Which Shopping Cart Should I use? This is a common question that we get when clients call. There are so many shopping carts out there it is hard to know which one to use for your web site.
It is important to know when selecting your shopping cart what features you need. All the shopping carts below feature the following:
* Customer management
* Product management
* Variety of payment and shipping modules
* Order receipt emails
* Ability to use SSL secure layers for ordering process
However the shopping carts vary when it comes to:
* Time it takes to modify the cart to look like a current web design
* WYSIWYG ability to modify product descriptions using different fonts, colors, etc.
* Ability to import/export from Excel spreadsheet
* Wholesale/Reseller Pricing
In this review we will be going over PHP/MySQL shopping carts that run both Linux and Windows servers. We will not be reviewing pay-per-month shopping carts. We feel these offer less value because they have expensive monthly fees. Also – they usually do not allow access to the source code of the system or much customization of the shopping cart. The following shopping carts below are open-source meaning that you can modify the source code and customize the shopping cart to your needs.
Magento is one of the newer shopping carts on the block but has already attracted a large following. The coding is based on the latest PHP 5 object oriented coding standards and the Zend framework.
1. Varian the company who backs the cart is very active in updating the code and fixing bugs
2. Multi-Store Capable
3. Nice default template
1. Heavily layered and overly complicated coding style and thousands of files requires a lot of time to learn and do customizations. Estimate about 2 – 5 x more for your budget for customizing it vs. other carts
2. Right now the technical documentation is very limited, making it difficult to customize and modify the programming of Magento beyond doing graphical changes.
3. Runs fairly slow. Plan on spending at least $25/month for a 1000 product store, or $50 – $100 month for stores with over that.
Oscommerce MS 2.2 – The Cart That Started Them All
Oscommerce is the basis for both Zen Cart and CRE Loaded. As such is it is simpler and does not have all of the contributions already added that Zen Cart and CRE Loaded do. It runs well though and is a good back to basics shopping cart.
1. Has the most available number of contributions and modifications
2. Recent security update brings it up to date with MySQL 5 and PHP 5
1. It can take a lot of time and money to install all the contributions you want (add-ons)
2. No graphic template system meaning it is harder to modify the design
CRE Loaded Chain Reaction Edition of Oscommerce
CRE Loaded is like Oscommerce but with many more contributions installed. Some of the nice contributions it has are Easy Populate which lets you populate your database from an Excel file, coupon codes, administrator access levels, template system, and an affiliate manager. CRE Loaded also has one of the Oscommerce templating systems installed which allows you to more easily integrate a design into the system and control which information boxes show on the left and right columns.
1. Many contributions from Oscommerce already installed
1. Contributions from Oscommerce.com can be more difficult to install, but CRE Loaded has many of its own already converted
2. Buggy code for some modules like multi vendor shipping
CRE Loaded comes in 3 verisons. The regular version is free. The Pro version adds better product attribute support and credit card encryption, and the B2B version adds seperate pricing level support.
Zen Cart – The Art of E-commerce
Zen Cart has a very nice wide array of features based on Oscommerce but has gone its own path. You can not install contributions directly from the Oscommerce web site onto Zen Cart. Some of the nice features include product attributes managers, template system, html editor for regular web page contents, built in coupon code system, ability to select what credit cards you accept, and more. An issue with Zen Cart right now is the Easy Populate contribution which would let you import products from an Excel sheet does not work yet. So if you need this feature we recommend the other shopping carts.
1. No licensing fees
3. Many contributions from Oscommerce already installed
1. not possible to use Oscommerce contributions, they must be converted to Zen Cart
2. Admin interface is a little messy in certain areas because there are so many contributions installed
X-Cart is a commercial package, but one of the most competitively priced and easy to modify.
1. Commercially supported and has very few if any bugs
2. Uses Smarty Templates system which many programmers like to work with for laying out the web site
1. Licensing fees for system and some add-on modules
OSC Max is an excellent version of Oscommerce that has many useful contributions installed. It is just as easy to use in the admin as the default Oscommerce installation.
1. No licensing fees
2. The contributions installed are very useful
3. Has wholesale/Reseller pricing module already installed
1. Personal preference – I don’t like the mopics image module, you have to separately upload small and large images, but easily fixed by installing on the fly thumbnails module
Joomla & Virtuemart
Installing and configuring Joomla & Virtuemart together was a snap. On the Virtuemart website they have a combined installer that installs Virtuemart with Joomla. This is the solution you would want if you have to have your CMS (Content Management System) combined with your shopping cart. Joomla we feel is the best CMS out there, but Virtuemart on the other hand is not the best shopping cart system. It is not a bad one though, it is just not as fully featured as the other solutions.
Overall we would say that Virtuemart is about equal with default Oscommerce, but not the loaded versions of Oscommerce: Zen Cart & CRE Loaded.
1. Easy to install
2. Combines well with the best CMS Joomla
3. Has the basic shopping cart features
1. Lacks a lot of high-end shopping cart features
2. Not as many add-on modules available
Shopping Cart Feature Comparison Chart
This feature comparison chart compares the out of the box features of each cart. Sometimes a cart will have an available add-on module to install the feature listed.
|Magento||Oscommerce||CRE Loaded||Zen Cart||X-Cart||OSCMax||VirtueMart|
|Free||Yes||Yes||Yes, but has pay versions||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Admin Can Edit Products In Order||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Spreadsheet Database Upload||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Multiple Product Images||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Different Pricing Per Customer Groups||Yes||No||Costs Extra||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Graphic Template System||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live Shipping Quotes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Google Checkout Pre-installed||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Paypal||Yes||Yes, but not IPN||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Content Management System for Informational Pages||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|SEO Tools for meta tags and URLs||Yes||No||Yes, URLs cost extra||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|One Page Checkout||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Multi-Store Support||Yes||No||No||No||Cost Extra||No||No|
|Web Hosting Requirements||Semi Dedicated $25/m – $100/m||Shared Hosting||Shared Hosting||Shared Hosting||Shared Hosting||Shared Hosting||Shared Hosting|
|Our Overall Opinion from 1 – 10||7||7||8||8||7.5||8.5||7|
If you decide to go with an Oscommerce based shopping cart, we recommend that you start with one of the loaded versions – Zencart, CRE Loaded, or OSCmax – in order to save you lots of money on installing additional modules to the plain Oscommerce version. You can then use your development money to put in your own custom modifications, design, etc. rather than installing all of the basics.