There are several high-profile ecommerce platforms that provide ready-made solutions for your website, including the popular WooCommerce platform for WordPress, as well as Shopify, Zen Cart, and of course, the two major players, Magento and Opencart.
Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but ultimately what platform will suit you best comes down to a few basic decisions that need to be made beforehand, such as the size of your online store, your design preferences, SEO and visibility, and of course, your budget.
So, let’s focus on the frontrunners and try to answer the question: should you go with Magento or Opencart?
Pricing & Hosting
Opencart is a free ecommerce solution whilst Magento comes at a price, so technically there is no contest here. Still, there are other costs to take into consideration before you make a definitive choice. The Magento Go option offers free hosting for your shopping cart and Opencart requires you to host your ecommerce store. So, Opencart is great in this respect – providing that you already have a website.
Also, consider how much it will cost you to migrate your cart at a later stage if and when your business grows. Magento offers a free 30-day trial and thereafter has several different pricing options depending on the number of products and required storage.
It is also designed to grow with your business offering better features than Opencart, so you will have to think long-term in order to know which one will suit your business best.
Installation and Setup
Opencart is universally thought to be more user-friendly. There are a number of different themes available upon installation. On the other hand, Magento could seem a bit confusing for a first-time ecommerce owner. Chances are, Opencart is better for you because you need to be experienced in order to improve Magento on your own.
Additionally, Magento requires a stronger hosting plan to support your site’s performance, but it also offer a variety of options that allow almost infinite customization of your site.
With Magento, installation depends on whether you are using the hosted version of the product or whether you are installing the stand-alone version. On both Magento and Opencart, the ease of installation depends in large part upon your hosting service. Some web hosts allow one-click installation and some do not recommend the installation of Magento or Opencart at all. Check with your hosting service to see which platforms are supported.
Both solutions are fairly easy to install, although Magento is a tad more complicated in that regard, which is due to its additional features it offers.
Both platforms were created with a wide range of potential users in mind, from small shop owners to big enterprises, but Magento delivers a product better suited for large enterprises. Also, Magento’s is stable when dealing with a larger variety of products or services and resulting higher traffic volumes – and it offers a special Enterprise edition for even more options.
If simply counting features that are available to an ecommerce website owner, Magento is hands-down the winner. Therein lies the main reason for Magento accounting for over 29% of the eCommerce platform market versus just 3% for Opencart (2013 data).
Magento offers plenty of features that result in superior customization of your store design and layout, as well as offering the users the ability to access and maintain order history and product comparison and an inventory system which noticeably easier to implement and use than those offered in Opencart. On top of that, you will have complete control of SEO settings for your store via SEO optimized URL’s and tagging options for products.
SEO options in Opencart are quite restricted – although it boast SEO friendly URL’s, it is really weak when it comes to options for modifying metadata and performing actions. Magento users can also easily connect their stores to a WordPress blog, which is not so simple to do with Opencart.
Consulting and Support
Both Magento and Opencart have large and active user and fan communities. This means that you can always get assistance with all kinds of issues online. Also, there are numerous user guides, tutorials, and videos out there for you to pursue.
But Magento is also a clear winner in this respect, because its expert counseling and training programs for their users are really thorough and all-encompassing. OpenCart has a comparatively smaller community. But let us be clear, no matter what platform you choose, you can count on fast and knowledgeable support.
In conclusion, when you’re looking for an ecommerce system that will work for you, the most important thing is to know what you need. Opencart is perfect for beginners, especially if you only plan to run a single, small online store. But, for multiple stores or larger scale operations, custom features and better support offered by Magento are a must.