Should your business go with OpenCart’s open source model or BigCommerce’s SaaS platform?
Good business depends on making good choices and business owners are wracked with a plethora of choices to make in order to ensure their survival and success. For Internet-based businesses, perhaps the most important choice to make revolves around which eCommerce system is the best fit for their specific needs. So many of the world’s leading eCommerce software providers offer virtually identical services and features, but what works for Company A might not produce the same results for Company B.
In this comparison piece, we’ll dig into one such eCommerce software provider, OpenCart, and compare how it measures up against our preferred eCommerce solution, BigCommerce. We’ll cover the most common OpenCart pros and cons (as noted by users of TrustRadius and Merchant Maverick) and give you our take on whether it really is the best available option to help your business succeed.
OpenCart was first created by Christopher G. Mann in 1998 for Walnut Creek CDROM, once the premier commercial distributor for freeware and shareware. The original OpenCart project never seriously progressed past its initial build and after being abandoned by Mann and languishing in Internet limbo for nearly a decade, it was resurrected and reengineered by UK software developer Daniel Kerr who released the first public version in April 2010.
OpenCart is a popular free-to-use open source eCommerce system. Over 1 million websites worldwide use OpenCart with 157,964 of them located in the United States. OpenCart is extensively used throughout Europe and is the top eCommerce software in China.
Advantages of OpenCart
Open Source Software
Like their contemporaries Magento and WooCommerce, OpenCart is open source software that’s free to download and free to use, which is one of the major advantages it has over SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify. Another major advantage that open source software has–one that’s appreciated by developers–is that collaboration is welcomed; breakthroughs in programming and coding can be freely shared throughout the development community. As such, there are no limits to customization with OpenCart. The software’s flexible architecture allows for unrestricted modifications in both visual design as well as functionality; this can help businesses stand out from the competition by offering website visitors a unique identity and user experience.
Because of OpenCart’s popularity in Europe, Asia, and in Central and South America, multiple language support can be incorporated into any OpenCart website. Over 40 languages are supported by OpenCart, including Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, German, Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew. For US-based businesses, this can help broaden their customer bases beyond the domestic territory and into the valuable international market–namely, the European and Chinese markets which are #2 and #3 behind the United States respectively as the world’s largest consumer markets.
Add-Ons, Apps, Plugins, and Integrations
Being open source software, OpenCart has an active developer community with over 13,000 extensions available on their official extension store alone. Many add-ons are available free-of-cost, which is an attractive proposition for new businesses and or those who might be venturing into eCommerce for the very first time. OpenCart also supports integrations with such leading business systems as MYOB AccountRight, PayPal, FedEx, UPS, Authorize.net, MailChimp, and QuickBooks.
Disadvantages of OpenCart
SEO is disabled by default with OpenCart and although it can be reenabled, leaving it as-is could mean a death sentence for any business that’s struggling for web traffic (the stock SEO tools themselves are minimal and not very effective). Page building with OpenCart is also notable for creating canonization problems for SEO; a single page on your website may have multiple URLS which leads to duplicate content issues. Duplicate content issues will prevent Google from boosting your website within their ranks. Yes, Google is but one search engine out of many but because Google is the largest search engine on the Internet, they pretty much set the standards for SEO best practices. Also, most Internet users tend to limit their results to just the first page and almost never bother exploring past page two. That doesn’t bode well for a website whose rank is on page 3 or up.
Inherent Problems with Open Source Software
Juxtaposing the virtues of open source software’s unlimited flexibility are the inherent problems due to the open source model itself. Open source software is free to use and free to download–and that’s usually where the ‘free’ part stops. OpenCart users are responsible for finding their own hosting, security, and for performing all software maintenance updates themselves and any extensive reworking or customization in the OpenCart platform is going to require an experienced developer who will more than likely want to be paid for any work performed (unless, you yourself are an experienced OpenCart developer). Unlike WooCommerce, OpenCart does have a user support program in place to assist users with technical questions but this is limited to the absolute basics of the software. Obviously, the more the software is modified to bespoke specifications, the less likely that OpenCart’s support team will be able to assist in rectifying any bugs or glitches encountered. Additionally, as open source eCommerce systems typically rely on stacking additional 3rd party apps and integrations onto websites to improve functionality or restore lost features, the possibility of these apps and integrations causing incompatibility errors is heightened. The chance for this increases if your website is using a large amount of stacked apps/plugins/extensions and they’re all from different developers.
The base checkout procedure through OpenCart uses a complicated 6-step process compared to most eCommerce sites using a streamlined 1-step checkout. This hurts your website in two ways: shoppers that are accustomed to the standard 1-step checkout can be turned off by this unnecessary complex ordeal and the checkout process itself has slow web page loading speeds. Slow page loading performance and slow checkout are the leading causes for high bounce rates and abandoned carts. Unless one of the integrations on your OpenCart website is an abandoned cart retrieval tool, you can pretty much regard every abandoned cart you get as being lost forever. The slow checkout can be countered in two ways: by altering the code or by adding a supplemental plugin or integration. See the previous paragraph as to why this can be a bad thing.
Not Widely-Used in the United States
As stated earlier, there are 157,964 OpenCart-powered websites in the US eCommerce market. An impressive number, but when you consider Shopify’s over 2.6 million US websites, WooCommerce’s 1.8+ million, and even Ecwid’s 412,465 US-based eCommerce websites, the OpenCart user base in the US is fairly low. That means finding a US-based OpenCart developer will be somewhat more difficult than a BigCommerce or Shopify developer; OpenCart has a much larger presence in the UK and throughout the European Union. Now, being different and unique is one way of standing out from your immediate competition, but that probably shouldn’t include using an unfamiliar eCommerce system.
Scalability, or Lack Thereof
Unlike a lot of OpenCart’s competitors, there isn’t a lot of bloatware in its system. It’s lightweight enough to run with the bare essential functions without a major sacrifice in performance. On the other hand, it’s the absence of certain core functions that will hurt performance. OpenCart has limited–EXTREMELY LIMITED–scalability which is not conducive for businesses that are looking to grow and develop. Coupled with the software’s known SEO issues, OpenCart makes it practically impossible for small businesses to flourish beyond their current life stage and customer base. This might be acceptable for eCommerce novices, brand new online merchants or small businesses that are only serving a small customer base such as a local neighborhood shop or restaurant but it’s totally inadequate for any business or company with goals and aspirations for greatness.
Our Verdict: BigCommerce
OpenCart might be a good option for small businesses, personal side gigs, or local establishments who deal with a limited customer base but for businesses that are looking to grow or are aspiring to reach the enterprise level, its deficiencies leave much to be desired with the software. For any business of any size, we recommend BigCommerce. While BigCommerce isn’t open source, its comprehensive feature set and performance benefits are enough to make its paid subscription service a better overall value than the ‘free’ open source OpenCart. BigCommerce’s SaaS model means that hosting and all security and software updates are handled for you. BigCommerce’s standard SEO tools can help even novice users adjust basic tags and titles to improve their website’s Google rankings, as well as market themselves through a built-in blogging feature. BigCommerce also makes it easy for merchants to sell on multiple channels such as Amazon and eBay, the platform caters to inventories of all sizes, and the software itself is designed to promote business growth and development.
- Modern, easy to use interface
- Ample list of standard features and improved functionality versus competitors’ products
- Fully-customizable templates and themes
- Vast app and add-on integration options from industry leading business systems
- Highly secure
- Constant internal upgrading with automatic software updates
- Fast server response time
- Comprehensive product and inventory management tools
- Unlimited listings
- Multiple sales channels
- Solid SEO and marketing features
- Dropshipping available (by way of 3rd party app)
- Strong community of users and 3rd party developers
- Available 24/7 customer support
- Easy access to supplemental product training materials
- Multi-tier pricing system
- Designed for businesses of all sizes
- Unlimited potential for business growth
- Higher startup cost than OpenCart
- Advanced programming knowledge is necessary for in-depth customization
- Products have to be categorized manually
- RSS feeds are not available
Migrating from OpenCart to BigCommerce
Migrating your OpenCart website onto a modern, SEO-friendly, and fully-scalable eCommerce platform from BigCommerce is one of the best things you can do for your business’ future.
At Diztinct, we are eCommerce experts with over 15 years of experience in custom website design, development, and engineering as well as website migration services. We have the technical know-how and expertise to protect your website’s critical internal information, SEO standings, and keyword rankings. Plus, we’re proud to have the distinct honor of being official design partners with BigCommerce. When you hire Diztinct to handle your website migration project, you have the support of an officially certified expert. We address every aspect of the website migration process:
- Basic data transfer
- Product and inventory management
- Page titles and metadata migration
- SEO data retention and optimization
- Link preservation
- Category page migration
- Policy and other informational page transfer
We have the tools, the talent, and the support of BigCommerce to ensure that all of your website’s important data remains protected and your current SEO rankings are maintained, if not improved, during the process.
Are you ready to give your website and your business the Diztinct advantage over the competition? If so, let’s talk. Get in touch with us today and get ready to make your website work for you.