If you’re looking for an open source e-commerce builder with a robust community and thousands of available add-ons, then OpenCart should be on your list of “one-stop” solutions to vet.
Know up front that if you have some basic coding knowledge, you’ll be able to tweak OpenCart at a granular level. But also rest assured that it has user-friendly functions meant to attract the novice.
Below we examine the features of OpenCart, how it handles building and customization, and offer a few recommendations so you can determine if it’s a good fit for your new e-commerce store.
- OpenCart E-commerce Basics
- Overall Features
- E-Commerce Store Templates
- Add-on and Integration Selection
- Hardware Specifications
- Payment Processing
- Overall Support
- Think Twice About Pricing
- 3 Reasons to Choose OpenCart
- 3 Reasons to Stay Away from OpenCart
- In Closing
OpenCart E-commerce Basics
OpenCart is an all-in-one e-commerce builder that offers you tools to create and launch an e-commerce store, manage your inventory, and process orders.
It’s open source, so you can freely modify the platforms as you wish. You also have basic access to technical support and updates as long as the software is installed.
It requires a little coding knowledge for extensive customization and will require that you have some level of comfort with setting up a website, dealing with hosting, and modifying the code.
It’s a solid platform to get started with, especially since the investment is so low.
OpenCart is designed as a modular system. You start with their basic feature set, then you can choose to add additional functionality via their marketplace 13,000+ add-ons.
The basic feature set offers:
- No caps on numbers of products you offer.
- No caps on numbers of product categories and sub-categories that you create.
- Ability to manage multiple stores (with different themes) from a single admin dashboard. You can also update product information in that one location and have it propagate across stores if you wish.
- A rewards-points system to encourage customer loyalty and boost lifetime customer value.
- Ability to set access for multiple administrators of your site(s).
- Built-in affiliate marketing system.
- Ability to offer discounts and coupons.
- Option to allow product ratings, reviews, and comments on your site.
- Ability to offer digital downloads for sale.
- Support for 40 languages and multiple currencies.
- 36 payment gateways.
- The option to provide both “Guest” (no registration required) and “Registered user” checkout.
- Ability to offer recurring payments (for products like subscriptions).
- Integrations with most major shipping providers.
- Built-in sales report, “viewed products” and “purchased products” report.
- Ability to track your marketing campaigns.
Extended functionality offered via the 13,000+ add-ons includes:
- Email verification.
- Automatic listing of related products, best-sellers, new products, listing by manufacturer and more.
- Ability to sell in-person via Square. (This is a good option for selling at fairs, conferences, and other events.)
- Module that allows customers to compare prices and products side-by-side.
- Module that allows customers to upload their own photos of products. (For an example of a site that does this see Amazon.com or ThinkGeek.)
- A host of marketing modules.
Let’s take a closer look at the basic functionality that’s included.
With the admin panel, you’ll be able to get important store information at a glance. You’ll get an overview of how your store is performing, the total number of orders, sales, customers, how many people are currently online, sales analytics, and more.
If you have multiple people in your company you’ll be able to designate certain roles and permissions for each individual, so they only have access to the sections of your site they require to do their jobs.
If you’re running more than one store you can manage all of your storefronts from the same admin panel. You’ll be able to choose products to appear in different stores, change themes, and set individual store settings.
There are plenty of product options to get you going. For starters, you’ll be able to add unique attributes for every product in your store and adjust sizes, colors, length, height, and more. You also have the ability to create unlimited product categories and subcategories, add an unlimited number of products, sell digital products, incorporate product reviews, and even create a reward system that gives your customers points.
You can also run discounts, specials, and coupons to increase attention to your store and get more people to buy.
There’s also built-in affiliate integration, which allows affiliates to promote your products in exchange for a percentage of the sale. Integrated affiliate payment options include check, PayPal, and bank transfer.
Proving a stellar experience for your customers should be one of your main concerns as an e-commerce site owner. One way to do this is via filters. OpenCart lets you add a filter section on your sidebar, so your customer can sort your products by specific features.
You also have the ability to sell via multiple currencies. The currency rates are updated automatically, making it easy to sell your products to a worldwide audience.
Finally, you can convert your store to over 40 different languages. Their language converter easily handles languages like Greek, Japanese, Chinese, and even languages like Hebrew and Arabic.
With OpenCart’s customer tools you’re no longer restricted to just selling to customers in the US alone.
Shipping and Payment Options
With OpenCart you have a variety of payment gateways at your disposal. There are currently 36 different payment options built into OpenCart, with others available through their add-on and extension marketplace.
If you plan on selling products on a subscription basis, then you can setup recurring payments based upon price, duration, and payment cycles.
Finally, you have access to themes popular payment methods out there. For instance, there are existing integrations with FedEx, UPS, USPS, Australia Post, Citylink, Royal mail, Parcelforce, and much more.
Mobile and SEO
If you want to run a successful e-commerce store, then you need to be concerned about how your store looks and performs across mobile devices and tablets. By default OpenCart is responsive, so your store will look good no matter what screen size it’s viewed upon. Most of the themes you’ll find across the various marketplaces are responsive as well, but you’ll want to double-check before you make your purchase. You can also find OpenCart themes on the online mega-malls of pre-built designs: ThemeForest and TemplateMonster.
If you’re concerned about ranking in the search engines, then OpenCart has you covered. There are built-in SEO enhancements that let you modify your title, meta description, and insert keywords. There are also various extensions available through their marketplace, that will help to take your SEO efforts even further. You can also connect your product feeds to Google Base, Google Sitemap, and OpenBay Pro, which will show you how the search engines view your products.
Ease of Use
Once you get over the hurdle of installing OpenCart on your host, it’s actually quite easy to use. They have a modern admin panel that’s similar to what you’ll find in other ecommerce builders.
On the admin page, you’ll be able to accomplish all of your basic tasks, like managing your products, installing extensions, choosing new templates, monitoring sales and customer groups, and even run marketing campaigns.
Beyond the actual customization of your site, it’s quite intuitive and all the features are laid out nicely.
If you’re looking to take a test drive of this tool before you download, then you can check out their demo selection. Here you’ll find online demos of the front-end and back-end of your site.
Browse OpenCart templates
E-Commerce Store Templates
OpenCart’s core software doesn’t come with multiple design templates. What you’ll get is a stock basic template you can use to start building your store. (However, the template they provide is actually quite modern looking and responsive.) You’ll probably want to shop for themes on their marketplace, where you’ll find 83 catalog pages of templates, all rated by the community of users.
When it comes to customizing your theme on a granular level, you’re going to have to know how to work with the code.
This doesn’t cater to novices as most people just getting started online don’t want to fiddle around with the code of their site. If this sounds like you, then you’re better off hiring a developer to help customize your OpenCart template. If you’re not sure where to find an OpenCart developer then you may want to browse their partner’s page, which highlights development teams they recommend to help you design, develop, and build your online store.
Add-on and Integration Selection
Like other open source e-commerce builders, there are going to be tons of add-ons and integrations for you to choose from. In fact, there are currently over 13,000 extensions available. Chances are you’ll be able to find the right integration or add-on for your needs.
Upon installing the software you’re going to need to install at least a handful of add-ons to have an operational storefront, as the core software is pretty bare bones right out of the box.
With their integrations and add-ons you’ll be able to do things like, cater to multiple languages, have multiple payment options, add visual elements to your site and much more. The full list of add-ons and integrations can be found here.
Although they do offer a variety of extensions, most of them are paid. Some of the extensions run as high as $300. Since you’re not investing any money upfront in the OpenCart builder, it could balance out, but it’s something to be aware of. There are other e-commerce builders out there that are equipped with more features, at a lower cost.
See all OpenCart extensions
When it comes to hosting your e-commerce store you’re going to have two options available. You can either host through their partner host, A2 Hosting, which provides a hosting environment optimized for OpenCart. Or, you can download OpenCart, and host it on your existing host.
In order for OpenCart to work properly, your hosting environment needs to meet the following minimum requirements:
- Apache web server
- Running at least PHP 5.4
- MySQL database management.
With OpenCart you’re sure to find a payment gateway that works for you.OpenCart comes with 36 different payment methods. Plus, there are another 900 payment methods offered via their extension marketplace.
The following payment gateways are among those included:
- Realex Payments
- Sage Pay
OpenCart offers a few options for getting in touch with their team and solving any problems related to your site. You can submit a basic support ticket during the hours of 8 AM – 5 PM GMT, Monday through Friday, regarding the OpenCart marketplace, or to have a general question answered.
If you’re looking for more detailed information regarding the process of setting up your site, then you should be able to find the answer in their extensive documentation. Here you’ll find information about installing OpenCart, updating the software, and information regarding all of its features. There’s also a list of recommended reading that will help you gain a deeper understanding of OpenCart from a development perspective. If you’re looking for even more educational materials they have a series of video tutorials that walk you through using various aspects of the builder.
If you require dedicated developer support for either building out your site, or just need a one time fix, then you might find their commercial support valuable. Here you’ll be able to choose between a monthly payment for ongoing technical support or a one-time payment for a technical consultation.
Think Twice About Pricing
OpenCart is completely free, open source software. This keeps your initial investment costs incredibly low. All you have to take care of is your domain name and hosting. However, the costs can start to rack up once you begin customizing your store.
If you’re looking for a high-quality design template, then you’re going to need to pay for it. Most solid templates run from $20 to $100 plus. Then you have the extension marketplace.
You might be able to get by with the basic features offered by OpenCart, but anytime you really want to add an additional feature to your site, you’re going to have to pay for it.
3 Reasons to Choose OpenCart
OpenCart is a good fit for people who have previous development experience or are at least willing to learn through trial and error. It will help you produce a functional and professional-looking site, plus the nearly endless supply of features lets you create a truly unique site. Below we look at three of the main reasons you may want to try OpenCart.
Extensive Customization Options
With over 13,000 different extensions and add-ons, there’s no way you can complain about the lack of features. The huge list of free and premium extensions means you can virtually do whatever you wish with your site.
The selection might be a little overwhelming, but many will enjoy the level of options and freedom of customization OpenCart provides.
Large Theme Selection (Free and Paid)
With the large collection of both free and paid themes, you’ll never run out of design options. Most of the themes look modern, professionally-designed, and are responsive too.
Being able to have your pick of e-commerce templates can lead to a unique and attractive website. Just keep in mind that it does take some technical knowledge to setup any website templates you’ve downloaded or purchased.
Low Startup Costs
If you have little to no budget, then OpenCart can be used to build your store for the fraction of the cost you’ll pay for other tools. Of course, the little to no investment only refers to the basic package. If you want to customize your site with premium features, or themes, then you’ll need to put some cash down.
3 Reasons to Stay Away from OpenCart
OpenCart might not be the best solution to launch your online store. If you’re a novice and this is your first website, then you’re better off choosing a different e-commerce builder. Below we look at a few reasons you’ll want to use a different builder to build your site.
Customization Can Be Difficult for Beginners
If you don’t know your way around code, then you’re basically stuck with the platform as it stands. There are endless ways that you can customize your site, but you’ll probably need to hire out development tasks. The basic features and template could be enough, but if you want to go custom, you’re going to have a hard time doing it alone.
Large Sites Have Slow Loading Speeds
This tool produces sites that load quite poorly. Especially, when you have a large number of products. Today you need a site that loads quickly if you want to compete, so this could end up being damaging to the success of your online store.
If you have a very simple store that only has a handful of products it will load a bit faster, but for bigger sites, you’re better off choosing a tool that will load fast, no matter how big your site gets.
Compatibility and Bug Issues
When installing certain add-ons there’s no promise that they’re going to be compatible. Often, installing an add-on can lead to conflict and certain portions of your site won’t work. If you’re extensively customizing your site, then you’ll probably have to work through a couple of bugs.
If you’re not a developer then this means you need to hire outside help or do without the add-on.
Overall, OpenCart is a solid open source e-commerce builder. It packs a ton of features and is very usable. The only drawback is how difficult it is to customize if you don’t have any existing technical knowledge.
Noobies might find other tools more valuable, especially ones that enable you to drag-and-drop the design of your e-commerce site or have themes you can easily customize yourself.
In the realm of open source builders, it’s quite high quality, and the large community of developers and site owners using it is a reference to that.
If you want to build out a simple site and have the budget to hire a developer, then OpenCart could work great for you. But, if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution that manages most of the technical requirements for you, then you’re better off looking elsewhere.