So, you have decided to launch an online store. Then, you're definitely on the crossroads: Which e-commerce solution to choose, whether you need a content management system (CMS) or developing a simple website will be enough. The choice will be determined by your needs and scale of your business.
A simple static website will be enough when:
You just need a description of your product/service plus a couple of easy forms such as Place an order, Subscribe, Contact Us or the like (it is usually enough for selling e-books, music, etc.)
Your website will be a short-time internet initiative: one-time proposition, sales, giveaway, etc.
This time the project budget is rather small
You need a specialized e-commerce solution if:
Your e-shop will contain product catalogs with lots of items and/or categories, which should be updated frequently including descriptions, photos, videos, etc.
You need effective tools for marketing, selling (catalogs and search, shopping carts, ordering, payments, etc.) and customer relationship management
You want to be social and close to your clients, allowing them to review goods and products, leave comments, express opinions
You have customers in other countries or even worldwide and need a multilingual support
The common requirements to an e-commerce solution span such aspects as to be fast, full featured, cheap development and maintenance, with an easy learning curve. There is a vast variety of open source specialized e-commerce solutions on the Web now to choose from. Among them are Magento, osCommerce, Shopify, ZenCart, VirtueMart, just to name a few, that could fit your needs. Moreover, e-commerce solutions are often built on the basis of open source content management systems such as Drupal, Joomla!, lately more and more Wordpress, and some others.
What to Keep in Mind When Selecting an e-Commerce Solutio
Here is a short list of general requirements to bear in mind when choosing an e-commerce solution:
All necessary functionality
It depends very much on background and concrete business needs.
Usability, user friendlinessand intuitive navigation/functions
The system should be friendly and easy to use for both a customer and you. Essential e-commerce functions (categorization, track inventory, importingdata from an Excel sheet, etc.) should be comfortable to be done.Shopping cart should be easy to navigate and the checkout process must be simple and secure. Advanced catalogs and search
It is essential if you have a large product range or multiple categories and sub categories. Marketing tools
A good e-commerce platform should have couponing and discounting functions. Promotions and discounts help to improve your sales and customer loyalty.
Order and transaction history
Ability to track orders is important. The past order history improves customer relationship especially if you have repeat clients.
Analytics and reporting
Ability to track traffic, search queries, most viewed items and have automated sale reports is significant. Knowing who is coming to your site and how they are finding you will help to wisely concentrate the efforts. Search engine optimization (SEO)
It is critical for the e-shop to be visible to your prospects, which is impossible without a search engine optimized website. E-commerce software should be able to automatically generate page titles, meta tags, alt text and URL of every page.
One of the most reputed and widely used open source solutions are Magento and Joomla!. Their popularity is constantly growing: now Magento is translated into 60 different languages, Joomla! - into 64. Both have a huge quantity of features, extensions and plug-ins, and sometimes are even considered to be a bit too heavy. Magento
Magento is one of the leaders among e-commerce solutions, its usage and industry distribution is really great (for example see http://trends.builtwith.com/shop/Magento). Magento key advantages could be considered from both sides of a seller and a customer. Some key features include for the seller:
Sometimes Magento is considered to be the most effective system, however it has several essential minuses to keep in mind:
Joomla! has thefollowing benefits:
One more essential trait is that Joomla! is not an e-commerce solution per se and has to be customized with the help of additional modules and shopping carts like VirtueMart, ZenCart, Shopify, etc. It wouldn't cost much, would take comparatively less time to implement. Joomla! - Magento Integration
There is no one-size-fits-all option to perfectly meet all requirements to an internet shop. Joomla!-Magento integration, a solution proposed by the web communities, claims to be ideal. The integration allows getting wonderfully elaborate functionality of Magento cushioned inside of the friendly usability of Joomla!
As a result, you get a friendly CMS and flexible e-commerce solution plus the following value-added functionality:
Integrating Joomla! with Magento is possible to implement, for example, by means of J!Mint (Joomla! Magento integration tool) or MageBridge by Yireo (a bridge between the Joomla CMS and the Magento e-commerce platform).
Of course, Joomla!-Magento integration will make your online store a bit more expensive, take additional time to customize and you will need to put some efforts on learning how to manage both systems or hire a professional to take care of that. But on the other hand, it could be worth these costs because you get an elaborate e-commerce solution.
Before developing your online store, you should outline its scale, for example, decide whether you need a large e-commerce solution to run the business. The next step would be to specify technical requirements to make it easy to choose the best-fit e-shop system.
Now there are a lot of different e-commerce solutions out there. However, the analysis of Joomla! and Magento, leaders among open source content management and e-store systems, shows that unfortunately there is no universal answer for all cases and budgets. Therefore, the final decision is strongly depends on your requirements and go.