The Truth about Open Source Shopping Carts

The top reason why an open source shopping cart is so attractive is price. When you’re starting your online store, you expect to have some startup costs associated with that process. However, if you’re looking for a proprietary shopping cart solution that won’t break the bank, you’re hard pressed to find it, especially when you look at the initial set up fees, transaction fees, and maintenance charges that come with them. With an open source shopping cart, you have a solution that you can customize however you need. But if you’re going to pursue that end, you need to understand what to expect.


Consider Data Security

Open source means that it’s used by many and therefore insecure against hackers looking to steal private customer information. You’ll need to make sure that you have Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology in place on your site to protect your customers. Depending on who you use, the cost can vary, but it is essential you have this piece in place. The other side of the puzzle includes making sure that you cart is PCI compliant. PCI, or Payment Card Industry, is the data standard security requirement for merchants who accept credit cards as a form of payment. Using a non-PCI compliant shopping cart in financial transactions can result in fines, a site for online merchants. In worst-case scenarios, your ability to process transactions could be revoked entirely, so you want to make sure to follow the rules and regulations. The catch here is that there are very few PCI compliant open source shopping carts like the ones offered by Shopify so you’re going to have to do some research first.

Full Customization

One of the worst things that can happen to any business is to oversell your inventory or to run into a technical issue that crashes your site and you wind up losing sales for days. Shopping carts don’t come fully optimized out of the box. You are going to have to install, modify and maintain, an open source shopping cart, according to Website Builder Expert. You may have an easy-to-use control panel that gives you some ability to make the cart your own, but the real way to achieve full customization is to make changes at the code level. If you aren’t a computer whiz, you can take the hard work out of building a customized shopping cart by using a host where all of the features you need are available at your fingertips. For example, you can pick and choose different apps to add to your cart to give shoppers a smooth experience. There are shipping apps that can track orders from when the order was fulfilled in the warehouse until the order was delivered to a customer’s door. Some of these apps are free, while others will cost you upwards of $50 a month. You can also make sure you have enough inventory on hand to sell to your customers by installing an inventory app that will monitor and continuously update your store’s products. That way, your customers won’t get to the end of the checkout process only to find out that the product they wanted is unavailable.

Support and Troubleshooting

There are usually community-based forums and help sites for open source carts that can provide insight if you’re having a problem, but they are user-driven and may not provide timely or accurate responses to your specific issue. This is the one factor that turns off many online business owners from pursuing open source shopping cart solutions. The idea that you not only have to work on building your online business and wooing customers, but also take care of the technical details on your own is overwhelming. Whether you have the skills or not, it is a good idea to find your own developer. Someone who has the time and expertise to help you customize the cart leaves you plenty of time to concentrate on building your business and troubleshooting any other potential problem areas.

Why Use Open Source

While it looks like there are some serious impediments to using open source, the level of flexibility and customization you will be able to achieve pays for itself over time. If you opt for having a developer customize your shopping cart, the competition for customers is very good, and that means you’ll get what you need done for a good price, which is usually cheaper than if you had a proprietary cart. One of the important parts of having an online business is to make your business stand out from the crowd by having a unique brand. You will have access to developers who will provide add-ons to enhance the software free of charge. As with anything, you need to research and find the best solution for you and your business.