To make the right choice that determines your business journey, you must look behind the price tag and promotional materials. Focus on what is important: what you get at the start and for how long you can grow your profit using this or that CMS. this article is a go-to guide to from your first opinion.
PrestaShop: an open-source solution for a middle-size business
PrestaShop is the open-source CMS platform that has 270, 000 users worldwide.
It is free to download, but not free to operate. It is not hosted, and to enjoy enhanced possibilities, you will probably have to purchase an addon or two, which vary in price. PrestaShop is not intended for the merchants that are new to tech, so if you are not a developer with at least some skill, you may find it difficult to operate. While the platform is marketed as free, it is only the starting point of the expenses on hosting, turnover fees and development.
But don’t worry: as a decent ecommerce solution, PrestaShop provides more than 500 standard features pre-included. You won’t have to buy yourself a shopping cart functionality, SEO features, product catalog and inventory. PrestaShop has it all and more, with the free newsletter, blog and shipment features.
How much does PrestaShop cost?
You can start with 19€ monthly, and there is no free trial available (mind that the downloadable software is free already). But there is a demo you can see and touch, and it gives you a clear understanding of how storefront and backend perform. There are sample products and information already filled so you can ‘play’ with a ready-made store to draw your conclusions.
What is the most preferable business size for PrestaShop?
Since PrestaShop requires technical guidance and is overloaded with small fees all over the place, it is unlikeable that a small business will enjoy such experience. The costs and complexity may be unьmanageable for a small business. Of course, you are free to settle down with PrestaShop, but keep in mind that it can get expensive quickly with a few add-ons and a developer.
What are the pros of using Prestashop?
- It can be downloaded for free.
- Can be heavily customized by development. As well as Magento, PrestaShop is a solution for merchants who are ready to invest in programmers.
- There is the add-ons system available. With addons you can alter your store beyond recognition. The prices are about $100 and above.
- The platform is well-documented and has an active user community, combined with 7/7 support, you will never be left alone with your problem.
What are the cons of using Prestashop?
- Expensive customer support. While customer support is an option most merchants would like to have access to, the pricing may be too much to keep up with for a store that makes its first steps.
- Multiple fees for every small detail. Payment integrations, addons, transactions, everything is submitted to fees and there is no way to escape them while doing business daily.
- Developer skills required from a long-term perspective.
- Integrations with the hosted version are limited, while other platforms offer them for free.
- Limited free design options. Prices for the paid templates vary from $50 to $600, and the quality varies from theme to theme.
- There are multiple bugs and compatibility issues within the addons, they may conflict with each other.
Magento: a large-scale solution for big players
With over 260,000 stores online Magento is often called second or even first largest ecommerce platform to date. Magento is a monstrous beast with hundreds of features and unlimited space for both technical and promotional ideas. It is highly customizable and can handle the business of any size, including the biggest players. If you have the resources and employees to support the machine that Magento is, you will probably enjoy it. If you are a single-employee enterprise, with Magento you might get a bit over your size and capabilities.
Anyway, Magento is fully equipped to sell right out of the box. There are enough features and integrations pre-included to sustain a business and to sell without extra software. The question is, however, if you are able to manage and configure everything on your own. In spite of being a CMS platform, content and product management may be a very complicated task on Magento. You might need a developer on your side to lead standard Magento setup to whatever you want. This is one more of the biggest pros for Magento: its absolute compliance with any customization. You can create what you imagine from scratch, but again, you will need professional help.
How much does Magento cost?
For now, Magento is available in two options: enterprise and community editions. The first one is now called ‘Commerce’ and is paid, the second one is open-source and free. For the Commerce edition, the price tag depends on how profitable your business is. The price tag starts from $22k a year and goes higher with the growth of your business.
The Community edition is free to install and use, but Magento development services and high-quality extensions are costly, and you can end up with an impressive bill of the start. What about the extensions, they all come in all forms in sizes: almost everything that you can imagine for your store probably already exists in the form of an extension.
What is the most preferable business size for Magento?
Magento markets itself as a platform for every type and size of business, but in realityб it is not exactly so. Of course, small businesses can use the free version of Magento, but the platform is aimed at rapid growth, and if you are planning on staying in the same lane for years, it might be useless to purchase Magento. Once you start using it, sooner or later you will face the inevitability of upgrading to a faster speed, more payment gateways or integrating with ore third-party services.
Magento can bear huge stores with hundreds of thousands of products, but at the same time smaller online retailers do not need such a complex platform to perform sales.
What are the pros of using Magento?
- It is free to start working with and is a great trampoline to the bigger revenues.
- Magento is open-source, that means development flexibility and no limits to its possibilities.
- A starter feature set is rather impressive for an out-of-box solution and gives a competitive chance to any brand.
- Magento is a highly customizable platform which can achieve any form, size or design.
- Magento is a scalable solution and can handle up to 500,000 products.
- Extension marketplace with 9,000+ extensions, with multiple free options.
- Worldwide user community, documentation, and forums available for free. Magento developers are very active and invested, so there are high chances you can google your way to the solution for any problem.
What are the cons of using Magento?
- Even to launch your store on Magento with a small list of products requires technical skills. Magento is well-documented, but it can be hard to administer the store with such complicated backend.
- Magento is resource-hungry. Without proper hosting, your online store can become too slow to function properly for your customers.
- Expensive development. Although hourly rate for Magento developers starts around $25, don’t be deceived: decent developers cost $50 and higher, and with its complexity Magento requires a specialist’s supervision.
- There is no such thing as customer support. Be prepared that the developers and the user community are the only way to solve issues.
VirtueMart: a system for skilled merchants
VirtueMart is a platform that not everyone is familiar with. The thing is, it is not a fully independent e-commerce platform, rather a Joomla plugin. Its functions are limited due to that, and it can be used as a catalog only.
If you are not a PHP-trained developer, or not ready to invest time into learning a new CMS and training on how to use it, VirtueMart is not for you. It is not a ready-to-go solution that you can implement easily out of the box without a designer and/or with a developer. Nd since the platform is free, you may find it poorly equipped and your free options for themes is limited. In the opinion of many programmers, VirtueMart has to be seriously customized before the store goes live.
How much does it cost to use VirtueMart?
There are some similarities with the platforms mentioned earlier: VirtueMart is open source and therefore, its free. But your expenses with it will not end here. As it was said, be ready to search for a developer and include their services in your costs. Besides development, hosting, a merchant account, and security measures also fall on your shoulders as bills. Besides that, you will need integrations and add-ons, and their implementation costs money.
What is the most preferable business size for VirtueMart?
Considering that the number of features that the merchant gets out of the box is seriously limited, VirtueMart is more suitable as a platform for ecommerce beginners. Although most developers that are familiar with the way the platform works, don’t recommend that. Due to the fact that VirtueMart is directly connected to Joomla, there is no reason to switch to it from any other CMS.
What are the pros of VirtueMart?
- It is free to download, install and use (at first).
- There are third-party integrations to give you functions that you need on top of plain catalog and shopping cart.
- It is a great option for you if you are already familiar with how Joomla works, or have experience in PHP-based platforms like Magento.
- The number of products is unlimited, which solves a limitation problem for you as a merchant and is unusual for the ecommerce platforms.
What are the cons of VirtueMart?
- It is hard to use without proper developer experience. If you are not tech-savvy yourself, your store will need professional help and support.
- Ecommerce-specific features are very limited, and there are no included social media features or essential mobile integrations.
- Therefore, sooner or later you will need some of the add-ons. This adds up to your budget, and it can happen that a ‘free’ option will cost you more than PrestaShop or Magento per month.
- There is no such thing as customer support and the platform is poorly documented, and the rest of the technical help you can count on.
- Many users report slow loading speed that is vital for ecommerce.
As you can see, there is no magic pill and a totally free option. But with the right team and careful planning, you are able to deliver viable customer experience.
Author’s Bio: Oksana Mikhalchuk is Content Manager at NEKLO, a software engineering company with a primary focus on ecommerce development for Magento. Oksana is dedicated to writing about marketing, web design and, of course, everything Magento-related.