Carts built to fit any business size, available for any business budget.
If you’re not doing so already, capitalizing on an increasingly digitized consumer society should be a business priority if you plan to get, and stay, ahead.
To make the most of the digital opportunity you will not only need an effective, optimised website, but also you must integrate the right shopping cart solution to support and facilitate e-commerce endeavours. But with so many choices, it’s hard to know which option will best suit your business.
To narrow your options, check out the five solutions reviewed here. Each can suit average budgets and provide all the basic cart features most small businesses need, from multicurrency/ multilingual support for international payments processing to customisable store interfaces for enhanced usability.
Whichever you choose you’ll soon wonder how your business ever did without an online shopping cart!
So what’s available?
If you’re looking for a well-known, secure, and scalable solution to stick with throughout long-term development (and can budget the cost), Magento may be the solution for you. The ‘Magento Go’ product is specifically designed with small businesses in mind.
Allowing intricate personalisation and brand unity, Magento’s highly adjustable framework allows store themes, function and feature extensions (such as shipping integration) to be flexibly added and adjusted to fit your business.
For small businesses on strict budgets, weighing cost against feature extensiveness and expansion potential is vital. Proving that you get what you pay for, Magento offers comprehensive technical support, is completely scalable, and offers abundant advanced features (such as mobile solution optimisation), however costs approx. US$14,000 to US$50,000 for a yearly subscription (for Magento Enterprise and Enterprise Premium respectively).
If your plans for the future are still ambitious, but budget is not, the more affordable CubeCart, despite not being open source, is still easy to develop and ideal for businesses with plans for future growth. Outside of the trial phase, it supports mobile site development and optimisation.
If you don’t have that level of budgetary leeway, CubeCart (split between CubeCart Lite and CubeCart Pro) also provides technical support and mobile optimisation for the full-feature ‘Pro’ access and costs significantly less – around US$180 for a one-off payment.
Suiting low to medium traffic sites, and perhaps more digital businesses, VirtueMart offers the unique capacity to sell downloadable products. Its ‘shopping cart off’ or plain catalogue feature and tolerance for unlimited product listings make it one of the more versatile solutions. Mobile templates are available but are not as comprehensive as CubeCart.
Perhaps the most visually appealing solution, Open Cart scores highly on extensive personalisation ability. Suited to small businesses with large global aspirations, 18 language options, extensive currencies, and tax rates are supported, plus a wealth of international payments and shipping providers.
Appealing to payments usability, OpenCart also offers easy-use features for user anonymity, meaning customers won’t be discouraged by having to log into purchasing accounts. Other carts can support this ‘silent checkout account’ feature, but it’s often not included by default, so is arguably better suited to the technically brave and coding proficient.
Tried, tested and appealing to budget, osCommerce is the granddaddy of cart solutions, proving its reliability and longevity at 12 years old. Offering one of the more extensive forum support networks of the free solutions, as long as your business can handle the technical side of customising and installing, osCommerce offers comprehensive versatility, security and functionality.
Why are these five so great?
Each of these ecommerce solutions offer small businesses great things. No matter which one you choose, SEO and marketing integration, responsive reporting, and administrative components (real-time order, stock and customer management elements), plus some level of customisation/interface adjustment are included as standard, though feature extensiveness will vary depending on product intricacy and cost.
Delving deeper, feature considerations for each product include:
Any one of these five solutions will meet customer expectations for a wide range of payment options, as all support the common international payment providers and shipping services. From WorldPay to PayPal and SagePay, payments support is secure, trusted and international, and OpenCart specifically boasts strong multilingual/multi-currency benefits, covering 22 world-renowned payment gateways.
Cost and technical support
Of course, most appealing to repressed budgets are the free carts – and VirtuMart, OsCommerce and OpenCart are just that. Regarding technical support however, things are a little more self-sufficient, so again, these may be choices suited to the more technically adept. However, solutions such as osCommerce boast large supporting communities, meaning forum support advice, information regarding bug reports, and regular updates are accessible, while downloadable add-ons for enhanced functionality are readily available. All solutions, free or not, offer demos, and all except CubeCart are open source.
Ease of use – customisation and usability
It’s no good having an eCommerce site if it doesn’t reflect and support your brand. All carts offer varying degrees of customisation, especially the open source ones.
OpenCart holds a usability focus, boasting extensive personalisation, adaptability and configuration through its modules and templates. For example, if you offer it as a product option, carts can be customized to allow buyers to specify text when adding products to their carts.
VirtuMart and osCommerce also offer simple ‘payment-off’ catalogue view options for clear product listing, and recent osCommerce updates allow for much simpler layout customization and social networking integration.