In the last year, there has been a rapid growth of ecommerce, with COVID-19 greatly accelerating its share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020. The fact is that people shop online more than ever! This article will help you understand what you need to know about what an open source ecommerce platform is to help you decide if it might be the right choice for you and your business.
What is a Free Ecommerce Platform?
Simply put, a free e-commerce platform helps businesses build their ecommerce website. They vary in what services and tools they offer. These kinds of platforms can help with building and designing your website, adding a shopping cart feature as well as payment processing, help manage customer relationships, and more. While ecommerce platforms used to be relatively expensive, there are now many that are free or low-cost. Open-source refers to software whose original source code is made freely available and can be modified by anyone. This means that you have control over the design and functionality of your online store and source code. It won’t necessarily be free when it comes to price. You will still have to buy web hosting, a domain name, pay web developer(s), and potentially purchase extensions and add-ons, which means there are some hidden costs. However, an open-source ecommerce platform is cheaper overall compared to using closed-source ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. Closed-source ecommerce platforms might be better suited for those who prefer simplicity and a wider range of tools and services at your disposal.
Benefits of a Free Ecommerce Platform
- Lower cost. Many are free to download and use with no monthly payment plans. There typically are no transaction fees in contrast to some closed-source ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce.
- No Vendor Lockdown. Users are not committed to one specific vendor. Open source is open and free for users to modify the code and adapt to your own needs.
- Customization. With open source ecommerce, you have much more control of your specific wants and needs relating to the design and functionality of your site. On the other hand, there are more limitations when using closed-source ecommerce platforms. There are even more open source ecommerce benefits you can find depending on your specific business.
What is an Ecommerce Framework?
An eCommerce framework offers an environment for building ecommerce applications quickly. E-commerce frameworks are adaptable enough to change them to your specific wants and needs. Open source ecommerce frameworks can vary. This usually has to do with how much coding experience is needed, what fees are associated, and how much control you have over the design and functionality. Some popular open-source e-commerce frameworks include Magento, WooCommerce, OpenCart, PrestaShop, and Bagisto. All of these frameworks offer value and serve different needs and preferences for people and their businesses. The top open source e-commerce frameworks each have their benefits, but they all have the ability for adaptation to your business.
Key Framework Features for Ecommerce Businesses
- Quality search Functionality – This feature is helpful in filtering keywords and getting a precise search, which can also help sales.
- Content Management System (CMS) – This system helps greatly for efficiency and creating, managing content. WooCommerce is an example of a CMS, because it helps sell your products and services, manages customer relationships, and handles payment processes.
- Multi-channel functionality – With globalization taking place, it is important for businesses to manage products, orders, services through various channels.
- Mobile support for e-commerce – People have their phone on them all day, which is not necessarily the case with computers. Don’t miss out on potential sales and customers simply because your e-commerce site is not mobile-friendly. Having mobile support will offer the consumer convenience and another channel for them to look at or purchase your products and services.
- Third party systems and plug-ins – It should be compatible with third party plug-ins to provide adaptability and customization.
- Business intelligence – Data is critical. More specifically, accurate data and good management of it will help your business grow. Analyzing said data will help better understand the consumers’ shopping habits, needs and preferences, and better serve them on a more personal level that will optimize convenience and customer satisfaction.
Which is the Best Free Ecommerce Platform?
What businesses define as “best” depends on their specific wants and needs. Do you want more creative freedom and control over your e-commerce site? Would you just like something easy to use and set up with less coding and customization? Do you need something that is extremely low-cost? It might be better sometimes to pay a bit more, but have access to more tools and services.
Learning to Use Ecommerce
One thing is for sure: use of ecommerce has increased dramatically and is here to stay, so businesses need to quickly adapt and have an e-commerce presence if they don’t already. Choosing the right open source ecommerce platform is a good starting point. Although many open source e-commerce platforms are free to use, you need to pay some costs to have an operating e-commerce site. The answer to the question “what is the best e-commerce platform?” can vary depending on the needs and wants of your business.
“Woo!” for WooCommerce
One of the most popular and free open source ecommerce platforms is called WooCommerce. It’s a free software that a user can download and run on any web hosting provider. However, you will need to buy web hosting and a domain name to make sure people can find your website on the web. Additionally, WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress so you do need a WordPress site to be able to use WooCommerce. This condition might be great for those who are already familiar with the WordPress platform, but not as appealing to some big stores who may not use WordPress. It definitely depends on how much control and customization you need or if you prefer something that is simple to use. WooCommerce is the best in terms of having the lowest costs and being well-integrated with WordPress.
What is the Difference?
Since free open source ecommerce software such as WooCommerce is more customizable, you are more in control as a business owner, and the costs are lower than closed-source ecommerce software like Shopify. Shopify has monthly plans and certain transaction fees, but it wins in terms of offering the convenience of an all-in-one stop for businesses seeking an e-commerce presence.
Shopify is closed-source and controlled by Shopify, so the source code is not designed to be publicly accessible. It is an ecommerce platform to help businesses sell online. Because it is easy to use, helps build customer relationships, and better manages your business on an online platform, it can be a great choice. Although Shopify has a 14-day free trial, it does require a monthly plan to use its platform and services. Shopify and similar platforms might have higher costs, but are scalable and better for those who value simplicity and ease of use.
Compare and Decide
WooCommerce is arguably the best open source eCommerce software in that you can have full control of your online store and have lower costs like paying for the hosting and paid extensions. However, you would need to use WordPress and be familiar with the platform. Making a comparison between Shopify and WooCommerce could be beneficial to evaluate which is best for your needs.
Where Do I Go From Here?
An ecommerce platform is just one part of having a successful business online. An open source shopping cart software goes hand-in-hand with open source ecommerce software. The ecommerce software is an all-in-one solution that can handle your online business growth like site design, payment processing, and online marketing. The shopping cart software assumes you have your website running, but you just need to set up your products and services and payment processing. It can be very helpful to learn about free and open source shopping cart software.
You also have to deal with and form strategies for shopping cart abandonment issues in eCommerce, develop the best ecommerce business plan, and optimize the chances of people finding your site with Ecommerce SEO best practices. Don’t forget about the design and aesthetics for your website. If you would like help designing and creating an ecommerce website, contact us at SEO Design Chicago to get started!
- What is an open source shopping cart?
- Which is the best open source ecommerce software?
- What is the difference between open source and closed source?
- Is Shopify open source?
- What does open source mean?