Hosted Shopping Carts
Hosting shopping carts are hosted by the company who created them. You pay a monthly fee and in return the company deals with all of the hosting, security, updates, etc so you can get on with the business of running your store.
The two downsides to these types cart are the monthly cost and the reduced flexibility. But in today’s world, hosted carts have become sophisticated enough where both of these are fairly negligible. Apps and custom scripts allow you to do a lot of customization and the monthly price often is lower than what you’d pay long-term to a developer to maintain your own shopping cart software on your own server.
Heading into 2017, the most popular hosted cart by a long shot is Shopify. And I’d argue for good reasons! In my opinion they have the best team, product and ecosystem of apps out there.
Disclosure: I’ve worked with Shopify in the past and the link above is an affiliate link, meaning I’ll get a commission if you sign up with them. But I also practice what I preach and genuinely believe they’re the best. I recently spent $50,000 to migrate my own store to them. 🙂
Here’s a list of other hosted carts and some brief thoughts on some:
- Shopify – My personal favorite in the shopping cart space
- SparkPay – Formerly known as Americommerce before it was purchased by CapitalOne and rebranded. Has a strong feature set by a fairly limited eco-system of apps and integrations.
- BigCommerce – Well known but have had some problems with support recently and have dramatically increased their pricing. We’ve seen a lot of people in the private community flee them for Shopify.
- Volusion – Fading in popularity and a bit antiquated, but good for catalogs with lots of SKUs.
- LemonStand – Highly customizable hosted cart built with developers & designers in mind.
- Pinnacle Cart
Self-Hosted Open Source Carts
A self-hosted shopping cart is software you need to host and maintain on your own servers. It’s 100% customizable because you have access to the source code which is a big advantage. But it’s also much more more work to maintain and keep secure because no one else is updating, patching or maintaining it.
Hosted carts have become so good (and so affordable) that I’d recommend them to just about anyone under $1 million in sales who is seriously trying to build their business. But they definitely have their place for highly technical entrepreneurs, store owners with very customized needs or larger businesses.
Magento is probably the most well known open-source self-hosted cart and the most commonly used one by private community members. It’s also the most complex and difficult to manage. I’ve talked with dozens and dozens of store owners who have been migrating away from it in the last 12 months as hosted options like Shopify have become more appealing in comparison.
WooCommerce is the 2nd most popular self-hosted cart in our Community It is actually a WordPress plug-in that turns the wildly popular CRM into a shopping cart. It’s definitely much easier to administer than Magento but not quite as feature rich.
If I was starting a store on a self-hosted platform today it’d be OpenCart. It has a reputation as having a nice feature set while remaining lightweight and easy to administer and customize. You would need to have (or be willing to hire) some technical capabilities but I think it’s a very appealing option.
Here’s a full list of popular self-hosted carts:
- Magento – Extremely customizable and feature rich, but wildly complex.
- WooCommerce – Build on WordPress and easy to install and get up-and-running.
- Open Cart – A very clean interface, light design and good feature set.
- Ultra Cart
- Zencart & osCommerce – Built from the same architecture, these two carts are long outdated and are being replaced by much better options. I used Zencart to build my first eCommerce store. While it was a great option at the time, I wouldn’t recommend ittoday.
Nearly all of the above carts are written in PHP. If you’re a programmer in a different language, here are some non-PHP based options:
Photo by iBoy Daniel