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Best e-commerce platform of 2020: website software for an online store
How to choose the best e-commerce solution for your business
The best e-commerce platforms in 2020
The rise of the web has allowed countless businesses to reach a wider market. Not only that, it has given rise to countless new online-only businesses, fueled by the exponential rise of mobile connections.
It’s not surprising, then, that one analyst claims that the SMB e-commerce platform market will break the billion dollar barrier.
There’s no doubt that the web provides a huge opportunity for companies, but it’s important for organizations to make the most of that opportunity. In order to sell your products or services online, your website has to be appropriately equipped.
Today, there is a huge variety of e-commerce platform packages from which to choose, so building an online store has never been easier.
To begin, first you’ll need ecommerce web hosting, which is to say hosting that will scale up with your business without interruption. Next you’ll need shopping cart software to run with your ecommerce site. This will probably include a payment gateway for credit card processing, though if you’re already established and have a decent enough credit rating you could apply for merchant services to reduce transaction costs.
If you also have a bricks-and-mortar store than a Point of Sale (POS) system for mobile credit card processing can be particularly desirable.
Which e-commerce software is best for your business depends entirely on your specific requirements. If you’re an online-only outfit, then POS integration won’t be necessary, but you may get a lot of business from overseas, in which case foreign currency support would be a requirement.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the best e-commerce platforms available right now, before moving on to consider other options you might want to explore in terms of creating your own e-commerce solution.
If you want a simpler alternative to some of the full-on web store building solutions here, check out Wix. It’s highly user-friendly, yet there’s still plenty of e-commerce power available to create a suitably impressive online store.
The best e-commerce platform packages
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Shopify is perhaps the most well known e-commerce platform available. It was set up in 2006 by founders Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake who, as the story goes, felt that there wasn’t a simple-to-use e-commerce platform available and so built their own. The company claims that: “You don’t need to have any technical or design experience to easily create a beautiful online store.”
According to Shopify, it’s possible to get one of its online stores up-and-running within minutes. Users can choose from a wide range of templates, or they can design the look and feel of their store themselves. It accepts a comprehensive range of credit cards, has Level 1 PCI compliance and 256-bit SSL encryption for security, and it offers 24/7 support via phone, instant messaging or email.
The platform provides a full CMS with which users can manage the functionality and layout of their online store. Users can manage their store on-the-go using Shopify’s mobile apps, and the platform itself is fully responsive, meaning the store will be optimized for visitors regardless of whether they access it from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Also, a live chat function is available which allows you to have a real time conversation with your customers. There’s a built-in support for 3D models and video too.
Shopify also offers users unlimited hosting for their stores, in-depth analytics of how visitors are using the store, and functionality for marketing such as SEO optimization, a discount and coupon engine, gift cards and email marketing tools. You can test out Shopify with a 14-day free trial.
E-commerce expertise with a fully-fledged CMS
Bigcommerce was established in 2009 and promises to “support your business, not just your store.” In addition to offering support via phone, instant chat and email, it also offers articles and videos to help with e-commerce, and access to a team of e-commerce experts who can provide advice and guidance about online selling. Their experts are qualified in both Google Analytics and Adwords.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce provides a variety of templates and themes to help stores look their best and get up-and-running quickly. Alternatively, users can design their own store or use Bigcommerce designers to do so. The platform incorporates a full-featured CMS that allows users to run an entire website, rather than just a store.
Users can benefit from detailed and flexible product management, optimized search engine rankings, along with a variety of integrated marketing tools and analytics. Payments can be accepted via 40+ pre-integrated gateways and shipping details can be customized as per the business’s requirements. As of late, some new features have been added like support for Amazon Import and Link and Shopping in Instagram Stories. The platform offers automated order processing, flexible tax rules depending on where orders are made and shipped, and support for multiple currencies. You can test out Bigcommerce with a 15-day free trial.
Veteran provider with a custom design service
Volusion has been around for almost two decades, having been set up in Texas over in the US in 1999. The company touts its platform as being an “all-in-one e-commerce solution”, and offers a free 14-day trial (no credit card required).
As with other e-commerce platforms, users are offered a variety of templates from which to choose, and can also customize templates if they so wish. Should a more complex design be required, Volusion offers a custom design service that can incorporate branding and a firm’s social media presence.
The platform provides the site and product management tools you’d expect, marketing functionality for SEO, social media, and affiliate outlets, along with emails and order management functionality for fast order processing, accepting payments, tax calculations and POS integration.
In addition to its platform and associated services, Volusion offers apps from its partners, support for users and a knowledge-base for help with e-commerce. Users can draw upon blog posts, guides and webinars. As of October 8th 2020, there are no more transaction fees.
Service which focuses on SMBs
CoreCommerce was set up in 2001 and focuses on providing e-commerce services to small and medium-sized businesses. The company places an emphasis on simplicity and transparency, promising that its platform is easy-to-use and that customers will not fall foul of any hidden charges.
Perhaps CoreCommerce’s most unique aspect is that all of its features are offered to all customers regardless of what plan they are on. Price plans are determined by the number of products, the number of email addresses, the amount of bandwidth and the amount of storage required by the user (and higher-end plans also benefit from additional support).
As with other e-commerce providers, CoreCommerce offers functionality for store design, product management, order processing and marketing. Of its headline features, the platform offers unlimited product customization options, a built-in blogging engine, and secure hosting that is provided by Rackspace and comes with a 99.9% uptime guarantee. You can try CoreCommerce out with a 15-day free trial.
Allows for an impressive degree of tailoring to your needs
Having been founded in 1997, 3dcart is the oldest of our featured providers here. It was set up with a view to incorporating as many of the most requested e-commerce features into one platform as possible.
The company says it has six core values by which it operates: ongoing innovation, good service, simple solutions, fostering trust, keeping employees and customers happy, and stimulating prosperity amongst employees and customers.
Some of the platform’s innovative features include a module that users can install to offer gift-wrapping, a purchase order system, the option of running a loyalty program and the ability to offer recurring orders. Many of these features are very specific, meaning that stores can be highly tailored to the needs of each business.
Stores can be designed using one of the many templates offered by 3dcart, or users can design their own store. A quick edit bar means that making changes to the design of a store is simple. Product images are fore-fronted with 3dcart’s auto-zoom feature and products can be sold via Facebook with its store integration. As with some other platforms, users can blog directly from 3dcart and tools are provided for setting up coupons, sending newsletters and affiliate marketing. 3dcart is regularly updated and new features are constantly added, like the drag and drop HTML builder, the home page editor or scheduled promotions. Users can also make use out of “make an offer” feature, which basically lets you and your customers to negotiate on a price.
In addition to its platform, 3dcart offers a number of professional services. Users can request help with SEO, PPC, shopping feed management, social media, Facebook ads and conversion consulting. Help can also be provided to ensure that a user’s store is set up to the highest standard. Services such as site cloning, setting up custom tracking, data migration and training are offered.
In addition, 3dcart can provide SSL certification. Hosting is guaranteed at 99.9% uptime and 24/7 support is provided via phone, email or online chat. You can test out the service with a 15-day free trial.
If you don’t want to go the route of using an off-the-shelf package, what other options are available for you to explore? That’s what we’re going to look at in the second half of this piece…
Is eBay right for your business?
Opening its doors in 1999, eBay UK now has over 14 million users, with over 10,000 people using the site for a business that is their primary means of income. It’s not just about people selling unwanted goods – businesses have used the simplicity that eBay offers to set up lucrative operations. Even the larger brands such as Argos, Debenhams and House of Fraser are using eBay to sell online.
With sophisticated tools now available you can be up and running with your store in just a few hours. The eBay Seller Centre has all the information you need. Each store is managed via eBay’s familiar user interface, and there are a number of eBay-provided tools to help manage, track and promote your shop once it’s established.
Using eBay as the platform for your business could be ideal if your business wants to sell goods on a fixed price basis. The complete integration of the PayPal e-payments system into eBay takes care of this essential component of your store.
The key with eBay is to look closely at the costs involved and also the transaction fees that PayPal charge before moving forward and setting up your own store.
How to create your own e-commerce solution
Of course if you want complete control over every aspect of your new online store, building each page yourself will be the best course of action. Hiring someone to code your website is one option. If you decide to do this follow these steps:
- Ask the company for live examples of their work to look at
- Write a detailed brief of the site you want created. The more detail the better to avoid confusion
- Ensure you understand the price you are being charged and how many revisions this price includes
- Always have a signed agreement or contract before work commences
- Ask whether the designers will host your site and if you will be able to make updates yourself or if all updates must go through the design agency at an additional cost
- Ask for the copyright of your design to be assigned to your company, as your website is an important part of your business’ intellectual property
- Put into your contract, details of how the agreement can be amicably dissolved if things go wrong
You also don’t have to build your site completely from scratch. Buying a template can give you all the basic pages your site needs. You can then either modify them yourself using an application like Dreamweaver, or hire a coding expert to make the changes. Website templates are available from a number of vendors including Template Monster.
If you already have a website and want to add e-commerce functionality, this can be easily achieved with a number of applications including:
Whichever route you decide to take when building your website always remember:
- You need to ensure your store can be easily updated and managed.
- Good professional web hosting is vital to ensure your site is always available.
- Look for payment and shopping carts that are intuitive and efficient to use.
- Customer service is king these days. Businesses shouldn’t just efficiently take customers’ money, but should also properly support them.
- Make sure that your store is fully integrated with all the leading social media sites.
- Put security first – shoppers are now more comfortable buying online, but always ensure your site uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer) which is now the industry standard for online payments.
- Above every other consideration should be your site’s visitor experience. Don’t forget your competitors are just a mouse click away in the world of e-commerce.
Setting up your online store should be approached carefully and diligently to ensure you put a professional and efficient site live. Internet shopping continues to expand. Make sure your business doesn’t miss out on a sales channel that shows no signs of slowing down.
- We’ve also picked out the best website builders of 2020 and the best website hosting services
19 Top Open Source And Free Ecommerce Platforms for 2020
From corporate giants to small mom & pop shops, many ecommerce store owners are turning to free open source ecommerce platforms.
The tools needed to sell online don’t come cheap. But using open source software can delete at least one monthly fee. Plus you’ll have greater control over your online presence.
Some of today’s most popular carts are open source solutions, including the most widely-downloaded and used platform on the web – WooCommerce.
If you’ve got the tech skills and time to play with CSS, HTML, and even Ruby on Rails while hanging out in code forums, you’re probably the right candidate for an open source ecommerce platform. And if you don’t have the time but you do have the funds and desire to hire someone who can manipulate almost every aspect of your ecommerce site, you might also be interested in open source ecommerce platforms.
Before you dive into this list, please keep something in mind – we know open source is not for everyone, and only a handful of these platforms meet our standards. There’s definitely a steep learning curve to if you want to build an online store without hiring web developers.
If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform, but not committed to the idea of open source, please check out our post on the top ecommerce platforms.
X Cart Ecommerce Platform
X-Cart is a solid open source platform. This PHP shopping cart offers something you won’t find in most freemium carts. A lifetime license. Built on solid source code with an extensive feature set available for paid plans, X Cart offers hosted and self-install options.
Although the feature list is impressive, upgrading can be expensive – we’re talking $495+. For a store that’s performing well, it’s a decent option and considering the license is a lifetime one, it’s not a bad deal.
You’ll need to manually code and use HTML to get the most out of this ecommerce option, but there’s ample room to customize if you’ve got the time or staff.
They do have great design and development support along with hosting to make things easier for the less technical. Their enterprise edition is also worth a look. Theres also no transaction fees.
- La Mer Collections
- Goat Milk Stuff
Proud to power over 37% of online stores, WooCommerce has been downloaded 14,095,679 times. It is by far the most popular open source ecommerce solution available. Built to help users turn any WordPress site into an ecommerce store, this ecommerce solution was created by the equally popular WooThemes. When it comes to content, WooCommerce is the best cms for ecommerce.
Unfortunately, as you start looking at more complex features with WooCommerce, you’ll see a price tag attached. The same is true of support – it comes in the form of a purchased product for this solution. On the flip side, WooCommerce scales beautifully and as a result is a frequent ecommerce platform choice for large enterprises, although it works just as well for small and medium shops.
Who’s Using WooCommerce?
- Mystery Chocolate Box
- Le Marzocco
- New Balance
paGOCommerce is an open source platform from the developers at ‘corePHP‘. paGO Commerce is focused on the Joomla! ecosystem and has some powerful tools sets such as a comprehensive attribute system, paGO Quickpay for payments, robust coupon system, very simple and clean single-page checkout for higher conversion and so much more. Developers will love the extendability of the platform and how easy it is to make additions without core hacks. paGO Commerce is PCI-compliant and targeted to medium to enterprise-level deployments. paGO Commerce is the only open source commerce system built with real-time support in the backend to help you with your commerce needs.
Sites Running paGO
Magento Community Edition
With more than 200,000 users, the Magento Community Edition is one of the most popular open source ecommerce platforms available. Although it isn’t as robust as the Magento Enterprise edition, the Magento Open source Community Edition is still a strong choice for ecommerce stores that are committed to the idea of an free platform.
Who’s Using Magento Community or Magento Enterprise?
- Brewshop (New Zealand)
- Hu2 (UK, ships worldwide)
PrestaShop boasts that more than 250,000 stores use their ecommerce platform. The forum for PrestaShop has more than 850,000 members and customers include Zippo Lighters and Fashion Stork, among others. The popularity of this open source ecommerce platform extends to more than 200 countries and as a result, PrestaShop has been translated into 65 languages.
PrestaShop is so well liked by developers and users, the platform has racked up awards around the world:
- Packt Publishing’s Best Open Source Business Application (two times)
- 2020 BSOCO Award in the CMS category
- 2020 #1 Open Source Shopping Cart Software by EcommerceBytes Seller’s Choice Awards
Who’s Using PrestaShop?
- Fashion Stork
- Eleven Paris
Well aware that appearances matter, OpenCart offers more than 2,700 themes. The platform is used by 576,862 ecommerce sites, but 4,841 of these are in the top 1 million sites on Alexa.com – not a bad number for a relatively small ecommerce platform.
The OpenCart community is welcoming and very active. Although the platform was created in Hong Kong, the majority of users are in the United States. OpenCart is multicurrency, multilingual, and offers more than 20 payment gateways as well as eight shipping methods.
One feature many OpenCart users enjoy is the turnkey nature of this open source ecommerce platform – there’s no need to mess with code at the start.
Who’s Using OpenCart?
- Cilantro: The Cook’s Shop
- British Red Cross (UK)
The frontend of this open source ecommerce platform’s demo feels a bit like a dated version of Amazon. After 16 years in business, osCommerce should be performing stronger in the market than it is – especially considering the availability of more than 7,000 add-ons and two spinoff projects that have claimed a strong place in the ecommerce platform field.
Maybe os stands for old-school?
Unfortunately for osCommerce, only 13,300 stores currently use this platform, despite an active community with more than 285,720 members and more than 1.6 million posts. In major need of an update, osCommerce has a loyal open source developer following but little ability to compete in the modern ecommerce field without some major changes.
Who’s Using osCommerce?
- Ubuntu Shop
- Melbourne Kitchen Renovations (Australia)
- Parsiaco (Iran)
Originally based on osCommerce’s code, the two parted ways in 2003 when Zen Cart decided to place a heavier focus on templates. Today, this free ecommerce platform provides users with a 390+ page user’s manual and a host of features – not to mention more than 1800 add-ons in 16 different categories. The related community is large, too. There are more than 150,000 members in the Zen Cart community.
Who’s Using Zen Cart?
- US Armorment
- Health Cabin
- The Hobby Shop
- Pipe Divan
More than 45,000 stores are using Spree Commerce, and not just because it’s affordable. Feature-loaded and named a top 50 open source project out of more than 3 million, it’s visually appealing, modern, and the developer community is large and active.
Based on Ruby on Rails, Spree Commerce is an ecommerce platform that developers will love but the tech naïve will have a tough time with. If you’ve got the coding knowhow or can afford a developer who does, however, this platform will scale with you. Popular fast-food chain Chipotle uses Spree Commerce, and the platform has been translated into 30 languages.
Who’s Using Spree Commerce?
- Puppet Labs
URL: JigoShop website is currently down
. I will give them some time to see if they put it back up. Otherwise, I will remove jigoshop.
Another WordPress ecommerce platform, JigoShop offers the advantage of having a backend most WordPress users will recognize and be able to navigate with ease. This WooCommerce predecessor has a smaller selection of themes than many of its competitors, but appears to be holding its own in the ecommerce space with 512,739 downloads.
Access to community support isn’t free with JigoShop, however. It’s $40/month. The platform also charges for $35-$49.00 for its official themes, with the exception of Simply Jigoshop, which is free. Keep an eye on JigoShop’s site, as a major change is in the works. JigoShop has a new version in beta testing, complete with some much-anticipated changes.
Who’s Using JigoShop?
- Echoes of Opal
- Nordic Appeal
- Surviving the Oregon Trail
Designed for use with Joomla 2.5 and 3, Virtue Mart boasts more than 500 features, stores around the globe, and an engaged and active developer community. The platform boasts 348, 487 users, of which only 995 are in the top 1 million sites. The vast majority of ecommerce websites using VirtueMart are based in the United States or Russia.
The core system of VirtueMart is very small, with only 3-5 developers working actively on it. On the other hand, input from the developer community is openly accepted and there are 316,371 members. This open source PHP ecommerce solution isn’t a newcomer to ecommerce – VirtueMart is a German company that’s been around since 2004. The platform isn’t friendly to the nontech crowd – you’ll need a developer who is well-versed in the Joomla CMS system and PHP software to really be able to use this platform. It’s also easy to spend a small fortune on plug-ins and add-ons for this platform. Watch your wallet.
Who’s Using VirtueMart?
- Produtti Herbalife (Italy)
- DPModa (Bulgaria)
- 3D Puzzle Welt (Europe)
- U Can Fix It (Canada)
Drupal Commerce (Drupal)
One of the most comprehensive open source ecommerce platforms available, Drupal Commerce was built by the Commerce Guys and offers multilingual, multicurrency, global functionality – making it the perfect fit for sits like Open Sesame, an e-learning language course provider.
Drupal readily integrates with numerous third-party applications. It’s currently one of the only ecommerce platforms built on a CMS (Drupal Content Management System), making it innately compatible with a strong content marketing strategy. Like many other open source platforms, it’s the support that will cost you – Commerce Guys offers Drupal Commerce application support is very expensive. That makes sense when you see their client list. Drupal Commerce is popular with large enterprises.
Who’s Using Drupal Commerce?
- Open Sesame
- Lush Cosmetics
- Cartier Jewelers
simpleCart js (NOT to be confused with ModMore’s SimpleCart)
URL: simplecart.js seems like they are no longer operating.
The text is all custom prepared by you, so language isn’t an issue. You can use simpleCart js in any language. As a result of its lightweight nature, simpleCart js doesn’t offer many of the backend features you might be looking for.
You’ll find the download and documentation on the simpleCart(js) site, but keep in mind that nothing has been updated since 2020. You’ll need to pop into developer forums or check out one of the many YouTube tutorials for this platform if you need any help.
Yet another WordPress plugin option, WP e-commerce has been downloaded more than three million times and boasts the honor of being the “original” e-commerce solution for WordPress. The coding for this open source ecommerce platform is relatively simple.
If you can handle CSS and HTML, you’re good to go. You can pay the experts for a little extra support, or turn to the large community of users for answers to common questions.
Who’s Using WP eCommerce?
- Mayrun’s Goods
This open source ecommerce solution has been around for awhile, but they’ve never really topped the charts. Ubercart seems to stick in the top 30 ecommerce platforms by number of users, but generally towards the bottom of that list.
Although they keep thier ecommerce software updated, Ubercart’s forums and demos can’t boast the same attention to regular updating. The demo site is currently redirected to a domain for sale page – trouble ahead for Ubercart, or a momentary lapse? You decide.
Built to work with Drupal, Ubercart’s treatment of products in the cart can result in quantity, shipping, and tracking orders. In general, it feels like Ubercart is falling behind the competition. Although the learning curve is quick for this platform, it’s not a good option for medium or large stores.
Who’s Using Ubercart?
- Jamie & Jaimie (Indonesia)
- TiS Lifestyle (Holland and Belgium)
- Ultrasun (England)
- Kidmart (Russia)
Zeuscart doesn’t hide their developer-centric nature. Land on the home page, and you’ll be greeted with enough acronyms to chase off anyone who isn’t an avid programmer. MySQL. PHP. GPL license. You get the idea.
No matter how much programming knowledge you have, Zeuscart is a decent open source ecommerce solution. Their focus on the UX of their platform makes the platform less intimidating than many other open source options.
Zeuscart was built with Bootstrap and is designed with small and medium businesses in mind. It is feature rich and marketing friendly, boasts a decent community, and offered free support for the first 30 days with paid support from that point on. This could have been an ecommerce platform worth watching. Unfortunately, the website and social media feeds seem to have been abandoned in 2020, although you can still download the ecommerce platform from the Zuescart website.
Who’s Using Zeuscart?
- [queried Zeuscart Support. Waiting for reply.]
This MySQL based open source PHP ecommerce platform can run on Windows, Linux, and Unix, but has an issue with Macs. It’s not SEO friendly, has a bad rep for service and support, and doesn’t have a gift certificate feature or a low stock alert. In short, it’s not a platform we would readily recommend. That said, AFCommerce has a few surprises, like a one-page checkout.
There is relatively no limit to what you can customize with AFCommerce, and it is a multilanguage option with the ability to integrate loyalty and affiliate programs. If you choose to go this route, make sure you’re ready for the amount of programming you’ll have to do (or pay to have done).
Despite the obvious issues with AFCommerce, it’s been around since 2007 and has been tested on over 250,000 ecommerce websites. It works well with multiple currencies and can display weights in metric and standard systems.
Who’s Using AFCommerce?
Like Zen Cart, Tomato Cart owes its existence to osCommerce. Tomato Cart is an independent branch of osCommerce 3, and a popular one. It can be completely customized, and includes a basic built-in CMS. Lightweight, TomatoCart loads quickly.
Feature-loaded, we’re betting that this an open source ecommerce solution to keep an eye on. Tomato Cart has conquered many of the problems other platforms face – it’s versatile, SEO friendly, content marketing ready, works with multiple payment gateways, includes multiple marketing features, and even includes a decent (not stellar) analytics program.
The admin panel tries too hard to look like a desktop, which can be a little disconcerting. Tomato Cart is relatively new, so there aren’t many extensions available yet, either. Shipping options are also limited. Don’t jump ship from your current cart to work with TomatoCart, though. You can play with all the features of their demo on the TomatoCart site to see if you like the feel and behavior of the platform. Definitely take it for a test drive if you’re curious about it.
Who’s Using TomatoCart?
- Simply Personal
- Carnivore Kites
This British open source ecommerce solution is popular on both sides of the pond – in fact, they’ve got a decent following in many parts of the globe. CubeCart uses a 100% template-driven responsive skin to look good across devices. Great customer support, social media plugins, unlimited products, administrators, customers, orders…you name it. This cart is setting itself apart as a member of the new generation of ecommerce open source platforms. That said, it’s no Shopify or BigCommerce and you won’t be able to get phone support, although you’ll find live help on the site.
CubeCart scales decently but is not equipped for large enterprises. It integrates with several common applications, such as MailChimp, but can’t compete with OpenCart for the number of third-party integrations available.
Who’s Using CubeCart?
- Harris Organic Wines
- Kula Cards
- Orchid Jacky
Ready to get to work immediately when you add it to Joomla, this shopping cart works with Google Checkout, Paypal, and Amazon to make running your online store easy. Products are displayed as blocks in a grid, and customers can choose the product they prefer, add it to their cart, and the software handles shipping and sales tax info for you.
This lightweight option is similar to simpleCart js in function, and was created by the Rocket Theme team, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a release for WordPress in the future. On the backend, the software is lightweight and won’t slow your loading speed. The administrative controls are intuitive and well designed, and you can control each item on the page and their configuration. The RokQuickCart also lets you work with 23 different currencies.
Who’s Using RokQuickCart?
- Skydive Moab
- Simply Survival Jewelry & Accessories (Survivor Jane)
- Byk Bikes
Shoop started as a project by a few web designers who wanted a better way to make sites for their clients, after realizing that the existing options weren’t that great. With offices in Finland and the United States, Shoop is an international platform with a focus on listening to the open source community of developers. Their current market share is largely Finn – it’s where the company is from. We’re curious to see where they are in a year or two.
Version 1.1 of this platform launched recently, and version 1.2 is expected to hit the web any day. Built with Django and Python, your customizations of the platform are unlimited and even include the ability to work with multiple stores. The checkout process is also customizable, and you can integrate payment with Stripe, among other options.
Designed to scale, marketing friendly, ready for SEO and content marketing, and built to meet the needs of a modern e-retailer. Shoop is off to a good start – here’s hoping they keep up the good work and grow this open source ecommerce option to the same strength and versatility as paid options.
Who’s Using Shoop?
- Aalto University School of Arts, Design & Architecture (Finland)
Is Open Source Ecommerce Really Free?
Open source ecommerce solutions offer a wide range of features and complexity. Before choosing one, you need to be honest with yourself about your web developer skills and your budget to pay for support and help. Regardless of price point, however, an open source platform with an active developer community offers the benefit of a global community of people working to improve the software.
At the same time, it’s usually the freemium plans that have a dedicated team of full-time developers and support. If you need help and you aren’t using a freemium open source platform with the option of paid technical help, you might find yourself in trouble if you come across a new bug in the code.
Now that you’ve seen a sample of the web’s top open source ecommerce platforms, take a moment to think about them. Did one wow you? Go check it out. Already using an open source ecommerce solution? Tell us about your experience in the comments. If you have some dev skills, you should give X-Cart a try. And if you aren’t sold on open commerce, check out the list of top ecommerce platforms we mentioned at the start of this article.
No matter what your budget is, you’ll find the perfect solution for your e-commerce site. Just remember to keep looking until you find the right mix of front and backend UX, features, loading speed, and scalability.
Portals in an E-Commerce 2.0 World
For anyone doing business online, commerce meets collaboration at a Web 2.0 portal — a mutual touchpoint for a company, its partners and customers (plus all their contacts) as well as a personalized filter of information and services found on the Web.
The goal: aggregating high-value information about people, products and services — reducing time spent searching Web resources for information, reducing the overload of found information while increasing its relevancy, delivering key information to places it can be used effectively, and alerting recipients to its presence and availability.
Part 1 of this series discussed the changing role of portals in a Web 2.0 world. Portals are also changing as e-commerce evolves. The driving force behind all this activity is basic human nature, according to fashion blogger Kristopher Dukes.
“People always want what’s simple and intuitive,” Dukes told the E-Commerce Times. “People are either too stupid or too busy to figure things out.”
E-Business and E-Commerce Web Portals
A standard corporate e-business Web portal used for much of a company’s online business presence can encompass internal business systems (CRM, ERP, HR), enterprise communication and collaboration (e-mail, voice mail, VoIP, content management, business process management), and e-commerce for transmitting funds, goods, services and/or data between businesses (B2B) or between the business and its retail/e-tail customers (B2C).
Web 2.0 technologies have amped up these basics, becoming a driving force within today’s e-business industry. Included in the new e-business portal model are Web-based communities and hosted services such as social networking capabilities, wikis, blogs and folksonomies aimed at facilitating creativity, collaboration and sharing among users. Rich Internet application (RIA) techniques based on Ajax, Adobe Flash, Flex and Java improve the user experience in browser-based applications. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds from news sites, blogs, wikis and enterprise applications send information where it’s wanted — the Web, mobile devices, e-mail clients and desktops.
Web 2.0 has greatly impacted the e-business role of e-commerce — sales of goods and services where an order is placed by the buyer or price and terms of sale are negotiated over the Internet, an extranet, electronic data interchange (EDI) network, electronic mail or other online system. Payment may or may not be made online. Considered in this way, total e-commerce sales for 2007 were estimated at US$136.4 billion, an increase of 19 percent from 2006, according to the most recent estimates from the Census Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
What They Are
Web portals are Web sites that function by aggregating data from a large number of providers. E-commerce Web 2.0 portals also do this while providing richer content and more rewarding experiences.
“The portal (now) becomes a composite front end that integrates disaggregated services into a coherent, fluid user experience,” wrote Simeon Simeonov in E-Commerce 2.0 — The Velvet Revolution.
Previously, in a portal, the various pieces of content were often independent of one another, according to Simeonov. In the e-commerce 2.0 portal, everything is highly integrated from a data and user experience standpoint.
“The portal front end will initially run in parallel to the existing e-commerce 1.0 site because e-tailers will experiment and make the switch to e-commerce 2.0 gradually,” said Simeonov. “Pieces of the front end will be embeddable in other sites. (Yes, even as MySpace widgets.)”
Variety of Portals
The world of consumer e-commerce provides a range of e-commerce portals:
The big-box general merchandise retailers like Wal-Mart, HomeDepot, Kroger, Costco and Target, with their extensive logistics and supply chains, all have brick-n-click, dot-com online presences. Vertical affinity service providers like iVillage and WebMD offer a shopping component on their Web sites. The big Web-only shopping portals include eBay, Amazon.com, BizRate.com, MySimon.com, Yahoo Shopping, NexTag.com, Overstock.com, Shopping.com, Pricerunner.com, PricingCentral.com, MSN Shopping, Shop.com and Shopzilla.
All of these portals are beginning to adopt Web 2.0 functionality, but it’s eBay and Amazon.com — the 1990s e-commerce portal pioneers — that have perhaps most fully engaged with Web 2.0. For example, APIs from eBay facilitate program-to-program auction management. Amazon provides a set of retail APIs that allow developers to create computer programs that make use of Amazon’s sophisticated online retail infrastructure. Third party software developers have used this to create specialized storefronts.
Since 1999, eBay has offered the eBay API to enable developers to communicate directly with the eBay database in XML (extensible markup language) format, essentially turning its Web site into a platform. eBay Community has a feedback forum, chat rooms, discussion boards, news and more. eBay Wiki allows members to offer their own expertise on any eBay topic they care about. eBay Blogs lets members create their own blogs to promote their businesses, discuss favorite topics, products, eBay stores and more.
Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2002. The service provides software developers, Web site owners and merchants with access to many behind-the-scenes features on Amazon’s Web site. AWS teamed up with Facebook in early 2008 to help developers build instantly scalable applications. Customers in Amazon’s online community can personalize Web pages and create content, including product reviews, online recommendation lists, wish lists, image uploads, buying guides and customer discussions. Amazon describes Amapedia, its lightly promoted Wikipedia clone, as “a community for sharing information about popular products.” The Amazon Daily blog (formerly known as “Plogs”) contains posts from throughout the Amazon site.
Social Commerce Portals
Social commerce involves customer-driven merchandising across a number of online properties to promote sales. The goal is to connect customers to one another in ways that drive measurable results to a company’s business. Social commerce sites like Kaboodle, ThisNext, Wishpot and StyleHive combine two of the Web’s most prominent activities: engaging in commerce and chatting with other like-minded people. The sites don’t directly sell things, but they encourage users to share links to good bargains, obscure finds, products that work and ones that don’t.
Social commerce brings in the rest of the Web 2.0 compendium such as user-generated content (some of it pulled from blogs and wikis, the rest captured on e-commerce sites), trust/reputation building and information discovery and management through folksonomies and social networks.
Kaboodle.com is a social network based on shopping and is designed to put its community members in touch with other shoppers who have similar interests in products. As members grow to know the community, their product reviews become more relevant based on recognition of some of the reviewers. Kaboodle is a distributed application, according to Kaboodle CEO Manish Chandra, and aggregation and distribution are where the global economy is heading.
“When you have too broad a collection of products, as with eBay, the discovery process is not well facilitated, and social interaction is missing,” Chandra told the E-Commerce Times. “This restricts users in ways that create boundaries in the shopping experience. We’re about empowering them to create experiences for themselves without boundaries.”
ThisNext.com is an online media and social-shopping portal where people “shopcast” — find, recommend and share their favorite products for others to discover and purchase online based on word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted sources called “influencers” or “mavens.” A BlogIt tool enables ThisNext members to shopcast by posting lists, tags, recommendations or wish lists to their blogs, MySpace profiles or anywhere that supports HTML (hypertext markup language).
ThisNext is not so much a portal as it is “a very large node on a much broader network, a product recommendation layer on the entire social Web,” ThisNext CEO Gordon Gould told the E-Commerce Times.
“We distribute different pieces of functionality that can be plugged in elsewhere on the Web and so have a much greater opportunity than just being a portal. As essentially a service layer, there is no Web destination site per se. Web 2.0 was about sharing. Web 3.0 is an information filtration service.”
Wishpot.com is a free social shopping service aimed at making it easy to save and share interesting things found in stores and online. Wishpot for Facebook lets people share their favorite products, give gift suggestions and discover what their friends like and recommend — all within Facebook.
“Social shopping sites are definitely already more semantic than general Web 2.0 sites,” Wishpot CEO Max Ciccotosto told the E-Commerce Times. “They do a lot of interesting things with the concept of ‘product;’ they are able to scrape for this info, parse it, etc. They are filtered gateways.”
Stylehive.com is a social bookmarking community focused entirely on products and shopping using a wishlist of a member’s desired items. The Stylehive “badge” works with the Stylehive site and allows members to display pictures of their favorite products on a blog or Web site.
Stylehive CEO Michael Carrier also doesn’t see social shopping Web sites as portals. “Social shopping is Web 3.0, which is to say it is a blend of Web 1.0 (content) and Web 2.0 (social),” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Web 3.0 is about sites like the Stylehive, where the content of the Web — in this case shopping content — is filtered through your trusted social group. This type of site gives the user the ability to control what they see by controlling the group of trusted recommenders.”
Despite this added energy for online shopping, JupiterResearch has found that the growth of social networks and online communities has had little effect on influencing online retail sales. In a July 2007 report, the firm said that social and community sites are only driving about 12 percent of online shoppers to buy more than planned.
Business to Business
B2B Web sites can generally be sorted into company sites, product supply and procurement exchanges, brokering sites that act as intermediaries between someone wanting a product or service and potential providers. (e.g., equipment leasing, information sites, sometimes known as “infomediaries”), and specialized or vertical industry portals. Portals provide a sort of “sub-Web” of information, product listings, discussion groups and other features. These vertical portal sites have a broader purpose than the procurement sites (although they may also support buying and selling).
In creating new venues for the social scene, social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and the like have helped open the way for business users to adopt similar techniques to network and generate new business leads. The efficiency of online communities at sharing and prioritizing information are transforming enterprise business processes. Business networking services such as LinkedIn and Mzinga bring Web 2.0 social networking techniques to business users.
Two Web 2.0 B2B e-commerce portals are the Chinese operations Globaby.com and Alibaba.com.
Globaby.com calls itself a “B2B 2.0 portal” and professional marketplace specially designed for purpose-driven shopping and open to any suppliers of cost-effective products. Personalized Globaby locations called “MyHouse” let buyers register their suppliers and manage orders on the site. Buyers can leave messages for suppliers for further communication and invite suppliers to bid.
Alibaba.com asserts that it is the “#1 ranked international B2B trade portal.” Specializing in English-language B2B trades, Alibaba.com is designed specifically for international buyers trying to get into contact with Chinese sellers. The MyAlibaba Community function allows members to add and update products, check messages, post trade leads and more.
Christopher S. Rollyson is founder and chief editor of the Global Human Capital Journal, which explores emerging phenomena like Web 2.0, social networking, innovation and globalization. He sees Web 2.0 following this trend.
“Web 2.0 and social networks have been largely seen as idle curiosities by all but the most B2C-centric executives, but that began to change in 2007,” wrote Rollyson in his “Year in Review 2007: A Slow Boil Overture to Pervasive Social Transformation.” Social networks, he asserted, “will cross the ‘enterprise adoption’ chasm in 2008. Most consumer-facing companies and brands will have to develop robust social network offerings to remain relevant, and B2B executives should create and execute strategies in 2008. The accelerating adoption of LinkedIn and Facebook by B2B executives in 2007 means that they are getting experience with these spaces and tools, which will change their expectations and drive further adoption in 2008 to 2020.”
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