Digital.com’s Rating for CS-Cart
Our Editors rated CS-Cart 3.1 / 5 based on user ratings, pricing, and features offered.
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CS-Cart began as an e-commerce website builder with many features and a relatively modest price tag. It has since evolved into a multivendor marketplace platform, although it continues to offer the personal CS-Cart license.
As a multivendor e-commerce platform, the company focuses more on enterprise clients, evident by the increase in pricing for the license and support, putting it almost beyond the reach of most small business owners.
CS-Cart compares unfavorably with e-commerce builders specific to single-store owners. But for entrepreneurs with multiple stores or intent on creating a marketplace, the CS-Cart Multi-Vendor plans are a good option.
CS-Cart: Quick Overview
CS-Cart is PHP and MySQL-based open-source software created in 2005. Founded by Vladimir Kalynyak, it initially operated out of the Ulyanovsk Region, Russian Federation. It’s unclear when the operations moved to the United States, but the company currently lists its headquarters as San Diego.
The primary use of CS-Cart today is as a self-hosted marketplace platform, but until May 11, 2016, it offered a free version for single-store e-commerce businesses. Additionally, until September 2021, it offered software for one-time payment for a single-store software called CS-Cart B2C [Business-to-Consumer] for $385. It has since been replaced by CS-Cart for $1,350.
CS-Cart sells the software outright, so there are no monthly fees involved when using it for your e-commerce store. But you must pay separately for hosting ― CS-Cart hosting starts from $65 a month ― secures sockets layer (SSL) certificates, updates, and support. In other words, don’t expect any help from CS-Cart after the first 30 days of buying the software. Updates are free for the first year, so that’s something.
You can create and check a free demo of a B2C store before committing to buying the software.
The demo store allows you to configure the store and explore the various options to become familiar with the platform. It isn’t a live site, so you can tinker with it and see whether it ticks the right boxes for you.
More than 42,000 websites are on the CS-Cart platform, but only 15,930 are currently active. Being open-source, CS-Cart is highly customizable and scalable, making it the ideal platform for companies looking to create online marketplaces. But you can also open a personal e-commerce business quite easily without coding, so it’s also a viable choice for single-store owners.
What Are the Pros and Cons of CS-Cart
You’ll find that CS-Cart has its fair share of fans and detractors. Let’s look at its pros and cons from the perspective of single-store e-commerce business owners.
Note: This is for the Personal e-commerce plans, not the Multi-Vendor plans.
- Mobile-friendly storefront with built-in CMS
- Unlimited product categories and listings
- Interface and Content Languages
- 200+ storefront themes and 50+ built-in add-ons
- Built-in marketing tools
- Separate payment for support after 30 days with additional fees
- Steep learning curve
- Mobile app is exclusive to Multi-Vendor plans
CS-Cart is incredibly feature-rich and customizable, and it provides a ready storefront to make it easy for first-time users. You can expect the following advantages when buying the CS-Cart software.
Mobile-friendly storefront with built-in CMS
CS-Cart has its mobile commerce, Twigmo, which is a set of tools to make your e-commerce store mobile-friendly for customers and merchants. Twigmo is included by default in CS-Cart starting from version 2.2.1. Their built-in CMS also offers an easy way to create rich and SEO-friendly content pages for your site. This gives you full control over your page navigation and hierarchy.
Unlimited product categories and listings
CS-Cart has a system to organize your product listings. Every product that you have in your catalog must be assigned to at least one category. The system of categories enables you to build the catalog in the way of a tree with multiple branches, making it easier for customers to find the products they want.
Interface and Content Languages
The language of the interface in the Administration panel and the language of edited content may differ. That comes useful if you sell products to people from different countries and want to change product descriptions or category names according to their location or default language without switching to their language entirely.
200+ storefront themes and 50+ built-in add-ons
A wide variety of customizable themes are designed to help build a unique look for your store. A modern web-based WYSIWYG editor will help you create beautiful pages in no time. Their add-ons also provide additional functionality to your e-commerce store. This can streamline your business transactions and admin processes. They also give you the freedom to put any kind of restriction on your customers to easily manage your e-commerce store.
Built-in marketing tools
The built-in marketing system of CS-Cart is designed to gain loyal customers and reach a wider audience. It allows you to give promotions and bonuses to your customers including reward points to keep your customers close, cross-selling tools to increase the average bill, and call requests to simplify product ordering and get leads.
Despite the many pros of CS-Cart, it has some whopper for cons that can make it challenging for you to manage your store. The critical drawbacks of CS-Cart include:
Separate payment for maintaining services
CS-Cart’s software may be a one-time purchase but it requires paying for web hosting, an SSL certificate, and web development assistance. You should consider the ongoing expenses as you maintain your online store.
Steep Learning Curve
CS-Cart is different from other e-commerce site builders. Its design and pricing platforms are mainly for multistore vendors or marketplace builders, so single-store e-commerce owners can find it confusing and difficult to use.
Mobile app is exclusive to Multi-Vendor plans
No mobile app support is also a significant hindrance, given that about 40% of all retail sales in 2021 happened from mobile phones. While your store is mobile-friendly, you have no access to the backend through mobile to check your orders.
CS-Cart Plans and Prices
CS-Cart plans and prices can be confusing as the site provides multivendor pricing, its flagship product, by default.
Standard and Plus plans are appropriate for you if you’re looking for a marketplace with one storefront as these plans don’t accommodate multiple storefronts. For example, if you sell in the U.S. and European Union, you can only have one storefront for both.
Additionally, the Standard plan doesn’t include mobile app support. The mobile app is available with Plus and Ultimate plans for the first year, after which you must pay $999/year.
But CS-Cart also has a separate set of pricing for Personal e-commerce business owners. It takes a bit of searching to find it, but here it is.
The CS-Cart only includes one storefront and doesn’t accommodate multiple users per account. But the features for both CS-Cart Personal and CS-Cart Multi-Vendor are pretty similar, so we only look at the personal CS-Cart to estimate the costs of setting up an e-commerce store for one year.
|CS-Cart Cost||Cost Estimate: First Year||Cost Estimate: Second Year|
|CS-Cart license||$1,350/one-time payment||Free|
|Hosting (via CS-Cart – managed hosting)||$69/month||$69/month|
|Domain Name (GoDaddy)||From $4.49/year||From $4.49/year|
|Support||$169/month after 30 days (11 months)||$169/month x 12 months|
|Updates||Free for one year||$560/year|
|Extensions||Free + transaction fees||Free + transaction fees|
|Annual Cost (approx.)||$4,041.49 + transaction fees||$3,247 + transaction fees|
Since the license is a one-time payment, succeeding years are less than that amount in total cost. But you must add another month for the support subscription and the update subscription of $569/year.
What Makes CS-Cart Stand Out?
The best thing about CS-Cart is its high customizability and scalability. You have complete control over the frontend and backend of your store because it’s open-source software. You can build a powerful and unique e-commerce store by editing the source code, provided you have the coding knowledge necessary.
But if you don’t want to (or can’t) code, CS-Cart has a complete store ready to go with more than 20 design templates. You can also choose from over 50 free add-ons to improve your store.
Some might also point out that the one-time payment for the software and no transaction fees is a big deal. Still, that’s debatable because of the high upfront cost and the necessity of paying for support and updates.
Support subscription starts from $169/month, and the update subscription starts from $560 annually for a personal CS-Cart account. Those alone negate any benefits of paying a one-time license fee unless you believe you never need any support or update from CS-Cart.
Features Included With CS-Cart Plans
Nevertheless, CS-Cart has many features that make it commendable as an e-commerce site builder and marketplace platform. But you’ll need to decide if they’re worth the relatively high costs of maintaining a CS-Cart site.
CS-Cart has powerful built-in CMS tools that make setting up a store very easy. Once you install the software on your chosen hosting platform, you get access to the Admin Panel, where you can customize your storefront, add products, and configure the various settings.
The easiest way to set up your store is to use the Settings Wizard, so you don’t miss any crucial steps. The Settings Wizard is also an easy way to install add-ons. Exploring the add-ons list is quite impressive and warrants a thorough look.
The software license comes with eight free themes, all of which are responsive and mobile-optimized, and customizing the design is as simple as selecting an element and choosing a setting. When you want to preview the store, simply click on the Storefront B2C ― if you selected B2C ― and it shows you what it looks like and how each element works.
CS-Cart has WYSIWYG design tools. You can also edit the text or style for individual elements on the page right from the preview window, which is convenient if you want to make small changes.
If you want a different theme from what’s available out of the box, you can choose a theme from the Marketplace. All but one add-on theme is paid, so keep that in mind. You can also add a custom theme if you want.
Product Management and Order Management
Managing products and orders all happen in the Admin panel. Clicking on the home icon takes you to the Store operations options, which includes Orders and Products. You see various options under each tab for adding or removing products, viewing orders, and more. If you want to upload multiple products simultaneously, click on the Administration tab and find “Import Data.” CS-Cart provides detailed instructions on how to use these options.
CS-Cart also provides built-in inventory management based on the options you choose per product. You only need to tick the “Inventory” box to track its quantity and set the Low Stock notification settings in Settings > General. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
CS-Cart provides an editable list of shipping methods that comes with the software. By default, these include U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Media Mail, UPS 3 Day Select, and FedEx 2Day. You can set the weight limit, change the delivery time, and assign specific shipping methods to the user groups you specify.
You can also add more shipping methods. If you choose Realtime, you can add other variants of FedEx, USPS, and UPS plus Canada Post, DHL, Australia Post, Swiss Post, and Temando. If you choose Manual, fill in all the fields based on your preferred carrier. Note that you need to put in details based on the carrier’s terms of service for Realtime options.
Additionally, you can allow customers to preorder an out-of-stock item and include it with in-stock items in a single order. You ship the in-stock items first and deliver the back-ordered items separately without having to create a separate shipment order.
Single-page checkout is built-in to your CS-Cart store and provides all the information your customer needs to proceed to checkout. Many of the configurations you made and add-ons you selected show up on this page, such as the shipping method and taxes. The next page displays delivery and payment details.
With more than 1,800 third-party add-ons (104 free) on its Marketplace, you have no trouble improving your CS-Cart store with additional features. Categories include:
- Site Management
- Content like galleries and look
- Reports and analytics
- By subscription
CS-Cart has some great on-page SEO tools. It lets you control all the content on your site, including the backend for the product pages, which is huge for e-commerce sites.
You can stuff each product’s metadata with the best keywords and lead customers right to it. When you create the meta description, it even shows you how it appears on Google. CS-Cart also generates canonical URLs, which are useful for avoiding duplicate content issues when Google indexes your site’s product pages.
Aside from the product SEO, CS-Cart also has a built-in blog section where you can do quite a bit of content marketing. If you want to create polls, promotions, and points, you can do all of that from the Marketing tab.
It’s rather strange for a feature-rich platform, such as CS-Cart not to have mobile support for store owners, but there it is. Your site is mobile-friendly, so customers can browse and shop from your store without much trouble. But you have no access to the backend through mobile.
Fortunately, the Marketplace has one third-party plug-in that allows you to work on your site while on the go. Mobile Admin is a free app by Pinta Webware that you can use to connect to your CS-Cart store.
High-quality Search Functionality
The default search bar for your CS-Cart store isn’t intuitive, but it works well enough. But you can improve the search quality and ease of use by “buying” the free Searchanise app from the Marketplace and installing it as an add-on. The plug-in provides instant suggestions for a customer’s search right from the first keystroke, making it easier to find the product they want.
Point of Sale
CS-Cart accepts credit cards by default, but you can also add a payment method to offer customers other options. CS-Cart integrates with more than 50 payment checkout and gateways, so you can likely find one that suits your needs. However, you need the merchant account details for the selected gateway to make it active.
CS-Cart guarantees the security of the code with built-in protection from cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and structured query language (SQL) injections. If any changes are made to the code without your authorization, the system informs you immediately. Since the software is self-hosted, you can set up a unique web address for the admin panel to add a layer of protection.
For the site itself, the security of the data transfer and encryption depends on the SSL, which CS-Cart doesn’t provide unless you sign up for managed hosting ($69/month) on their platform. Otherwise, you need to buy one or find a hosting platform that provides it for you. Bluehost offers free SSL and domain name for the first year for $2.75/month (regular price $8.99/month) on its shared hosting plan.
Support and Self-help
Self-help is the name of the game for many personal CS-Cart licensees because the support subscription is steep at $169 per month after the first month. Fortunately, CS-Cart has robust documentation for everything you need to know about installing and using the software to set up your store or marketplace. It also has an active community forum (typical open-source software) and numerous video tutorials.
The only issue is when you run into unusual technical problems or need to make some coding changes in the software. Before September 2020, you could buy credits to access technical support, but that’s no longer the case. You must now buy a subscription, which is excellent if you need help constantly. But not so much when you only have a minor issue.
What Are Some Good Alternatives to CS-Cart?
People frequently compare CS-Cart to Magento because it’s open-source and Yo!Kart because it’s a multivendor e-commerce platform. Let’s see how it measures up.
How Does CS-Cart Compare to Magento?
Magento is a free and open-source e-commerce site builder. It continues to be free even after its acquisition by Adobe Systems in 2018, although a paid version with more features is now available.
Like CS-Cart, Magento Open Source is highly customizable and doesn’t require special software to set up. Developers regularly update the platform’s security to avoid a repeat of past breaches, so you can be assured of your site’s security if you update it regularly.
But unlike CS-Cart, Magento Open Source requires coding knowledge right off the bat to install and configure it to integrate with the hosting platform and server. If you don’t configure it right, the server can slow down your site significantly.
The main advantage of Magento is that it’s free, but the learning curve is steep, and you need to install numerous plug-ins to make it fully functional. You can opt for the paid version, making it much more expensive than CS-Cart. Overall, CS-Cart is a better option for ease of use and native features.
How Does CS-Cart Compare to Yo!Kart?
When comparing apples to apples, CS-Cart is closer to Yo!Kart than Magento because it’s also primarily a multivendor e-commerce platform that’s self-hosted and offers a lifetime software license. But the costs for setting up a marketplace on Yo!Kart is significantly less than CS-Cart.
For one thing, the Yo!Kart license starts from $999, includes tech support for six months, and offers a mobile app for a one-time fee of $750. It also supports more than 70 languages, which is excellent for a marketplace.
Meanwhile, CS-Cart doesn’t require coding skills to set up and has more integrated payment gateways. Yo!Kart requires some software development expertise to configure. It’s a toss-up between these two solutions, but we would have to go with CS-Cart mainly because it’s easier to use and configure to a limited extent.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About CS-Cart
Here are quick answers to some frequent questions about CS-Cart.
Does CS-Cart Integrate With Social Media and Other Platforms?
How Fast Does CS-Cart Perform?
Does CS-Cart Integrate With the WordPress CMS?
CS-Cart doesn’t integrate readily with WordPress as it has its own Content Management System. The built-in CMS makes it easy to create SEO-friendly content without much effort. You also have complete control of the navigation functionality of your store.But if you have an existing site on WordPress and would like to integrate CS-Cart for better e-commerce functionality, you need to put a developer to work on it. It costs you, but not as much as rebuilding the site from scratch on CS-Cart, especially if you have a blog on the WordPress site. WordPress does blogs very well.
How Do You Install CS-Cart?
What Are the System Requirements?
Though CS-Cart has been designed to run on as many web hosting environments as possible, from shared options to dedicated services, you still need to meet system requirements, including:
- PHP version 5.6 (or later, depending on the version of CS-Cart you choose)
- MySQL version 4.1 (or later). Alternatives include MariaDB version 5.5 or higher and PerconaServer 5.5 or higher
- 10GB disk space
- 1024Mb RAM
- 2.4Ghz (single-core) central process unit (CPU)
You also need to make changes to your server configuration.
Can You Install CS-Cart Yourself?
CS-Cart provides excellent documentation with explicit instructions, so most people can successfully tackle this project. You may have to content yourself with the limited customization in the default admin panel, but your e-commerce can be up and running without much trouble.But if you want a unique storefront with the full power of CS-Cart, it might be advisable to have a developer do the work for you. You have to spend money on that, but it lets you focus more on other tasks required to set up your store, such as designing your logo, choosing your domain name, and setting up your business email.