Also called shopping cart software, eCommerce software is installed on a website to implement the features of an online store including products and checkout. The best eCommerce software goes even further and includes functionality for blogging, marketing, and other features you'd expect to find in a popular online store. Several eCommerce automation tools can also be included to help process and organize orders, as well as the ability to set up scheduled email newsletters, which studies show are the best marketing automation for eCommerce.
There are several types of shopping cart software, including:
Open-source software is released free to the public with permission for anyone to edit and customize the software for their own needs. Most free shopping carts are open source. Using open source software requires the online store owner or developer to install the software themselves and maintain all updates. Unfortunately, this means free, open-source shopping cart software is never really free: it requires resources in time if not money. All responsibility for the installation and upkeep of open-source software falls to the person or business making use of it, and development and support are hard to find for free.
Licensed shopping carts operate in a similar manner with a few key differences. Licensed software is developed by a single company, unlike open source, and the software is fully owned by the developer rather than open to the public. To use the software, a merchant must purchase a license which allows them to install the software on their own website. This can be a one-time or repeating fee, but one-time fees usually come with some restrictions. You may only have access to tech support and updates for a limited time after you purchase the license.
Whether you use open source or licensed software, you'll need to install, maintain, and update it yourself for the life of your website. The extra costs and manpower needed can outweigh the benefits, but let's take a closer look at several free, open source, and licensed shopping carts to see how their features stack up.
A shopping cart allows visitors to make purchases. It provides a way to create a temporary list of items via an "add to cart" function, and then to complete the purchase of the items through a virtual checkout in which the customer enters their payment and shipping information. Payment is collected through a connected payment processor and the order is sent to the online store owner for fulfillment.
Product pages provide a unique website page for every product on an eCommerce website. Product pages include photos of the product, information, pricing, and a button for adding the product to the shopping cart. Some eCommerce software allows additional content on product pages such as product reviews and a customer Q&A section.
Ease of use refers to how easy the eCommerce software is to use and understand. Ease of use affects the level of difficulty an online store owner will face when they perform various tasks with the software, such as adding products, managing orders, and customizing their website. Difficult software often results in additional expenses such as hiring developers or training employees.
The learning curve represents how easy it is to learn how to use the software effectively. A minimal learning curve means the software is friendly to beginners. A steep learning curve means a new user may find themselves lost and struggle to understand how to accomplish what they want to do with the software.
Responsive design refers to a website that is designed to be friendly to all mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, and work equally well on all of these systems. "Responsive" in this context means a website "responds" to a device by adapting its design to fit the screen. Responsive websites are ranked higher by search engines because today's internet users prefer to visit responsive sites.
Data export provides a quick way of creating a spreadsheet or CSV file that lists a large amount of the online store's data in an organized manner. Exports can include customer information lists, product information lists, order lists, and more. Data export is often needed for backing up information, for accounting purposes, and for import into a new or rebuilt version of the online store.
How much the eCommerce software costs. Setup fees, initial licensing fees, and other beginning fees are represented here, but not your initial hosting fee or similar fees. Your own online store startup costs may vary if you decide to hire a developer to perform any setup for you. Some eCommerce software has multiple plans available and these are shown with an approximate range.
These are the costs an eCommerce merchant will need to continue to pay in order to use the eCommerce software. These costs can take the form of monthly or annual fees for the software itself or other components needed for the software to run, like web hosting. Costs for upgrades and support are also included in ongoing costs.
This is the approximate count of currently live websites using this platform. An eCommerce platform's popularity can be influenced by ease of use, low costs, ease of obtaining the software, relation to another popular platform, or effectiveness of its marketing and should not be assumed to represent the overall quality of the software for running an online store.
Unlike the rest of the shopping cart software on this list, 3dcart is neither licensed nor open source. It is an all-inclusive eCommerce solution that includes everything you need, including web hosting, advanced PCI-compliant security, 24/7/365 free support, and a full-featured online store platform. With 3dcart you can create a complete eCommerce website and include as many products, categories, and extra pages you need. A full set of marketing and SEO tools are included to help you reach your customers, and you'll also have access to a powerful order management and reporting system. 3dcart offers a 15-day free trial and a choice of low-priced plans. Instead of dealing with all the uncertainty and unexpected costs of "free" and licensed software, you can have everything you need to run your online store together for one monthly fee — a choice that will save you time and money in the long run.
Joomla is a popular content management system, which provides tools for building and editing a website. It is possible to add a shopping cart and other eCommerce features to a Joomla website by installing addons. However, since these addons aren't part of the original software, you're faced with the issues of maintaining each part of your website individually with addons that may not work smoothly together. This also makes Joomla ineffective for a growing business, as it won't be long before the needs of your website outgrow the platform. It's also overall difficult to use unless you have website coding knowledge, and support is only available through community forums.
WooCommerce is an open-source plugin for the WordPress blogging platform that allows you to add an online store to your website. It's free and very easy to use, but does require a lot of familiarity with WordPress and the ins and outs of its plugin system. WooCommerce has few out-of-the-box features which means you'll need to invest in expensive third-party plugins to expand your online store, and third-party plugins carry their own risks. Development can stop at any time and there's no guarantee all the plugins you use will work well together, so it takes a very knowledgeable WordPress expert to bring a WooCommerce store to a high level. Just like many other free eCommerce options, WooCommerce is packed with unexpected expenses.
Magento is an extremely powerful eCommerce platform aimed at Enterprise businesses, although they do have a paid Small Business package available. Most Magento users are attracted to its free version, with the desire to quickly build a competitive online store. But Magento is heavy software that requires powerful hosting to run your site at a speed that won't inconvenience customers, not to mention the difficulty involved in customizing your storefront. The closer you look at Magento the more you realize it's only suitable for large enterprises with plenty of resources to spend on servers, expert coding and design, and security measures needed for PCI compliance.
ZenCart is a bare-bones eCommerce platform with a low feature count that you'll need to upgrade with extensions, many of which don't work well together. The software is difficult to install, use, and customize, and updates may break your store. Security is also an issue as some themes and modules cause problems that can cost your store its PCI compliance. Plus, there's no official support, and all the help you need will have to come from the community. You'll probably find yourself needing to hire an expert developer along with the costs of hosting and security.
PrestaShop may be free to use, but you'll need to pay a lot for support. Even the instruction manual costs $19.99, and access to support is based on an annual plan that defines how many hours per month you get to talk to someone who can help you. And you will need support — unless you already have a deep understanding of code. You're also going to need to use addons to expand on PrestaShop's limited capabilities, which carry an additional charge and can also cause problems with your website by incorrectly working together. PrestaShop takes a lot of work and far more money than the word "free" would suggest.
osCommerce is a first-generation open-source eCommerce platform, meaning it's been around a long time. Unfortunately it hasn't kept up with modern development, resulting in a bare-bones cart that's hard to use and gets dragged down by large numbers of products. Like all other open-source carts, you'll need to pay for web hosting and security. Worse, you're going to need a professional developer to keep your osCommerce website secure and up-to-date, since osCommerce carries a history of data breaches. It's also a difficult platform to use: outdated interface, lack of templates, support available only through the community forum, and heavy reliance on addons make everything about osCommerce a hassle.
Miva Merchant offers both a hosted and licensed eCommerce platform, and both versions fall under the same limitations: extremely high price, time-consuming setup, and difficult customization. Regardless of whether you're looking at the hosted or licensed version of Miva Merchant, it's easy to see this is an eCommerce platform intended for large businesses. A software license only comes with a year's worth of updates and costs just under $20k, and you'll need to pay full price again to access updates after your year is up. Even Miva's cheapest option, a hosted "starter" online store, costs $79.95/mo. and you can be boosted to a higher plan without your knowledge if your store starts doing well — plus, be charged for bandwidth and storage overages.
AspDotNetStorefront is a relatively powerful and feature-rich eCommerce platform available in a licensed version and a hosted version. However, users report that it's confusing and expensive. It's not immediately clear what features are available unless you delve into the hundreds of pages of its online user manual, which you'll need to do to learn how to use the software. AspDotNetStorefront users also frequently report additional expenses — the licensed version already costs $5,500, but to get needed software upgrades and support you're required to sign up for $499 annual recurring billing, and many features are locked behind apps with additional costs. That, plus the costs of web hosting, security, design, and development customization makes AspDotNetStorefront a poor choice for most businesses.
ProductCart is a polished and powerful licensed eCommerce solution, but its features are limited and price is sky-high. While the initial license costs less than some other licensed shopping cart software, you'll be charged for everything afterward, including support ($395/yr. for the first 12 months, then $295/yr. afterward), software updates ($195), package upgrades ($995), and even addon updates that are required to continue using an addon after updating the main software. QuickBooks integration costs $495. A look at ProductCart's pricing makes it clear you'll be paying a huge price for everything.
Satchmo is an open source eCommerce platform written in Django. It contains a fair amount of built-in features, but expert programming knowledge is needed to use it. Online store owners wishing to use Satchmo will quickly discover the need to hire a full-time developer to handle store design and management. As for support, Satchmo's website hasn't been updated in years. It's clear Satchmo was designed by programmers, for programmers: not for a business owner wanting to open an easy-to-use online store.
SunShop offers a licensed version of their eCommerce software as well as a cloud-hosted version. While it includes many of the most important eCommerce features, SunShop falls short in nearly every category. PHP knowledge is essential to make the best use of the software, template design is lacking, and integrations are low in number. Plus, support comes with a price tag. Considering SunShop is known to be buggy, you'll have no choice but to pay for support or hire your own developer. SunShop is also limited in the number of expansions and integrations you can use.
Every facet of 3dcart's platform is built to give you an edge, including our complete set of free marketing tools. You'll have access to features that let you implement all the marketing strategies the pros use, like special promotional events, coupons and gift cards, an affiliate program, a loyalty program with reward points, and more. Reach customers with the proven method of timed, optimized emails to build relationships and improve satisfaction.
Expand your audience further with 3dcart's advanced SEO tools, built right into the platform to make the technical aspects simple. Our social media integration lets you sell on Facebook, get pinned on Pinterest, and encourage customers to share your products with others.
At 3dcart, we can confidently say we offer a more complete set of marketing and SEO tools out of the box than any other platform, and they're built to help you make your mark.
It's not easy to convert a visitor into a shopper, especially today. Internet users only give a website about 5 seconds to make an impression on them before they decide to leave and look somewhere else.
But with 3dcart, you have a selection of attractive and compelling responsive themes that let you create a website built to convert - no programming necessary. No matter what "look" your brand requires, you'll find it in 3dcart's vast theme selection: just pick a design that works for your products and industry, and off you go.
Need further customizations to make your brand really shine? You'll have full access to the HTML and CSS used in your online store's design, giving you complete creative control over every pixel on every page. Make changes directly in your browser or do it through FTP, and enjoy absolute freedom of design.
Go a step further and add great features like a gorgeous Homepage Carousel, Recently Viewed Items, Quick View for products, and the Single Page Checkout that online shoppers love. Plus much, much more.
3dcart's in-depth reporting features allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you can learn what to improve, and what works best.
Access detailed reports generated from the data automatically gathered and compiled by the 3dcart platform. In your Online Store Manager, you'll find reports relating to:
As a 3dcart store owner, you’ll always have the data you need to understand where your business is thriving, and learn what you can do better.
3dcart makes store and product management easy with our intuitive web-based Online Store Manager. Log in from anywhere to create, edit, and manage your products however is needed, and organize them in as many categories as the situation requires.
You'll be equipped with a robust selection of features and tools built to make selling online easy — and fun, too. Upsell and cross-sell to boost sales, implement waiting lists for new products, let customers create shareable wish lists, and encourage interaction with product reviews and Q∓As. Sell physical products, digital downloads, or both.
Build attention-grabbing product pages with multiple images, dynamic zoom, and video. Selling products with lots of variants like color or size? Include them all with 3dcart's unlimited Product Options feature!
At 3dcart, we're always watching out for the next vital eCommerce feature so we can make it available to you right in your Online Store Manager.
Dealing with customer orders is easy with 3dcart. Quickly process, print, edit, and update customer orders from your easy-to-use Online Store Manager. Print shipping labels, process returns, take phone orders, and create customer groups for customized pricing levels.
Want to expand via dropshipping and reach the next level? 3dcart's built-in dropshipping feature makes setup easy. Smooth your operations out further by using our QuickBooks integration, which lets you instantly and automatically synchronize all your 3dcart orders and inventory with QuickBooks desktop.
From the smallest startup to the largest enterprise, 3dcart's order management system is designed to help you grow and hit all your targets. Built-in advanced reporting keeps you apprised of successful strategies, while other powerful tools like FraudWatch and eBay and Amazon Order Integration keep your online store on the cutting edge.
As a 3dcart store owner, you'll have access to a complete set of shipping features to help you get orders out the door without difficulty.
Connect your store to major shipping carriers through 3dcart's powerful integrations. Keep customers informed of shipping costs with real-time rates from carriers like USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL and Canada Post, for no extra charge.
If flat-rate shipping is right for your business, you can set it up quickly with 3dcart. Offer rates based on order weight, item quantity, ZIP code, or total order value. 3dcart makes it easy to customize your shipping for your exact business needs.