Updated: August 11, 2020 | Ilse Lauwens, Marketing Director
A lot of different e-commerce store owners, from small to huge, are trying to work with free open source e-commerce platforms. It is true that selling things online is not cheap. On the other hand, using free open source software means, you have to pay fewer monthly fees.
Open source solutions are the frequent visitors of all kinds of platform “top 10” lists. The most popular one out there - WooCommerce - is also open source at its core.
There are two main ways of working with open source e-commerce platforms.
One way (to approach) is if you are skilled enough, and have enough time to work with CSS, HTML, Ruby on Rails or any other programming language while visiting code forums in your spare time.
The other way to work with open source platforms is to have sufficient funds, and maybe less. Then you can hire someone to do the job for you, using every nook and cranny in the platform’s code to make your e-commerce site exactly how you want it.
With a 37% share of the total online stores, WooCommerce’s download statistics are impressive - over 14 million downloads in total. This makes WooCommerce the most popular e-commerce solution available - and yes, it is open source. It was created by WooThemes, which is equally popular, and the very purpose of WooCommerce, from the beginning, is to help its users turning their WordPress site into an e-commerce store.
But popularity comes with a price - literally. Most of the more complex features of WooCommerce are paid features and not included in the “free” section. The same goes for store support. Despite all of this, WooCommerce is still a great solution that is easily scalable with little to no problems. That is why it is often chosen as the target platform by large businesses - even though it is just as good for small or medium-sized companies.
Magento Community Edition
Although Magento Community Edition is not as popular as WooCommerce, it is still well-known, with 200,000+ users. It lacks some features of its paid counterpart, Magento Enterprise Edition, but it is still a good choice for anyone who is looking for a free open source platform.
One of OpenCart’s catchphrases might as well be “appearance matters” as it contains over 2,700 different themes, available for free use. The platform itself is used on a little less than 600k e-commerce sites - and almost 5,000 of those are in the top-1 million sites on Alexa.com. Not bad for a somewhat small e-commerce platform.
OpenCart’s active and welcoming community is one of the main positive points. Most of its user base is from the US (even though the platform itself was created in Hong Kong). That being said, OpenCart is a multilingual service that works with multiple currencies, offers 8 different shipping methods and over twenty payment gateways.
One of the most prominent features of OpenCart is its “turnkey” nature - meaning you don’t have to work with lines and lines of code from the beginning.
Drupal Commerce might be one of the most sophisticated open source e-commerce platforms - it was created by the Commerce Guys and provides a lot of support for different languages and currencies.
It is also always ready to work and integrate with a large number of 3rd-party applications. Currently, it is one of the few e-commerce platforms built on a CMS (on a Drupal Content Management System, to be exact), which equips it with a strong content marketing strategy right at the start. On the other hand, application support provided by Drupal Commerce is a paid feature, and costs quite a lot of money. And it partially makes sense, since large companies and enterprises widely use Drupal.
X-Cart e-commerce platform
X-Cart is just a good open source platform in general. And it offers a lifetime license, no other free platform does that. As a PHP-based e-commerce platform, X-Cart also offers a lot of features and is built on a solid source code.
While the list of features is quite impressive, the cost of upgrading to get the most out of this list is also prettyimpressive, it is well over $500. Though, X-Cart is working quite well as a platform and offers a lifetime license, so it is not as steep (easy?) as it might seem at first glance.
Its customization flexibility is quite amazing, but you’ll have to write code manually to get the most out of of it. There are no transaction fees when using X-Cart, they have a good support in both design and development and their enterprise edition is quite interesting.
paGo Commerce is an open source platform built by the developers at corePHP, and PCI-compliant.
As an e-commerce platform, it is built on a Joomla! Ecosystem and has a lot of useful features and abilities that do not require in-depth code knowledge, like an extensive coupon system, a clean single-page checkout, paGO Quickpay for payments, etc. The main target (focus?) of paGO are medium to large businesses. paGo Commerce is the only open source e-commerce system that has real-time backend support.
PrestaShop‘s open source e-commerce platform has quite a lot of users; apparently more than a quarter of a million shops. Their forum is also pretty extensive, with more than 850,000 members. PrestaShop as a platform is generally pretty popular, it was translated into 65 different languages in total and it is spread over 200 countries.
Spree Commerce as a platform, is affordable and has many features, it is modern and visually attractive. Its development community is active and extensive, and over 45,000 stores use it as a platform for their e-commerce needs.
The base of this platform is Ruby on Rails, and this is a questionable part - if you know your way around in code or if you are a developer yourself - Spree Commerce would work and scale wonderfully for you. If you’re not that good with code and don’t have any developers to work on it instead of you - you might have a hard time figuring your way around it. Spree Commerce has also been translated into over 30 languages.
JigoShop (discontinued in 2020)
JigoShop was a popular platform built on WordPress and similar to WooCommerce. That is the main reason why many people didn’t have any problems navigating through this platform’s backend and changing it to fit their needs. Most competitors have a more extensive theme choice compared to what JigoShop was offering, but it seemed to work fairly well, with over 500,000 downloads.
The less attractive part of JigoShop was its price for both themes ($35-49) and community support ($40 per month). The last version of Jigoshop e-commerce was 2.1.18. The plugin is discontinued and has been closed as of January 3, 2020 and not available for download anymore.
Reasons for why Jigoshop developers abandoned the project and stopped developing the plugin without any news or even statement is unknown.
VirtueMart is a Joomla!-based e-commerce platform with an impressive number of features, stores all over the planet and an active developer community. The official user count of this platform is well over 300,000 - and almost one thousand of those are in the top one million. The biggest markets for VirtueMart are Russia and the US.
It is worth noting that the VirtueMart dev team is very small, there are 3 to 5 people working at the project. On the other hand, they gratefully accept developer input from their thriving community. VirtueMart is a quite old, German company, existing since 2004. The platform itself is not really friendly to everyone who’s not a knowledgeable tech and code user. There is also the fact that you can easily spend a small fortune of money buying all kinds of add-ons and plug-ins for your site.
WP e-commerce is, as the name suggests, one more WordPress plugin. It prides itself on being the “original” e-commerce WordPress solution. Its download count is over 3M times, and the coding is quite easy to grasp.
Basically, CSS and HTML knowledge is all you need. You can also pay a bit of extra for expert’s support, or you can ask the community of this platform.
Ubercart was one of the platforms around for a while, but it remained stuck at the bottom of e-commerce platforms due to the number of users.
Even when they kept their software updated, both Ubercart’s forums and demos could not boast the same amount of activity regarding updates and such. It was built with Drupal in mind, as a platform, but it was falling behind its competition. Ubercart, once the go-to commerce option for Drupal and the precursor to Drupal Commerce, is being discontinued. Its usage has been declining for years and a stable Drupal 8 release will not happen.
Unlike most of their competition, Zeuscart, as a platform doesn’t even bother to hide their dev-centric nature. Instead, they embrace it. The platform’s landing page is riddled with enough acronyms to immediately scare anyone who doesn’t know their way around coding - GPL license, PHP, MySQL and a lot of other terms.
All in all, Zeuscart is a decent solution to have. It is open source, free and their focus on the platform’s UX makes it somewhat less intimidating than most open source solutions and platforms.
Speaking of platform, Zeuscart was built using Bootstrap and it works best with small or medium companies. It has a decent community, quite a lot of features, and has a free month-long trial, followed by paid access. It could be a platform worth considering, but both the website and the platform’s social media accounts seem to be abandoned since 2014. You can still download the platform itself from their website, though.
As a platform, CubeCart is decently popular around the globe. It is entirely based on templates, which makes it look better than most others when using mobile devices. The list of proficiencies goes on - social media plugins, unlimited products, great customer support and a lot more. The platform sees itself as a part of a new generation of open source e-commerce platforms. On the other hand, there are some limitations to it. For example, you cannot get support over the phone (even if you can get help on the site itself).
CubeCart scales decent enough, but it is not equipped to work with huge companies and businesses. There is also an integration possible with several popular applications, like MailChimp, but it is still nowhere near the numbers of OpenCart when it comes to third-party integrations.
Virto Commerce is a professional enterprise business solution and an extensively flexible platform in general.
The highlights of Virto Commerce’s unique features are the complex catalog management with many useful tools, a custom made CMS system and so much more. Virto Commerce’s flexible pricing management allows you to control each segment of your pricing logic easily. On top of that, there is an extensive order controlling included in the same package. This allows easy feature integration, no matter how simple or difficult your enterprise workflow is.
Is it actually free?
One of the first steps in choosing a specific open source e-commerce platform is being honest with your own coding skills and the budget you can spend on hiring someone with sufficient knowledge. One of the most significant benefits of any open source platform is always the worldwide community of developers and other people working on improving specific software.
On the other hand, most of the time the freemium plans with the best technical support, up to a team of full-time paid developers ready to help you are the most important (correct?). If you don’t have a paid option of technical support chances are you’ll struggle if you find a new bug or something similar.