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You’ve spent months planning the launch of your store. You have your marketing strategy in place and products ready to go.
You’ve told your friends and family your big news. You’re ready to begin life anew as a marketing manager for your own brand.
The only thing you have left to do is build the ecommerce shop — and that’s a huge to-do on your list!
Right now, you’re probably exploring the different platforms available to you. If you’re tech-savvy, you may have your eye on one of the following three best open source ecommerce platforms.
Here’s what you should know.
Benefits of an Open Source eCommerce Platform
Even though many ecommerce platforms are on the inexpensive side, open source is the way to go if you want a totally free or low-cost option.
Open source frameworks are developed and managed by individuals scattered around the globe.
Since there are so many people involved, it’s often easy to find advice, blog posts, forums, and user guides for anything you need.
Additionally, you have a ton of creative control over the design and functionality of your website when you work with an open source platform.
The 3 Best Open Source eCommerce Platforms
Before we get into three of the best open source ecommerce platforms, it’s important to understand how pricing works.
By nature, open source software is typically free. However, that doesn’t mean that setting up your website will be free.
You’ll have to pay for a domain name, hosting, and probably a theme, not to mention any extensions you decide to add.
Magento has a ton of features. You can get help with marketing your products, set up recurring payments for subscription products, and also create membership plans for your most loyal customers.
Here are a few more things to know about Magento:
- Magento already offers many features out of the box, so you may not need to rely on extensions.
- It allows you to send automated product alerts to customers to let them know when the price has dropped or when stock is almost out.
- You can also use the platform to create multilingual websites and cater to a global audience.
- Since Magento has so many features, you’ll need a fast website and solid hosting plan so that your pages load fast.
- Magento is typically used by large companies and enterprises that have the budget to hire a developer — it requires a lot of coding and developing knowledge to setup and maintain.
OpenCart is an excellent alternative to Magento if you want an easy-to-use platform that’s ideal for small businesses or startups.
Here are a few things to know about OpenCart:
- As you start to scale your store, you’ll need to purchase extensions, since the out-of-the-box features for OpenCart are limited.
- OpenCart supports major payment gateways as well as more uncommon ones, so it can likely process payment no matter how your customers want to pay.
- If you have more than one store to setup, you can set your products so they’ll appear in multiple stores. You can even set different prices for them depending on the store.
- The learning curve is small. You’re likely to pick up how to use OpenCart quickly, even if you don’t have a lot of developer knowledge.
This WordPress plugin requires that you already have a WordPress.org website, which means you’ll have to find hosting on your own, too.
Once that’s set up, you’ll install the WooCommerce plugin. Here are some details to know:
- The plugin and basic features are free, but you may end up paying for add-on extensions.
- WooCommerce connects to major payment gateways, meaning you can process payments with everything from Amazon Pay and PayPal to credit cards.
- You can choose a WooCommerce theme or select your own e-commerce theme from an online repository.
- There’s a setup wizard that will walk you through the process; you don’t have to figure it out on your own, and you can get it up and running quickly.
How to Choose the Best Platform for eCommerce
Choosing the right open source platform allows you to personalize your website however you like.
However, if you don’t have developer knowledge, you may want to work with a platform that handles a lot of the setup and design for you.
First, let’s go over the features to look for in open source ecommerce software. You’ll need:
- The ability to create limited-time or permanent coupons or discounts.
- Customer support, including help if there’s a bug or if you don’t know how to use a feature.
- Marketing and analytics features, like PPC tracking and predictive analytics.
Further, you may need to hire a developer, based on your skill set and how complex the platform is to use.
If you’re not a developer or if you don’t have a lot of time to spend setting up and running your shop, you may want to opt for a platform that already has plenty of easy-to-use, built-in features.
This is when you’re going to start paying for the software, but it’s not usually pricey.
For example, Shopify isn’t an open source platform, but it is low-cost and comes with the features and support you’ll need as a beginner.
Going with an established ecommerce platforms means you don’t have to worry about your site maintenance or security. Website design systems are generally more user-friendly than with an open source platform too.
On the other hand, you won’t have nearly as many customization options. Weigh the pros and cons of both options before settling on one.
Once you have your ecommerce store set up and ready to unveil to the public, you can’t just let it sit there and expect to get sales.
Make sure that you have a strong marketing strategy to support your business. Create landing pages and campaigns to direct traffic to them.
Make sure that you’re tracking ad and website performance. Continue honing your marketing strategy and website until you see the results you want.
Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t researching at hyperspeed, Noah likes to search for the best burger in town and enjoy a history podcast.