that are preparing to grow.
According to the statistics, there are over 800,000 websites that are backed by Magento. And the platform is most popular among large enterprises, with the bulk of its users from the U.S., U.K, Netherlands, and Germany.
The platform was first released in 2008, as an open-source eCommerce platform. It’s available to download for free and install on your own server or Webhosting platform, you can also use it as a hosted platform-as-a-service (Magento Commerce).
Features of Magento
Magento is known as an enterprise-grade eCommerce solution and provides great features to match. Magneto is powerful, flexible, scalable, and offers developers an unlimited ability to customize and control multiple stores with ease.
The platform offers all the great features a large eCommerce store owners and developers would need:
- Standalone or subscription-based service. You can choose between Magento Open Source (free) or Magento Commerce (hosted).
- Marketing, promotions, and conversion tools, including related products, upsells and cross-sells, coupons, product bundles, newsletter management, and much more.
- Search engine optimization.
- Order management tools.
- Customer management and customer service tools.
- International support for localization.
- Manage multiple Magento stores from one dashboard.
- Provides support for multiple languages and currencies.
- Product management tools, including virtual products, digital products, and unlimited product attributes.
- Check, payment, and shipping tools, including one-page checkout, account and guest checkout, SSL security support for orders on both front-end and backend, and multiple payment gateways.
- Analytics and reporting, including abandoned shopping cart stats and integration with Google Analytics.
Store Designs and Themes
The platform provides you with over 5000 themes and extensions in the Magento Marketplace that you can easily use to design and customize your store.
With Magento, you can get extensions to do just about anything and extend the functionality of your store, ranging from Theme installation and store design to marketing and customer support, payments and security, accounting and finance, shipping and fulfillment, including site optimization.
Magento Developers and Partners
If you are new and need help setting up and customizing your eCommerce store with Magento, you can always reach out to the large community of developers available online for hire to help you with whatever you need.
They also have Magento U courses for those who want to take their Magento skills to the next level.
Ease of Use
The platform provides you with two versions, you can choose the one you want to work with depending on what you are looking to achieve. The two platforms are the Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. Magento Open Source since is easier and very straightforward, on the other hand, using Magento Commerce involves requesting a demo and paying expensive license fees to get started.
Getting started with Magento Open Source can be intimidating if you are just starting out especially knowing that it’s seen as an enterprise solution. It is not easy to set up manually.
The easiest way to install Magento and get started with Magento Open Source is to install it via your server’s cPanel using Installatron or a similar tool.
Magento Installation via cPanel and Installatron
Once you have successfully installed Magento on your server, you can access the dashboard by going to “yourdomain.com/index.php/admin”. The dashboard is not difficult to work through plus it offers basic insights into your store’s revenue.
Adding Products Magento dashboard
You can add products by going to Catalogue > Products and then clicking “Add Product.” Fill out the form and expand each section to add more information about the product.
Overall, Magento Open Source is functional, to say the least. I wouldn’t describe it as enjoyable to use, but it does get the job done. Compared to Shopify, Magento Open Source is not designed to make setting up a store easy for beginners or small business owners.
Because Magento Open Source is free, there is no dedicated support for you in case you have an issue. However, there are lots of resources, you can access, including the Magento Help Center knowledge base.
With Magento 2.3 Developer Documentation page, you get a high searchable knowledge base of everything you need to build and manage a customized Magento Store. You also get a Community Resources page with links to blog posts, podcasts, presentations, and books created by the Magento community and core developers.
There is also the Magento U which provides lots of training courses and Magento certification for developers, designers, and marketers.
On the other hand, if you are a Magento Commerce customer, you can get dedicated support via phone and email.
Just like other self-hosted eCommerce platforms, Magento Open Source is free to download and install on your server. The only things you’ll need to pay for are hosting, domain, extensions. These extensions may be expensive and can cost anywhere from $0 to over $1000 for the more professional ones, however, you can still get some that are within $0 to $299. The themes can also cost as high as $499 but there are some that you can get for free.
If you are planning to use the hosted version of Magento, Magento Commerce, there will be a yearly licensing fee. To get this fee disclosed to you, you will need to request a demo account from them.
As stated earlier, Magento continues to dominate as an enterprise-grade solution for big brands in the eCommerce industry like HP Inc., Nike, Canon, to mention just a few of its big-name customers.
Read Also: Shopify or WooCommerce (WordPress): The Best Platform for An eCommerce Business
So among these three eCommerce platforms, which is the best solution for your online store? Here is my final take on this.
If you are a beginner setting up your online store for the first time and you don’t have knowledge of web development, then you should check out the Shopify eCommerce platforms for your store.
If your business is on a small scale and just kicking off, you will be better off with WooCommerce, Shopify, and BigCommerce.
Shopify also has the ability to accommodate medium-sized businesses.
Do you need control and flexibility over the design and functionality of your store? then OpenCart, WooCommerce, and Magento are ideal choices.
If you are looking for eCommerce platforms for a large enterprise-level business, then Magento or OpenCart will do just fine.
All these platforms have what makes them unique, however, control and flexibility are what you really need as you don’t want to depend much on a hosted platform that you don’t have total control of.