Building an ecommerce store? We look at 6 solutions for you

With ecommerce constantly gaining traction in South Africa, it may be time to start that online store you’ve always dreamed of. While larger retail chains are jumping on the ecommerce bandwagon and moving into the digital space to be all-in-one solutions, there is still plenty of room to launch your own venture.

You might not be technically inclined, working on a budget, or what unsure of what to do next. We’ve got you covered. Memeburn takes a look at either different ecommerce solutions to see which is right for you.

For this list, we’ve looked at two add-on ecommerce solutions, two open source, and finally two paid-for solutions.

Magento – open source

The titan of all ecommerce software, and one used by a multitude of ecommerce stores. In fact, before Takealot launched, the company was looking into using Magento. The system is incredibly large and robust with a myriad of features straight out of the digital box. With Magento, budding entrepreneurs are able to start video game stores, digital download stores, clothing stores, and more.

Magento does come at a price, however. While a free version is available, it only offers support from the Magento community. For official support, you’ll need to purchase an enterprise licence. The framework will take a bit of time to get used to when modding. The add-ons are also far more expensive that most other shopping carts on our list. In order to really get the most out of Magento, you will need a dedicated server and someone who can optimise it as the software can be a resource hog.

Once it’s up and running, you may never look back.

We recommend Magento for experts and those with technical know-how.

Read more: India’s ecommerce giant Flipkart introduces social network feature

OpenCart – open source

OpenCart is one of our favourite pieces of ecommerce software and could also be considered as a light-weight version of Magento. Unlike Magento, OpenCart is easier, faster (out of the box), and possible to modify with a basic knowledge of PHP and MySQL. It utilises a Model View Controller (MCV) file structure that makes admin duties a cinch. It’s also completely open source and allows you full access to the core files for modification.

With the Word Press-like interface, friendly community, and range of add-ons, OpenCart is a breeze to get up and running.

We recommend OpenCart to those with a basic knowledge of open source web languages.

Shopify – paid-for

One of the easier systems on the market, Shopify doesn’t require any real technical setup or coding. Almost all setup is done through the Shopify system without any need to upload files or scrounge around on a server. You don’t need to be a coder or a designer to have an ecommerce shop with Shopify. The system includes a range of features, making the entire process as easy as possible.

The downside is that if you want to develop for Shopify, you’ll need a developer who can work the APIs. It may not be difficult, but it will be for those who don’t want to learn how to program.

Additionally, if you don’t want a full ecommerce store, Shopify allows you to setup a point of sale (POS), Buy Now buttons, Facebook stores, and even has its own enterprise edition called Shopify Plus.

We recommend Shopify to those with no web design skills or knowledge.

Read more: Google predicts massive growth in African ecommerce by 2017

Wix – paid-for

Similar to Shopify, Wix is another easy-to-use builder system. It offers the same sort of functionality as its competitor, but lacks functionality here and there. There is a trial version, which includes adverts, but many will opt to pay for the package every month. It’s easy to setup and drag and drop interface will be a blessing for those not familiar with web development.

Those wanting robust category levels may need to look elsewhere as Wix only offers two levels for navigation. It does include a blog functionality, but is quite basic and limited. Users also cannot modify the Wix ecommerce themes.

We recommend Wix to those with no web design skills or knowledge.

WP eCommerce – plugin / add-on

The previous ecommerce solution have been stand-alone shopping carts. WP-eCommerce, however, is an ecommerce plugin that attaches to your existing WordPress site. This approach allows to either add ecommerce as an afterthought to their website, or create a complete and robust blog around the store.

Along with standard features, WP-eCommerce includes a system filled with enough functionality for most stores. It comes in two flavours: the standard, free edition, and a Gold version for US$99 per month. The Gold Edition adds a wealth of functionality to the store, making your website even better than before.

We recommend WP-eCommerce to fans of WordPress.

Read more: Could cross-border transactions unlock SA’s ecommerce space?

Virtuemart – plugin / add-on

Like WP eCommerce, Virtuemart plugs directly into an already existing Content Management System (CMS), Joomla, and it’s free. There are no paid versions. There is a range of South African tech stores that have used it in the past as it’s one of the easiest shopping carts to install, keep updated, and setup.

Virtuemart is similar to WP eCommerce in terms of plugin features. It’s basic admin interface and storefront mean it’s quite easy to navigate and explore for admin and users alike. It’s an alternative to consider over WordPress.

We recommend Virtuemart for fans of Joomla.


Are there any other pieces of ecommerce software that you love? Let us know in the comments below.

Image by Álvaro Ibáñez via Flickr.



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