Top 7 eCommerce Shopping Cart Solutions
Choosing the wrong eCommerce platform can spell disaster for your business.
What’s more, trying to choose between them can be overwhelming when you consider that there are countless options available, each with a myriad of features.
To simplify things, we’ve put together an evaluation of the top 7 eCommerce shopping cart solutions, focussing on two of the most important considerations – getting customers to your store (SEO features) and ensuring they’ll come back (customer experience).
Number One: Magento
Magento comes with a range of features and functionalities that exceed what is offered by most of the other key players in the eCommerce spectrum. Two editions are available, Magento Community Edition, an open source platform, and Magento Enterprise Edition, a licenced platform designed for larger businesses.
The fact that Magento is open source-based means it is more customisable – developers are able to shape the end product, and include plug-ins or Add-ons that are designed specifically to suit the needs of a particular customer-base.
To this end, thousands of developers from all over the world have been modifying, perfecting and building on the Magento software since its inception, making it more robust, integrated and malleable than its competitors.
As well as allowing the shopping experience to be completely tailored to accommodate any target market, Magento offers a massive array of customer features aimed at ease of use. These include popular products, customer testimonials, image enlargement, newsletters and featured products, to name a few.
Depending on the needs of your store, customers will be able to rate products, create dialogue via polls, store multiple addresses, reorder, create a wish list and make use of any number of other functions you may wish to integrate into your shop.
Scalability is another big plus in favour of Magento. The need to change your eCommerce solution as your business grows is effectively eliminated with no restrictions on the size of the inventory or number of products you can add to your store. International growth is also catered for, with support for multiple currencies and languages to facilitate international shoppers – a benefit not lost on users like Nike, Samsung and Olympus.
In terms of driving customers to your store, Magento supports the broadest range of SEO-friendly features. These include automatically generated independent page titles that use the same names as the product or category to which they apply. Independent page URLs are able to approximate the likely search terms used by the customer, and independent image alt tags are also available to assist in boosting rankings in Google image searches.
Number Two: Shopify
Like Magento, Shopify is among the most popular and widely-used shopping cart solutions available. It offers a range of different packages with varying features according to price and supports many common features to assist customer experience including product image attaching, special offers and returns.
The key difference between Shopify and Magento is that Shopify is not open source. Not only does this mean that monthly subscription fees need to be paid on top of development costs, it also makes Shopify less adaptable and customisable.
There are less extensions and Add-ons available, and because of the proprietary nature of the Shopify software, there are less developers working on securing and perfecting it. Scalability is also restricted by having staggered packages with features limited according to price.
Shopify has a good array of customer-based features, but the range of options available is slightly less broad than what is offered by Magento. Shopify doesn’t, for instance, support a ‘search as user types’ function, which can make for a more fluid experience where the customer is unsure of exact search terms. Magento also has the advantage over its competitor of supporting the integration of shipment information so that customers can see tracking updates on the ‘view order’ pages.
Shopify Admin Interface
In terms of features to facilitate SEO, Shopify performs reasonably well. It supports independent meta descriptions (the text that appears beneath your listing in Google search results) which, while not directly related to rankings, will impact the likelihood of a potential customer clicking on the link. Shopify also supports independent page titles, independent page URLs, and independent image alt tags.
Number Three: Bigcommerce
Coming in at number three is Bigcommerce, a product that, like Shopify, works on different package with monthly fees. Bigcommerce also charges a 1.5% transaction fee.
It has a good range of security features, and a supports a high number of options to assist in SEO. As with Shopify and Magento, these options include independent meta descriptions, independent page titles, independent page URLs, and independent image alt tags.
Bigcommerce comes with a decent selection of features to enhance customer experience including returns and reordering, wish lists, popular products, news and customer testimonials. It also supports shipment tracking integration from a wide range of shipping carriers, including Australia Post.
Bigcommerce has a selection of cool templates available.
It does, however, lack a few key features offered by its competitors. Unlike Magento, Bigcommerce does not allow multiple store fronts. Nor does it allow subscriptions, quotes (a big downfall for those looking to build a store that sells in bulk or provides services rather than goods) or membership-only products and categories. Being able to maintain loyalty programs that rely on membership can be key to customer satisfaction and repeat business.
Number Four: osCommerce
As another open source platform, osCommerce does offer a good number of Add-ons and is reasonably customisable. It supports customer-based features like product rating, product reviews, image enlargement, news and newsletters and a sort by newest product function. For almost all features to enhance SEO including independent navigation links, independent navigation links and social sharing buttons, osCommerce requires an Add-on.
While osCommerce might stack up in the SEO stakes (if you had a long string of Add-ons), it doesn’t compete as well for customer experience. It does not support quotes, reordering, returns, wishlists or realtime shipping calculation. Like Bigcommerce, there can be no shipment tracking integration – the lack of which can be frustrating to a customer when they visit the ‘view order’ page and can reduce repeat business. Customer loyalty features are also limited with no membership only categories and discounts.
Number Five: WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a shopping cart solution designed to integrate with WordPress, and so is most useful for existing WordPress users looking to branch out into eCommerce.
The ‘Core’ WooCommerce package is free and open source, and includes a substantial range of well-designed themes. The features that come with the ‘Core’ package include product reviews, returns and refunds, and discount codes.
A Beautiful Website Developed in WooCommerce
Many of the features that come standard with the other products listed here, however, are paid Add-ons (at least if you want the Add-ons supported by the developer). WooCommerce Wishlists, for instance, is a $79 per year additional subscription, and the Shipment Tracking extension is $49 a year.
So while the abundance of costly Add-ons reduces the scalability and cost effectiveness of WooCommerce considerably, it does still perform reasonably well in the SEO stakes. The only SEO features that Magento comes with as standard and WooCommerce does not are a unique IP address for each store (although self-hosted Woo Commerce users will have their own IP address), and the availability of a robots.txt file which allows users to select which parts of their website will be indexed by search engines.
Number Six: Zen Cart
Zen Cart, a platform that branched off from osCommerce in 2003, supports customer-friendly features like quotes, product reviews, product ratings, search by newest product and featured products. It is the first platform listed in this evaluation that does not support eBay listing integration, which may be a major disadvantage for some businesses. It also lacks a few of the more useful publicity tools like news and polling, supports a very limited number of carriers for shipment tracking integration (and Add-ons are required), and has no reordering feature.
Zen Cart’s placement at number six, however, is mainly down to SEO factors. Like all the shopping cart solutions in the top 8, it does support a good number of features to facilitate SEO. That said, most of those it does support require Add-ons, and independent meta descriptions are not available at all.
Number Seven: PrestaShop
Prestashop is a French-based open source ecommerce platform. It has a large number of inbuilt features designed to enhance customer experience like product reviews, returns, search as user types, wish lists, feature products and customer testimonials. The only notable exception is the lack of a quoting feature – a possible inconvenience for certain business types.
Prestashop Admin Interface
Scalability is also somewhat limited with Prestashop, the platform being most suitable for small to medium sized enterprises. Many functionalities than are inbuilt in other software are paid modules, which may be inhibitive to growth. In terms of facilitating SEO, Prestashop does not support independent image ALT tags, but does have independent page titles, independent page URLs and independent meta description.