With so many options available for building an ecommerce website — ecommerce platforms, website builders, and content management systems (CMSs) — it can be difficult to know which option is right for your business.

Drupal is a versatile, advanced content management system, and is a common choice for those wanting to build an e-commerce site from scratch — but is it the right choice for you?

Here, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is Drupal, and is it good for small businesses?
  • Is Drupal a better option than e-commerce platforms?
  • How can you create an e-commerce site with Drupal?

What Is Drupal?

Drupal is a free and open-source CMS that can be used to build, publish, and manage e-commerce websites. It is composed of a core group of files that are standard on all installations, plus plugins and themes that are added to customize it.

Drupal Commerce is the software that augments the Drupal CMS and has extension capabilities including product catalogs, shopping carts, and check-out forms.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Drupal’s CMS:

  • It’s open source: This means that users can change and customize any aspect of Drupal’s platform, unlike other proprietary platforms like Wix, where users are limited in what they can modify.
  • It’s built on a modular framework: At its core, Drupal looks very basic. This is because users customize Drupal websites by adding their desired capabilities and features. All Drupal modules are free to use.
  • Much of its development comes from the web development community: Drupal has a solid community of web developers that contribute heavily to its continued development.

Benefits of Drupal for E-Commerce

Now we know what Drupal for e-commerce websites look like, let’s delve into the advantages of using Drupal.

  • It’s free: Many e-commerce platforms and website builders come with pricing tiers that increase according to the level of features you need. Drupal, however, is completely free to use.
  • It supports multiple payment methods: Drupal Commerce supports PayPal, Stripe, WorldPay, and SagePay, among others.
  • You can define your own shipping terms and conditions: Users can implement their own shipping charges and rates.
  • It’s a Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant platform: Your customers’ credit and debit card details, as well as other personal information, are highly secured.

Is Drupal Good for Small E-Commerce Businesses?

Every small e-commerce business’s needs are different, so it’s difficult to give a blanket response to the question, “Is Drupal good for small businesses?”

While small businesses that are just getting started might find Drupal a little complex for their needs, other small businesses that plan on scaling rapidly might find that its capabilities suit them perfectly.

Here are a few scenarios where Drupal can be a good fit for small e-commerce businesses:

  • When they want to extensively customize their e-commerce website to the extent beyond the likes of other CMS and e-commerce platforms will allow
  • When they intend to scale the business rapidly as Drupal’s modular framework allows for high scalability
  • When someone on the team has extensive web development experience

Here are a few scenarios where small e-commerce businesses might want to look for another software solution for their needs:

  • When they don’t have a huge amount of website traffic
  • When they just want to hit the ground running when opening their e-commerce store and don’t want to navigate a huge learning curve
  • When they don’t want to hire a developer to configure the store and don’t have enough web development skills themselves

Is Drupal a Better Option Than E-Commerce Platforms?

Again, the answer to this question depends on your e-commerce business needs, coding experience, and your list of platform must-have features.

One thing we will say about Drupal is that if it’s the ease of use you’re looking for, Drupal may not be the best option. While even those with few technological skills can use platforms like Shopify to create their e-commerce store, Drupal is another option altogether.

Plus, with Drupal, you won’t be able to rely on customer support when something goes wrong or you need help with building your e-commerce store, although the community of developers, designers, editors have created an impressive network of Drupal support.

drag and drop feature
With Shopify, users can use the simple drag-and-drop feature to rearrange their templates and content.
Source: Shopify

How Can You Create an E-Commerce Site With Drupal?

There is no one way to create an e-commerce store with Drupal, but there are a few things you’ll need to do to get started.

  1. First, you’ll need to choose a web hosting provider; check out our guide on the best hosts for Drupal.
  2. Install Drupal via your web hosting company and the “quick start” route or install it manually.
  3. Run the installation and then enter key details, such as site name, default country, and your username and password.
  4. Then, you can log in and get to know the user interface.
  5. Choose a theme from the Drupal theme directory, install it, and configure it.

In terms of getting started with an e-commerce site, you’ll then need to install the Drupal Commerce module. Then:

1. Install the following Commerce submodules:

  • Cart
  • Checkout
  • Order
  • Payment
  • Price
  • Product
  • Store

2. Add a default store, and then add at least one payment gateway.

3. Install the Commerce shipping module, and then enable and configure it.

Drupal shipping options page
Example of Drupal shipping options page.
Source: Drupal.org

4. Start creating products and add the following information:

  • Product stock-keeping unit (SKU)
  • Title of each product
  • Product images
  • Product price
  • Status (active or disabled)
Drupal product page
Example of a Drupal product page
Source: Drupal

These are just the basics to get you started. As we’ve mentioned, building an e-commerce store with Drupal is highly complex and entails a high learning curve if you don’t have sufficient coding experience. Out of the box, Drupal comprises very few elements, and you’ll likely need to work with a developer to get the most out of what the platform has to offer.

Should Drupal Be Your Best Pal?

Small businesses are likely to find Drupal a little too advanced for their needs while brands and organizations that expect high volumes of traffic ― for example, eBay and The Economist use Drupal ― and need to heavily customize their websites may find exactly what they need with Drupal.

Meanwhile, given Drupal’s extensive flexibility and customization capabilities, once you get going with the platform, you can achieve what you want with your site.

If you’re still not convinced and want to check out some other e-commerce solutions, we’ve got great news for you. Our experts have already reviewed more than 60 of the best e-commerce platforms to help you decide which is the best fit for your business, products, and level of coding experience.

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