Three of the most popular open source e-commerce platforms available are Magento, Zen Cart and osCommerce. See how these three programs compare side-by-side before making any firm decisions about which shopping cart software to use for an online store.
Magento has three versions of their e-commerce software available. All are open source allowing developers to customize the software to better fit the needs of their business. Though Magento does has a free version of their shopping cart, Magento doesn’t provide a great deal of information on the features available and does not provide any support for the software aside from forums and IRC channels. Licensing for Magento Professional starts at $2995 annually. Enhanced features include support for strong data encryption, gift cards (virtual and physical), store credits and refunds, and a reward points system. Magento Enterprise starts at $12990 annually, and includes all of the features found in both Community and Professional editions, plus support for many other features to increase customer conversion like automated email marketing reminders, which send customers custom emails to follow up on abandoned shopping cart orders and wish lists. With Enterprise edition, administrators can also create private sales pages viewable only by targeted users. The suite of features available on Magento Enterprise is truly amazing, but the high price tag will keep the software exclusive to those businesses that can afford such a hefty annual fee. Software support is included with both paid versions of Magento.
osCommerce, while still in its development stages, is proving to be a powerful competitor for products like Magento that have little appeal to small business because of the hefty price tag businesses pay to use their software. osCommerce is free to download but support is limited to forums only. The list of features osCommerce has to offer is pretty basic and fails to impress after viewing the features available on the Magento platforms.
Zen Cart is a donation driven e-commerce software solution that seems to lie somewhere in the middle between Magento and osCommerce in terms of the features available. In addition to the standard features one would expect a shopping cart software to come equipped with, Zen Cart also offers bonuses like a newsletter manager, the ability to use discount coupons and gift certificates, as well as support for wholesale (bulk) ordering and featured products. Support also seems to be by forum only, as is the case with osCommerce and the free Magento Community.
Of the three most popular shopping cart solutions available, Zen Cart really seems to be the best bargain unless an online store has the resources to invest in the vastly more expensive products from Magento. Zen Cart seems to be a great balance between features and price, and since its open source software it can be customized to better meet the needs of the online store that chooses to implement it. Zen Cart also has many free software addons and user contributed modules that can be incorporated into a stock installation of Zen Cart. With a little bit of elbow grease, even small business owners can have an amazing online store up and running in very little time with Zen Cart.