Best Shopping Carts & eCommerce Software

This page includes my recommendations for the best shopping cart software as well as a few shopping cart related articles.  It was last updated on December 22, 2016.

 

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.
  • 3DCart
  • 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.
  • PrestaShop
  • Ultra Cart
  • Ubercart
  • VirtueMart
  • 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

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for mentioning Cart66! Cart66 is designed for people who are starting new online stores by giving you everything you need for a secure and PCI compliant ecommerce system right out of the box. You don’t even need your own SSL certificate because Cart66 handles all the security with a suite of secure connected services including a hosted payment page that works with over 100 different payment gateways. It also work with virtually all WordPress themes, so you don’t have to have a special “ecommerce” theme. You can start selling with the WordPress site you already have or easily set up a new store without worrying about all the technical challenges usually associated with running an ecommerce site. Thanks again for mentioning Cart66.

    Lee Blue
    Founder Cart66

  2. Hi, Just found your site through a recommendation and interested in joining (yes already submitted). This is a good article, but I thought I might mention from my small shop perspective what I enjoy and miss from the carts. I use virtuemart and its come a long way, but I still need to add a coupon plugin and a newsletter plugin that is compatible with Vm specifically.

    The main thing I miss is there is no CRM system which I was amazed about once I have started getting traction. If I was to move from VM it would ideally be with a cart that had all of these systems as part of the main cart, not separate joomla plugins. To date there are not CRM plugins (stand alone and not in the cloud) for VM and very few developers willing to give building one ‘a go’ that isn’t incredibly expensive … and impossible to maintain/ update.

  3. A custom solution is a must for sellers who need some really advanced features. You might find a solution that would work for you out of the box (with some tweaking) but most likely it will come along with a lot of unneeded, heavy stuff. On our site, for example, we need to calculate shipping and delivery costs based on a few things: areas, distance from our warehouse, etc., since unfortunately we are not ‘all-US-serving-business’. That’s because we sell maybe toughest things to handle – furniture.

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