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Choosing your e-commerce platform

by  David Dwyer on  02/08/2013

There are a number of competing open source e-commerce platforms on the market today that can all allow you to set up an online e-commerce presence relatively quickly and get you trading.  

But which to choose? How does each compare to the others? Not all constitute a good decision for every business, and you can’t afford to make a mistake. 

At Inspire we have already helped many clients launch their business into online selling and in this blog we use that experience to inform our analysis and give you a review of the relative strengths of three of the current leading platforms; each of which, in our opinion, will allow you to implement a reliable, scalable and powerful ecommerce solution. These three are Magento; Prestashop and Opencart. 


There are other online store engines available that use PHP and MySQL, including osCommerce and ZenCart, as well as plug-ins for CMS engines such as WordPress or Joomla. We’re not claiming this review is totally comprehensive, but the three we’ve chosen here currently offer technologically sound and robust solutions. 


This is probably the clear market leader already, although the others are hard on its heels. Magento is an open-source platform written in PHP and offers the most complete solution in the current market. 

It is one of the easiest platforms to adopt, which is another reason it is also one of the fastest growing in terms of the total number of businesses that are deploying it worldwide: it can be used in multiple languages and handle currency conversions. Infinitely customizable, and easy to maintain, it offers customers a seamless online shopping experience.  

Magento can provide you with complete control over how you choose to customize your e-commerce store. And it is very robust, an essential consideration. The platform offers a great range of tools for promotions and marketing, including coupons that can be used to target campaigns to particular stores or customer groups. They’re also flexible enough to let you control the time period of a special offer and limit the products or categories included. 

Magento’s users benefit from a clear administration panel that provides easy analysis of key trends and sales information from across the site. You can see everything from an abandoned shopping report to details of your best customers (by total spend and number of orders). 

Magento is also equipped with powerful tools to help you with Search Engine Optimisation, including Google Site Map, URL Rewrite, and meta-information for products and categories.  

When it comes to site management, Magento allows you to control multiple websites and stores, run A/B and multiple test reports, imports and exports catalogues, and handles downloadable products. 

The platform is flexible enough to handle rules on advanced rates and support for special prices. Products can be found by customers using index search, product comparisons or product reviews and each product can be supported by multiple images. 

There are some other great features too, such as the ability to order without first having to set up an account, which can put off many buyers. There’s also the option to order as a site guest.  

Once you’ve secured the purchase, Magento also helps handle shipping efficiently and effectively, storing shipping to multiple addresses in one order, or managing free shipping above certain order values; and it handles payment through multiple options. Customers with accounts can set up regular reorders or quickly reorder the last item they bought, and as the site administrator you can view, edit, create and fulfill the orders through the administration panel then create one or more invoices, shipments and credit notes in order to allow compliance with any national regulations. 

It’s a tough act to beat. 



Taking on that challenge is Prestashop, another open-source e-commerce solution which can certainly claim to be almost as powerful as Magento. It is written in PHP with support for the MySQL database management system that has come a long way since its launch in 2007. It now has more than 100,000 users who enjoy its great functionality.  

Matching Magento, it has unlimited categories, products and attributes, making product comparison easy. It handles cross-selling and related products well and can deliver custom invoices. Prestashop enables design through templates and integrates with many payment providers, handling different countries’ tax requirements. 

A great feature is the ability to have custom permissions for different employees, so someone can add product details and images but not set prices for example. 

Magento and Prestashop even encourage customers to recommend you to a friend, so getting your name out and about is easy. There’s a news function to keep customers up-to-date and new customers needn’t set up an account straight away and the system handles different payment and shipping addresses. You can allow customers to track orders and manage returns through the system, if necessary, which is available in 41 languages.  

A great additional feature is its ability to implement geolocation, so content offered can be adjusted based on the location of your customers as they search the site. 



Opencart is the newcomer and is shaping up to be a good option for the future.  

Again, it is PHP-based, using a MySQL database and HTML components, and it offers support for different languages and currencies. 

OpenCart is in many ways a targeted version of Magento that is dedicated to small and medium-sized e-commerce stores, where the traffic load it needs to handle is lighter.  

Building that customer base is helped by features like product reviews and product ratings and again the management information on sales, products seen and purchased and customer groupings per price band, are all beneficial.  

It too can handle the management of returns, if necessary, even in multiple languages, and deal with transactions in multiple currencies. 


The tools are available now to help every business move online for selling, and not just customer engagement. If you want to discuss the best platform and process to move your business online contact us at Inspire today.

e-commerce, m-commerce, Magento e-commerce, Online Stores, Web Design, Website Support
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