Best 15 Open-source eCommerce Platforms 2023: Pros and Cons
We’re living in the digital age where the role of websites for businesses is indispensable. Without a business website, you might lose out on opportunities to reach your target market and scale your online presence.
From the early stage with eCommerce, choosing the best eCommerce platforms is not an easy task, especially if you have to balance between the cost and web quality.
If you feel unsure and confused among the sea of available open-source eCommerce platforms in 2023 to consider.
Table of contents:
- What is an open-source eCommerce platform?
- Top 15 open-source eCommerce platforms in 2023
- Cost to build an open-source eCommerce website in 2023
- The bottom line!
What is an open-source eCommerce platform?
If you’re looking for an economical solution when it comes to crafting an online shop, an open-source eCommerce platform might be a great starting point. For a non-tech-savvy person, the “open-source” term can be understood as:
The software whose original source code is developed freely available
Users can take, modify, or enhance the code however they like without any restrictions
Typically don’t have to pay a dime to download and use the code source to build your site
An open-source eCommerce platform, by means, is a piece of software that enables you to build a website and run your business online. In the long-run, the open-source eCommerce platform comes with more benefits than just being budget-friendly.
People choose open-source platforms since they are packed with unique features and developer-friendly.
Pros vs. Cons of open source eCommerce platforms
Pros of open-source eCommerce platforms
No vendor lockdown: Any vendor developer can use or distribute the original source code
Huge support community: Though open-source platforms don’t have the support staff like enterprise solution, each goes with a dedicated community for fixed and workarounds
High flexibility: As there are no licensing restrictions, businesses can install additional copies to get development and scalability needs without extra cost
Excellent customizability: The customizability of open-source goes hand-in-hand with its flexibility. With lots of freedom, you can modify and shape the source code to your specifications with no difficulty compared to licensed software
Cons of open-source eCommerce platforms
Complexity: The complexity of an open-source platform is the result of its extreme flexibility and freedom. The software maintenance, compliance towards relevant laws, and security are not ensured during the software development process.
Long learning curve for non-tech-savvy people.
Hidden costs: They can come with various unexpected expenses,such as the cost for hiring an expert web developer to customize your site or plugins to your platforms, etc.
Security risk: To create a comprehensive eCommerce site via open-source code, you need plugin support. But some of which can breach your security protocols because of malicious and negligent design
Challenge for implementation: There’re various unexpected factors when it comes to building a website from scratch. You don’t get any help from the customer support team and is left to the forums, blog posts, or documentation of the platform
Simply put, we can point out the primary advantage of open-source eCommerce platforms is extreme flexibility and customization. Still, along with that freedom, they come to the severe need for lots of handholding.
Quick comparison of open-source eCommerce platform vs SaaS
SaaS stands for “Software as a Service,” which is a form of software delivery provided by vendors to end-users based on cloud technology.
To put it simply, businesses pay a fee to access and use the software over the Internet. This application is typically used through a web browser or made available through mobile apps provided by the service provider.
SaaS can be seen as an alternative solution to open-source eCommerce platforms. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages for you to consider when choosing one to build your website.
|Features||- Pre-designed with features ranging from basic to advanced||- Basic functions for early-stage eCommerce businesses|
|Customization||- Extensive and highly customizable||- Limited
- Dependent on themes and plugins
|Control||- Full control over hosting, code, and updates||- Limited control
- Managed hosting and updates
|Scalability||- Highly scalable if having technical expertise||- Designed for scalability with support team|
|Community Support||- Active developer communities for support and feature development||- Vendor-provided customer support|
|Ease of Use||- Needs technical know-how to set up and maintain||- User-friendly
- Easier for non-technical users
- Documents or courses are available with step-by-step instructions for use
|Security||- Managed security by business itself||- Managed security by the SaaS provider|
|Hosting||- Up to business itself||- Hosting is provided and managed by the SaaS provider|
|Cost||- Initial lower cost
- Ongoing development and hosting expenses
|- Subscription fees
- Potential long-term costs
Top 15 open-source eCommerce platforms in 2023
Ecommerce platforms: What to look for?
Whether you’re using an open-source eCommerce platform or a SaaS platform, these are still the features you should look for to build a good, reliable website and develop it for the long term.
- Support a variety of popular payment gateways: If customers cannot find familiar payment options that they commonly use, the likelihood of them abandoning their orders, even at the checkout stage, is quite high.
- Ease of use: If a platform is considered difficult for newcomers to learn and has too many complex steps, it may not be an ideal choice.
- Scalability: Your online store will grow over time, so it’s important to prepare from the early stages by selecting a platform that supports scalability.
- Platform command: With open-source platforms, having more control over the platform provides your team with the freedom to develop features and customizations to optimize for specific needs.
- Updates and security:
- For SaaS platforms, frequent updates to keep up with technology, business, and industry trends benefit your online store and enhance the shopping experience.
- On the other hand, for open-source eCommerce platforms, security is crucial to protect your website from external threats, given the effort and investment you’ve put into building it.
- Support: Businesses often focus on the features a platform provides, along with the cost, but support from the platform is also worth considering alongside the expenses. A platform with good support - whether from the service team or a large user community - can help you save costs in the long run in various aspects.
1. Magento Open Source
With more than 250.000 users by now, Magento is one of the leaders of world eCommerce platforms (after Woocomerce and Shopify).
The biggest reason for its growth is how it’s completely tailored for eCommerce applications with the essential features and advanced customization to run an online shop.
Magento comes with 2 options for merchants:
- Magento Open Source - previously known as Magento Community Edition or CE
- Magento Commerce - previously known as Magento Enterprise Edition or EE
In this post’s scope, we only discuss the Open Source version of Magento.
- Support all essential features a primary online store requires
- Easy installation and customization
- Come with a vast Magento community
- Various extensions (from fundamental to advanced)
- Merchants or web developers get complete control over the website with no restriction
- Well-developed documentation to instruct and support merchants and developers
- By default, Magento 2 features are not completely optimized for marketing and sales. Thus, you still need the support from 3rd-party providers for extensions like SEO or Magento 2 abandoned cart email.
- Optimizing a website with an open-source edition will require a certain level of technical knowledge.
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WooCommerce is by far the most popular open-source eCommerce solution when it comes to the WordPress user community. Therefore, WooCommerce is a worth-trying tool for WordPress users.
Technically, WooCommerce is a supportive extension with essential features that turn your WordPress website into a fully functional online store, for instance:
Upload and manage an infinite number of products, orders, coupons, and categories effortlessly
Run a blog, optimize SEO and other sales activities
- Extremely easy to install and use
- Support ton of extension and integration
- High-quality and detailed documentation
- Slow loading speed
- Potential coding conflicts
Along with the popularity of Magento and WooCommerce, OpenCart is recommended for its user-friendliness and clarity. In fact, it’s a perfect choice for inexperienced users, particularly small businesses, startups, or ones with string budgets.
You don’t need to mess around much with code issues but still live up your online shop to its fullest potential.
Don’t take too much time and programming experience to customize the website from scratch
Lightweight leads to fast loading speed
Offer many themes and plugins to customize your store
Cons: Though OpenCart is easy to use and good enough for running a business online, there are some flipsides of this PHP-based eCommerce platform, particularly:
- Still need the help from a programmer to get around some of the code
- Too simplicity and reliant too much on plugins which can increase the cost
- Easily meets bugs and crashes during the updating process
nopCommerce is another open-source eCommerce platform developed on ASP.NET technology with more than 60.000 customers.
Like OpenCart, nopCommerce offers high flexibility to meet most merchant requirements. But in terms of sales and marketing tools, the performance of nopCommerce is more outstanding. You can run multi-stores, multi-languages, and multi-currencies features.
- Provide users with all essential features
- Offer a responsive design for mobile users
- Support advanced eCommerce features for sales and marketing activities
- To use the software to its full potential, you need a solid knowledge of .NET, HTML, or CSS.
- Need to hire someone or an eCommerce Development Partner to set up and launch your store.
5. Zen Cart
Though Zen Cart might not be the most modern eCommerce platform, it’s one of the best open-source solutions to experience for those who’re fans of old-school templates.
The core system of Zen Cart is easily extensible to add new features to your eCommerce site. And, while some other platforms can charge quite expensive if you want to add plugins, extensions, or modules, Zen Cart provides all plugins listed on their site for free.
Another positive aspect of Zen Cart, based on my experience, is that its user community is extremely friendly and welcoming to questions from newbies..
- User-friendly and extensible system
- Ensure your website and customer information is completely secure
- A substantial supporting community with over 150.000 members
- Offer a wide range of features, along with various customization options.
- As mentioned above, Zen Cart default comes with an attractive and old design. Thus, you properly need a developer to help your online store look more professional and compelling or buy templates on the marketplace.
- New versions are rarely released, with version 1.5 has been in use for the past 11 years.
PrestaShop is one of the most popular open-source eCommerce solutions in Europe and Latin America. This means that if your business is based in these two regions or targets them as primary markets, PrestaShop can offer many advantages, from a user community to modules designed to serve a customer base that is largely located in Europe and Latin America.
The platform’s rich features make it a good option in your consideration list. It works best for small and mid-sized enterprises.
- Ease of use, though it can take a bit of time for setting up PrestaShop
- Offer a demo that takes you through the whole process
- Over 4500 templates, plus a massive collection of customizable templates in the PrestaShop official marketplace
- Strong user community
- Come with a host of SEO-friendly features
- Fairly lightweight, so that you don’t have to worry that it will negatively affect the website loading speed
- Still require developer skill at the first stage to launch the store
- End up paying hosting charges and paid modules/ extension for a comprehensive and effective store
- Expensive extra modules for a regular online store
Launched in 2000, with over 20-year experience in the industry, OsCommerce is known as an old and reliable option for small and medium businesses to scale on digital platforms.
Furthermore, you have a chance to assess a thriving community of experienced people (developers and users) to check out and discuss the best solutions for your problems.
In 2022, osCommerce officially released osCommerce v4, and it has received user reviews highlighting significant improvements compared to previous versions, making it a worthwhile experience.
- Great integration with almost all 3rd-party apps assist you in customizing your eCommerce store
- Allow you to present your online website in multiple languages
- Have a vast community of developers and users who’re always ready to support
- OsCommerce 4 runs at a brisk pace, even when using low-cost hosting plans
- Some of its features are limited and less advanced than newer platforms.
- The ongoing development of osCommerce 4 means that not all features and functions are fully documented.
- Customization and modification of the platform require a higher level of technical expertise.
8. WP eCommerce
Another WordPress plugin option for merchants, WP eCommerce yet is more like an overshadowed cousin of WooCommerce. This comes as no surprise since WP eCommerce offers fewer themes and is not regularly updated.
Just like WooCommere, WP eCommerce is a solid WordPress plugin that transforms a regular WordPress dashboard into an eCommerce control center. You can add products, run promotions, and many more marketing activities on your site.
- The coding for this open-source eCommerce platform is not too complicated, easy to navigate, and configure
- You can customize your site with simple CSS and HTML
- Provide users with a robust coupon feature allowing one-time use for sales activities
- WP Commerce’s a good place to go if you can handle CSS and HTML, but inexperienced merchants might need to hire experts for support or ask for help from a large developer community.
- Limited diversity in features.
9. Drupal Commerce
Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) platform written in PHP. In simple terms, with Drupal, you can create the website you need and have access to applications that allow you to modify and edit the content of your website. Drupal was first introduced in 2000, and it is still regularly updated by its developers. The latest release is Drupal 10, which was launched in December of last year.
Apart from Magento, Drupal is one of the most comprehensive open-source eCommerce platforms these days.
- Robust and stable enough to optimize website performance and save system resources.
- Extend functionality with minimal limitations.
- Offer multilingual support and multi-currency
- Extremely search engine-friendly.
- Integrate with numerous 3rd-party applications, which makes it a perfect fit for implementing strong content marketing on the site
- High secure, mobile-friendliness with a large supportive community of developers and users
- Newcomers may find its unique functionality (which is different from other platforms) intimidating
- Quite difficult to set up and run
- Hard to find Drupal templates online
Like Zen Cart, TomatoCart is a straightforward and user-friendly eCommerce shopping cart application and an independent branch of osCommerce 3. Furthermore, TomatoCart can be completely customized via a basic built-in CMS.
- Lightweight system makes TomatoCart-based websites load quickly
- Offers lots of features for the business’s sales and marketing activities
- Designed to be very versatile and SEO friendly with a decent analytics supportive system
- Limit extensions compared to other popular platforms like Magento or WooCommerce.
- Its shipping options are not extensive enough and the admin panel can be a little unstable.
Founded in 2000, Shopware is among the most popular eCommerce platforms these days, with more than 12.000 users.
The remarkable thing about Shopware is that it has a distinct local character in the German eCommerce market, where it owns a 3.76% share. For businesses focusing mainly on this market, choosing Shopware will likely provide quicker support and better insights into user behavior in Germany compared to other open-source platform solutions.
- The product setup in Shopware is straightforward so that you can add your product with several variants, prices, and images easily
- Feature automatic SEO configuration allows you to have a good solid basis for a high ranking on Google
- Integrate with most popular third-party solutions like Microsoft Dynamics, Stripe, Paypal, etc.
- Both the default and paid themes are of poor quality. If you want your eCommerce store to look professional and up to date, I recommend hiring a professional developer.
- Apart from Germany, Shopware is not popular in other major markets, like Asia.
12. Spree Commerce
What’s outstanding about the open-source of Spree Commerce is its customizability and the admin module.
A worth considering option for eCommerce merchants to grow their multi-language and multi-currency business worldwide with a flexible CMS. With Spree’s support, you get the most basic features to build a personalized eCommerce website.
- Support tones of customization options
- Comes up with a store tailor-fit for your business’s needs
- The backend admin module is adaptable, lightweight, and quick
- Mobile responsiveness. Plus, support both iOS, Android, Desktop
- Flexible and light with a powerful admin module
- Lengthy learning curve for beginners.
- Need to install the system and host it on a manual basis.
- Some documentation and some plugins (gem) version outdated so it is not that easy to use.
Similar to WooCommerce and WP eCommerce, Jigo is a third option for WordPress users. It usually gets compared to WooCommerce in terms of simple interface and ease of use.
JigoShop focuses strongly on user experience so that you can start building your eCommerce site as a beginner with no difficulty.
- Support a wide range of plugins and add-ons, making your website far easier to scale up
- Offer a basic dashboard and rich themes
- Lightweight and available custom coding
- Still need some add-ons to leverage the power of your online store
- Don’t offer any free SEO options
- Not many partners listed on their website
Compared to others, Branchbob is a lesser-known eCommerce platform for online merchants. The special thing of Branchbob is that it comes with no monthly fee or transaction fees. Ease of use and simplicity are the 2 most significant advantages of this open-source eCommerce solution.
- Support unlimited products
- All built-in tool by default is clear and straightforward for beginners
- Excellent flexibility for developers and web designers
- Fast loading speed and excellent image optimization tools
- Include on-page SEO functionality
- Require a certain level of coding knowledge.
- Since Branchbob’s a new platform, its eCommerce capabilities are pretty limited in some areas.
Joomla will be the last name on the list of open-source eCommerce platforms that’s designed to enable both novice and expert web developers to build their websites.
Joomla is a flexible and highly user-friendly platform that provides thousands of free templates and extensions to streamline any online business.
- Install easily with PHP scripts
- Offer built-in SEO functionality for the website and many available extensions
- Come with multilingual for global selling
- As the Joomla API is frequently updated, developers must start over when updating components to the latest version.
- Less user-friendly or administrators and content creators at back-end.
Cost to build an open-source eCommerce website in 2023
Typically, “open-source” can indeed imply that the platform is free to download and use. However, when building an eCommerce website based on an open-source framework, the costs extend beyond just that. Here are some additional expenses to consider in 2023:
- Hosting: There are very affordable options, around or under $10 per month, while high-performance hosting can go up to $1,000 or more. The price depends on factors like speed, traffic capacity, and extra services like automatic backups.
- SSL Certificate Cost: Annual SSL certificate costs range from $8 to $1,000, depending on the type, validation level, and brand.
- Domain Name Cost: On average, a domain name costs around $10-20 per year, and the renewal price can be approximately $10-60 per year or more.
- Website Maintenance Costs: After a period of operation, websites require maintenance and regular data backups to prevent data loss from server issues and other potential problems. According to WebFX, businesses invest anywhere from $400 to $60,000 annually in website maintenance.
In total, if we only consider basic costs and don’t account for additional expenses like custom website design or development of unique features, you can set up an eCommerce website with essential features for approximately $100-$1,000 per year. However, this is a theoretical estimate.
Consider more figures from previous reports and studies for a more objective and practical perspective:
- According to Statrys, eCommerce website development costs range from $30 to $10,000, depending on business needs and experience.
- As per Emizentech, the basic cost for an eCommerce website typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. For more advanced features or complex technology applications, the cost can range from $6,000 to $10,000 or more.
For a more concrete perspective, based on the experiences shared by some individuals who have created and maintained eCommerce websites:
- Developing an eCommerce website with 100 to 1,000 products costs between $5,000 and $55,000, including design, development, and any other upfront expenses.
- The annual cost of maintaining an eCommerce website with 100 to 1,000 products ranges between $15,000 and $30,000.
The bottom line!
Hundreds of eCommerce solutions have popped up in recent years due to the rapid growth of eCommerce and modern shopping trends.
Open-source platforms are the preferable options for startups, small and mid-sized enterprises because of their cost optimization and constant development.
Because it’s hard to define which one is the “best”, you are the only one who can decide what’s optimal for your business by considering each ideal open-source eCommerce platform very carefully.
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