E-commerce platforms: online store software comparison

Anyone who wants to be active in e-commerce needs an online store. But the selection of professional, well-documented software solutions for online stores is huge, and the decision can be difficult for beginners. What are the most popular store systems on the market to decide from? And which platform is best suited for your purpose? In our online store software comparison, we will walk you through the possibilities open to you for the realization of your professional online shop concept and which software solutions offer the features that you need for your e-commerce project.

Online store software: The possibilities open to you

You want to take your own store online? Today, it’s one of the easiest things you can do: entrepreneurs have various technical possibilities open to them for selling products and services over the internet.

Basically, an online store is the development of an internet presence in the form of website with special e-commerce functions. This includes software components like:

In principle, an online store can be programmed on your own from scratch with the necessary know-how and a sufficient amount of time. But such an approach is an anomaly today, and many online merchants rely on professional e-commerce software instead. The selection of proprietary online store solutions ranges from flexible, cloud-based rental shops to inexpensive open-source platforms.

Proprietary online store software

The development of professional e-commerce platforms is a lucrative business. If you want to sell merchandise online, you need a reliable, secure software foundation which, depending on the size of the planned web shop concept, can also handle increasing visitor traffic and temporary load peaks. The range of commercial products is correspondingly high, with multiple companies offering proprietary solutions that are available to users through licensing agreements, or so-called EULAs.

For established e-commerce platforms from the professional sector, such as SAP Hybris Commerce or the Intershop Commerce Suite, licensees must have deep pockets. These have ongoing costs for hosting the online shop and optional agency services, which can be used for installation and configuration as well as individualization and maintenance. Manufacturers often provide proprietary software on a cloud-based model as well, as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

To their credit, proprietary online store solutions come with professional manufacturer support and regular software updates. One slight disadvantage is that developers of proprietary products product the source code of their programs from prying eyes by using encryption. So users of the software know how it works, but not why. This makes individual customization and the development of personal extensions more difficult.

Costs for the purchase and operation of such online store systems can grow rapidly to six-digit amounts depending on the size of the project. Medium-sized companies and startups often can’t find the money.  The commercial products of professional and enterprise classes are aimed primarily at large corporations who want to implement individual e-commerce concepts with international reach.

But starting your own online business doesn’t necessarily have to come with high investment costs. Open source solutions and rented online stores also offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to competently implement e-commerce concepts – and to do so with a manageable budget.

Open source online stores

Shop systems with an open source code are popular and widespread in the e-commerce branch. But these software solutions generally aren’t available for free. The term “open source” in this sense simply means that the program code is accessible by everyone.

Countless systems with open source code have been on the market for years, and are continually developed by software companies or engaged communities. Most e-commerce platforms of this type have an available transparent release plan as well as a public bug tracker, and are kept up-to-date by regular software updates.

Established open source software therefore has a product status that’s in no way inferior to the proprietary programs. The label “open source” is actually considered a quality feature, since it’s connected with an increase in security. When the source code of a program can be viewed by anyone, software errors and security gaps are brought to the light much faster. It also minimizes the risk of developers sneaking unwanted functionality (e.g. “back doors”) into their software.

To financially offset the development costs of open source software, many open source projects are licensed with dual licensing. This concept of software marketing allows manufacturers to offer not only the free community edition, but also commercial versions as paid products. In addition to professional manufacturer support, these often include an expanded range of functions.

If you want to implement your online store on the basis of free open source software, you should plan much more time for software setup since you won’t have manufacturer support. While most open source projects have extensive documentation and helpful user communities, in-depth knowledge is usually required to adapt to individual circumstances. The launch of an online shop based on open source software is also often accompanied by a specialized agency. In the case of complex open source platforms with a modular software architecture, using an agency is standard procedure.

Though some open source projects offer a cloud-based model (for example, Magneto), open source online stores are generally hosted in their own data center or by a competent third-party provider. Even a free online store accrues ongoing costs during operation, which must be taken into account during the project planning.

Rented online stores

Professional online hosts support online retailers with advice and practical help, and not only when it comes to provisioning the server base required for an online store. Today, all major players in the industry have included cloud-based rental shops in their product portfolio. The rental store system is primarily for e-commerce beginners. These users rarely have the necessary specialist knowledge and so prefer to have the technical basis of their online store set up and maintained by a competent service provider.

As a previously configured complete package, rental stores are the fastest option for bringing a shop online. Users who opt for a shop system where the provider takes over the web hosting usually also get themselves a domain, including a personal e-mail address for a professional online appearance. Since the web host in this case is basically the same as an internet service provider, it’s called a “provider shop”.

Rental stores contain all of the basic functions of a professional online shop, but offer clearly limited individualization opportunities when compared to established open source solutions. The provider generally has different layouts and industry templates available for the design of the shop, which can be adapted to specific requirements within a modular system.

Users also have to deal with restrictions when it comes to the range of functions. Rented online stores are offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in tiered performance packages. How many products can be offered in a rental store and which payment options, marketing tools, and third-party interfaces are available determines which rate is charged. Limitations can be solved by upgrading the online store package, which is usually possible with no trouble. The strength of a rental store therefore depends on its scalability.

Another pro of rented online stores is the customer service. This isn’t only available to online retailers as a contact for technical problems, but also provides security updates and the helps with maintenance of the hardware and software as the responsibility of the host.

Open source online stores in a web hosting package

Web hosting also hasn’t escaped the popularity of open source software projects. Numerous vendors combined specially preconfigured hosting packages with professional support for popular open source web stores. In this case, users can rely on a competent server partner for the installation, configuration, and operation of their online store. This usually also takes cares of the maintenance of the hosting basis as well as important updates and security functions.

A web hosting package with shop support offers similar customer service to a classic provider shop. This way, average users also benefit from the advantages of source-based shop solutions without endangering the security of their project and the underlying user data.

Online shop comparison: An overview of the most popular open source web stores

When looking at the marketing for online software, two e-commerce solutions stand out: More than 50 percent of all online retailers worldwide rely on the online store system Magento or the WordPress plugin WooCommerce, according to the analysis company BuiltWith. One similarity: Both software solutions deal with open source projects, whose basics are available to users for free. Medium-sized companies especially rely on the open source licensing model to expand business activities to lucrative online channels.

Here, we take a closer look at the market for open source online software. Our questions: What are the cost-effective e-commerce platforms? Who are open source web stores suitable for? And when do users have to pay additional costs for open source software? In our online shop software comparison, we’ll limit ourselves to the following systems:

  • Magento 2.x Community Edition (CE)
  • Shopware 5 Community Edition
  • OXID eShop 4.x Community Edition
  • WooCommerce
  • xt:commerce 5
  • Gambio GX3
  • PrestaShop 1.6 / 1.7

Magento

Magento is an open source e-commerce platform of the company with the same name, Magento Inc., based in Culver City, CA. The shop software is distributed under a dual license. In addition to the free community version, users also have an expanded enterprise edition available to them as a commercial product. This way, the Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition can be used as Software-as-a-Service.

A significant portion of shop installations are based on Magento, and it’s one of the most popular shop systems in terms of sales. It has an extensive function spectrum and a wide range of extensions. The following features are among the most important for the free community version:

  • Central control of multiple website via an administration panel
  • Google Analytics integration
  • RSS feeds for new orders as well as for low stocks
  • User-defined reports
  • Extended import and export functions
  • Search engine friendly URLs and URL rewriting
  • Manual metadata for product, category, and content pages
  • Integrated content management system for information pages and landing pages
  • Automatically generate Google Sitemap
  • Optional social media integration
  • Individual customization via templates
  • Comprehensive range of marketing, promotion, and conversion tools

Online shop software written in PHP is based on the Zend framework and relies on a relational database management system. Even if the modular platform is scalable, users should have a powerful server. If a stable hosting basis is provided, there’s nothing to prevent major web projects from being implemented.

Thanks to widespread use of the software and a lively user community, Magento is one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms on the market. Beginners can find fast help, tips, and extensions in user forums and on various information platforms. Installation, configuration, and operation of the high performance e-commerce platform requires know-how, though. Users can get professional support by using the paid Enterprise Edition or through business partners and agents, who offer a wide range of services directly to Magento users.

The e-commerce software was originally designed for the American market, so the basic installation of Magento doesn’t always meet the legal requirements for some countries. Luckily, modules can be used to solve this issue. Users typically rely on specialized agencies for the selection of these, and Magento has compiled preconfigured packages for the markets of some countries, such as Germany. These are provided by the Meet Magento Association.

Tip

1&1 also offers hosting for Magento tailored specifically to the US market on dedicated hardware, which comes with 1-click installation and expert support.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Modular, fully scalable e-commerce platform ✘ Large workload due to complexity of high performance platform
✔ Enormous range of functions ✘ High hardware requirements
✔ Multi-shop and multi-client capability ✘ High cost for hosting
✔ Suitable for multilingual online shops ✘ High level of expertise required for operation and maintenance (qualified agencies regularly used)
✔ Large selection of extension modules, templates, and professional service modules  

Shopware

Shopware AG, headquarted in Schöppingen, Germany, also offers an e-commerce solution with the same name in a dual licensing system. Since 2010, users have access to a free community edition in addition to Enterprise, Professional, and Professional Plus versions. With 16 years of marketing experience, 100 employees, and more than 54,000 customers, the self-financed company has established itself as a major player in the e-commerce scene.

Shopware’s enterprise edition features extensive marketing features for emotional storytelling. The goal of the developer is to make online shopping more colorful, more emotional, and more diverse. Users of the community edition have to deal with clear restrictions to their available range of functions, or rely on paid extensions. Shopware also doesn’t offer a warranty for the free version, but users can find help in a public online forum that’s integrated into the corporate website.

The e-commerce platform is primarily suitable for small and medium-sized companies who want to implement B2C concepts. Since 2016, Shopware Connect has also offered a comprehensive drop shipping platform. This allows users of the software to build connections with other retailers in order to distribute their own goods via partner shops or to integrate suitable third-party goods into their own shops.

Fact

Drop shipping is a variation of B2B marketing, where retailers purchase products from vendors and resell them to customers without ever coming into contact with the goods. Online store owners have the opportunity to include new products in their stock without the need to increase their capital commitment by adding additional storage costs.

The shop system, written in PHP, features a user-friendly backend and comprehensive extension possibilities. The main features of the community version are:

  • Intuitive design of the online store without programming skills
  • Consistent flat design
  • Responsive photos
  • Off-screen menus and controls optimized for touch gestures
  • Integrated SEO optimization
  • B2B functionalities through optional drop shipping platform
  • Multi-shop capabilities (Shopware 5.2 and up)

A live demo of the e-commerce platform Shopware can be viewed on the official website. It lets you get a glimpse into the backend of the e-commerce software.

For individual implementation of creative shop concepts, more than 2,000 plugins can be purchased via the Shopware Store, which are made available directly by the manufacturer or by certified Shopware partners, mainly for a cost. But many premium plugins require the purchase of a commercial Shopware license.

The company also offers a comprehensive portfolio of professional, partially responsive themes as well as training opportunities for shop owners, sales partners, and software developers.

While the premium plugins up to version 5.1.x were only encrypted, Shopware stopped using the encoding via ionCube with version 5.2 and allows developers and partners to make their own individual adaptations. At the same time, the multi-shop function was extended to the community edition. Subshop licenses, which were previously paid, have been part of the Shopware core since version 5.2 and so are included free of charge in all editions.

If users acquire a commercial license, then the e-commerce software comes loaded with elementary merchandise management functions such as inventory control, automated ordering processes, and tools for evaluating business figures already in the backend.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Comprehensive backend ✘ Central functions are replaced by paid premium plugins
✔ Templates function intuitively with drag-and-drop ✘ Advanced features like Shopware Storytelling, Digital Publishing and Shopware ERP powered by Pickware require a commercial license
✔ Multi-shop capabilities in community edition since version 5.2  
✔ Optional drop shipping platform  

OXID eShop

OXID eShop is an e-commerce platform for OXID eSales EG, a popular Germany company. The software is available to users as an open source community version as well as a professional edition and enterprise edition for the commercial sector. Primary target groups of the online store solution are small and middle-sized companies in the area of B2C. Since 2015, the product range has been supplemented by an enterprise B2B edition.

With a large selection of extensions and countless interfaces for connection to third-party systems, OXID eShops has established a flexible, well scalable alternative to Shopware and Magento. The PHP-based e-commerce platform works with a modular architecture, which allows the lean software core to be adapted to the specific application. Users rely on a large number of existing modules or integrate new functionalities using self-developed extensions via the OXID API. Software modules are available over the international marketplace OXID Exchange. The price ranges from free models to extensions which can cost up to several thousand dollars.

OXID eShop offers the same range of functions in the open source community version as in the professional edition. Users who opt for the community version only miss out on the ERP/SOAP interface and the professional manufacturer support. But the full range of functions including multi-client capability, cache management, B2B features, as well as rights and role management is only available to users in the enterprise edition.

Highlights of the community version are:

  • Integrated content management system (CMS)
  • Web 2.0 package including tagging, rating, and Facebook integration
  • Optional connection to e-commerce intelligence platform OXID eFire
  • Search engine friendly software design

Multilingual online stores can also be implemented with the free community version. Users have centralized language management, and individual language packs can be purchased at manageable prices via OXID eXchange and integrated as desired.

To provide customers on various devices with the best possible user experience, OXID eShop contains a responsive template in all editions. An individual online store design can be realized through the integrated template engine, Smarty.

While the software has a well-structured frontend, the backend is less intuitive when compared to other online store solutions. You can get an impression of how the software works in the demo shop, which is based on the OXID eShop professional edition. This also gives an insight into the backend of the software. Registration isn’t required in order to view the demo.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Modular, well scalable e-commerce software ✘ Multishops and multi-client capabilities only supported in enterprise edition
✔ Multilingual shop concepts can be implemented in the community version ✘ Unclear backend
✔ Integrated CMS ✘ Numerous extensions available via OXID eXchange require commercial license

WooCommerce

WooCommerce functions via a WordPress plugin, which allows the popular content management system to take advantage of the wide range of extended e-commerce functionalities. Originally developed by WooThemes, the project is now sponsored by Automattic. The open source software seamlessly integrates with the existing WordPress website and can be customized by more than 300 extensions to suit individual needs. The software benefits from the wide distribution of the WordPress CMS and constitutes 28% of all online stores worldwide, according to BuiltWith.

The WooCommerce plugin is available for free. But many functions are only available to users in connection with paid premium plugins. The central features of the WooCommerce core include:

  • Diverse preinstalled payment options
  • Geolocation functions
  • Flexible shipping options
  • Integrated functions for tax calculation
  • Coupon system
  • Support for downloaded products (i.e. MP3s or e-books)
  • Basic reporting and analysis functions
  • Tools for customer relationship management

WooCommerce contains a basic template for all online store design elements and can be combined with any WordPress theme. In addition, users can purchase specific WooCommerce themes to customize the design and layout of the basic shop to suit their own needs. A live preview of the official WooCommerce standard themes storefront can be found on demo.woothemes.com/storefront.

In search engines, the WooCommerce plugin is served well by its CMS foundation. WordPress is already search engine friendly in its standard installation, and can be adapted through various SEO extensions to specifically fit the needs of Google, Bing, and others.

The core of WooCommerce is designed to be mobile friendly. How well a shop is displayed on mobile devices on the basis of the WordPress plugin depends primarily on the choice of template.

When it comes to enterprise resource plannings (ERP), the online store plugin can’t compete with professional e-commerce platforms. Interfaces for professional ERP solutions aren’t provided in WooCommerce.

In order to adapt WooCommerce to international markets, specialized plugins need to be installed. These are generally available for free on the different language versions of the WordPress website, though there are also commercial products and other available options.

Tip

Instructions on how to build an online shop with WordPress can be found in our article on the topic. A professional WordPress hosting which includes WooCommerce offered by 1&1 can also be found here.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Affordable alternative to professional shop systems ✘ WooCommerce is dependent on a WordPress installation
✔ Fast activation and easy operation: Plugin extends the WordPress backend only by the online store functionalities ✘ No interfaces for professional ERP solutions
✔ Wide distribution and large community ✘ Focused only on the US market: Use in other countries requires additional plugins

Shopify

The e-commerce solution Shopify was founded in 2006 and has quickly grown into a major player, both for small companies and large franchises. It offers a large range of functions, as well as a huge combination of free and paid extensions. The software itself comes in four payment plans, from the lite version to Shopify Advanced, which afford users different levels of functionality and support, and all users have access to a 24/7 dedicated help service. Users who want to test the platform before purchasing a monthly pass can also utilize the 14-day free trial period before making their decision.

According to Shopify, more than 377,500 online retailers of all sizes have utilized the e-commerce software for their online store design and implementation. The wide range of features allows users to design their online store in whatever way they want while keeping operation simple for beginners. By keeping the basic installation simple, Shopify lends itself to basic users while also allowing more advanced users full customization capabilities through extensions and plugins. Many of the available extensions in Shopify’s app store are free, though premium paid options do also exist.

Responsive, professional themes are available on any level of the e-commerce platform. Functionality is live for most new themes, and the selection is expansive. Tasks such as merchandise management and analysis tools sit on the backend, and SEO features come standard. Users are also allowed unlimited products and storage, and can customize discount codes on the backend as they choose. Checkout is fast and secure, and payments can be processed through the software’s own program, Shopify Payments.

Though Shopify is easy enough for beginners to use, extensive customization requires users to learn Shopify’s own programming language, Liquid. Basic coding generally occurs through HTML or CSS, but normal programmers will need to learn the new language before making modifications.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Affordable range of pricing options ✘ Free themes and extensions not as customizable as premium paid options
✔ Large selection of available extensions ✘ Requires some programming knowledge; Uses unique coding language “Liquid”
✔ Suitable for beginners ✘ Transaction fee charged for every sale
✔ Space for unlimited products and storage  

Gambio

The e-commerce software Gambio started as an offshoot of the popular German software solution xt:Commerce, and was further developed by the Bremen-based company Gambio GmbH as an independent open source project. The software is distributed under the GPL/GNU license, but is only offered by the developer team in combination with a paid support package. In addition to a 12-month guarantee, the paid download also includes a proprietary stylesheet editor as well as a PDF module. Without support, the open source shop system can only be purchased via third-party vendors.

Since May of 2016, Gambio GX3 has been available to users with a new system architecture and completely reworked backend. With the new version, Gambio has tried to shake off the dust of the original xt:Commerce offshoot and extend its own sphere of influence to major online retailers. According to the press release, the company is striving to transform from an entry-level solution to a start-of-the-art professional system with the release of their newest update.

To pique the interest of professional agents, Gambio is furnished with well-documented REST-API and a standardized interface for developers for the first time. The development of your own templates and layouts is also easier in Version 3. The responsive standard template, “Honeygrid”, is based on established standards like the CSS framework Bootstrap, HTML 5, SASS, and jquery and can be adapted to individual needs without the need for programming knowledge using the built-in stylesheet editor StyleEdit.

The software’s range of functions includes:

  • Search engine friendly URLs
  • CSV import/export module
  • Interfaces for relevant payment providers, merchandise management systems, and price comparison portals
  • Voucher system
  • Integrated warehouse management
  • Newsletter system
  • Internal store rating system
  • Support for downloaded articles
  • Invoices and delivery notes in PDF format
  • Pre-certification for trusted stores

An official live demo including backend access is provided by Gambio GmbH on gambio.com/try-demo.html.

Gambio GmbH already works closely with lawyers and online marketing developments during the development of the e-commerce platform, but it’s only preconfigured for the German market and current legal situation in that country.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Diverse interfaces for merchandise management systems, financial accounting, ERP, search engine pricing, comparison portals, and online marketplaces ✘ Only available through the manufacturer, including paid support
✔ All features are included; Gambio modules don’t incur additional costs ✘ Not multi-shop capable

PrestaShop

The e-commerce platform PrestaShop, developed in France, is used by more than 250,000 online retailers in more than 200 countries. The obviously international software is available in various language versions, and contains pre-certification for certain markets.

Note

The current version of the open source software is provided as a free download on the manufacturer’s website. A professional PrestaShop hosting is available from 1&1, an official partner.

With a focus on small and medium-sized companies, PrestaShop is intended for beginners who want to get online quickly and easily with a low-cost e-commerce solution. The software combines an impressive range of functions with a clear, well-structured user interface. Likely the other shop systems mentioned here, PrestaShop is also available via web browser. Unlike Magento, PrestaShop can usually be installed and configured without an agency service or the support of specialized developers. Among the more than 300 standardly integrated functions, the highlights are:

  • Responsive frontend
  • Shop function for digital products
  • Interface for established payment providers
  • Customer evaluation function and product recommendations via social media
  • Customer service tool for the management of customer questions
  • Integrated tool for processing returns
  • Newsletter and mailing tools
  • System for loyalty, bonus, and coupon campaigns
  • Multi-shop capability and multilingual
  • User-based rights management
  • Integrated CMS for standard pages, like “About Us” or “Terms and Conditions”
  • Merchandise management (including warehouse management)
  • Central dashboard with analysis and report functions

The PrestaShop add-ons marketplace has more than 3,000 extension modules and various professional graphic templates available – many of them in responsive design. But users who want to expand the free software core with add-ons will have to deal with additional costs. PrestaShop modules from the core development team and official partners are relatively pricey.

PrestaShop also offers a demo shop, where prospective customers can get an impression of the software from the customer’s view and also switch to the backend view, all without requiring a login.

As of version 1.7, the developer team has abandoned the self-developed framework of the previous versions and instead integrated Symphony2 into the core code base. The open source framework is widely distributed, allowing developers to quickly get the hang of the system and reduce the maintenance effort of the software.

PrestaShop 1.7 also comes with a new template structure. A minimalistic starter template allows users to create professional templates with basic HTML and CSS skills. Though the starter template is fully functional, it doesn’t have any styling and so can be customized with any frontend technology. The free standard template “Classic”, based on the starter template, makes it quick to get started. Classic is responsive and includes the CSS framework Bootstrap 4. With the live configurator, users can implement a customized shop design with little effort.

PrestaShop is ideal for the needs of international online retailers. With the established version 1.6, websites can be translated into 65 languages. For PrestaShop 1.7, which was introduced to the market at the end of 2016, translations are available in 25 languages. The system already has multi-shop capabilities with the standard installation and allows users to divide their product offer between any number of sub-shops.

Benefits Drawbacks            
✔ Free open source software with more than 300 functions ✘ Extended module relatively expensive            
✔ Multi-shop capable without extension modules              
✔ Suitable for multilingual shop concepts              

1&1 E-Shop

The 1&1 E-Shop is offered as an alternative to e-commerce platforms. The e-commerce solution combines the great 1&1 web hosting with a high-performance e-commerce software. With just a few clicks, you can build your own business and surprise customers and competitors with a record time-to-market speed.

The 1&1 E-Shop is based on the award-winning e-commerce software ePages, designed specifically to suit the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. The white label solution offers all of the features that beginners and experience online retailers need to build a successful online business with a limited budget in a competitive environment.

An optimized onboarding process, multiple third-party interfaces, comprehensive documentation, as well as webinars and live events give online merchants the opportunity to immerse themselves deep in the world of e-commerce and to professionally promote their own brand.

Highlights of the 1&1 E-Shop solution are:

  • Mobile-friendly shop frontend
  • Step-by-step guidance
  • Downloadable products, like MP3s or e-books
  • Personalized products
  • Product bundling and cross-selling
  • Coupons
  • SEO cockpit for search engine success
  • Automatic control settings
  • Interfaces for online marketplaces and price comparison portals
  • Interfaces for the most popular payment providers
  • Connection to established shipping methods (DHL, Packlink, and Sendcloud)
  • Detailed product search with suggestion function
  • Up to 15 languages and more than 100 currencies
  • Security via SSL certificate
  • App and theme store with various third-party applications and shop designs

With the intuitive build kit system, you can create individual online stores in a mobile-friendly design without needing programming knowledge. For this, access to the advanced configuration options is available in the administration section.

All design templates in the 1&1 E-Shop are completely responsive. Your shop automatically adapts to the screen size of any device.

Via the dashboard on the administration homepage, you get an overview of your online business. The dashboard widgets can all be individually positioned using drag & drop.

With one click, you can network with established marketplaces (Amazon, eBay) or price comparison portals (Google Shopping, Nextag, PriceGrabber) and implement modern, multi-channel marketing with the integrated Facebook interface and professional newsletter tools.

The well-equipped app and theme store offers various third-party services such as ERP or POS solutions, shipping services, newsletters tools, and image optimization software.

If desired, you can integrate your 1&1 E-Shop directly into popular content management systems, such as WordPress or CM4AII.

Benefits Drawbacks
✔ Saleable shop in 30 minutes thanks to optimized onboarding process ✘ Not B2B capable
✔ Optimized for mobile shopping with responsive design ✘ Not multi-client capable
✔ SSL encryption of the entire shop  
✔ Extensive app and theme store  

The most popular open source online stores: A comparison table

Below, you’ll find the discussed e-commerce solutions presented in a clear comparison table. The contrast includes the central criteria that are most important when it comes to selecting the appropriate e-commerce software to suit your needs.

Functions Shopify Shopware OXID WooCommerce for WordPress
Free version available
Price for paid version(s) Low-Medium Monthly payments Lite: $9/mo Basic: $29/mo Shopify: $79/mo Advanced: $299/mo High One-time payment Professional: $1,375 Professional Plus: $6,375 Enterprise edition: From $21,260 The exact version price available to interested parties on request High One-time payment OXID Professional Edition: $1,550 OXID Enterprise Edition: $15,840 No paid version offered
Primarily intended for Any size of project Small to average-large projects Average-large to large projects Small to average-large projects
B2C
B2B Only in paid enterprise B2B edition
Multi-client capability Only in paid enterprise edition
Multi-shop capability Only in paid enterprise edition Available with plugin
Rights and role management systems Only in paid enterprise edition Uses WordPress user management
Intended for international projects
Multi-channel support
Unlimited number of products
Reports and statistics
Responsive frontend
Programming knowledge required
Operation of software
Features / Extensions
Options for SEO-compatible preparation

Which store solution is right for you?

The entry into online retail is always connected with investment, and so should take place with the future in mind. It’s often difficult for e-commerce beginners to pare down the unmanageable range of professional e-commerce solutions to only those systems appropriate for their own projects. To avoid bad investments, the software should be selected based on careful planning and intensive preparation. Later platform changes are usually associated with massive costs and a high time requirement.

In the first step, it’s important to decide on a business model and identify key areas of focus on the way to your own online store. Building on this, a business plan for online retail and a requirements specification for the necessary e-commerce solution should be created. This will later serve as the basis for selecting an online store solution and the planning of any software adjustments.

Planning an online store should put certain central prerequisites for the planned business model to the test:

  • What previous experience do you or your employees have with online stores or e-commerce in general?
  • How much theoretical and practical knowledge do you have about setting up and maintaining an online store?
  • Are you planning for the online store’s operation to be a part-time or full-time job?
  • Is the online store the only sales platform, or are there other selling locations? If there are more, is the offline business connected with the online store?
  • What goods would you like to sell online?
  • How many products do you want to offer in the online store?
  • Which markets would you like to serve? Which languages do you want to use?
  • What is the estimated order volume?
  • What is the budget for your online store?

Questions such as these help determine whether your company’s professional expertise, as well as the financial and human resources of your company, meet the requirements of the planned online project. Note: Even the most powerful online store solution is of little use if you don’t know how to use it effectively. If you don’t have any previous experience, let yourself be supported by professional service providers – as long as your budget allows these expenses.

In addition, it’s helpful to go through a checklist of essential online store functions such as presentation, administration, navigation, marketing, sales, customer management, ordering, search engine optimization, and customer service. Depending on which features you include in your online store software’s requirements specification, this can help make recommendations for proprietary solutions, enterprise platforms, open source software, or rental shops.

You should also think about the medium- and long-term perspective of your online project. If your project is aiming for large growth, then the chosen store system should have the appropriate capacities or be able to grow as requirements increase. The key word here is scalability.

If you choose a flexible e-commerce software from the beginning, you reduce the starting investment costs and keep the opportunity to expand your system as needed. Such a strategy can be implemented, for example, with modular web shop systems or individually customizable cloud solutions.

More tips and information for the creation of an online store can be found in our article “Setting up an online store: The basics”.

Conclusion: Individual requirements and preferences

Our online shop software comparison shows: The perfect potion for electronic commerce has not yet been developed. Even among the established open source platforms, the search for a universal solution for all applications would be in vain.

Complex professional systems like Magento don’t leave any wishes unfulfilled with respect to the functional spectrum, but the setup and operation of the e-commerce platform requires a thorough professional knowledge. The situation is different with a flexible e-commerce plugin like WooCommerce. This integrates web page operates into their existing WordPress project in just a few minutes, but does so without the extensive functional spectrum of a professional e-commerce platform.

The choice of online shop software always depends on individual requirements, the size of the planned project, and the available budget. The good news is that the market for online shop software is huge and provides the right system for every business concept – from the intuitive entry-level solution to the multi-shop expert platform.