Which eCommerce Package Should I Use?

JASSY Consultancy was recently asked to advise on which eCommerce solution a customer should use for their new online shop.  After identifying their requirements we did some research  on the various packages available to identify the best match for them.

Introduction – eCommerce Requirements

Someone recently asked us which eCommerce solution they should use for a small business.  The first stage of determining which package to use was to ask the customer what their requirements were, both must-have and nice-to-have.  The list of requirements they came back with were consolidated into the following –

  • must be able to change the standard theme
  • must be able to attach more than one image to a product
  • must integrate with the most common payment gateways (PayPal and Google Checkout)
  • must be able to cross-sell (“customers who bought this also bought…”)
  • must provide a “related products” facility
  • must be able to add attributes like size, colour, style, etc
  • must be able to zoom in on product images
  • must allow customers to post product reviews
  • ideally, it would allow for reward programmes or products discount groups (not initially but thinking ahead)
  • ideally it would be free or very low cost

We quickly ruled out a few packages based on technology and/or price –

  • nopCommerce and AspxCommerce – these are based on .NET and the open source community for these is nowhere near as good as that for PHP
  • Magento – the Community version of Magento doesn’t offer anywhere near as many features as the other packages out there.  If you want all the features then you have to pay for the Magento Go (prices from £10 per month, including hosting) or Enterprise (prices from $14,000 per year) editions

Our research left us with three potential eCommerce packages –

  1. PrestaShop
  2. openCart
  3. osCommerce

Each of these packages is Open Source and generally has the same features so we had to narrow it down another way.

Installation and Configuration

All three packages provide wizard-based interface for the installation – all you need to do is create a MySQL database, upload the files to your web server and navigate to the URL of your store.  You will then be taken through a step-by-step process to install and configure the package with basic settings.

One of the great features of PrestaShop is that as well as having to delete the Install directory, the install process also recommends renaming the admin folder – this is a great added security option as it removes the chance of people hacking your store through the (generally) standard www.mystorename.com/admin link.

Winner : PrestaShop

Available Themes

OpenCart and PrestaShop use a great templating engine that makes it easy to download, install and customise themes.  However, osCommerce does not have a templating engine so it involves changing core files which then makes it more difficult to install other themes.

PrestaShop has recently released version 1.6 which is a major upgrade on the previous version.  As a result, there are a relatively low number of compatible templates available (especially free ones), although the list is growing all the time.

Winner : OpenCart and PrestaShop

Extending Functionality

All three packages are fairly even when it comes to installing modules, with a wide range of free and paid modules available.

With PrestaShop, the module search facility is integrated into the administration site, making it very to install and the configure modules.  OpenCart and osCommerce do not have an integrated search facility, meaning you have to manually upload files to your server to install modules.

Winner : PrestaShop

Administering a Live Store (Categories, Products, Images, etc)

The administration interface for osCommerce looks very dated.  In contrast, PrestaShop and OpenCart use web 2.0 technologies within their administration interface, making it very easy for any user to manage a live shop.

Product information is grouped into various tabs (General, Prices, Images, Stock, etc) that make easy work of finding and updating the information required.  We feel that PrestaShop has a slight edge over OpenCart in the general design of the interface.

Winner : PrestaShop

Summary

We quickly realised that osCommerce was not a viable option as, from a store owners perspective, the administration interface was really very poor and the product features were not as extensive as PrestaShop or OpenCart.

This left a decision between PrestaShop and OpenCart.  They both have very similar features, a good set of community resources (themes, modules, documentation) and both perform similarly on shared hosting platforms.

Our preference at JASSY Consultancy is PrestaShop, which is what we recommended to the client.  However, it really is down to personal choice and ensuring that the solution you choose has all the features you require now and may require in the future.

Overall Winner : PrestaShop

eCommerce PrestaShop 1.6.0.6 Screenshot

PrestaShop 1.6.0.6 Screenshot

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