When it comes to choosing a free software platform to set up an online shop, there are many alternatives available. This post gives a summary of the most popular choices.
Every choice of e-commerce platform has it’s own advantages and weaknesses. The best thing you can do is not to rush into deploying one of them, but take your time to try at least two or three before taking a definitive decision.
Platforms implemented on top of a CMS
Some e-commerce platforms are no stand-alone products, but rather plugins that are installed on top of a pre-existing content management system, such as Joomla or Drupal. Among the free platforms of this kind are:
1. VirtueMart (Joomla!)
VirtueMart has been developed to be executed as part of a Joomla! installation. It is a shopping cart with an easy user frontend. Users can create a customer account, add delivery addresses and access their order history. It supports multiple languages and currencies, as well as an unlimited number of products and categories. VirtueMart has been download more than 2.5 million times, and most users feel comfortable with the functionality it provides.
2. Ubercart (Drupal)
Ubercart is specially developed for selling “virtual” products, such as downloads, registration for events, tickets for shows, etc. This is an e-commerce add-on for the Drupal CMS. Users of Drupal will find easy to get acquainted with the procedures to select modules and themes to adapt the e-shop to their requirements and desires.
3. Spree Commerce (Ruby on Rails)
Spree is a Ruby on Rails module. It includes support for more that fifty payment gateways, and logic for the computation of taxes. It also includes by default integration with Google Analytics.
4. WP e-Commerce (WordPress)
A web blog can be an invaluable resource to promote an internet shop. WP e-Commerce is a plugin for the popular WordPress software that will add e-commerce functionality to your blog.
Other e-Commerce platforms
Magento is a commercial product that also offers a free “Community Edition”.
Magento has been chosen by big clients such as Samsung, Nespresso, The North Face and Stussy to implement their online shops.
osCommerce is an Open Source platform with GNU license. Its is estimated that this sofware is used by more than 220.000 online shops.
The strengh of OpenCart is the design, more appealing and actual than those of other solutions. Other than that, it has the usual functionality to create an unlimited number of categories and products, work with different currencies, and choose among 20 payment methods and 8 product delivery options. Users can also write reviews and score the products.
Prestashop is another professional-grade e-commerce solution for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL & PHP) environments. It can be tailored by means of plugins (some of them paid) to add payment methods other than those bundled with the base installation.
The backend has a good support for the management of the inventory, orders, deliveries and clients.
Zeuscart offers some functionality specilly suited for small companies. It allows to manage discounts, e-mailing, etc.
Afcommerce es a very simple e-commerce solution. It works with a minimum configuration effort, making it well suited for newbies.