nopCommerce Review: Free E-Commerce Platform. Can They Take On Shopify?

If you're looking for a proven e-commerce builder for Windows hosting, try nopCommerce. Our review picks out the positives and negatives of the free and paid plans.

Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more
Katie Horne
Katie is a C# developer-turned-technical writer who loves the Oxford comma, NYT Crossword Puzzles, and knitting for no reason whatsoever. She has a love/hate relationship with JavaScript and thinks that package managers are the bees knees.

Last Updated on October 21, 2020

Say Hello To nopCommerce

nopCommerce is an open-source free e-commerce solution powering tens of thousands of online stores including big brands like Volvo, The North Face, and Reebok. Not surprisingly it offers everything you’d expect in a world-class shopping experience: user reviews, product comparison tools, all sorts of discount options, and every product display option you can imagine.

And that’s just scratching the surface. NopCommerce is all you need to turn your existing blog or website into a fully-fledged online store.

It’s Free and Open Source

While software developers around the world are encouraged to contribute to improving nopCommerce, the product has been developed and supported by a professional team of software engineers, quality assurance and customer support representatives, product managers, and graphic designers.

The team’s goal is to create, maintain, and deliver a world-class digital business solution to customers around the world at an unbeatable price: free.

Installation and Demo Store

If you want to try nopCommerce out before you commit, there’s a fully-fledged demo store available on their official website. In the meantime, we’re going to cover the installation options step-by-step.

There are several ways for you to install nopCommerce.

The Tech-Savvy Way

If you’re up for a technical challenge, you can download and compile the source code. The nopCommerce site has a download link for this, but to get the most up-to-date version, you can go straight to the GitHub repository.

nopCommerce GitHub
nopCommerce GitHub page.

If you’re okay with using the pre-compiled code, you can download a set of files that allows you to deploy to your web server. This option can still be challenging, so there is an installation guide, and video tutorial, to which you can refer.

How To Install nopCommerce Automatically on Microsoft Azure

The easiest method, however, is to use Microsoft Azure, which automates the entire installation process. While the below may look complex, it’s actually incredibly simple.

These are the exact steps you must follow:

  1. Go to the Microsoft Azure Marketplace
  2. Select the ‘Web’ option on the left-hand side menu
  3. Search for ‘nopCommerce’
  4. Select the nopCommerce app
  5. Click the ‘create’ button
  6. Fill in the necessary information required for your web app
  7. If you haven’t got a Resource Group, you must create one in order to get past step 6
  8. You are ready to start the auto-install
  9. Open the freshly made e-store, which will re-direct you to an installation page
  10. Fill in the necessary data and information
  11. Click Install and you’re good to go

Or, Use Plesk to Install it via Your Web Host

If your web host offers you the option of using the Plesk Control Panel, you can use it to assist with your nopCommerce installation. It’s not quite as easy as using Microsoft Azure, but it’s not as complicated as compiling source code either.

Plesk will run on servers utilizing Linux or Windows; it does not run on macOS (though few, if any, web servers use macOS).

nopCommerce Features

nopCommerce is unique in that it offers seriously powerful functionality.

You can easily get nopCommerce up and running in minutes, but at the same time, the feature set under the hood can be scaled to support a product catalog with millions of items and thousands of visitors simultaneously.

nopCommerce review

NopCommerce’s ability to support businesses both small and large businesses means that the product comes with a robust feature set.

Advanced Features

By picking and choosing the options, features, and functionality that best meets the needs of your business, you can set up a solution that’s perfect for you.

In addition to the standard tools you expect from an e-commerce solution, here are some of the more advanced features you can make use of:

  • Product catalogs
  • Item comparison tools
  • Inventory management
  • Support for rentals
  • Support for downloadable items
  • Fully responsive
  • Multiple stores
  • Multiple vendors
  • SEO-ready
  • Advanced payment processing

Mobile Ready

With the increasing use of mobile devices, it’s important that all aspects of your online store are responsive and display well on devices with different screen sizes.

NopCommerce supports a mobile-friendly version of your site, and this feature doesn’t require any extra development or add-ons — it is available out of the box.

Manage Multiple Stores and Vendors From a Single Dashboard

If you want to run more than one store from a single nopCommerce installation, you can do so. As such, you can host multiple storefronts across different domains, yet manage everything from a single administration panel.

This also means that you can consolidate your databases into a single instance serving all of your stores.

nopCommerce review
NopCommerce boasts such high-profile customers as Volvo, Celine Dion, and The North Face. This product page is from The North Face website.

Additionally, if you run a marketplace-type business, nopCommerce can provide you with seamless integration with your vendors. Your customers see an integrated catalog, but once they make a purchase, nopCommerce makes sure that the appropriate order details get sent to the correct vendor(s).

Get Found with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

With nopCommerce, you have full control over keyword tags and customized URLs.

You can customize these to maximize the likelihood your store ranks well in search engine result. Note though, that nopCommerce pages have SEO-friendly names out of the box.

Furthermore, the included sitemap makes it easy for search engine crawlers to navigate your site.

Having a solid SEO structure is vital in order for your site to be found by your target audience.

View all nopCommerce features

Get Higher Conversions with Streamlined Checkout and Payment Processing

The checkout process is typically an area where online stores can experience high bounce rates from your visitors if it’s not implemented well.

Here are the options nopCommerce offers so that you can implement the most streamlined process possible, helping to ensure higher conversion rates.

Shopping Cart Features

It has support for:

  • “Mini” shopping carts, so your customers can keep track of what they’re hoping to purchase
  • Two types of checkout: you can allow your customers to check out anonymously, which means that they don’t have to create an account for your site (this option is preferred by many customers since it speeds up the checkout process). Conversely, you can opt for a one-page checkout, which reduces the total number of steps required to complete the transaction.
  • Various checkout attributes: you can allow your users to add options like gift wrapping or a personalized message
  • Multiple languages and currencies, as well as configurable measurements (such as item weight and dimensions)
  • SSL
  • More than 50 different payment gateways and methods, including cash on delivery/pay in store, purchase/money orders, checks, Amazon, PayPal, and Stripe.
  • Tax calculations, regardless of how complex your situation might be — you might assign different tax classes based on product categories or based on where the purchaser lives.

NopCommerce also comes built-in with useful features like automatically generating PDF invoices and functionality for handling refunds, coupons, and discounts.

nopCommerce review
The nopCommerce site features a demo store that you can try out.

Everything You Need for Global Shipping

NopCommerce supports various shipping requirements because its intended audience is global. It comes with support for flexible calculation mechanisms, such as configurations for free shipping over a specific total, rate calculations based on item weight, and so on.

You can also restrict shipping to a single country or selected countries, allow customers to differentiate between billing and shipping addresses, allow customers to choose their preferred shipping method, and create packaging slips automatically.

What Can I Do with nopCommerce Marketing?

Out of the box, nopCommerce allows you to do things like:

  • Implement a rewards points system
  • Start an affiliate program
  • Send newsletters to your customers.
  • Offer gift cards and discounts
  • Display cross-sells and related products
  • Display product reviews and ratings
  • Offer quantity-based discounts
  • Post news items in your store
  • Build engagement with forums and polls

You can also integrate with any of the major product feeds, such as Google Shopping and PriceGrabber so that your customers can easily perform product comparisons.

Support for Google Analytics means that you can get the data insights you need so you know which campaigns are working and which ones aren’t.

See all nopCommerce marketing options

Security: Is nopCommerce PCI-Compliant?

The nopCommerce team takes security seriously. Since its founding in 2008, they have only had to issue one security patch. Today, nopCommerce is PCI-DSS compliant, so you can rest assured that the software powering your store is handling your customers’ billing addresses and payment information securely.

Furthermore, all nopCommerce shopping carts come with default support for SSL certificates, so you don’t have to do any type of manual configuration.

See the below table to understand what these security features actually do for your site:

PCI-DSS Compliance Cross-Site Forgery Protection SSL Certificates
What does it protect you from? Data Fraud Web-browser attack Hacker Attacks
What does it protect exactly? Protects your customer’s payment card data. Theft of funds and sensitive administrative information. Your site’s data exchange.

Extend Your Store with Add-Ons from the Marketplace

If the out-of-the-box nopCommerce installation is missing a specific feature you want, you can visit the Marketplace to purchase third-party extensions and themes (pre-designed nopCommerce templates) for your implementation.

As implied by the third-party descriptor, the items in the Marketplace were created by nopCommerce’s partners and others within the nopCommerce community. In addition to the paid options, there are plenty of free options available as well.

How Many Options Are There?

There are more than 100 options from which you can choose in the Marketplace. Some of the extensions you’ll find in the Marketplace include:

  • Plug-ins to assist you in making your website GDPR compliant
  • All-in-one themes (and plugins), which is a quick and easy way to overhaul the look and feel of your site
  • Tax-related add-ons
  • Themes to ensure that your e-commerce site is responsive
  • Payment gateway/processor integrations with third-parties, such as PayPal Standard Pro

The ease (or difficulty) of installing a plugin or theme varies, but you can expect it to be similar to installing a small app or program.

Documentation

As an open source project to which anyone can contribute, nopCommerce maintains an extensive set of documentation to help its users out.

However, the developer documentation is written for its targeted audience and is quite technical. It doesn’t cover any of the basics, such as managing the source files, working with APIs, or deploying changes. The docs spend more time on things like data architecture.

Essentially, you’re expected to be familiar with all things Microsoft (such as using Visual Studio as your IDE and being able to write in ASP.NET).

Pricing and Plans

You can use nopCommerce free of charge. The only caveat is that a “Powered by nopCommerce” tag appears at the bottom of each page within the nopCommerce shopping cart. You may not edit, remove, or hide the copyright notice in any way.

If you’d like to remove or hide the “Powered by nopCommerce” tag, you can purchase a copyright removal key. There are three types of keys available. You can purchase a license that allows you to remove the tag from just one site, from multiple sites on a single domain, or from all sites on a single server.

nopCommerce review
Reebok, Columbia, Puma, DHC Skincare, Columbia, and Speedo are among the big brands that use nopCommerce. Screenshot via Digital.com

nopCommerce Help and Customer Service

NopCommerce manages a robust documentation portal and community forum, where you can crowdsource answers to your questions. These options are free of charge to everybody.

If you’d like support from the nopCommerce team, you can purchase premium support services, which are intended for those running mission critical websites, working on projects with tight deadlines, or wanting dedicated support.

Contracts are available for a 3-month period or a 1-year period, and you’re guaranteed a response within 24 hours if you contact nopCommerce Monday through Friday (excluding holidays).

Ease of Use and Compatibility

If you’re interested in using nopCommerce, be aware that there’s a relatively steep learning curve in terms of getting the product set up. While we think that anyone can learn how to use the product, if you’re looking for something to get you up and running with as little trouble as possible, you might consider looking elsewhere.

ASP.NET Suite

Furthermore, nopCommerce is an ASP.NET-based software suite, which means that it has to run in a Windows-based environment. This means that, when you’re looking at a hosting solution for nopCommerce, you’ll need to look for packages that offer you the choice of running Windows Server.

Not only are these packages less common than their Linux-based counterparts, but they also tend to cost more due to the costs associated with licensing the operating system.

Finally, nopCommerce is only compatible with Microsoft’s SQL Server — in a lot of cases, hosting packages, even the Windows-based ones, include MySQL databases online. This requirement further reduces the web hosting options compatible with nopCommerce and available to you.

Visit nopCommerce

Summary

NopCommerce is a powerful, open-source e-commerce solution capable of supporting both individual entrepreneurs and large businesses with product catalogs containing millions of items and serving thousands of customers.

At its core, nopCommerce is a shopping cart, but its built-in functionality makes it more comparable to full-featured e-commerce applications. However, nopCommerce isn’t the easiest product to set up and use, so if you’re a novice when it comes to things like server management, we recommend you look elsewhere.

If, however, you’re comfortable with advanced technologies, you can’t go wrong with nopCommerce, given its stability, security, and excellent price tag: free.