For most small office home office (SOHO) businesses and entrepreneurs, breaking into ecommerce can have a hefty start-up fee. There's a lot of software to consider, and the costs to license or own that software can add up quickly.
Other than the obvious benefit to open source ecommerce software—none of the licensing fees that come with proprietary or off-the-shelf packages—you'll find open source software provides access to communities of users, including developers and other storeowners, who freely offer help and add-ons to enhance the software package.
If you find that open source software requires more technical know-how than you can manage, there's also free hosted ecommerce software to choose from. These are not open source software packages per se, but they are free for smaller businesses to try and will certainly get the job done when you're starting out. If you like the service and see positive results, you can always upgrade to a basic subscription plan.
13 Open Source Shopping Carts to Get You Started
Some ecommerce software requires a bit more investigation that others. When choosing an online shopping cart, there are two big considerations: How well the software meets your own business objectives and how it complies with ecommerce industry standards.
This customizable and secure open source ecommerce shopping cart can be integrated in to an existing website. Expect to find cart features such as customizable templates to design your Web shop, support for multiple product categories and options for different tax rates in addition to back-end store management tools. AgoraCart is PA-DSS and PCI-DSS compliant and supports more than 10 payment gateways. The free community edition (5.2.x) is supported though online community forums.
Batavi is a flexible open source ecommerce system for running a high-end Web shop. Features include a template-based system for pages, a full content management system and a robust architecture that can process very large numbers of products, visitors pages and orders. There's also built-in integration with product content providers, Google Analytics and a number of payment providers. Batavi is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2.0 (GPLv2).
This enterprise-level e-commerce platform can be customized to specific business needs. Broadleaf Commerce features options to manage customer accounts, upsell, create promotions and also manage email marketing campaigns and social media integration. The Broadleaf Commerce community provides an online forum for discussion and contributions, articles, development guides and project API documentation. Broadleaf Commerce uses the Apache license.
Commerce.CGI is a free Perl shopping cart for Unix-based servers, although developers claim it runs on Windows NT with minor code changes. Commerce.CGI can be an add-on for existing websites or installed and configured to manage a new product website. Standard shopping cart features include templates, email management, product search and payment methods. Commerce.CGI also supports sales tax, multiple shipping options, discount calculations and other options for customer check out. Commerce.CGI is free and supported through the online mailing list or a bulletin board system. User-contributed modifications are freely distributed.
Drupal Commerce leverages the features of Drupal 7 to build ecommerce websites and applications. With Drupal Commerce, you can create product types with custom attributes and manage dynamic product displays, orders, tax calculation and set discount pricing rules. Additional ecommerce functionality is provided through contributed modules such as Shipping, Stock, Coupons, File downloads and more. For those just getting starting, Drupal offers a "Commerce Kickstart" installation profile, seen below, which provides basic configuration of ecommerce modules.
Loaded Commerce CE This ecommerce cart is built on the CRE Loaded code base but includes additional security modifications. The cart is primarily designed to meet the needs of the SOHO storeowner who wants to add transaction capabilities to an existing website. Loaded Commerce features flexible options for product, customer, order and content management. It is customizable; you can change your site design using templates, edit customer information, orders and invoices. The Community Edition is free and supported by the Loaded Commerce Community.
This is another enterprise-class ecommerce platform supported by a large ecosystem of solution partners and third-party developers. The platform offers marketing tools, search engine optimization, product catalog management and a one-page checkout option. Additionally, there are standard tools to manage tasks such as shipping, tax and customer service. The latest release of Magento Community Edition is a free version is available under the Open Software License (OSL) 3.0. Merchants can pay to upgrade to an Enterprise Edition.
The OpenCart shopping cart gives Web shop owners the tools they need to quickly install the cart, select a template, add products and start taking online orders. The online store is designed using a built-in template system; you can also migrate a current website to OpenCart. Features include the ability to manage multiple stores from one admin interface, tax zones, shipping methods, back-end store administration and support for a number of payment gateways and languages. OpenCart is free open source software published under the GNU GPL.
This free offering gives storeowners tools to manage both the front-end catalog and back-end administration. It provides a basic template layout structure to customize the product catalog. The Administration Tool lets merchants configure the online store, insert products for sale, manage customers and process orders. Released under the GNU GPL, osCommerce Online Merchant is supported by a large community of more than 256,000 storeowners, developers, service providers and enthusiasts.
This PCI-DSS compliant, e-commerce solution is designed to handle everything from Web store set-up to managing customers and orders. Features include a customizable catalog, marketing options, order customization and shipping options. PrestaShop is available in three languages—English, French and Spanish—with an additional 41 translations available through add-ons. PrestaShop is published under the OSL v3.0.
11. Spree Commerce
Powered by the Ruby on Rails framework, Spree gives store owners complete control over the appearance and functionality of the Web store and features a flexible product management system to create single products, as well as multiple variations based on different attributes such as color and size. In addition, there are hundreds of Spree extensions available to further customize your Web store.
12. Zen Cart
Designed by a group of shop owners, programmers, designers and consultants, Zen Cart offers a number of features to customize the cart using a template system to design a store. From there, you can configure product categories, sales discounts, and shipping and payment options. Zen Cart also provides community contributed add-ons to improve your Web store. Documentation and the community support forum is available on the Zen Cart website.
ZeusCart is a Web-based PHP/MySQL shopping cart with a rich user interface that's primarily for small and medium-sized storeowners. Features include inventory management, attribute driven product catalog, category management, a built-in content management system (CMS) and SEO-friendly URLs. ZeusCart is licensed under GPL 2, and it can be installed on any server where a PHP interpreter, MySQL database server and a Web server is present.
6 Free Hosted Shopping Carts: Basic Plans and Try Before You Buy
If open source shopping carts are too much for your small operation, or you currently don't have an online website to integrate the cart, there are a number of free hosted Web shops you can investigate. Small businesses can try almost any hosted service for free; however, keep in mind that you're typically limited to a set number of products or monthly transactions (with options to upgrade to a paid subscription).
ECrater.com makes setting up a storefront easy. You can customize your free online store, import eBay products (eCrater supports unlimited products and categories) and add up to 10 photos per listing. Payment options include PayPal, Google Wallet, personal checks, cashier's checks, money orders and cash on delivery.
E-junkie is a cart that falls in to the "cut-and-paste" category. You can create shopping cart and "buy now" buttons to sell physical and digital goods on your website, blog, social network or anywhere else. E-junkie is free for 30 days, though PayPal merchants can try E-junkie free for three months. After that, basic subscription plans start at $5 per month.
16. Magento Go
Magento is an ecommerce platform that enables you to create a hosted online store, customize the design to suit your business, configure products and then market your store in search engines. A fully functional Magento Go store is free for 30 days. If you like the ecommerce service, pricing starts at $15 per month.
Mercantec offers a small Express Cart option for sellers who want to sell online and list on eBay. The E-Commerce Express product generates a storefront for you, or you can opt to put the cut-and-paste cart-button code on an existing website. You can create a free account on the Mercantec website.
This ecommerce shopping cart can be used to sell just about any type of digital product. It handles the secure file storage and file delivery to your customers and also features product key registrations for selling software online. In addition, eBay Auctions are supported. PayLoadz is free to try; if you sign on, there's a $14.95 monthly maintenance fee.
StoreYa.com is a Facebook commerce platform that imports an existing Web store in to Facebook. Features include Facebook store customization, support for many languages and currencies and social marketing features. A Facebook store with up to 50 product SKUs is totally free. Upgraded plans start at $9.99 per month.
4 Open Source Email Marketing Solutions to Connect With Customers
Email marketing is a valuable tool for any ecommerce business. You can tell your customers about your latest in-store promotions or offer tips and advice to improve your brand image. These four free open source email marketing programs are worth a look. You will need your own server, though.
OpenEMM is a Web-based enterprise application for email marketing, newsletters and service mails. Features include an easy interface, bounce management, link tracking, a CMS module and real-time analytics tracking. The code base, in development since 1999, is an easy to set up as a single-server system. The OpenEMM interface works with all major Web browsers.
This one-way email announcement delivery system uses a Web interface that makes it easy to write and send messages. Features include support for more than 100,000 subscribers, message delivery management, click tracking for links and URLs, templates and bounce processing. In addition, you can set subscriber preferences so every email message contains personalized URLs for subscribers to update their preferences or unsubscribe from your list. Phplist is licensed under the GPL; version 2.10.19 is the latest stable release.
The poMMo Project is open source mass-mailing software for adding a mailing list to your website, though it can also be used for standalone mailings. This Web-based system installs in two minutes and is compatible with all common Web hosts. Features of poMMo include flexible mailing management, the ability to create subscriber groups, subscriber base import and export, and WYSIWYG HTML email creation. For user support and discussion, poMMo offers community forums.
SenseiMailer is based on the PHPList email marketing system and has been enhanced to provide better subscribe forms for integration with online services such as Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). Other features include single opt-ins, improved back-end subscription processing and a better selection of integrated forms. The full package, which includes the SenseiMailer software, step-by-step installation videos and a guide to setting up Amazon SES, is available for $19.95. A demo version is available.