OpenCart offers a “site-in-a-box” structure that’s easy to use if you’re technically savvy and ready to scale. After the initial hosting setup, you can expect a customizable structure that empowers you to take full control over every aspect of your e-commerce business. Store owners have access to hundreds of extensions and tools to help give customers the best experience possible — all at no cost.
The overly technical structure, while a benefit, can be limited to those that don’t have previous development experience. It’s also reliant on extensions to enhance certain areas of functionality, which you may find inconvenient if you’re in the market for a completely pre-built e-commerce tool.
Read on to learn more about the features and limitations of OpenCart’s free, open-source software for your business.
|OpenCart standout features|
|Best for||Smaller businesses looking for a cloud-based storefront solution, or for midsize businesses looking to scale.|
|Promotion||None, the service is open-source and free.|
What Are the Pros and Cons of OpenCart?
OpenCart is a comprehensive and inclusive open-source e-commerce solutions on the market. Unlike other more developmentally heavy solutions such as ZenCart, the service offers supplementary hosting services through its Gold-level partner, A2. Despite this option for technical support and launch, there is a fair amount of developmental work that business owners must go through and connect with to enjoy the full benefits of the service.
Pros of OpenCart
- Multiple hosting options: While there were technical challenges that could be roadblocks, the platform’s diversification of launch options is also a pro. The ability to start a cloud storefront through a second-party host rather than self-configuring can be helpful to those with moderate or novice skills — and who don’t mind a little back-end work.
- Unlimited capacity to grow and scale: OpenCart has near-endless options to support business owners in scaling their biz, such as unlimited products and category uploads.
- Free, comprehensive design: The service is marketed as a free e-commerce tool. Unlike the skeletal structure of comparable tools (such as WooCommerce), the creators have advanced the platform to be a single-service option for those wanting a centralized tech structure for their store.
- Extensive apps and extension selection: OpenCart is one of the most diverse tools currently available to e-commerce business owners and one of the most customizable. The extension store offers 13,000+ apps and solutions to experiment with and try.
- Native reporting suite: Compared with other tools, the native reporting included in OpenCart’s open-source design is comprehensive enough across categories to stand alone as a perk.
Cons of OpenCart
- Significant learning curve: No matter what hosting option you pick, you must deal with a significant learning curve to get everything set up. If you’re more technically inclined, this isn’t a massive roadblock. However, it can be inconvenient if you’re on a launch deadline.
- Limited support options: This platform offers significantly fewer support options than other e-commerce platforms, which may not be suitable for beginner business owners.
- Limited SEO support: Although the site markets a full-scale suite of search engine optimization tools for growing e-commerce businesses, the offering is quite limited compared with other platforms. While it could be impressive on a smaller, open-source scale, business owners may want to purchase more in-depth tools.
OpenCart may be the best e-commerce platform for: Small and midsize businesses looking for an intuitive, open-source platform to grow with.
|OpenCart||Accessory Pack: SEO Pack Pro||Accessory Pack: Pro Email Template|
|Price||Free||$99 one-time fee||$49 one-time fee|
|Best for||Small businesses|
Midsize businesses looking to scale
Businesses with large catalogs
Midsize businesses looking to scale
Businesses with large catalogs
Less tech-savvy business owners
Midsize businesses looking to scale
Businesses with large catalogs
Less tech-savvy business owners
When you think of a free design or storefront tool, you likely won’t think about the quality of its available designs or templates — but OpenCart changes that. This service offers a professionally designed “store in a box,” giving you a professional layout that’s pre-built and ready to go. There are a few caveats I want to highlight, though, if you’re evaluating OpenCart as a resource for your e-commerce business.
If you want to reorganize the store’s layout, you can do so — but it may be time-consuming and tricky to master. Although thorough and page-specific, the modular editor wasn’t as easy to use as I expected with an otherwise simplified interface. You click into module drop-down menus to rearrange physical elements on the site, which is less user-friendly than other platform options I’ve tested.
The product upload experience is one of the most heavily marketed perks for choosing OpenCart, as you can enjoy “unlimited and free everything.” There are no extra fees associated with this part of the platform, whether you have 10 or 1,000+ products.
You can upload products to OpenCart through two convenient options:
- Bulk-add options (via extensions such as OpenCart Product Mass Upload ($79) or free with a CSV file option with the Bulk Product Import extension)
- Individually using the native product upload manager
In either case, OpenCart offers more advanced functionality and customization options for uploading and managing your product catalog, making it a platform of choice if you’re looking for new ways to highlight your bestsellers and boost your revenue with tailored product descriptions.
I was able to manage product categories, data, links, discount properties, SEO descriptions, and more — which can be toggled directly from the convenient panel area shown above.
Something else to note here is the option to add an unlimited amount of photos with each product listing. You won’t have to pay extra storage fees, and you’ll be able to showcase every single angle of your product or service to your customer base. If you have visually compelling items, this is a massive perk. Other platforms offer more limited options for product imagery and uploads.
Abandoned cart recovery
Unlike other platforms, OpenCart doesn’t have a robust native abandoned cart feature in its main admin dash.
While you can’t conveniently access abandoned cart tools from the admin panel, you can track marketing campaigns to determine how efficient your efforts truly are. Business owners can rely on unique tracking codes (shown above) that result in higher quality and more accurate reporting, as well as more effective marketing efforts and revenue retention.
As the tool is open source, there are plenty of extensions that can be integrated with your site. Some of the most popular include the Ultimate Abandoned Cart extension ($69.99) or the Recover Abandoned Cart option (at a more affordable $20).
OpenCart’s interface includes two main areas for SEO, which are housed in the SEO URL area of the design menu, and in the SEO options tab for every product listing on your site. The range of elements that you can toggle is more limited than you would otherwise see with a service such as Shopify but can be enhanced with extensions for a more comprehensive experience.
While the SEO-specific settings are more limited with OpenCart than with other platforms, OpenCart does offer the benefit of having inherently SEO-responsive and intuitive mobile design options.
OpenCart has pre-set meta-tag optimization hidden in the general product description tab, which is great for picking keywords. If you’re looking to go deeper than what’s included in the native site experience, you can shop any of the SEO extensions available in the marketplace — such as the OpenCart SEO Extension ($119) or SEO Module Pro ($99)
Despite OpenCart’s limited native SEO functionality, I believe it’s more comprehensive than similar modular-based platforms, such as WooCommerce. As it’s open source, you’ll have access to a more diverse range of options to enhance and customize your functionality.
OpenCart comes equipped with native payment processors, as well as the ability to directly support bank transfers. Some of the most common processors your customers can use include CardConnect, AmazonPay, Klarna, PayPal, Skrill, and Square. If you’re looking for a processor that isn’t on the list, you can view their entire library of native options here. Additional payment methods may be downloaded from the extension marketplace.
Editing payment methods can be done through separate, processor-specific steps. While this can be viewed as an inconvenience, it ensures that you’ll have more specific functionality for your clients as they make their purchases. For every set of steps, you’ll be required to have the same information to proceed: order total, order status, status approval, and the sort order.
Unlike other e-commerce platforms, OpenCart does not have an endorsed mobile app for sellers and store owners. I found many third-party versions of mobile apps to manage inventory, and execute specific functions in an OpenCart store. But I advise you to use caution, as these apps do not come from OpenCart themselves.
The inventory management area of the platform is where the native application really shines in comparison to other e-commerce options. The site uses a hierarchical approach, giving business owners the opportunity to customize and optimize their product catalog.
I organized my items by product categories, which come with their own general, SEO, and data and design customization options. From there, I could further optimize each item and product, as well as the manufacturer categories that they’re associated with. This level of customization and support really lines up business owners with larger catalogs to secure more sales and bolster consumer confidence based on the transparency and amount of information available by listing.
The site’s built-in inventory management system once the sale is made is basic, serving more of an informational purpose with its streamlined dashboard and summary layout. Business owners will be able to easily visualize and track status by order ID or customer profile, enhancing customer service and sales management efforts.
If you have a particularly large catalog or offer a variety of recurring service or item options, you’ll appreciate the differentiation between the main order list and the recurring order list in the admin panel. This allows you to seamlessly navigate between customer groups and mitigates your risk for customer support errors or confusion.
OpenCart has a native email editor included, which I found helpful if you’re looking for a basic solution and a centralized structure. The editor itself uses an HTML shortcode, which is perfect if you like to add a second level of customization to your emails. If you have a smaller store, you might appreciate the simplicity of the editing tool and the automatic customer group differentiation options. This allows you to tailor your email blasts, allowing you to experiment for higher open rates across your business.
This feature can be enhanced by OpenCart’s included marketing tracking tool, where you can track campaigns and their key performance indicators (such as clicks, date added, and orders associated with any calls to action (CTAs) in the blasts).
While it isn’t as extensive or sophisticated as other dedicated options (such as Klaviyo), there is enough functionality to help you to accomplish your basic business store tasks. When you’re ready for more visually engaging or complex emails, I recommend looking at the OpenCart extension store for email add-on programs.
Reporting and analytics
I was surprised at the number of reporting options included in OpenCart’s website structure across all areas of business, including specialty reports such as a products viewed report, activity reports, and a customer searches report.
There’s also a separate dashboard that offers a real-time “online report,” showing who’s online at any given moment. It displays key data, such as the customer identification number (visible if they’ve made a profile), IP addresses, referrals, and their last click or page visited. This can offer you valuable information and feedback about the efficiency of your overall store layout, structure, and description qualities.
Lastly, OpenCart has a separate statistics dashboard to show you the number of order sales, returns, and out-of-stock products at any given time by value quantification. You can view the full range of statistics below:
OpenCart has several core shipping options, shown above. Some of the most common are:
- Flat rate and free shipping options
- Royal Mail
- U.S. Postal Service
- Australia Post
All of these can be toggled from the admin panel under Extensions. There are several other pre-qualifying characteristics that you can optimize, including:
- Item total threshold for a specific shipping method
- Limited geological zones per shipping method
- Status of each shipping method’s availability
- Sort order on your website to prioritize certain methods
The native storefront shopping cart has a convenient shipping and taxes estimating tool that can help make product and item cost calculation easier.
While there are concerns about the security of OpenCart as an open-source platform, there are benefits to this structure as well. As the code is freely available, many “white hat” developers have created different security suites for your OpenCart site (as pictured above).
Between the specialty firewalls and security tools, and the third-party guides to running a secure OpenCart shop, I have no reason to believe that it’s any less safe than your average third-party open-source e-commerce software or platform.
OpenCart has concierge support on a modular basis, connecting you with the help you need in a single, swift, and efficient process. While this is convenient, I found it lacking compared to the support you’d get for free with other services such as Wix.
Their paid service packages include:
- Password reset services: This is great if you need an admin password reset. You’ll be able to re-enter your account within 24 hours.
- Dedicated support: This service is useful for supplemental developmental tasks that a specialist could help with. Some of the most common functions include tech issues or extension installation services.
- Store backup services: This is good if you want extra peace of mind from a backup of your data.
- Bug fixes: If you’re dealing with problems, this one-time specialist session can help you to get them resolved.
If you’re looking for additional support, you might choose to hire a third-party developer to save time and the learning curve with the OpenCart interface. Otherwise, you might try making updates yourself with the help of the community forum or third-party blog articles.
New default theme options: coming soon
If you’ve followed OpenCart for a while, you’re likely familiar with the traditional default layout (shown above). Developers have promised new exciting layouts to be rolled out with later iterations of the 18.104.22.168 update, giving shop owners more opportunities to customize without the work-intensive process of learning Twig or hiring a developer.
Until they do, I appreciate how inclusive and professional the flow of the current default design is — highlighting all of the best parts of your store in a responsive, mobile-friendly, and engaging way. It’s a lot more than you’d see from other platforms with a ready-to-use default site.
Third-party extensions housed in separate folder
Prior to this update, users would have to navigate to the OpenCart core folder to install or optimize any extensions from the marketplace. Now, you can conveniently access them through a separate extension folder, accessing third-party modules in just a few clicks.
Product variations made simple
OpenCart has recently rolled out additional functionality for those with extensive catalogs. Now, you can simply create a new variant entry off of your master product listing — saving you significant time and resources spent updating replicable fields. You can choose to do this process manually for greater control, or take advantage of the newly updated variant-from-master structure OpenCart has made available in OpenCart 22.214.171.124.
GDPR approvals housed conveniently in customer tab
Recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation throughout the European Union has required shop owners to take a different approach with data usage and permissions. With OpenCart, the account management process is significantly streamlined after the OpenCart 126.96.36.199 update. Now, shop owners can manage account-related GDPR requests through a single dashboard, shown above. This will be helpful in maintaining compliance for international storefronts.
Features coming soon to OpenCart
While there has been no official upcoming updates or features announced by the OpenCart developer team, I’m confident that the platform will continue to be updated regularly. I look forward to seeing how else OpenCart plans to serve their community of business owners and entrepreneurs with later versions. I do know that they want to see community members post about on the site’s official forums, so be sure to communicate any needs or gaps in functionality.
Compare OpenCart alternatives
OpenCart is an excellent platform for your e-commerce needs. However, competitors such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, or Magneto may be a better fit for your needs. During this review process, we looked closely at different competitors and evaluated their services through a thorough research process. Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and up-to-date information about each option so that you can walk away with the best possible choice for your needs.
Read on to learn more about how OpenCart stacks up to its e-commerce platform competitors:
Frequently Asked Questions About OpenCart
How much does OpenCart cost?
Is OpenCart still relevant?
Do you need to be a designer or developer to use OpenCart?
What language is used in OpenCart?
What do you need to start selling on OpenCart?
Can you choose your own domain name with OpenCart?
How many products can you sell on OpenCart?
Can you have multiple stores on OpenCart?
What is the OpenCart marketplace?
How I Rated OpenCart
Our rating process involves a very thorough feature and competition analysis. Over the course of this review, I looked at the various features that OpenCart had to offer in its convenient open-source structure and compared them to similar e-commerce platforms. I directly tested OpenCart through third-party services to ensure the most accurate rating. Our expert writing and editing team created a dummy store to experience the full spectrum of OpenCart’s benefits.
This article is designed to be a comprehensive overview of OpenCart’s features. However, I did focus on certain key elements that we believe are essential to the e-commerce sales process. These include (but are not limited to) customer support, security, user-friendliness, and pricing.
OpenCart is an impressive open-source software that is completely free to use — making it a competitive choice for business owners looking to save. I do believe that despite its reliance on extensions for enhanced functionality with some features, OpenCart is one of the most competitive products on the market due to its overall structure and quality.