More and more retailers need, especially now, to be online. But it can be difficult to navigate the various types of e-commerce platforms available, especially if you’re just starting out.
Here are five that we have ready to install as standard on our hosting packages, plus two WordPress options.
ZenCart is easy to install and set up, with a decent amount of templates and a few extensions. It’s also fairly straightforward to run, with great stock control features and easy sales options.
However, if you want your site to look up-to-date and well-designed, you’ll have to know how to read code and spend a lot of time cleaning out ZenCart’s HTML. Otherwise, your site is going to look incredibly dated. And if you want to add a lot of new products right away, it’s a slow process, meaning that the initial setup will eat up a lot of time. It’s also difficult to upgrade, and, as with most web applications, upgrades are a vital part of ensuring good website security.
Created in the UK, CubeCart is a versatile little e-commerce platform, with plenty of features, including social media plugins, unlimited products, categories, and orders, and a responsive template skin that’ll look good across multiple devices. It integrates nicely with third parties as well, and most of the extensions are free, including the payment providers.
While it can scale for small to medium businesses, it might struggle with larger shops, especially if you have thousands of products and are planning an international advertising campaign. And while the template is responsive, it can be a bit restrictive, especially if you’re looking to have something different than the generic storefront style.
A relative newcomer in the e-commerce software field, PrestaShop has plenty of options for customisation, including a large collection of themes, detailed reporting and forecasting, and easy internationalisation for both front of site and admin.
It isn’t quite as powerful as some of the other platforms out there, however, and while it does give you the versatility to run international stores, it might not cope with the resources needed for a larger operation. There are plenty of extra modules available, but they can run a bit expensive, and the existing marketing tools are a bit lacking, which means you would need to spend more to get the same functionality as other e-commerce platforms.
OpenCart is an easy to use platform that is ideal for anyone who wants an international store – as it has multi-language and multi-currency options built-in. It also has a large number of addons that are fairly inexpensive, which makes it even more affordable.
However, it’s not very customisable, which means you’re pretty much stuck with what you can get. It also isn’t maintained as actively as other e-commerce platforms, which could cause problems further on, especially if exploits are found.
Magento is a powerhouse of an e-commerce platform, with a lot of features, a lot of options, and a lot of customisation. A lot of big names use Magento as their e-commerce platform, and it will easily grow with your business.
However, because it’s such a powerhouse, it will have issues on most hosting packages. It’s often recommended that if you’re planning on having a large e-commerce site, you’ll need to run Magento only on a dedicated server. Plus, it’s not built for beginners – it’s designed for people who have the time or resources to really get into it and make it do what you want. And now that Magento is owned by Adobe, they will push you more towards their fully managed proprietary version if you need help.
If running your own e-commerce software seems like a lot of work, there are also WordPress plugins that give you e-commerce functionality on a WordPress site. These are great options for anyone who already has a WordPress site, or for someone who wants to have more than just a storefront (such as a blog, support articles, or the entire website).
With e-commerce plugins, you can install them at the same time you install WordPress or add them on to an existing WordPress site. WordPress is another one of our one-click applications that you can easily install on your hosting package, or, if you want even better WordPress hosting, you can purchase one of our Managed WordPress packages.
WooCommerce is the big name in WordPress e-commerce plugins. It’s free to download and install on your site, but, like most WordPress addons, there are extensions and themes that you have the option of purchasing. You’ll also need to pay for whichever payment provider you want to use, but many of them have extensions to make them even easier to use.
While WooCommerce is pretty straightforward, it might be difficult for someone who is just starting out with WordPress and WooCommerce at the same time. However, if you’re coming from an online retail background (such as moving from another e-commerce platform), the structure of WooCommerce will be easy to pick up and work with.
Easy Digital Downloads is an e-commerce plugin built specifically for online shops to sell digital downloads, such as software, e-books, or graphics. The structure is different than, say, WooCommerce, but there is a lot of help out there for people just starting out. It’s free to download and install on your site, but there are extensions you have the option of purchasing. The extensions are slightly pricier than WooCommerce, but there are some great options that would make hosting online files a breeze, such as integrations with Amazon Web Services and Dropbox.
With Easy Digital Downloads and the Amazon Web Services extension, you could easily run a site filled with large downloadable files, such as zipped up folders of images, without having those files on your hosting package, saving you space, bandwidth, and money.