Written by David
2nd September 2013 • 9 min read
When you’re choosing an eCommerce platform for your online business, it can be helpful to know what everyone else is doing. So here at Veeqo we’ve spent the past month crunching numbers to find out the most popular eCommerce platforms in the UK.
We’ve listed them here together with the pros and cons of each platform.
Are these Really the best platforms?
It’s worth remembering that just because these are the top five open source platforms, it doesn’t make them the best choice for your business. One of the reasons these five platforms are so popular is because they’re low-cost or free.
Most well-known successful brands use paid solutions, partly because they can afford to, and partly because splashing the cash results in better features.
That said, if you’re starting out, these platforms are probably where you want to go first. If your business takes off as you’d like it to, you can always upgrade.
Powering nearly 3,500 eCommerce shops in the UK, osCommerce comes in at fifth place.
What’s good about osCommerce?
- It’s open source, which means it’s free, and anyone can customise the code to fit their needs;
- It can run on shared web servers, keeping hosting costs down;
- Over 7,000 free add-ons allow you to customise your store.
What could be better about osCommerce?
- No templates. Changing how your site looks isn’t as fast or easy as on other platforms;
- You’ll likely have to hire a developer to customise your site;
- It can be difficult to manage inventory – the default install has no SKU identifiers;
- It does not include features for coupons or allow multiple images of products;
- Your site can get buggy when you start to play around with the code.
Our verdict: There are easier to use and more up-to-date platforms out there. If you’ve got a good reason to use osCommerce (such as a friend-of-a-friend who will help you set up an osCommerce site) then by all means go for it. But otherwise, look elsewhere.
A free WordPress plugin from WooThemes, WooCommerce comes in at a respectable fourth place in the UK, providing the platform for close to 4,000 online stores.
What’s good about WooCommerce?
- It’s a WordPress plugin, making it super simple to learn and install;
- The basic installation is free;
- A dedicated dashboard gives you an overview of what’s going on in your store;
- Looking good is important. WooCommerce integrates well with WooThemes, making it easy to create a beautiful looking store.
What could be better about WooCommerce?
- Though the basic installation is free, the extensions are pricey, with many of them costing hundreds of dollars
- There’s less choice of extensions compared to other platforms;
- It only works with WordPress. If WordPress isn’t your cup of tea, then you’ll have to go elsewhere;
- WooThemes is resource intensive, so you may have to invest in a better server.
Our verdict: WooCommerce is perfect for WordPress lovers, and is ideal for those already familiar with the platform. If you want a feature rich site, you may want to experiment with other options.
3. Zen Cart
Zen Cart is a fork of osCommerce, generally considered to be an improvement. It provides the backend for more than 5,000 eCommerce stores in the UK.
What’s good about Zen Cart?
- Open source and free, so it’s ideal if you’re on a budget;
- It can integrate with WordPress;
- Fast learning curve;
- Reasonably lightweight;
- Can be installed and set-up by anyone with basic computer skills;
- Wide range of templates available;
- Simple to manage and control stock levels;
- Strong community support.
What could be better about Zen Cart?
- No dedicated customer support
- It’s not the best looking choice
- Only provides basic sales reports, no in-dept analysis
- Upgrades are painful
Our verdict: A good choice for starting out, but you may want to move on later. If you’re interested in Zen Cart, you should also consider Open Cart.
2. Open Cart
Nearly 7,500 online shops in the UK are powered by Open Cart, making it the second most popular choice.
What’s good about Open Cart?
- It’s open source – a good way to keep costs down;
- Both community and paid support are available;
- A good choice if you want to go international, as it includes multi-language and multi-currency support;
- Allows product reviews and ratings;
- Wide range of paid and free templates to choose from;
- Supports Over 20 payment gateways and 8 shipping methods;
- Simple to download and install;
- Add-ons are relatively low cost.
What could be better about Open Cart?
- The built in SEO functions could be better;
- It could be even more customisable;
- The development community is smaller than Magento.
Our verdict: If you want a lightweight solution and you’re not tied to WordPress, then Open Cart is your best option.
The choice of major brands including Time Out magazine, fashion designer Paul Smith, Interflora, GoodYear tyres, Nike and TOMS Shoes, it’s little wonder Magento is the most popular eCommerce platform in the UK with more than 9,500 shops using it.
What’s good about Magento
- It’s feature rich – with many different add-on modules to suit your exact needs;
- Highly customisable – because it’s open source;
- Allows for multiple product images and different pricing structures depending on the customer;
- Graphical template system;
- Powerful, robust and scalable – Magento will grow with your business;
- Strong support and developer community;
- Supports multiple stores;
- Powerful enough to do anything you want.
What could be better about Magento?
- It’s so powerful that it requires dedicated web servers, otherwise your site may grind to a halt;
- Complicated coding style means it can run slow;
- Although it’s highly customisable, it’s a pain to configure, and expert Magento developers can be difficult to find;
- It’s “newbie proof” – unless you’re a coder, you’ll struggle to make sense of it.
Our verdict: Magento takes the top spot for good reason, and if you’ve got the resources to make it work for you, then it’s the best choice. If you’re just starting out and you’re on a budget, consider other options.
Research conducted by Veeqo. Research data from BuiltWith.com, August 2013.
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