It’s been long established that being online is crucial for a company in the modern business environment.

Moving sales operations online, rather than continuing to just retail via brick-and-mortar shops, has been an ongoing trend for companies since the widespread adoption of the internet. Due to social distancing restrictions and the economic hit suffered by businesses because of the pandemic, shops that have previously relied on a physical footprint to sell products and services, are now closed and may never open again.

Online shopping, even ten years ago, used to be a convenience. Now, however, buying at home or on the move with a mobile device is second nature to most people – even more so since Covid-19 and the resulting lockdowns.

For businesses, being online offers the lower overhead of not having to rent a building for customers to visit, while simultaneously reaching more potential customers at a greater geographic distance. Other benefits include being able to be sell products online 24/7, and increased flexibility with updates and offers, and useful customer behaviour analysis with programs like Google Analytics.

Ecommerce and lockdown

While most of us were attempting to learn a foreign language, drinking too much wine, or trying to keep our bored children occupied, many individuals started their own online businesses during lockdown. Though some people undoubtedly already had an idea for a business beforehand, many others were directly inspired to launch because of the pandemic. Lockdown also represented an excellent opportunity for many established companies to begin selling online, now that they had time to spare.

So whether you’re a company looking to go online or an individual making the most of lockdown to build your own little ecommerce empire, establishing an online store opens your business up to the world.

Thankfully, starting your own ecommerce site is easier than ever before with various affordable platforms. This article compares two of the most popular ones, OpenCart and PrestaShop, to help you choose the best one for you.

OpenCart marketplace

OpenCart is a sturdy PHP-based ecommerce platform that enables businesses to create online shops for little cost. First released in 1999, it offers a quality order processing mechanism, a good cataloguing system, and all the essential basic features an online business could need. Though not fantastically high performance compared to similar platforms, OpenCart could be seen as the leading option for a small business or individual.

The advantages of OpenCart

  • It supports multiple languages
  • It supports thousands of different modules
  • It integrates well with the majority of shipping types
  • It’s compatible with virtually all payment gateways
  • Has excellent technical support
  • Provides lots of free add-ons
  • Offers useful analytics via a user-friendly dashboard

The disadvantages of OpenCart

  • Its checkout process can occasionally be slow
  • Multiple duplicate pages can cause issues with any SEO efforts
  • Has scalability issues
  • Modules and extensions aren’t always fully compatible with each other
  • Need to install a plugin to keep track of of the inventory

PrestaShop marketplace

PrestaShop is a cloud-hosted ecommerce platform. It's open-source and available in a free version and a paid version called PrestaShop Ready, which comes with extra features. PrestaShop offers strong integration of payment gateways and ten free themes. The platform does require some limited technical skills such as HTML and CSS to operate effectively, however.

The advantages of PrestaShop

  • Can host itself or be hosted elsewhere
  • Can increase the loading speed of the website
  • Many quality apps ready to use
  • Simple switching between themes
  • Offers multiple languages and currencies
  • Highly effective SEO capability
  • Lots of apps available
  • Has a large active community which is useful for help

The disadvantages of PrestaShop

  • Its hosted version doesn’t feature multi-channel capabilities
  • Some of its best modules have to be paid for
  • Difficult script architecture makes developing the cart problematic for programmers
  • Complicated to upgrade major versions
  • Not as fast as OpenCart
  • Technical skills needed to set up

Key factors when choosing an ecommerce platform

Ease of use

PrestaShop has a user-friendly front office that is easily customisable as well as add-on modules that can improve its functions. Thanks to its intuitive dashboard, using PrestaShop is also easy to pick up.

OpenCart too has a simple interface that ensures that operating the platform is a breeze. No technical knowledge is required.

Speed

The speed of the two ecommerce platforms is approximately the same; therefore the primary factor that dictates how fast they are depends on the CMS and the number of products hosted.

SEO

PrestaShop offers many SEO tools that allow you to improve the visibility of your products.

OpenCart also offers a range of basic SEO features like meta tags, keywords and more. Unfortunately, OpenCart does need a level of technical ability to modify its codebase to work effectively. There are a number of plugins that can improve SEO performance, however.

Customer Service

PrestaShop has a wide-ranging user community that's on hand to answer questions and solve problems via forums. The price is charged as a subscription that lasts a year.

On the other hand, there's a free OpenCart community that can be used for advice or to find a developer. There's also dedicated support that can be purchased on a one-time or monthly basis.

Whichever e-commerce platform suits your business needs, Fasthosts offers it. Click here to see all the popular apps that you can load up on our VPS without the hassle of installation.